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Partners in Rule: A Study of Twelfth-Century Queens of England

Partners in Rule: A Study of Twelfth-Century Queens of England

Lauren Cengel

Wittenberg University: Bachelor of Arts Thesis (

Abstract

Scholars have commonly assumed that the king, not the queen, was the only party able to wield significant authority in the governance of the country, and that men dominated the role of the queen in the political sphere. The queens of twelfth-century England provide a prime example of how the queen was not, in fact, powerless in the rule of her realm, but rather a significant governmental official who had the opportunity to take a complementary part in royal rule that suited her strengths. A study of the lives of queens Matilda II of Scotland (r.1100-1118), Matilda III of Boulogne (r.1135-1152), and Eleanor of Aquitaine (r.1154-1189) reveals much about what was expected from a queen in her relationship with the king in twelfth-century England, and demonstrates the changing nature of the queen’s partnership with the king in rule. As the king’s partner, the queen was expected to aid the king in certain aspects of rule, which included acting as the governmental head in the king’s place, issuing charters and legislation, dispensing justice at court in her own right or in conjunction with the king, educating their children, patronage, and tempering the king’s laws with mercy through intercession. Although the degree of partnership varied with each royal couple, evidence such as the writings of twelfth-century chroniclers, charters, and seals show that partnership of rule was expected of the relationship between king and queen, with each acting to his or her strengths. The examination of the reigns of Matilda II of Scotland, Matilda III of Boulogne, and Eleanor of Aquitaine will show how these queens acted as rulers in their realms, and what factors influenced their power and authority as queens of England.

Introduction

By nature, because she was a woman, the woman could not exercise public power. She was incapable of exercising it. – Georges Duby, “Women and Power”

With this statement, Georges Duby renders the medieval woman “powerless” to participate in any sort of governance in the Middle Ages. He and other scholars have perpetuated the idea that women who held landed titles in the Middle Ages relegated all power of that title to their husbands, including queens. Scholars have commonly assumed that the king, not the queen, was the only party able to wield significant authority in the governance of the country, and that men dominated the role of the queen in the political sphere. It is difficult to imagine how Duby and others reached his harsh conclusion about women and power in the Middle Ages once the ruling relationships between the kings and queens of twelfth-century England are examined. The queens of twelfth-century England provide a prime example of how the queen was not, in fact, powerless in the rule of her realm, but rather a significant governmental official who had the opportunity to take a complementary part in royal rule that suited her strengths. A study of the lives of queens Matilda II of Scotland (r.1100-1118), Matilda III of Boulogne (r.1135-1152), and Eleanor of Aquitaine (r.1154-1189) reveals much about what was expected from a queen in her relationship with the king in twelfth-century England, and demonstrates the changing nature of the queen’s partnership with the king in rule.

Click here to read this thesis from OhioLink

See also Twelfth-century English queens: charters and authority

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