English Queenship 1445-1503
By Joanna L. Chamberlayne
PhD Dissertation, University of York, 1999
Abstract: Medieval queenship has been the subject of increasing academic interest in recent years. A perception that the direct political influence of queens deteriorated throughout the period has meant that most research has concentrated on the early and high Middle Ages. It is the purpose of this thesis to redress this balance by focusing on the last of England’s medieval queens: Margaret of Anjou, Elizabeth Woodville, Anne Neville and Elizabeth of York. The Wars of the Roses marked a period of political instability which brought into question existing ideologies of kingship and, within that, of queenship, reshaping the latter office and its rituals.
This thesis argues that ideologically and politically a queen was integral to the proper exercise of kingship in this period. Although motherhood was potentially a queen’s most empowering peacetime role, this was only the most easily identified and unthreatening aspect of her multi-faceted and potentially subversive position as a woman at the heart of the English power structure. Although the personal influence of individual queens depended upon political circumstances and their own characters, they occupied an office which could be manipulated by themselves and others to support, legitimise and expand their husbands’ kingship in a variety of ways.
Following an introductory assessment of the historiography of these queens, the first chapter provides an analysis of the process of choosing queens, examining themes of love, nobility and virginity as well as diplomatic motives. The second chapter explores the developing and paradoxical ideologies of queenship expressed in rituals surrounding marriage, coronation, childbirth and death. The third assesses the ideology and practice of royal motherhood, and the fourth the value and threat of the queen’s family to kingship and the polity. The thesis concludes with a reassessment of the function of the queen’s household, her familia and her vital role at Court.
Top Image: The marriage of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. Illuminated miniature from Vol 6 of the Anciennes chroniques d’Angleterre by Jean de Wavrin.