In addition to being a prolific spiritual writer and the abbot of the premier Cistercian monastery in northern England, Aelred of Rievaulx somehow found the time and the stamina to travel extensively throughout the Anglo-Norman realm, acting as a mediator, a problem solver, and an adviser to kings. His career spanned the troubled years of the civil war between King Stephen and Empress Matilda and reached its zenith during the early years of the reign of Henry II. This work focuses on Aelred's public career as revealed in his own historical writing as well as in chronicle references and other documents. This aspect of his life has been previously neglected because his personal letters have been lost and his biographer, Walter Daniel, concentrated on his life within the monastery.
Jean Truax obtained her PhD in medieval history from the University of Houston in 1995 while working in the IT department of an oil service company. Now that she has retired from the business world she is an independent scholar and the author of a study of three twelfth-century archbishops of Canterbury: Ralph d'Escures, William of Corbeil and Theobald of Bec: Heirs of Anselm and Ancestors of Becket. She comes to her interest in Aelred of Rievaulx and the Cistercians because of the welcome extended to her at the Cistercian and Monastic Studies Conference, which meets every year in conjunction with the International Congress on Medieval Studies held at the University of Western Michigan in Kalamazoo.