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Queenship in Medieval Europe, by Theresa Earenfight

queenship in medieval europeQueenship in Medieval Europe

By Theresa Earenfight

Published by Palgrave MacMillan in June 2013
ISBN: 9780230276468

Medieval queens led richly complex lives and were highly visible women active in a man’s world. Linked to kings by marriage, family, and property, queens were vital to the institution of monarchy.

In this comprehensive and accessible introduction to the study of queenship, Theresa Earenfight documents the lives and works of queens and empresses across Europe, Byzantium, and the Mediterranean in the Middle Ages. The book:

  • introduces pivotal research and sources in queenship studies, and includes exciting and innovative new archival research
  • highlights four crucial moments across the full span of the Middle Ages – ca. 300, 700, 1100, and 1350 – when Christianity, education, lineage, and marriage law fundamentally altered the practice of queenship
  • examines theories and practices of queenship in the context of wider issues of gender, authority, and power.

This is an invaluable and illuminating text for students, scholars and other readers interested in the role of royal women in medieval society.

Save 20% when you order online at www.palgrave.com before 31st December 2013 with the following promotional codes:

  • US customers: P356ED
  • Outside the US: WMEDIEVAL2013a

An excerpt from Queenship in Medieval Europe:

The hundreds of articles and books published since 1993 clearly show that far from being ancillary, queens were fundamental to the smooth running of a realm. A queen was more than just a ruler or a mother, so much so that she needed an adjective to clarify precisely who she was and what she did. A queen who governed in her own right might be called ‘female king’, ‘sole queen’, or a ‘female monarch’ who exercised ‘kingly power’ or ‘regal power’, or an ‘autonomous monarch’. She was a queen-consort when she married a king, a queen-mother when she bore his children, a queen-regent when she governed for or with her husband and possessed ‘female sovereignty’. When her husband died, she was queen-dowager. To complicate matters, a queen could be some, or all, in sequence or simultaneously.

Only a regnant queen or empress stood alone. All other queens stood beside a king. A queen-consort’s proximity to the king was central to her identity and all that she did as queen. When she was physically where the king was, his acts and decisions could be approved, mediated, or contended by the queen – because custom and tradition accepted that the queen was a partner in governing the realm, no matter what form the partnership took. As a regent or lieutenant, she stood in his place while he was physically elsewhere. A queen was a nexus between a king and his subjects, a symbol of how royal dynasty can create social cohesion and form alliances.

But, just as queens embodied the unity of realm or people, they also embodied the same forces – family, foreign birth – that might tear that unity apart. It was a precarious spot, situated both inside and outside official power, that placed queens-consort in a perilous position during a crisis. They were easy scapegoats for disgruntled enemies, or for anyone more interested in self-protection than guarding the realm or the royal family. There is no more vivid sign of the power of proximity than when a king orders the exile or imprisonment of a queen.

– Taken from ‘Introduction: Not Partial, Prejudiced or Ignorant’



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