The Queen as ‘social mannequin’. Consumerism and expenditure at the Court of Isabeau of Bavaria, 1393–1422
Gibbons, Rachel C.
Journal of Medieval History, Vol. 26, No. 4, (2000)
Unjustifiably, but often, dismissed as the driest of sources, medieval accounts can be a mine of historical and social information, and those of Isabeau of Bavaria, queen of Charles VI of France, are particularly fascinating. One of the many consequences of the king’s lifelong mental instability was the development of an entirely separate financial administration for his wife and children, and this combination of radical innovation and unprecedented levels of expenditure has meant that scrutiny of Isabeau’s accounts — the best preserved and most extensive of any medieval queen of France — has been considered fundamental in almost all biographical works. Although this paper looks at what could be regarded as a frivolous topic in Isabeau’s wardrobe, the social concept of the royal lady as decorative fashion-plate has been particularly pertinent in recent years, but also has a long-standing pedigree. The necessity and public display of wealth were always an intrinsic element of medieval queenship, and a number of these wider themes will be explored alongside detailed analysis of two example accounts.