An Interview with Amy Saunders

Amy Saunders is a PhD Candidate at the University of Winchester and has held various visitor experience roles at museums including the Victoria and Albert Museum, and Museums Sheffield. Amy’s current research explores sexuality and gender in relation to the seventeenth century Stuart monarchy.

RSJ Blog: I very much enjoyed your recent RSJ article, The Afterlife of Christina of Sweden: Gender and Sexuality in Heritage and Fiction. What drew you to this particular monarch, and what inspired you to examine her portrayal in modern film, fiction, and heritage?

Amy: Before starting my Undergraduate degree at The University of Winchester I read Karen Maitland’s historical fictional novel, Company of Lairs. Set in the fourteenth century this was the first historical fiction book I read which contained LGBTQ+ characters but wasn’t set in ancient Greece or Rome. I was spellbound by the narrative and it got me thinking about how we present sexuality in historical fiction. When we were asked to choose a topic for our Undergraduate dissertations, I knew immediately that I wanted to do something in this area. I went to my personal tutor, Ellie Woodacre, knowing what I wanted to explore but with had no idea where to start. I knew there was work around the sexuality of James VI & I and Henri III but if I was going to do a comparative study of early modern monarchs, I wanted to include a woman. Ellie immediately suggested Christina. I looked at fictional literature and film as there were several depictions to explore for each monarch. The heritage aspect came in later. During my first weeks at the V&A I realized that there was a print of Christina’s funeral in the European Galleries. I was so thrilled and every time an interested visitor came into the gallery, I would show them the print. It is so unassuming next to one of the huge Ommegang paintings (another great display of female power) and in the same gallery as an amazing Bernini sculpture (Christina was one of his patrons so this felt particularly relevant). Investigating the other objects in the gallery I began to see that there was a whole narrative there about female power, patronage and religion which I could share with visitors. Label texts have limited scope and the one which accompanied the print didn’t mention Christina’s sexuality or gender and this got me thinking about how we present sexuality and gender in heritage spaces. Even now when I go to the museum as a researcher or visitor, I always stop by to say hello to Christina.

Sébastien Bourdon, Christina of Sweden, 1653.

RSJ Blog: Imagine you are in charge of an exhibit at the Victoria and Albert museum on Christina. Without having to consider funding, how will you present the queen? What are the chief aspects of her life that you will highlight in the inscriptions? How will you market the exhibit to tourism groups, particularly those from the LGBTQ+ community?

Amy: If money and object loans were no object there are so many things I would want to include. Generally, I prefer a thematic exhibition, but I think organizing it chronologically might be more effective in this case. I would want it to cover all of her life and interests, and it would place her conversion within the wider context of the religious conflict taking place in seventeenth century Europe. This would really highlight how dramatic and high profile her conversion actually was. It would explore Christina’s childhood, and look at how she was affected by the narrative around her birth and the death of her father. Major focuses would also include her abdication and her life afterwards in Rome. The fictional representations end at her abdication or at her acceptance into Rome so it would be great to explore Christina beyond this. These fictional representations would also have a place in the exhibition, probably at the end, with montages from the three films. Christina was a great patron and collector of art. In Rome she created a room called the ‘Room of the Muses’ which contained statues that had been discovered at Hadrian’s Villa. The room had yellow marble columns and as the ninth muse was missing, Christina had her own throne installed in the space, placing her opposite Apollo. These statues are now in the Prado in Madrid, so if we could reconstruct that room that would be amazing. If this exhibition was to take place, the Prado would be the perfect partner as their collection also contains the wonderful equestrian portrait Christina sent to Philip IV of Spain. Christina’s coronation robes also still exist in Sweden so those would be a stunning edition to the exhibition. I think in terms of the interpretation text, the main thing would be to ensure that Christina’s gender and sexuality was openly included and discussed instead of marginalized or ignored. The V&A has a huge social media following and there is a very active LGBTQ+ community which engages with museums across the UK and shares events and exhibitions that explore LGBTQ+ narratives, which would help massively with advertising the exhibition. I would also want to create a program of events which coincided with the exhibition, which could range from talks and tours to film screenings and interviews with those involved in the production of these representations.

RSJ Blog: Why, do you think, it is that women are less included in examples of LGBTQ+ historical figures than their male counterparts in heritage collections? What about film and literature? I have seen countless depictions of Edward II of England’s sexuality, which is generally assumed to be homosexual, but, as you describe, the two films that tell Christina’s story choose to focus only on a heterosexual portrayal!

Amy: In terms of Christina and film, there are two films which present her as having heterosexual relationships and then there’s the most recent one directed by Mika Kaurismäki that explores her love for Ebba Sparre. In all of these depictions Christina’s relationships are ultimately unsuccessful whether due to an untimely death or because of the duties and expectations placed on her partners. In terms of the male homosexuality being more present within heritage sites, there could be a number of reasons for this. In Britain, homosexual acts between men were illegal until 1967, and even after this the age of consent was higher for same-sex male couples than it was for heterosexual couples. Women’s sexuality was discussed less, and it was believed that lesbianism was much less widespread. In this context highlighting male homosexual relationships in heritage spaces can be seen within a frame of rebellion, free speech and as supporting LGBTQ+ political movements. Not that long ago these narratives would have reflected illegal relationships, whereas now they can be freely discussed, celebrated, and openly identified with by members of the audience. I think this male homosexual focus will slowly start to shift as more LGBTQ+ histories are researched and presented to new audiences. The recent success of BBC series Gentleman Jack has increased visitors to Shibden Hall, the Yorkshire home of Anne Lister and her wife Ann Walker, by over 300%, showing the impact that uncovering and presenting LGBTQ+ narratives can have on heritage sites and their visitors. In terms of the ‘prescribed set’ that I discussed within the article being largely male, many people are already familiar with ancient Greek and Roman homosexual relationships, for example Achilles and Patroclus (the subject of Madeline Millers fantastic fictional book The Song of Achilles) and the Emperor Hadrian and his partner Antinous. This latter pair are found in almost every museum LGBTQ+ trail, suggesting that heritage sites feel that they are integral to exploring LGBTQ+ narratives within museum spaces. Moving forward into the late 19th century, you’ve got artists and literary heroes such as Oscar Wilde who have become iconic LGBTQ+ figures. I think LGBTQ+ figures like Wilde and Hadrian have become an expected part of the LGBTQ+ historical narrative and that their homosexuality has become a commonly discussed aspect of their lives. Their presence in tours and talks at heritage sites can be used to attract visitors and audiences who need some sort of familiarity to encourage their interest. Through these initial, commonly known narratives, heritage sites can then introduce these visitors to less well-known LGBTQ+ histories.

RSJ Blog: What is next for you? Will you continue to explore Christina?

Amy: I’m currently focusing on my PhD which looks at James VI & I, Anna of Denmark, Charles I, Henrietta Maria, Charles II and Catherine of Braganza, and how the sexual activities and perceived masculinity of the husbands affected their wives. Part of this will also examine how these figures are presented in heritage and will explore what factors cause them to be overlooked. If I’m fortunate enough to remain in academia after completing my PhD I would love to teach about Christina and share her fascinating history with other people. If any situation arises in which I can work, write and talk about her with other people I certainly will! Christina was buried in the Vatican and I’ve now dragged and encouraged countless people to go see her and think about why she’s there. I’ve never visited Sweden, so in terms of Christina that’s probably the next big thing!

RSJ Blog: Thanks so much, Amy, for sharing your research with us. We look forward to reading your upcoming work in the near future!

Interview with Lucy Pick

Dr. Lucy K. Pick’s book Her Father’s Daughter: Gender, Power, and Religion in the Early Spanish Kingdoms was the winner of the 2019 Royal Studies Journal and the University of Winchester Book Prize. Congratulations to Dr Pick for writing such a wonderful book and winning the prize. Her Father’s Daughter is the RSJ Blog’s Book of the Month for January 2020.

Her Father’s Daughter focuses on the royal daughters of the kingdom of León-Castilla and the ways in which their extensive personal property and status as consecrated virgins gave them power. These women were part of a corporate monarchy in which the king was one player in a network of power relationships. These royal daughters, who then became royal sisters to kings, were fiercely loyal to their natal families, although sometimes they used their power to benefit one brother at the expense of another. When it came to competing brothers, such as Sancho II, Alfonso VI, and García (sons of Fernando I), the support of their royal sisters Urraca and Elvira Fernández could make or break a monarch.

Chapter One, “Visigothic Inheritance, Asturian Monarchy,” lays the foundation. First, it explores Visigothic inheritance laws that required all daughters and sons to inherit equally from both parents. In the early medieval period in northern Spain, a more matrilineal system dominated (in contrast to Romanized, patrilineal succession systems elsewhere), which made women key players in the relationships of her husband, sons, and brothers. Pick argues that early Asturian royal succession reflects this matrilineal system: the founder, Pelayo, was king because he was his sister’s brother. Later Pelayo’s son was king because he was the brother of his sister (Ermesinda), but when Pelayo’s son died, Ermesinda’s husband became king rather than his nephews. Ermesinda’s husband, however, came from a patrilineal system, which then competed with the matrilineal succession practices. In 785, one of the royal daughters, Adosinda, became a consecrated virgin, and from then until c.1100, royal daughters generally did not marry. This did not leave the daughters powerless, however. In fact, refusing to marry off their daughters/sisters reflected a position of strength for the kings of León-Castilla. It emphasized their superior status because the kings would marry “down,” with local noblewomen, but would not reciprocate. This allowed the kings to have hostages for the good behavior of their nobles, but to not put themselves in the same vulnerable position. And rather like with the emirs of Al-Andalus, their ability “to keep their daughters back in the midst of the pressure to make a reciprocal exchange affirmed their authority and difference from their rivals” (Pick, 57). The king’s daughters retained their high rank, and their consecrated status gave them additional cache and power.

Chapter Two, “Virgins and Martyrs,” looks at the religious status of the royal daughters. Pick argues that these women were not abbesses of individual monasteries, but consecrated virgins who were dominae of numerous religious foundations. This status permitted them to wield the power of virginity (akin to martyrdom for women) without breaking any rules against claustration and poverty. Pick notes in this chapter that the reign of Alfonso VI saw the introduction of outside religious influences, especially from Cluny, which weakened the position of secular, consecrated virgins.

Chapter Three, “Networks of Property, Networks of Power,” examines a few cast studies of property transactions made by royal daughters/sisters. Pick argues that these property transfers were about creating relationships, just as much as they were about land changing hands. Pick does a masterful close reading of several charters to show how women such as Urraca (sister of Alfonso VI) built alliances with other elite women through the transfer of properties between these women and to monasteries. When Urraca had her allies confirm her gifts of property to a monastery, and then had her brother Alfonso VI do so as well, Urraca was binding her supporters into a relationship with Alfonso as well. Urraca’s property transfers were thus acts of power that did not need her brother’s approval, but had her brother sign on as a way to strengthen his hand. Since royal daughter’s inherited substantial property from both parents, as required by Visigothic law, these women were often in a position of their brothers needing them rather than the other way around. The substantial property independently held by royal sisters could be used to help their natal family form alliances and outmaneuver noble opponents.

Chapter 4, “Memory, Gift, and Death,” focuses on how royal daughters were instrumental in memorializing their families. Daughters would give gifts that remembered their families, such as properties to religious foundations in exchange for prayers. Royal women might also donate liturgical objects. This became increasingly common in León-Castilla as the influence of Cluny encouraged the saying of masses rather than just prayers. Given that masses needed to be conducted by men, this could limit the involvement of women in the commemoration of their families. By donating the liturgical vessels for the mass, women could remain involved and use this as a supplemental, rather than a replacement, to their duties as custodians of family memory.

The conclusion, “Looking Forward, Looking Beyond,” discusses how Alfonso VI changed things by marrying off his daughters to form alliances. This brought León-Castilla in line with other contemporary rulers, but it meant royal daughters would have a different relationship with their brothers. Pick’s conclusion also notes that León-Castilla was not unique in having royal women remain unmarried and fill religious roles; similar behavior appears in imperial Germany and early medieval England. However, this practice seems to have extended longer in León-Castilla, generating more records and making it easier for historians to track.

Pick’s book provides a fresh look at early medieval monarchy, emphasizing the corporate nature of medieval rule. She also explores an under-studied aspect of royal women’s power: the daughter and sister rather than the wife and mother. This excellent study will be influential for years to come and gives all scholars of monarchy insights to contemplate and carry into their own work.

Recently, the RSJ blog chatted with Dr Pick about her great book!

RSJ: How did you get the idea for the book?

Lucy: The first germ of an idea came in a class with my doctoral adviser, Jocelyn Hillgarth. I was studying the tenth-century monastic cartulary of Sahagún, and I was astounded to see how many women were involved in its documents. That was the origin of an article on royal daughter Elvira Ramírez who ruled for her nephew, my first foray into the subject. As I continued to study, I realized that powerful royal sisters and daughters were normal, not exceptional, and I realized I needed to examine them as a group, to understand why that might be the case.

RSJ: Your book makes extensive use of Spanish archives. Are there any you would particularly recommend as a starting place for beginning researchers? Any that are especially user friendly?

Lucy: I have experienced extraordinary kindness and generosity from Spanish archivists and librarians who have welcomed me as a foreigner studying their history, though it is true that ecclesiastical archives and libraries can be idiosyncratic, with shorter hours than state repositories like the Biblioteca Nacional and Archivo Histórico Nacional, both in Madrid. There is nothing like being handed a thousand-year-old manuscript, like Queen Sancha’s prayer book in the university library in Salamanca, or the copy of Isidore’s Etymologies she had made for her son in El Escorial. When I went to the archive in the cathedral of Túy to look at the original parchment of Urraca Fernández’s gift to that see the document I discuss at length in the book, I learned that the canon archivist was also the priest of the church outside the town that had been the cathedral built after Urraca’s gift. He took myself and my husband there to see it, and it was amazing to see the eleventh-century building. Most cathedrals that old were later rebuilt and rebuilt again, but when they decided to rebuild in Túy, they chose a different site, leaving this building intact. We even went down into the crypt where there were Roman-era rooftiles from the original dwelling. So I urge beginning researchers to be brave – you don’t know what you will discover, but it will be an adventure.

RSJ: We are fascinated by your wonderful examination of matrilineal succession, which is something you don’t hear about as much. How is matrilineal succession different from matriarchy? In a less patriarchal society, could matrilineal succession mean succession from mother to daughter rather than father to daughter’s husband or maternal uncle to nephew?

Lucy: Most matriarchies will be matrilineal, but not all matrilineal societies are matriarchal. Identifying matriarchy versus patriarchy is in part a subjective value judgement about how power works in a given society, while matrilineality and matrilocality (when the dwelling place of married couples is connected to the wife’s family rather than the husband’s) are determined by more objective criteria. I have learned a lot from the anthropologists, whose area of expertise this is. I know some identify, for instance, the BriBri people of Costa Rica and the Khasi of India as groups that are matrilineal, matrilocal and also matriarchal, and inheritance from mother to daughter places a role in this.

RSJ: Would unmarried royal women be able to exercise such power without being consecrated virgins? The consecration was probably necessary to ensure that outsiders believed that these women remained virgins?

Lucy: Consecration and the status of virginity that went along with it took them out of the marriage economy and have them a sacral status that enhanced their authority. One question is the status of the immensely powerful royal daughter Sancha Raimúndez who lived in the twelfth-century. I don’t think we have any evidence of her being consecrated, but she remained unmarried. Janna Bianchini is working on her right now, and we will have to wait and see what she discovers.

RSJ: In your research, were you able to form an opinion on why Urraca and Elvira supported their brother Alfonso VI over their other brothers? Were they supporting the brother most likely to win or might more personal issues have been at play? Do the documents even allow for such speculation? You have also written a historical fiction novel, Pilgrimage. What was different when writing a novel? Was anything similar?

Lucy: I’m going to answer these two questions together, because, as you’ll see, they fit together well. I think writing fiction has made me a better and more interesting writer. My fiction is heavily informed by my research, though it is liberating not to have to footnote everything and I can present hypotheses about how things were that I cannot put into academic writing. The main difference is that writing fiction makes you realize how many realities of everyday life academic historians don’t consider. The two genres do bleed into each other, however. While I was writing this book, I was also working on a novel about the epic hero El Cid and his wife, who lived at the time of Urraca and Alfonso VI until I decided I had to put off finishing the novel until the academic book was done because I was afraid of making things up. In the novel, Urraca’s preference for Alfonso VI is personal. In real life, I think we can say as a fact that the choice was made as much by their parents, who gave their eldest son the smaller and less well-situated kingdom of Castilla, and gave León, a larger kingdom with more opportunity to Alfonso, as by the two sisters. Was that simply because Sancho, the eldest, got his father’s inheritance, while Alfonso got his mother’s? Or was there some partiality involved? That’s why we need novelists.

RSJ: What are your current projects or plans? We look forward to more of your brilliant work!

Lucy: I did finish the novel, so I am looking for an agent and publisher for that. I am returning to earlier work on Jews and Christians, and researching an early Latin translation of Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed. And I am at the beginning of a big project on the lives of women saints and how they were used among communities of woman religious which will connect the Leonese court I describe in this book with Ottonian royal women and religious houses.

Interview with Edward Cavanagh

Edward Cavanagh is an Isaac Newton Research Fellow in History at Downing College, Cambridge.  He works both in history, mostly in the history of ideas and in world history, and in law, with a focus on legal and constitutional history. Switching between epochs and also straddling premodern to modern times, his interdisciplinary work focuses upon scales of government from officeholding to monarchies to empires over the longue durée. For the Royal Studies Journal, he demonstrated this by incorporating rhetorics and literary scholarship into English legal history in order to explain what exactly flowers are doing in the crown – literally.

RSJ Blog: Hi Edward, thank you for doing this interview! You just published your article Flowers of the Crown in English Legal Thought. Metaphorical Assessments of Royal Power in Transitional Periods of Monarchy in the Royal Studies Journal! Often, legal history can be a bit dry, but you managed to find flowers in it – could you please elaborate a bit on that?

Edward: This is a treat for me, Cathleen, because I respect your own work on deposition and the comparative history of monarchy. You are right. Legal history does have a reputation for its dryness. It also has a reputation for the burden it can impose upon readers to grasp immediately the esoteric details of procedural and substantive aspects of the law as it was practised and understood in the past. Both reputations are fairly earned. The challenge, I think, is to approach legal history as a history of ideas. This was something that F. W. Maitland used to harp on about over a century ago, but we appear to have lost our way since then. To continue to see the history of law as the history of ideas, we are able to feel for certain patterns in both the language and the logic of the law reports. We might also be tempted to look beyond the traditional sources of law, as I attempted to do in places here, albeit I think with mixed successes.

RSJ Blog: What are you unsure about? Personally, I think, using a broader approach to sources to really understand law is quite helpful! Although, in my experience, political practice – though based on legal thought – was often times contrary, or at least different, from the ideas and debates in courts and parliaments. What is usually missing is an element of representation, and how normal people on the streets (usually of London) viewed things.

Edward: Indeed it is very sensible to insist that ordinary people experienced the law differently to those judicial officeholders whose job it was to expound that law in court. On the other hand, the case could be made for historians to expand their definitions of ‘law’ to account for both kinds of experiences. Quite whether it’s possible to uphold such an all-encompassing definition of law while attempting to sketch out the contours of a history of legal ideas is another question.

File:WLA vanda Cast of Tomb Effigy Henry III.jpgTomb effigy, in gilt bronze, of Henry III of England (b.1206; d.1272) in the Confessor’s Chapel, Westminster Abbey; by William Torel, about 1292
English, Westminster

RSJ Blog: You are approaching legal thought through language and rhetorics and with political culture in mind as well – how difficult was it to combine these different approaches, or was this something which came naturally from the subject of research?

Edward: English legal thought did not appear from nowhere in the early modern period, of course. Its evolution had taken place over many centuries as part of a wider European phenomenon. Rhetoric was a key factor in this development. So too was the ideological clout of the institutional Church across Christendom. We are able to account for many other attributes across the ‘long’ middle ages as well.

Legal thinkers in England, as elsewhere, often prided themselves on the receptivity they showed to foreign ideas. At other times, English legal thinkers were rather protective of the borders established around their own intellectual domain. In a sense, to write the history of English law is to recount the ongoing saga of how generations of lawyers attempted to get this balance right.

By the sixteenth century, English law had become endowed with hundreds of quirky traits. Many of these derived in part or in whole from the beautifully awkward multilingualism of the country. Consider the linguistic lay of the land. As law reporters wrote down the details of common law proceedings in Law French, they seldom did so consistently. As scholars wrote in neo-Latin, they did not always do so particularly well. As scribes and chroniclers moved away from Middle English towards early modern English, they did not immediately care to follow orthographical conventions all that strictly. Once more, to come to the history of law like the history of ideas, it is often necessary (indeed, it is sometimes quite amusing) to observe the movement of concepts between these different languages. (I accept that political thought is little different in this respect to legal thought.)

RSJ Blog: Sounds like the legal scholar in you is searching for cases where the norm and the historical reality match, while the historian in you has long accepted that the norm is basically an idea depending on contexts, languages, and meanings. Does this kind of sum it up?

Edward: That may be right, but if so, then I am far more of a historian than a legal scholar.

RSJ Blog: You trace the expression of „flowers of the crown“ back to the 15th century, although it might have become much more popular under the Tudors and Stuarts. Could you pinpoint moments when the flower metaphor was used more widely, or – the opposite – not used at all?

Edward: While the crowns of English monarchs were often embedded with decorative ‘fleurons’ from the twelfth century onwards, it would not be until the early fifteenth century that the expression ‘flowers of the crown’ was appropriated for poetic, legalistic, and moralistic ends. There may be earlier instances of the expression, but I have not been able to find them. Conventional wisdom holds that the expression emerged out of the unique constitutional predicament of the Tudor-Stuart transition. The expression was indeed used more commonly into the Stuart period, but it is also to be encountered in many pamphlets and reports of the Hanoverian period. It disappears from English vocabulary during the reign of Victoria, and that, I argue, is because the crown itself was becoming a metaphor for the modern administrative state at this moment. Such is the way we are expect to dress the windows of our modern scholarly articles. Really,  the purpose of the article was to draw attention to an action brought into the Court of Common Pleas in 1430. I had found it in the Year Books, which is now a much less daunting body of source material to sort through because of the magnificent Seipp Abridgement of Professors David J. Seipp and Carol F. Lee. Chief Justice William Babington is reported to have used the expression to emphasise the temporariness of royal donations (in this particular instance, some jurisdictional privileges conferred in letters patent by Richard II and Henry IV).

RSJ Blog: Using flowers as metaphor also relates to the separation of an individual monarch, restricted by their humanity and mortality, and the everlasting crown, existing beyond and apart from individuals carrying it. In what ways do flowers help to bring this idea forward?

Edward: Of course, you are right. Lawyers had to dance very carefully around this distinction between ‘the king’s two bodies’, and the strategic use of abstract language, through the invocation of cutesy metaphors, could be handy for dullening the thump of their arguments. But the metaphor is more intriguing for me because of its situation between this dichotomy. A flower is organic and begins in the crown, and it can only be enjoyed for as long as it does not decompose, and when it appears to be decomposing, it can no longer be enjoyed and must then be replaced by a new one from the same source. Here we are to come to terms with the finiteness of time that attaches to an expression of royal favour; this does not necessarily require us to read anything else into the formula about the mortality of the individual monarch who may have expressed such a favour in the first place. What it does require, on the other hand, is some acknowledgment that judicial officeholders in courts were the best placed in England to know when to discard or to replant particular flowers.

RSJ Blog: In the end, flowers of the crown refer as such less to the one monarch wearing it, but more to the whole system of government ‘gardening’ – so to speak?

Edward: Very good, even if I am concerned that we are ‘transplanting’ a modern understanding of government into the late Middle Ages.

RSJ Blog: Are there any specific flowers symbolising specific ideas of monarchy, and if so, why are they associated with a specific idea?

Edward: The fleur-de-lis – the heraldic lily – is perhaps the most obvious candidate for consideration in this frame. By the thirteenth century, in both England and France, each of the three petals of this flower had become associated with distinct tenets of the Holy Trinity. It therefore conveyed the need to show reverence to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Long before this, however, the flower had already been imbued with a Christian symbolism, in France, to reflect the endorsement of the king by God. We might say, therefore, that it also conveyed one of the oldest and most established ideas in European political theology about kingship as a royal office holdable only of God.

RSJ Blog: Flowers connecting the sphere of the holy and the worldly powers!

Edward: And more!

RSJ Blog: Indeed – in your article, there are recurrent connections between nature and legal-political authority as well. Were such metaphors used due to an easier understanding of a mostly rural population (as the miller in Ginzburg’s The Cheese and the Worms did), or was there also another understanding of nature behind this?

Edward: Rural folk may never have been party to high-brow discussions in the central courts or in parliament about the prerogatives of the crown, but they came face to face with kings in floriated crowns whenever they held common coins in their hands. And there were many opportunities for ordinary people to come into contact with royal iconography on town streets, at the market, or in church: I think here of seals, effigies, portraits, coats of arms, and even hearsay. On the other hand, what they knew of the virtues of kingship, they mostly experienced through the burdens of taxation, the patchiness of justice, and the vices of lordship. It may be interesting, if inevitably fruitless, to speculate on the extent to which, if at all, some association of a floriated crown with kingship in popular culture mirrored the high legalism of lords temporal, lords spiritual, judges, and serjeants.

Coin, round, at centre, the letter E above a floriated cross. In each angle, a Lion passant below a crown.Copyright Museums Victoria / CC BY
Photographer: Justine Philip; Museums Victoria

RSJ Blog: I am not so sure if trying to find out what the flower meant to rural or town folk is really fruitless, or, if there might not still be sources we can use to shed light on this question. But this might be a perspective from my own research where the fate of monarchs often was decided by their subjects 😊.

Edward: If we must accept that God had no such control over the fate of monarchs, then we have no choice but to accept that all royal power was determined by subjects. I would only add that some subjects (owing to their birth, education, profession, and comportment) were better suited than other subjects to curtail royal power while giving the convincing impression that such actions were all-the-while lawful. Writing this as the UK Supreme Court begins to ponder both the justiciability and the lawfulness of the Prime Minister’s request of the Queen to prorogue parliament, such a perspective would seem to provide a glimpse into the reality of constitutional monarchy today, too. Crucially, however, questions about executive misconduct and its accountability to judicial review necessitate far less engagement with the crown in the jurisprudence of the United Kingdom today than they did centuries ago in England, when the first judicial chidings of officeholding negligence are to be discovered in the Year Books.

RSJ Blog: Coming from the medieval flowers in the crown full circle to todays politics! Finally, what are you working on right now? Was this article part of a bigger project, or just a curiosity you found in your research material?

Edward: This article was a happy distraction from larger ongoing projects of mine on the development of English legal thinking about war, monarchy, and the constitutional separation of church and state. It had an unusual trajectory before publication. I had originally prepared the article to appear as a short corrective to J. W. Gough’s appearance in the Notes and Comments section of the English Historical Review. Contrary to decades of convention and the editorial policy laid out on that journal’s own website, I was informed by the managing editors that a distinct Notes and Comments section in the English Historical Review ‘no longer exists’. This had been my favourite section of that journal, where quick findings and correctives could be displayed for curious readers. I immediately thought of Notes & Queries, an outlet which has published antiquarian and historical research of exactly this kind for centuries (some of which I had even cited in my own article!). But I was told that my piece was ‘not of wide enough interest for N&Q’. Undeterred, I resolved to expand the article and try my hand with a journal more committed to interdisciplinary thematic research. The Royal Studies Journal was perfect for this end and I am very glad to have published my article here. May this journal be produced, published, and read for as long as its editorial policy remains to impose no restrictions upon authors owing to some perception of ‘audience interest’. As historians, we need outlets that discriminate on research, not on topic. I am under no illusions about the popularity of my research. If only 10 or 20 people bother to read my article, so be it.

Thank you for your engagement!

RSJ Blog: Thanks for this interview, and we’re happy to fill in an open gap left by the EHR, and especially due to our focus on all things royal – be they legal, political, representations, or flowers in the crown! We’re curious about your further research, and hope to see it then in the bookshops where it will certainly find its readership!

Book of the Month: Queenship in Medieval Europe by Theresa Earenfight

q ship med euro

This month’s book of the month is Queenship in Medieval Europe by Theresa Earenfight (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). Although a recent work, this book is already a go-to text for students and scholars alike.

The introduction is especially valuable for scholars of queenship who are seeking a theoretical framework. Earenfight highlights the plural nature of monarchy, and persuasively argues that queens were an integral part of rulership.

The four chronological chapters cover the years 300-1500. The first chapter focuses on 300-700 and details the birth of medieval queenship out of Roman, Germanic, and Christian antecedents. What developed was neither quite Roman or Germanic, but indebted to both. Christianity loomed large, with piety, sometimes even sanctity, being expected of queens. The second chapter, spanning 700-1100, examines the transformation of the king’s wife into a queen, with a special focus on coronation. Chapter three, covering 1100-1350, looks at queenship within the matrix of family power.  Queens linked their natal and marital realms, making them vital partners. In addition, the increased bureaucracy of royal government did not mean queens were sidelined in favor of functionaries, but rather could use bureaucrats to help them manage their own lands and wealth. The fourth chapter, from 1350-1500, is about changing queenship during years of crisis (such as the Wars of the Roses in England). Queens played valuable roles in dynastic continuity (or lack thereof), as well as in cultural patronage. The fifth and final chapter sums up medieval queenship and briefly explores the differences in the practices of queenship between the medieval and early modern era.

Throughout the book, Earenfight maintains a broad chronological scope. Byzantine empresses, Scandinavian queens, and rulers from Kievan Rus appear alongside queens from France, England, Castile, and Aragon. The chapters have a well-marked conclusion section, as well as suggestions for further research. This makes the book ideal to use in a course on medieval queenship or to give to students who want to conduct independent research. The bibliography is extensive, and Earenfight has a larger one available online, at Queens in the Middle Ages.

 

Journal of the Summer: 5 Years of the Royal Studies Journal

This summer, we’re celebrating already 5 years of the Royal Studies Journal! A few more posts on this are planned, so keep your eyes on this blog, on Twitter, or Facebook. First up is an interview with the person who started all this: Elena (Ellie) Woodacre is the heart and soul of the Royal Studies Network as well as of the Royal Studies Journal which is connected to the network and its other various activities. She is also editor-in-chief of the journal, and – together with the team of the journal – brings it to life. The first issue of the journal launched in July 2014 – 5 years ago! We caught up with Ellie to learn more about the first five years, and what is planned for the next five!


Covers of all ten issues of the last five years

RSJ Blog: Hi Ellie, we’ve looked deep into our archives, and one of the very first posts on this blog was your status report in March 2014 about the upcoming launch of the Royal Studies Journal! Then, in July 2014, the first issue of the journal went online – and now it’s been 5 years, 10 issues among them 3 special issues, two different technical systems, uncountable book reviews, and hopefully many, many articles and reviews in the pipeline still. Congrats for bringing such a project to life!

Could you maybe first tell us a bit more what inspired you and your colleagues from the Royal Studies Network to publish (yet another) academic journal?

Ellie: The inspiration for starting the RSJ was the same forces that led us to start the Royal Studies Network—we had a group of scholars and researchers who were all working in royal studies, but there was no defined academic forum for the field. We started with the conference series, Kings & Queens, which led to the formation of the network as a way to build connections and collaboration in the field. There have been fantastic publications which came out from all of the K&Q conferences, like The Image and Perception of Monarchy from K&Q1, Royal Women and Dynastic Loyalty from K&Q5 in Clemson and the recent Dynastic Change volume from K&Q4. Yet these volumes can only contain a brief selection of all the exciting papers from our conferences (normally about 100 each year!). The idea for the journal was that it could provide a constant publication outlet for research in the field, which wasn’t necessarily tied to the conferences, and could feature book reviews to help people keep up with new research in the field as well. We had an exploratory meeting at a Kings & Queens conference to gauge interest in a potential journal and the RSJ just took off from there—I can’t believe it’s been five years already!

RSJ Blog: Back in 2014, you told us in an interview that you were really impressed how quick the idea of the Royal Studies Network took a life of its own, and that you were happy that already around 220 scholars from all over the globe were connected in this network. On Facebook, we just had a short notice from Dustin, the network’s secretary, that we’re now up to 500! Can you tell us a bit more about this growth, which projects the network and the journal did in the last five years, and where you still see potential – or, what you hope to do someday?

Ellie: It is incredibly exciting that we’ve passed the 500 member mark—and when you look at the membership list you can see that we’ve got a truly global reach, with RSN members spanning from Australia and New Zealand, to North America and North Africa and all over Europe. And yet, as always, I feel like we could work harder to be even more global—I’ve been really evangelizing for royal studies to be as global and as inclusive as possible. That’s where the growth is—I really want to bring in more researchers who work on monarchy in Asia, Africa, Polynesia and the Americas. There is some amazing research on these areas already, but I’d like to see it more deeply connected to the RSN and reflected in the contents of the RSJ as well. Additionally, I want to bring in more members who work on monarchy both in the Ancient/Classical world and in the modern era so that we can really get the full timespan of royal studies represented in our membership and publications. This broad spectrum is vital to moving the field forward. Looking at monarchy across time and space, as works like The Routledge History of Monarchy and A Companion to Global Queenship both aim to do and making connections between scholars working in different geographical and temporal areas gives us a very different, and much richer, perspective on monarchy and royal studies.

 

RSJ Blog: Talking a bit more about the field of Royal Studies – in which ways did it change, or where do you see current academic interests?

Ellie: Apart from the “global turn” as I’ve just been speaking about, there are a lot of exciting developments in the field. I think one of the most exciting elements is the interdisciplinarity of the field. You can see that in the programmes for the K&Q conferences—researchers from different disciplines are bringing new approaches to royal studies and I think by bringing scholars from different areas together you can get very exciting inspiration and collaborations. Researchers from history, archaeology, anthropology, sociology, art history, literature studies, law, medical history, economics and so many more fields all look at various aspects of royal studies. Crossover, or cross-pollination, from one field to another gives us fresh perspectives. Take for example current research in the study of the queen’s household—you’ve got scholars like Nicola Clark thinking about gender and space in the household of Henry VIII’s queens and their palatial accommodation, Diana Pelaz Flores using elements of social network analysis to demonstrate the connections and wide ranging influence of queens through their household in Late Medieval Castile and economic analysis of queens and their household expenses by Charlotte Backerra and Cathérine Annette Ludwig-Ockenfels in the Holy Roman Empire during the early modern era. This really demonstrates the power of bringing in different disciplinary approaches to generate new insights into the field—changing the way we look at queenship and the queen’s household.

 

RSJ Blog: Continuing on from this, do you think that the work of the RSN and RSJ has also pushed royal studies/monarchical studies more on an academic level as opposed to the popular history writing which has dominated for a long time in this field (especially in Austria and Germany)?

Ellie: Obviously there has always been a fascination with monarchy and royal figures of the past and present—we can see that in the vast output of material from popular culture, media and history works aimed at a non-scholarly audience. While I think we should embrace this material—indeed there is some exciting research in royal studies on the remembrance and representation of monarchy in popular culture and the press–we also hope that our own publications in the academic field of royal studies connects deeply with the scholarly community as well as being potentially accessible and interesting to a wider audience. I do hope that our research will continue to gain wider recognition as an academic field of study and at the moment, one of the areas that our Listings team is working on is to link the RSJ to more scholarly databases of journals so that we can further enhance our reach and scholarly standing in academia.

 

RSJ Blog: Both the network as well as the journal are great places also for doctoral candidates and ECRs – was this something planned from the start, or did it just happen along the way? In which way are ideas about these scholars at the start of their careers implemented?

Ellie: This has always been a key aspect of the RSN and RSJ, to highlight the work of graduate students and PhD/Early Career researchers and encourage the next generation of scholars in the field. I actually started the first Kings & Queens conference as a PhD student and we’ve always aimed to make the conferences, network and journal a welcoming and vibrant community for students and ECRs. We’ve done this by featuring their papers at the conferences, bringing them onto the journal staff to help them gain experience in academic publishing and by running the article prize specifically for graduate students and Early Career researchers. This is a tradition that I am absolutely passionate about continuing—the RSN should never feel like an exclusive ‘clique’ or a restricted area that only senior scholars have access to. We’re all about being on the cutting edge of research, which is showcased in PhD theses and the developing work of ECRs. Plus, by bringing junior and senior scholars together at the Kings & Queens conferences and in publications like the RSJ, you can get fantastic collaborations! What I’d like to do next is perhaps start a voluntary mentoring scheme, like some societies run at major conferences—this would be a great way to move the informal connections and support networks formed through the RSN to the next level.

 

RSJ Blog: That sounds fantastic! We’ll keep our eyes open for any announcements regarding this. Finally, what are you working on right now? Except for all the work you do for the RSN and RSJ?

Ellie: I’ve got a fair few projects on the go at the moment! In addition to editing the RSJ, I’m an editor on two book series, Gender and Power in the Premodern World (ARC Humanities Press) and Queens of England (Routledge)—both of these series are really growing at the moment with lots of new titles contracted, some of which will be out fairly soon. These series are both deeply connected to royal studies and I hope will provide yet more publication outlets for our growing field. I have a work of my own contracted in the Queens of England series, a monograph on Joan of Navarre which I have been working on for many years—I’ve given a few papers on her at past Kings & Queens conferences. I’m also deep into writing a short form monograph on queens and queenship for ARC’s Past Imperfect series which I’m very excited about. This book looks at queens and queenship across time and place, exactly what I was talking about earlier in terms of the “global turn” of the field, looking at the constants and variable of queenship over the longue durée. Currently I’m wrapping up the chapter on family—I’ve been thinking a lot about monogamous and polygamous court systems and what impact this has on the role of a queen both as a consort and a queen mother, or royal matriarch. I’m also working with Aidan Norrie, Danna Messer, Carolyn Harris and Joanna Laynesmith on a four-volume series on English consorts for the amazing Queenship and Power series at Palgrave Macmillan and have a few other “irons in the fire” as well. Never a dull moment—clearly I can’t get enough of queenship and royal studies!

RSJ Blog: We neither! Good luck, and we’re really exited about the next five years, your upcoming projects and more publications in these book series! Thank you for joining us!

Interview with Erin Jordan

Erin Jordan is Assistant Professor of Instruction in the Honors College at Ohio University. She has written numerous articles on Cistercian women and elite women’s religious patronage. She is the author of Women, Power and Religious Patronage in the Middle Ages and is currently at work on The Woman of Antioch: Gender, Power and Political Culture in the Latin East.  Her article “Corporate Monarchy in the Twelfth-Century Kingdom of Jerusalem” was published in the Royal Studies Journal, Volume 6, Issue 1.

fulko_melisenda

Coronation of Melisende and Fulk from Paris, BN MS Fr. 779, accessed via Wikimedia Commons

RSJ Blog: Hello, Erin! Thank you for talking with us! Your article on Melisende was great. How did you come to study her?

Erin: Thanks. I’m glad you liked it. I actually became interested in Melisende when I taught a course on the Crusades a few years ago. Until then, I’d studied women and authority in Western Europe, but hadn’t realized how prominent ruling women were in the Latin East. At the time, it seemed contrary to prevailing scholarly wisdom about the ability of women to exercise authority in the Middle Ages, especially in a particularly volatile region. I was hoping to figure out what was “in the water” so to speak in the Crusader States to produce so many women who believed in their right to wield power.

RSJ Blog: Your article is about corporate (or plural) monarchy and how the idea of rule by more than one royal can help us understand rulership in the kingdom of Jerusalem. Do you think corporate monarchy applies to the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem for the entirety of its history?

Erin: My research on Jerusalem does not extend beyond the life of Melisende, but based on what I’ve seen in the literature, I would say no. I definitely think the model applies in the early years, but there is a distinct shift after the death of Baldwin III. King Amalric does not seem to have included his wives in governing in a way that would align with the model of corporate monarchy in place prior, nor does Baldwin IV.  There does seem to be a brief revival during the rule of Sybilla and Guy, but that doesn’t seem to survive past the death of Sybilla in spite of the fact that women continued to inherit the throne. The later queens seemed to have played a minimal role in actual governance.

RSJ Blog: Your article also mentions that corporate monarchy is especially applicable to the Latin East and the medieval Mediterranean. Why do you think this is?

Erin:  I think a corporate approach to ruling fit the medieval Mediterranean and the Latin East for a number of reasons. Monarchy in these areas faced external pressures along their frontiers that resulted in nearly constant military conflict during the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Someone needed to assume responsibility for the daily business of governing during the king’s absence in the field. The type of bureaucracy that assumed such responsibilities in the West had yet to develop in the region at this stage, providing an opportunity for family members to step in and assist in governing. I also believed that corporate monarchy appealed to the dynastic ambitions of King Baldwin II, who, in the absence of a male heir, wanted to be sure that his daughter succeeded him. Providing a capable consort would increase the likelihood that the nobility of the kingdom would consent to this arrangement.

RSJ Blog: Melisende’s family sounds fascinating. Could you tell us more about her sister, Alice, who had designs on Antioch but was thwarted?

Erin: I find all four of Baldwin’s daughters fascinating, though next to Melisende, we know the most about Alice. After the death of her husband Bohemond II of Antioch, she attempted to exert control over the principality on three separate occasions. It is striking that in doing so, she was willing to challenge her own father, King Baldwin I, as well as her brother-in-law, Fulk. Unfortunately, it is difficult to piece together the exact course of events due to the limitations of the sources. The most detailed narrative account is that provided by William of Tyre, who clearly had strong feelings about her actions, dismissing her ambitious as dangerous and her actions illegitimate. Yet the support she had among other powerful nobles in the region, including the Count of Tripoli and Hugh of Le Puiset, suggests that not everyone shared William’s views.

RSJ Blog: One of your major sources is the chronicle of William of Tyre. What are your impressions of this source? Is William reliable? What are his biases?

Erin: As I indicated in reference to Alice in the previous question, William of Tyre’s narrative can be a bit tricky. The detail and insight it provides into events is obviously a strength, and explains why so many scholars rely so heavily on it in their investigations into the Latin East. However, the account is rife with his opinions and his personal sentiment which require careful navigation. Literary scholars have noted his admiration and personal affinity for Amalric, which seems to influence his presentation of Amalric’s predecessors, particularly Melisende. I do think there is an interesting gender dynamic at play, though have not spent enough time with the complete text to make any concrete determinations.

RSJ Blog: What are you working on now? Are you doing more with Melisende or moving on to someone else?

Erin:  The original plan was to write a book about all four of Baldwin’s daughters-Melisende, Alice, Hodierna and Iveta-that examined gender and female authority in the Latin East in order to explain the prominence of women in this region. Unfortunately, the sources on the four sisters are so uneven that any study I produced would have been skewed in favor of Melisende, who has already been the subject of several studies. I did publish an article on the youngest sister, Iveta, who became the abbess of Bethany and the article on Melisende that appeared in the RSJ. I have since shifted my focus North and am working on political culture in the Principality of Antioch. This book examines the experiences of four prominent women associated with the principality-Constance I, Alice, Constance II, and Maria-in order to understand the attitudes and ideas prevalent in the region that determined who was able to exercise authority. It will also examine their respective experiences in order to explain why some of them succeeded in their bid to wield power while others failed.

RSJ Blog: Thank you so much! Best of luck with your work. We look forward to reading it!

 

Let’s talk about Royal Studies! (Video)

This little corner of the web is all about Royal Studies! The field, the network, the journal. Behind all this are amazing scholars, some of them coming together on the Kings & Queens conferences, some of them only connected via the Facebook group, following the activities on Twitter, Facebook, or the newsletter.

However, we do not only go to the Kings & Queens conferences but also to other gatherings like the IMC Leeds (for medievalists). Just recently, Kristen Geaman and Cathleen Sarti who are two of the people behind this blog and the marketing team have met for the first time in real life at IMC. Of course, we did a video.

Honestly, we’re not used to video interviews and you can see it – but if we are brave enough to post it, then so are you! Members of the RSN, get out, meet your friends from the network and talk about the network and Royal Studies! Please send any videos and questions to royalstudiesblog@gmail.com!
Under the video, you’ll find a list of possible questions to structure your videos! Although, we did also not really keep the structure – but take a look (sorry for the link, video is bigger than allowed upload size):

Kristen Geaman and Cathleen Sarti, IMC Leeds 2019

Here are some of the questions we discussed:

What brought you to royal studies, and how did you find out about the Royal Studies Network?

What do you enjoy most about the network?

Which new insights have you gained from your work connected to the network, or to royal studies?

What are you curious about?

What are you doing right now, and what are your next projects?