Interview with Talia Zajac

Talia Zajac is a PhD Candidate in Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto and newsletter editor for the Early Slavic Studies Association (ESSA). She is currently completing revisions on her dissertation, “Women Between West and East: the inter-rite marriages of the Kyivan Rus’ Dynasty, ca. 1000-1204” (co-supervised by Isabelle Cochelin and Allan Smith). As its title indicates, the dissertation analyzes the marriage alliances of the Riurikids, the Orthodox rulers of Rus’ (the ancestor state of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus), with Catholic rulers. Drawing on studies of medieval queenship, her research focuses on the individual experience of cultural displacement and continuity of elite women in these marriages. Her article “Gloriosa Regina or ‘Alien Queen’?: Some Reconsiderations on Anna Yaroslavna’s Queenship (r. 1050-1075)” appears in issue four (2016) of the Royal Studies Journal.

We recently caught up with Talia to chat about her article and her research.

Kristen and Cathleen: Thank you for a great article! To get started, could you tell us some basic information about Anna of Kiev?

Talia: Anna was the daughter of prince Yaroslav “the Wise” of Kiev (d. 1054) and princess Ingigerd (d. 1050), the daughter of King Olof Eirikson Skötkonung of Sweden (d. 1021/1022). Sources do not record Anna’s birth date, only those of her brothers, but we can estimate that she was born in the early 1020s. The French embassy led by bishops Roger of Châlons-en-Champagne and Gautier of Meaux arrived in Kiev in 1049 to ask for Anna’s hand in marriage on behalf of the French king Henri I. They returned to France between 1050 and 1051. Subsequently in 1051, Anna was the first queen of the Capetian dynasty to be crowned and married in Reims Cathedral, which could be indicative of the special prestige attached to her marriage.

When her eldest son Philippe was born in 1052 he was the first member of the Capetian dynasty to be given this name, which was still very rare in France. A name of Greek origin for the heir to the throne was highly unusual and points to Anna’s influence. In addition, a few charters suggest that Anna participated in the patronage of local ecclesiastical institutions in the Ile-de-France during her husband’s lifetime. Her participation in governance increased after her husband’s death in 1060, when she ruled as co-regent with her brother-in-law Count Baldwin of Flanders on behalf of her eight-year-old son Philippe. Twenty-three surviving charters from the years of Philippe’s minority (1060-1067) indicate that Anna played a key role in ruling France during this period and in confirming the rights and privileges of monasteries and churches, including such important abbeys as Saint Martin-des-Champs and Saint-Maur-des-Fossés.

In 1061, however, Anna remarried with Count Raoul of Crépy-en-Valois (d. 1074). This hasty remarriage a year after her husband’s death may suggest that Anna was still, to a certain degree, an outsider at the French court, in need of a local protector. As a result of this second union, Anna also became Countess of Valois, and ruled likewise as a seigniorial lady.

In the early 1060s (probably 1063), Anna, or a chaplain acting on her behalf, signed one charter in favor of the abbey of Saint-Crépin-le-Grand in Soissons in Cyrillic script as “ANA PЪHNA” (Ana rьina, i.e., Anna regina). This remarkable document, which survives in the original in the Bibliothèque nationale, testifies to Anna’s ability to maintain ties to her natal Rus’ culture after a decade in France. It also indicates that the effects of the “scandal” of Anna’s second marriage on her queenship has also been somewhat exaggerated in secondary literature. The charter is issued in her son’s name, but the consent of her second husband Raoul is also noted in the charter. Despite her second marriage, Anna continued to participate in the life of the royal court and did not become a persona non grata.


Nineteenth-century statue of Anna Yaroslavna (c) Natalia Zajac 2013

Kristen and Cathleen: What was the significance of this east-west marriage, and how did it come to be (especially during a time of growing distance between the east and west churches)?

Talia: This is an excellent question! Since no primary source directly discusses the motivations for this long-distance marriage alliance, to a certain degree any answer must rely simply on speculation. We can make a few informed guesses, however, as to the benefits that both Yaroslav the Wise of Kiev and King Henri of France could hope to gain from such a marriage.

Political concerns probably led Henri to make his choice of a long-distance alliance. It is helpful to remember that the Capetians were still a relatively new dynasty in the mid eleventh century: Henri I was only the third king of this new line. As parvenus, who had ousted the Carolingian dynasty, the Capetians needed to make marriage alliances with established ruling houses in order to legitimize their reign. Marion Facinger and Constance Bouchard have shown that, although later Capetians would be content to marry the daughters of counts, the early Capetians in the tenth and eleventh centuries sought to marry the daughters of kings. Nevertheless, it grew increasingly difficult to find suitably elevated women who were also not related to them within the seven prohibited degrees of consanguinity.

In 988, Hugh Capet, Henri’s grandfather, had searched for an eastern marriage alliance. He had Gerbert of Aurillac (later pope Sylvester II) write to the Byzantine Emperor Basil II, asking him to send a bride for his son Robert. We do not know if the Byzantine court even bothered to reply, but the letter indicates that the Capetian court had no qualms with seeking an eastern Christian bride. In doing so, Hugh Capet may have hoped not only to abide by consanguinity regulations, but also, perhaps equally importantly, to legitimize his dynasty by marriage into the Byzantine imperial house.

Robert was ultimately threatened with excommunication by Pope Gregory V by taking as his second wife Bertha of Blois to whom he was related within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity (the couple were anathematized in 998 and finally divorced in 1001).  By marrying Anna of Kiev, Henri I may likewise have sought not only to satisfy consanguinity regulations that had plagued his father, but also to find a woman of royal blood to marry.

Anna of Kiev satisfied the demand for a bride of noble blood as she was related to the Byzantine imperial house: upon his conversion to Christianity in 988/989 her grandfather Vladimir (Volodymyr) Sviatoslavich, had married the Byzantine princess Anna, sister of Basil II (after whom she could likely have been named). Henri may also have heard about Anna of Kiev through his previous wife Matilda of Frisia (d. 1044), because Matilda’s niece, Oda of Stade, was married to Anna’s brother, Sviatoslav.

Finally, Anna of Kiev was part of the first generation of the rulers of Kiev to grow up in a Christian setting, since official conversion had only occurred late in her grandfather Vladimir’s reign. The growing liturgical and theological differences between Latin Christianity and Orthodoxy must not yet have seemed so great in newly-Chrisitanized Rus’ as the basic difference in belief between Christianity and paganism.

Anna had at least two other sisters who also became western queens: Elizabeth, who married King Harald Hardraada of Norway in 1044 and Anastasia, who married King Andrew I of Hungary around 1039-1050. Alexandr Musin recently (2014) has suggested that Henri I sought an alliance with Yaroslav the Wise, due to Yaroslav’s ties to Norway, in order to encircle William of Normandy. The theory is an intriguing one, especially since William of Normandy made a marriage alliance with Matilda of Flanders in 1049, the same year that Henri sent his marriage embassy to Kiev, but there are no primary sources that support the theory directly.

Kristen and Cathleen: Wow, this marriage really gives insights into the complex international relations of this time! Your article mentions that earlier work often uncritically repeated legendary material. Any favorites among these fabrications?

Talia: One of my favorites is the story that her second husband Raoul kidnapped her on horseback while she was riding in the forest of Senlis and married her by force. One can find this story repeated in some English works on Anna, for example, in the entry on her life in The Modern Encyclopedia of Russia and Soviet History (1976), but it is not substantiated by any medieval source.

But the most widespread tale about Anna is that she was responsible for bringing into France the so-called “Reims Gospel Book” or Slavonic Gospels (Reims, Bibliothèque municipale Carnegie, MS 255) on which subsequently French kings swore their coronation oaths. This claim has been disputed multiple times in scholarly articles and yet continues to appear in publications. The Gospel Book appears for the first time in the treasury inventory of Reims Cathedral in 1622 which states that the manuscript was donated to Reims Cathedral in 1574 by Cardinal Charles of Lorraine (1524-1575). He might perhaps have picked it up during the course of his travels to the Council of Trent. We have no have no specific source references to the actual use of Reims MS 255 in French coronations. Even today, the Reims Municipale Library has a special section of its website in Russian solely for the purpose of demonstrating that this manuscript has no connection to Anna of Kiev.

Kristen and Cathleen: The article notes in several places that some of Anna’s charters are only available in later copies. What is the story of these primary sources?

Talia: The royal demesne and centralized monarchical power was at its most limited extent during the reign of Henri I (1031-1060). Consequently, his reign is the least well documented of any Capetian monarch as the number of acts issued by the royal chancellery declined. Without further research it is difficult to say, however, why certain specific acts have survived in the original, while others are known only through later copies. Certainly, in some cases, only the beneficiaries of the acts (ecclesiastical institutions) have preserved copies of a given document.

Kristen and Cathleen: What does Anna of Kiev tell us about medieval queenship? How did the “Capetian Trinity” of royal authority work?

Talia: The “Capetian Trinity” was a term first coined by Achille Luchaire (1846-1908) to describe royal government of the early Capetian dynasty: in which king, queen, and heir to the throne to a certain degree shared royal power and authority (auctoritas): the king is at the head of government, but the queen consort and heir to the throne also consent to and participate in royal decisions. The queen was subject to the king, but all were subject to God, who held the ultimate auctoritas. In this hierarchical and yet collaborative model of rulership, there was scope for the queen consort to exercise a role of intercessor and adviser in the royal court/council (curia regis). Her office was established ritually and publicly through her anointment, coronation, and marriage.

Indeed, Anna’s presence in the curia regis, her subscription to acts, her role as co-regent for her son, and as  patron of monasteries and houses of regular canons, indicate that she took an active role in the court life of her new homeland, fulfilling the roles expected of her in her anointing as queen.

My article showed that it is not helpful to think of her as an “alien” or “exotic” queen; adjectives which are tinged with Orientalist overtones. Rather, Anna’s queenship exemplifies a fluidity of religious-social identity: she both adapted to the roles and expectations of western queenship conferred to her upon her crowning and anointing, and, at the same time, as seen in her Cyrillic signature or the Greek name given to her eldest son, continued to have some degree of contact and connection to the Orthodox land of her birth. Her reign can give us insight into the ways in which “foreign” medieval queens successfully negotiated these fluid identities.

Kristen and Cathleen: It is quite surprising that Anna’s orthodoxy rarely plays a role in her life as French queen – could you maybe expand on this a bit? Is there an explanation?

Talia: This is a fascinating question and one which I am currently pursuing further in my dissertation on the other marriage alliances of the Riurikid dynasty, to which Anna belonged, with Latin Christian rulers.

Perhaps Anna’s adaptation to life in France as a married woman can be at least partly explained by the fact that she already was growing up in a court setting that was multi-lingual, multi-cultural, and open to ties with Latin Christendom.  Anna’s father Yaroslav had relied upon Varangian (Viking) mercenaries to gain the throne of Kiev following the succession struggle that broke out after Vladimir’s death in 1015. During these military struggles, he had married the Swedish princess Ingigerd around 1019. As a result, Anna had a Latin Christian mother and an Orthodox Christian father. Prior to her marriage with Henri I, Anna would have seen Latin Christian mercenaries, merchants, as well as her own siblings married off to Latin Christian rulers. Anna’s brothers-in-law Harald Hardraada and Andrew I of Hungary both spent time as exiles in Rus’ so she would have met them directly. Thus, although she grew up in an Orthodox Christian setting, to a certain degree she was also exposed to the customs of western Christians prior to her marriage to Henri I.

Kristen and Cathleen: Anna of Kiev came to the French court, and seemingly adapted very well to her new role. But what about her entourage? Are there any sources telling us what they did?

Talia: Anna would have surely been accompanied by an entourage befitting her high status as she set off on her long 2,000 km (1242 mile) journey between Kiev and Paris. Unfortunately, medieval sources preserve absolutely nothing about the number, gender, and status of the people who made up Anna’s entourage (did they include female attendants? Male nobles? clerics or lay persons?).

Based on the carefully formed uncial (Russian: ustav) script in which Anna’s Cyrillic signature on the charter for Saint-Crépin-le-Grand is executed, other charters extant in the original have a cleric signing on her behalf (in Latin), and the royal chancellery at the time was linked to the royal chapel, it is possible that a Rus’ cleric might have executed the Cyrillic signature at Anna’s request. Such a cleric might have been a member of Anna’s entourage. On the other hand, if that were the case, it is curious that no other source should mention his presence. The long-standing theory that the Cyrillic signature is Anna’s autograph remains equally plausible.

Although we do not have any information on Anna’s entourage, charters do preserve mention of members of her household. One charter issued between 1060 and 1067 mentions a certain Amalric, “the queen’s seneschal.” Ingeran, Philippe’s tutor, also appears in the witness-list in seven extant charters until Philippe’s majority in 1067. His name is French, but in some charters he is given a rather Greek title, pedegogus. Unfortunately, the occasional occurrence of this title is rather slim evidence on which to extrapolate any evidence concerning Anna’s role in educating her children.

Kristen and Cathleen: Thank you so much for this interesting insight into the life of an Eastern queen in France in the 11th century. Two final questions: how did Anna spend her last days?

Talia: During her widowhood, Anna restored from ruin the church of Saint-Vincent in Senlis north of Paris, which she refounded as a house of regular canons sometime before 1069 (when her son Philippe issued a confirmation charter for the abbey). Thereafter, Saint-Vincent celebrated an annual obit (memorial service) for Anna on September 5th until the French Revolution.  Based on the last charter in which she subscribes (1075) and a charter of Philippe I in which he gives a gift to Cluny in 1079 for the soul of his parents as well as the date of the obit, Anna must have died on September 5th, between 1075 and 1079. Her place of burial is unknown; one medieval chronicle, the early twelfth-century Historiae Franciae, states that Anna Yaroslavna returned alone to Rus’ after the death of her second husband, Raoul.


Saint Vincent in Senlis (c) Natalia Zajac 2013

Kristen and Cathleen: And what are your next projects? You already talked about tracing more Eastern-Western marriages in this time; anything else?

Talia: The presence of Rus’-born princesses in Latin Europe is a topic that has received relatively little attention in Anglo-American scholarship, but is one which offers rich avenues for further research. Besides investigating the neglected role of Rus’ princesses as queen consorts of Latin Christian lands, my research also focuses on the social-political roles played by elite women within Rus itself. Currently I am working on an article tracing the material objects circulated by Rus’ princesses upon their marriages to Western European rulers and what happened to these objects as they entered royal and ecclesiastical treasuries.

My longer-term research goals include expanding upon my dissertation to write a monograph on Rus-born queen consorts of Europe and what their reigns can tell us about the social effects of the “Schism” between Orthodoxy and Catholicism on the lives of medieval elites.

In the future, I also intend to pursue a more in-depth comparative investigation of Anna Yaroslavna’s place in the national imagination of French, Ukrainian, and Russian historiography from the early sixteenth to the twentieth century. Her life has been the subject of two operas, multiple novels, as well as a Soviet film, each of which offers a different vision of the relations between Rus’ and the Western Europe. The project will investigate Anna’s “post-medieval” image and what it can tell us about France, Ukraine, and Russia’s constructions of their intersecting history/histories, as well as the different ways in which relations between Eastern and Western Europe have been understood over time.

Kristen and Cathleen: Thank you so much for a wonderful interview and great article! We are looking forward to reading your work in the future.

CCCU Article Prize Winner – Interview with Rocío Martínez López

The first winner of the Royal Studies Studies Journal Article Prize is Rocío Martínez López, a doctoral candidate at the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (Madrid, Spain). She is also involved in the organisation of the next Kings & Queens conference which will take place in Madrid in September 2017.

Rocío has translated her article with the invaluable help of Ellie Woodacre and Jitske Jasperseand. It appears in the current issue of the Royal Studies Journal here.

I caught up with her to ask a few more questions about her article, and her research in general.


Cathleen: Hi Rocío! Thanks for doing this interview.
You recently won the Royal Studies Journal Article Prize, sponsored by Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) for your article ‘La infanta se ha de casar con quien facilite la paz o disponga los medios para la guerra‘. Las negociaciones para la realización del matrimonio entre la infanta María Teresa y Leopoldo I (1654-1657) in the journal Revista de Historia Moderna 33 (2015). Congratulations!
First of all, could you tell us a bit about this article? What is it about?

Rocío: Hi, Cathleen! Thanks for your congratulations! I feel really honored and I want to thank the Royal Studies Journal, the Canterbury Christ Church University and the ECR and Young Researchers’ Article Prize Committee for it. Well, my article focuses on the analysis of the marriage negotiations between Felipe IV of Spain and the emperors Ferdinand III and Leopold to arrange the marriage between the King of Spain’s prospective heiress, infanta María Teresa, and the heir of the Imperial branch of the Habsburgs. These negotiations, which lasted more than a decade, can help us understand the complex relationship maintained between both branches of the House of Habsburg after the peace of Westphalia, in a moment in which the problem of the Spanish Succession was of capital importance in Europe. After the death of Prince Baltasar Carlos, Felipe IV’s only son and heir, in 1646, the question of the marriage of his only surviving daughter and heiress became a crucial point in the European diplomacy of the moment. María Teresa was the direct successor of her father for more than ten years in an especially difficult moment for a Spanish monarchy immersed in a grueling war against France. Wanting to assure the inheritance of the Spanish monarchy for his line, in case that Felipe IV would die without a male heir, Emperor Ferdinand III tried to arrange the Infanta’s marriage with his heir, first with King Ferdinand IV of Hungary and, after his death, with Leopold I. But these ultimately failed negotiations were anything but easy. Felipe IV wanted to assure the future of his daughter and his monarchy, arranging a marriage for her that would help him to put an end to the war with France and, also, that would follow his interests regarding a possible goverment of the Spanish monarchy. For his part, Ferdinand III wanted for this marriage to follow his own dispositions and refused to let his son and heir renounce to the Crown of the Empire to marry the Infanta and to live in Madrid, even when Felipe IV ended up offering the hand of his daughter in marriage to Leopold. Ferdinand III died without resolving this issue and Leopold I showed very soon his good disposition to travel to Madrid and renounce the possibility of being elected Emperor, even when he realized that he could end up with nothing if Felipe IV had a male child. They were negotiating this arrangement when Mariana of Austria, Felipe IV’s second wife, gave birth to a son, Prince Felipe Próspero. From that point onwards, María Teresa wasn’t the heiress of the Spanish monarchy anymore and her father had more freedom than before to arrange her marriage to his liking. This birth changed the rules of the game and Leopold I ended up losing the bride for whom he was ready to renounce the Crown of the Empire without any guarantees of getting the Spanish monarchy in return. It is a very interesting episode and shows us how the international politics could change drastically in connection with the dynastic problems and the crisis of sucession in Early Modern Europe.

452px-Retrato_de_la_infanta_María_Teresa_(3),_by_Diego_VelázquezInfanta María Teresa (by Diego Velázquez, 1652/53)

Cathleen: This question of the Spanish succession as well as the diplomatic negotiations regarding the marriage of María Teresa, daughter and heiress of Felipe IV, dominated the second half of the 17th century between the Thirty-Years-War and later the wars of María Teresa’s eventual husband, Louis XIV. How do these failed marriage negotiations relate to the War of the Spanish Succession a few decades later?

Rocío: This marriage is closely related to the War of the Spanish Succession. We need to take into account that the problem of the Spanish Succession isn’t a circumstance that emerged in the last years of the seventeenth century, but an issue that had a great importance in the European policy from 1646 until the outbreak of the War of the Spanish Succession. In the question of the Spanish succession, Felipe IV’s daughters and Carlos II’s sisters, María Teresa and Margarita, had a crucial importance, as the most immediate relatives of the childless King. The marriage of María Teresa with Louis XIV was preceded by a solemn renunciation, made by the Infanta, of all her rights to the Spanish Monarchy for herself and her descendants, but Louis XIV began to fight against its legality soon after the marriage took place. This renunciation made her little sister Margarita the legitimate heiress of Carlos II, following said renunciation and Felipe IV’s last will. Margarita ended up getting married to her sister‘s old suitor, Leopold I, and her line would be considered as the legitimate heirs of the Spanish monarchy until its extinction in 1699, despite France’s claims. Louis XIV‘s pressure regarding the Spanish sucession came from his marriage to María Teresa and the fact she was Felipe IV’s eldest daughter. If she had married Leopold I, as it was originally planned, and had had surviving issue, France would not have had the same claims to the Spanish succession and this process would have been very different. Felipe IV didn’t want his inheritance to leave the House of Austria. Both Felipe IV and Ferdinand III were very aware of the problems that could befall their dynasty if the inheritance of the Spanish monarchy were to end up in the hands of France and that belief was very present in this marriage negotiation. On one point, Felipe IV’s counsellors advised their King that he should marry María Teresa with the Emperor’s heir because they would need his help in case France claimed any territories of the Spanish monarchy in any instance. Felipe IV was aware that the marriage between María Teresa and Louis XIV was the most convenient possibility to end the war, but he couldn’t allow it while his daughter was his only heiress. It was the birth of two possible male heirs that made him feel secure enough about the future of his own line to choose another destiny for María Teresa. But its connection with the War of the Spanish Succession is very clear and can show us how the Spanish’s succession crisis influenced the European policy decades before its outbreak.

Cathleen: So, just as a thought experiment: What if this marriage between María Teresa and Leopold I, between the two branches of the Habsburg dynasty, came to be? How would that have changed the course of events in the late 17th and early 18th century?

Rocío: The easy answer to that question would be that the War of the Spanish Succession would never have happened. None of the infantas who married into the Imperial branch of the Habsburgs renounced to their rights of succession to the Spanish throne and it wasn’t expected for Maria Teresa to do so if she married Leopold, as she had to do when she married Louis XIV. The possible rights to the succession of the Spanish throne that Louis XIV claimed on María Teresa’s behalf since 1660 onwards were linked to the fact that his wife was the eldest daughter of Felipe IV and eldest sister of Carlos II. Without said marriage, he wouldn’t have any claims to the Spanish territories with three descendants of Felipe IV (Carlos II, María Teresa, and Margarita) alive and with the possibility of having their own descendants. Other international problems linked to the succession crisis, like the War of Devolution (1667-1668) would have had a very different nature as well. Also, the marriage of Maria Teresa’s younger sister, Margarita, who eventually married Leopold years later, would have to be with another person, something that would have altered the rules of the game once more. As you can see, the history of Europe during the second half of the seventeenth century would have been very different. But I also have to add that these changes would have taken place only if María Teresa and Leopold, as well as Margarita and the one who would have been her husband, had surviving issue. Without them or their descendants, the succession would have been disputed between the descendants of the infanta Ana, eldest daughter of Felipe III of Spain, married to Louis XIII and mother of Louis XIV, who renounced her rights to the Spanish throne before her marriage (as María Teresa had to do) and those of the empress Maria Anna, youngest daughter of Felipe III, wife of emperor Ferdinand III and Leopold I’s mother. So if they would have died without any descendants, we would have been back to square one. And the chances of that happening weren’t as slim as one could think. María Teresa had six children with Louis XIV, of which only one, the Dauphin Louis, survived into adulthood and Margarita had four children with Leopold I, of which only the archduchess Maria Antonia survived and her line became extinct before the end of the century. But, even taking this into account, we can assume that the history of Europe from 1660 onwards would have been very different if the marriage between María Teresa and Leopold would have taken place as expected and, with descendants of this marriage, the War of the Spanish Succession probably would have never taken place.

Guido_Cagnacci_005Leopold I who did not marry María Teresa

Cathleen: The level of interest of Leopold I in this marriage is very surprising – even against the wishes of his father, he pressed for the negotiations and was prepared to relinquish the election to be emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Why was he so keen on marrying the Spanish infanta?

Rocío: When we talk about this, we must remember that, at the time, Felipe IV’s inheritance was composed of the most vast and extensive monarchy in the world. It has its problems, without any doubt, but the power it entailed was far greater than the one Leopold could efectively hold as an emperor, especially after the peace of Westphalia and the negotiations surrounding it imposed important limitations on the powers of the imperial ruler. I think that the prospect of being the king of the Spanish monarchy was too tempting for Leopold to refuse, especially when almost everybody thought that the possibility of Felipe IV having a surviving male heir were slim and he was sure that he could mantain control of the patrimonial lands of the Habsburgs in Central Europe, as well as of Hungary and Bohemia. Ferdinand III wanted for his heir to remain linked to his patrimonial lands and to the crown of the Empire and was very aware that his son could end up with very little if María Teresa wasn’t finally the heiress of the Spanish monarchy. In fact, if Felipe IV hadn’t tried to convince Leopold to present himself as a candidate for the Imperial Crown and had come to Spain when he wanted, he would have ended up only with his patrimonial lands after his prospective wife was relegated to a secondary place in the line of succession. Leopold was prepared to take the risk to have the oportunity of becoming one of the most powerful monarchs of the time through his wife, even if that meant giving up the difficult crown of the Empire, for whose government he had to rely heavily on the difficult Imperial princes. From his point of view, it was worth the risk and he was ready to take it at that moment, but it wasn’t mean to be.

Cathleen: What are you working on right now?

Rocío: I am currently working on my dissertation. It is focused precisely on the problem of Carlos II of Spain’s succession during his reign and how it influenced its political relationship with the Empire and Bavaria, using as a common point the fact that Infanta Margarita, archduchess María Antonia of Austria and Prince Joseph Ferdinand of Bavaria were considered as the rightful heirs of the Spanish Monarchy by Madrid’s government. I had the opportunity of consulting documents of several archives of Spain and Vienna and I have been awarded a grant to conduct further research in Munich in autumn, so I am very happy with the results and I hope for my dissertation to be completed in winter 2017. Also, I am preparing two articles, one focused on the negotations for the marriage of Leopold I and Margarita of Austria after María Teresa’s marriage and the other presents an analysis of the rights of succession of the infantas and archduchesses of the House of Habsburg during the Early Modern period. And, finally, I am also working on the organization of the next King&Queens conference, who will take place in my hometown, Madrid, where I hope to see you all!

 Cathleen: Good luck with your research and your PhD and thanks so much for doing this interview! Hope as well to see you all at the next Kings&Queens Conference in Madrid which we will later have more about!

Royal Studies Journal – Next Round

A new issue of the Royal Studies Journal is out! Already the fourth issue dealing with all topics on Royal Studies, and showing the breadth of the field in its articles and book reviews.

Enjoy reading about the complicated, and ultimately failed, marriage negotiations between the two branches of the Habsburg family in the second half of the 17th century, and their influence on a major dispute like the Spanish War of Succession. This article by Rocío Martínez López won the 2016 RSJ/CCCU article prize. Also, learn more about the new prizes for articles and books in the statements from Lois L. Huneycutt and Zita Eva Rohr. Don’t think, this is all we have for you: there is even more to learn from Talia Zaja about the Rus-born queen Anna Yaroslavna of French king Henri I, and new sources are being examined by Gordon McKelvie on the reception of the bastardy of Edward V.

Summer time is upon us and with it reading time: check out the book reviews from English, German, French and Spanish books on Royal Studies.

Let us know what you think about this new issue! If you have an article for the Royal Studies Journal, see our submit-page. Know a Royal Studies book you would like to review? See here for further information on getting your review into the Journal.

And finally, keep a look out for our interviews with the authors of this issue, and learn more about their research.

CCCU Book Prize Winner – Interview with Carolyn Harris

The winner of the first CCCU RSJ Book Prize, Dr. Carolyn Harris, is a historian, author and royal commentator (and isn’t this a great job title) from Toronto, Canada. She completed her PhD in spring 2012 at Queen’s University (Kingston, Canada), and has been very busy since then. Her prize-winning book Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe: Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette (Palgrave Macmillan: Queenship and Power Series) is already her second published monograph, the first one being Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada: Democracy, Law and Human Rights (Dundurn Press 2015), and the third is scheduled for 2017: Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting (Dundurn Press). Besides obviously spending her days researching and writing, she also teaches at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies, and is a guest lecturer for museums, libraries, universities, and educational organisations. Occasionally, she even gives lectures at sea for cruise ship enrichment programs.

Find her also on Twitter @royalhistorian and here.

We got together with Carolyn to ask more about her research.

Cathleen: Hi Carolyn! Thanks for doing this interview!
You recently won the Royal Studies Journal Book Prize, sponsored by Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) for your monograph Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe: Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette. Congratulations!

Could you first tell us a bit more about this book, especially for our readers who haven’t yet a chance to take a look inside?

Marie Antoinette 517px-HenriettaMariaofFrance02
Marie Antoinette (by François-Hubert Drouais) and Henrietta Maria (by Anthony van Dyck)

Carolyn: Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe analyzes Queen Henrietta Maria, queen to King Charles I and Queen Marie Antoinette, queen to King Louis XVI in their roles as wives, mothers and heads of royal households during the years preceding the English Civil Wars and French Revolution respectively. I compare the two queens and the political cultures of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The book is structured thematically, examining the contrast between how each queen viewed her domestic role and the expectations of her husband’s subjects. The final chapter compares the impeachment of Henrietta Maria by the House of Commons in 1643 with the Trial of Marie Antoinette by the Revolutionary Tribunal in 1793 then the book concludes with the lasting impact of the debates concerning each queen’s place in her family during periods of political turmoil.

Cathleen: While the comparison between Charles I and Louis XVI has often been made, their wives were usually a bit marginalized in the political history of the English and the French Revolution. How did you develop an interest in these two queens?

Carolyn: I have always been interested in the position of royal women in court culture and how these figures have been perceived by the public. My article for Canadian Slavonic Papers, The Succession Prospects of Grand Duchess Olga, examines the public role of Emperor Nicholas II’s daughters during the years prior to the Russian Revolutions of 1917. I also wrote a chapter about how Queen Victoria’s fourth daughter Princess Louise was perceived during her years as vice regal consort of Canada in the book Canada and the Crown: Essays on Constitutional Monarchy.

Examining Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette, I found the parallels between their experiences fascinating. They were both youngest daughters in large royal families where their mother’s wielded political power. As queens consort, they were judged as wives, mothers and mistresses of royal households and scrutinized as foreign influences over their respective ruling husbands. Henrietta Maria was impeached by the House of Commons during the English Civil Wars and Marie Antoinette was executed during the French Revolution after being tried and sentenced by the Revolutionary Tribunal. I wanted to explore the parallels between these two queens and how they conducted their lives in the public eye during periods when the role of women in society was debated during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Cathleen: You certainly emphasize the role of public opinion in the treatment of these queens. Could you please expand a bit more on this?

Carolyn: Criticism of the queen was a method of critiquing the king’s policies without direct criticism the king himself. Both Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette were women and foreigners and there was enormous popular anxiety about the potential for them to exert political influence. Critics of the queen could present themselves as loyal subjects who wanted to neutralize foreign influences. There was a long tradition in both England and France of critiquing advisors to the monarch and criticism of Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette became part of this tradition.

Critiquing the queen as a wife and mother was also a means for people of diverse social backgrounds including women to engage with the political process. High politics was the preserve of the elites but people of all social backgrounds could discuss the queen through their own experiences and observations of marriage and motherhood. Henrietta Maria’s critics included female writers who questioned the sincerity of harmonious imagery of the queen’s marriage and women arrested for seditious speech who spoke aloud of how they influence the king if they were the queen. Marie Antoinette was a patron of female writers and artists but women were divided in their opinions of the queen as a wife and mother. During the childless early years of her marriage, Marie Antoinette was criticized by Parisian market women because she had not given France a Dauphin. During the French Revolution, Olympe de Gouges dedicated the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen to the queen but the historian Louise de Karalio placed Marie Antoinette within a centuries long tradition of supposed crimes committed by Queens of France.

 Cathleen: After having read your book, it seems quite clear that between the times of Henrietta Maria (mid-seventeenth century) and of Marie Antoinette (end of eighteenth-century) not only the role of women in society was debated, but also quite a few changes happened concerning the role of women in their families and marriages as well as a different political culture in regards to (informal) counsel at court. How does this relate to these two queens?

 Carolyn: Both Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette became wives and mothers in the public eye during times periods of ideological debate concerning the role of women in their families. During Henrietta Maria’s lifetime, there was enormous concern among Protestants in England and Scotland regarding recusant wives and mothers who might influence their families toward Roman Catholicism. Henrietta Maria was a Roman Catholic princess married to a Protestant king and the terms of her marriage contract gave her both her religious freedom and authority over her children. Henrietta Maria therefore became the highest profile example of this phenomenon of recusant wives and mothers.

In late eighteenth century France, Enlightenment scholars debated the role of women within their families, especially whether the position of women arose from laws created by man or the conditions found in nature. Jean-Jacques Rousseau argued that women were naturally inclined to the domestic sphere while the public sphere was a male realm. Marie Antoinette adopted certain elements of the late eighteenth century conception of natural childrearing including breast feeding and allowing her young children freedom of movement but she also expected to exert political influence in the public sphere. Marie Antoinette therefore became part of wider French debates about the proper role for women in their families and society.

Cathleen: This interest in early modern English and French queens seems quite different from your first book on the Magna Carta, especially its reception in Canada. Could you also tell a bit more about this?

Carolyn: Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe: Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette arose from my PhD research at Queen’s University. The manuscript was under development when I began working with Magna Carta Canada, writing historical articles about King John and Magna Carta for the exhibition that toured in Canada for the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta in 2015. In 2014, the co-chairs of Magna Carta Canada invited me to write the companion book for the Magna Carta Canada exhibition, Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada. The two book projects came together around the same time: Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada was published by Dundurn Press in May 2015 and Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe was published by Palgrave Macmillan in November 2015. There is common ground between the two books: the legacy of Magna Carta informed both the English Civil Wars and the French Revolution.

Cathleen: That is true – Magna Carta had a renaissance in seventeenth-century England as well as inspiring revolutionaries from all times. Besides writing prize-winning books, you are also quite active giving lectures and interviews as well as teaching and writing – honestly: how do you manage all this? What got you started?

Carolyn: The past five years have been extremely busy. During my PhD at Queen’s University, one of my professors recommended me to the media for interviews about royal history during weeks prior to the wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton in 2011. I became the university’s royal expert, undertaking a diverse range of media work in print, online, radio and TV. In 2012, the year I completed my PhD and began teaching at the University of Toronto, School of Continuing Studies, I established my website and twitter account @royalhistorian and continued to expand my media work. I am involved in a variety of projects in addition to teaching and providing royal history commentary for the media. I write regularly for the Historica Canada Canadian Encyclopedia, fact check documentaries and consult on museum exhibitions. I have guest lectured about history and royalty in a variety of settings including universities, libraries, retirement residences and cruise ships!

Screenshot HPScreenshot of Carolyn’s website with a glimpse of her book on Magna Carta

Cathleen: This sounds amazing! And you still find time for your own research! What are you working on right now?

Carolyn: I’m currently working on my third book, Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting, which will be published by Dundurn Press in 2017. The book will profile 25 sets of royal parents and the challenges they faced from fending off Viking attacks to fending off the paparazzi! I am also working on a scholarly article about Queen Henrietta Maria’s reputation during her widowhood. She continued to be an active and controversial political figure for twenty years after Charles I’s death but this period in her life has received comparatively little attention.

Cathleen: That is true. Much like for other queen consorts, there also seems a lot to learn about Henrietta Maria. Best luck for your new projects and thanks so much for doing this interview!

For more see our upcoming issue where you can read about why Carolyn’s book was selected and read Courtney Herber’s review of her prize winning book.

Conference Report “Dynasty and Dynasticism, 1400-1700”

Not long ago, on March 16th-18th 2016, the ERC funded project at the University of Oxford The Jagiellonians: Dynasty, Memory and Identity in Central Europe hosted a conference on Dynasty and Dynasticism, 1400-1700.
We asked Milinda Banerjee (Presidency University, Kolkata), Hélder Carvalhal (CIDEHUS, University of Évora) and Jonathan Spangler (Manchester Metropolitan University) to send us their impressions from this conference!

Thanks to Milinda, Hélder and Jonathan for their reports on the conference! Just drop us an email if you are also interested in sharing your thoughts about a conference you’ve been to!

Milinda Banerjee: The conference operated at the intersections of three scales of enquiry, bridging histories of Central and Eastern Europe (in the Jagiellonian sphere of control or influence), of late medieval and early modern European monarchies in general, and of global (including extra-European) dynastic polities. The introduction by the project leader Natalia Nowakowska (Oxford) sketched some of the main historiographic shifts in thinking about early modern dynasties and dynasticism over recent years, across disciplinary (historical, anthropological, and sociological) strands. The plenary lectures by Jeroen Duindam (Leiden) and Craig Clunas (Oxford) highlighted the need to think about early modern monarchies in global frames, in terms of parallels, connections, and divergences between different royal-dynastic polities from China to the Islamic world to Europe and Africa, while the plenary lecture of Paula Sutter Fichtner (CUNY/Brooklyn College) focused on the more specific case of the Habsburgs to draw out broader questions about the links between kinship, affective languages, and political power. The plenary lectures as well as the many individual papers all highlighted a certain common theme: that dynasty and dynasticism has not received adequate conceptual and critical recognition in historical scholarship, given that the presence of royal dynasties has often been taken for granted as a historical background, rather than rigorously analysed as a framing category in its own right for both historical actors and modern scholars. A majority of the papers focused on questions of representation and contestation, in the sense of how the royal (or even, non-royal, such as papal or aristocratic) dynasties represented themselves in terms of political thought and categorization, artistic and ceremonial language, and emotive vocabularies, and how their articulations were complicated,  challenged, and destabilized by a plurality of social actors.  Many of the panellists investigated how such self-consciously articulate dynastic languages interacted with other political idioms, including those provided by various religious systems and various sorts of patriotic, republican, or even (proto-) nationalist conceptual systems. Issues of gender were highlighted by several papers which focused on the gendering of power and the scope of female agency. Papers on China, West and Central Asia, and India brought new interesting extra-European perspectives into dialogue with early modern European frames of analysis. The concluding roundtable summarized some of the overarching discussion themes, even as the diversity of voices in the roundtable as well as in the preceding panels made it quite clear that ‘dynasty’ is better seen as a heuristically useful tool of analysis rather than as a monolithic category that can erase other social and spatial diversities.

Hélder Carvalhal: It is hard to encapsulate three very productive days in just a few words. As a result, this brief report is based on the sum of two aspects. First, I will generally approach how participants faced the central theme of the congress. In a parallel way, I will introduce some elements of what and how much I learned in those three days. Thus, the following lines are necessarily biased by my personal experience and interest. Apart from keynote speakers, individual papers will be addressed together regarding their respective themes.

Despite of being organized by an ERC-funded project dedicated to the study of Jagellonians, the congress was rather open and inclusive. With a set of papers approaching various issues concerning the major European dynasties at the period, although not exclusively, Dynasties and Dynasticism did accomplished its main goal –  to reassess what exactly we known as “dynasty”. Conceptual debate became quite clear right since the beginning. Initial interventions of Natalia Nowakowska and Jeroen Duindam underlined the need of exploring dynasties on a more profound way, therefore overcoming static definitions and pre-established common-places. The latter’s recent comparative work about this subject (Dynasties: A Global History of Power: 1300-1800, 2015) also drew attention to certain aspects which eventually came around during parallel sessions. Concretely, I am referring to issues as legitimacy (including competition for the throne and the destiny give to siblings/collaterals) or models of ruling (with particular interest on how rule of women affected dynastical power, among other phenomena dealing with diffusion/concentration of power).

Obviously, with such diversity of themes and geographies, comparative perspectives with other continents (especially Asia and Africa) did appear sporadically. In fact, such exercise has its merits, one of them being the general impression that European monarchies during the studied period are extremely homogenous and arguably much closer to its Asian and African counterparts than we initially thought. Interest discussion raised by Craig Clunas in his keynote approached the upwards of studying Asian dynasties, as well as the existence of several “Asias” in opposition to an image of a nearly homogeneous continent. This last debate, promoted by the most recent Sanjay Subrahmanyam´s piece on Asian connected histories (“One Asia, or Many? Reflections from connected history”, Modern Asian Studies 50, 1, 2016, pp. 5-43) brings food for thought regarding not only Asia, but other regions. If one neglects the Eurocentric perspective, perhaps a similar question can be asked: is there one Europe, especially regarding dynasties? There are some distinctive features, particularly in what concerns marriage, succession and primogeniture. Apparently, something happened within numerous European political units and respective dynasties during the late medieval and early modern period. The conference showed that in many cases we do see legitimacy urges on the behalf of the monarch, projecting a constructed image for political purposes. Used mechanisms were usually confined to the creation  and maintenance of the memory (genealogies, often forged; spaces and buildings, etc), the refinement of old-fashioned court rituals (ceremonials and etiquette, but also military/chivalric orders) and to a careful considered matrimonial policy. Several presentations explored these aspects (among others, Brero, Zupka, Coman, González Cuerva). In the same vein, dynastic consciousness as an issue was perhaps the most common aspect during the presentations. It is curious to verify that dynastical image construction could serve for internal political purposes (dynasty as a “family corporation”)  – as Piseri and Van der Steen contributions showed – but also when the time for affirm sovereignty regarding external intentions came round. Another popular concept, connected with the latter and raised numerous times during the sessions, was competition. It was not a particular surprise, since – as the initial keynotes noted – rivalry and antagonism usually happened when dynasties face diverse problems. Hence, many of the presented case studies referred themselves to competition within the same or between two or more dynasties.

In sum, it was a very pleasant, intense and rewarding event. As an early career researcher, I learned and benefitted immensely. Not only because of the content itself – note that Eastern Europe historiography not always receive a lot of attention in this “fringe” of Europe, nor post-graduation programmes contemplate reasonable input about the said region – but especially in what concerns the main debates within the study of dynasties as a space of observation per se.

Jonathan Spangler: It would be difficult to summarise three days of stimulating papers in a few short paragraphs.  And on top of the value of such a breadth of shared comparative research, there is the warmth of collegiality to be commented upon.  For three days, scholars from all over the world congregated in Somerville College, Oxford, brought together by the team of the Jagiellonians research project, led by Natalia Nowakowska, and shared their research but also their passion for history with one another.  I’ve been to many conferences, and this was among the better of them in terms of a spirit of shared endeavour, over coffee breaks, in the dining hall over breakfast, in the pub, and in the final discussion that rounded off the conference.  All I can do here is offer a few highlights, and share some of the insights I took away with me.

In terms of comparative research and experience, this conference did two things, bridging the gap between European and non-European specialisations, but also the divide that often runs between medievalists and early modernists.  This divide has been smoothed over quite a bit recently, for example by groups such as the Royal Studies Network, and it is certainly a trend that should continue.  Amongst French historians in particular, there has often been a curious division between the reigns of Louis XII and François I, as if the Renaissance suddenly burst forth in an instant, banishing the darkness.  It was unfortunate, therefore, that French academics were quite under-represented at this conference.  In contrast, it was a wonder to share so many discussions with eastern European scholars, naturally brought together by the theme of the Jagiellonians, the amazing dynasty that at various points ruled over Poland, Lithuania, Bohemia and Hungary.  We were also privileged to learn more about dynasties outside Europe: Turks, Mongols, Manchus.

In general, I can summarise the larger points taken away by delegates through points raised by two of the keynote speakers and by the leaders of the concluding roundtable discussion.  Jeroen Duindam (Leiden), as usual, delivered a broad-ranging talk full of stimulating illustrations drawn from his recent book (Dynasties: A Global History of Power, 1300-1800), that demonstrated that dynasties across the early modern world shared many characteristics. Duindam offered three concise thinking points about dynasticism: that it can be divided roughly into two systems (concentrated or diffuse); that legitimacy was a concern shared by all ruling families; and that Europe did seem to have an exceptionalism (a ‘Sonderweg’) that made its dynasties distinct (mainly monogamy and primogeniture). Craig Clunas (Oxford) then helped draw in several points from the conference for further discussion, notably what exactly was meant by a dynasty in historical terms, and whether the study of dynasties is useful to the historian. As a Chinese specialist, his talk was particularly convincing, coming from a historical field in which ‘dynasty’ defines almost everything about a period, rightly or wrongly. His conclusion was that we can use such a term meaningfully, but that it must also be seen as fluid and changeable, and that ‘trans-dynasticism’ is equally valid.  Senior historians who participated in the round-table, notably John Morrill (Cambridge) and Martyn Rady (University College London), stressed the nature of cultural transfer across dynasties (as alluded to by Clunas in his keynote address); the role of dynasties in state building (and the incorporation of other elites into dynastic identity beyond those connected by blood); the shared culture of dynasticism that extended far beyond the ruling families into villages and households of ordinary people; and the reception of this culture by those same ordinary people.

Interview with Layout Editors, Diana Pelaz Flores and Danna Messer

Dr. Diana Pelaz Flores has received her PhD from the University of Valladolid, Spain. Her research focused on the study of Castilian Queenship during the 15th century, especially in the reign of Juan II of Castile (1406-1454) and his two wives, Queens María of Aragón (1420-1445) and Isabel of Portugal (1447-1496). Currently, she is working in different research projects related to the symbolic importance of water in the Middle Ages and the formulation of the meaning of queenship in the Iberian Kingdoms.

Dr. Danna Messer has received her PhD from Bangor University in Northern Wales (and for everyone who has ever been to Bangor, that means she is also very adept at climbing steep hills). Her research focuses on women living in native Wales before the English conquest of 1282. While her PhD primarily concentrated on married women from the aristocratic and noble classes, she is now taking a closer look at ‘queens‘ and royal women from the native princely dynasties in historical and literary sources and records of practice.

Diana and Danna are the layout editors of the Royal Studies Journal – we got together with them to ask them, what it is they do and also a bit about their research.

Cathleen: Thank you both for doing this interview. First of all, could you tell us a bit more what a layout editor does?

Danna & Diana:  Well, essentially, to coin a friend’s term: the clue is in the title!  After an article or review has successfully gone through the peer-review process and is submitted for publication, it goes through the stages of being proofread and copy-edited.  Eventually, the final version is sent to our team to template it and lay it out according to our guidelines.  As editors, we work closely with the layout assistants; assigning articles and reviews to be laid out so the work is spread out as equally as possible and, ideally, with enough leeway time so there’s not a lot of stress involved at the end of production.  It’s not really just a matter of simply delegating work.  It’s about working with each other, including laying out articles ourselves, and helping with any glitches that arise.  There’s also the matter of looking after the online system that we have set up for the journal and making sure all the right boxes are ticked (figuratively and literally).  This side is important because if we don’t go through the proper technical channels, the journal physically can’t be published.

Levin article word file

Levin article layout version

Carole Levin‘s article on the afterlife of Elizabeth I in Stuart England, before and after Diana, Danna and their team worked on it

Cathleen: So, you are pretty much the last step to make sure everything is as it should be. How does your work fit in with all the other steps, e.g. section editors, copy editors and so on? Is there a lot of communication going on between these different roles?

Danna & Diana:  Really, with the journal overall there seems to be a lot of open communication across the board.  Certainly, as layout editors we work pretty closely with the copy editor, since her job also entails issues concerning agreed house formatting and style.

Cathleen: There is a quite a team of layout editors at the journal. Could you tell us a bit more about how you organise the work between you? Are there multiple rounds of checking? Also, what kind of software to you use? And what are the challenges there?

Danna & Diana: The main task is overseeing the OJS side of things so we can make sure the publication is pushed through on time and that the articles and reviews that appear in the publication are the final versions that are meant to be there.

We have an absolutely fantastic team to be working with.  Everyone is so enthusiastic about getting their hands dirty, so to speak, in order to help this journal be a continued success.  And, communication within the layout team is impressive given we are all busy with other life demands and spread so far and wide – if an email is sent querying something or if someone flags up an issue that needs to be dealt with it’s usually within a matter of a couple of hours at the most that any of us have to wait for a response.  It’s brilliant.  And reassuring.

We do multiple rounds of checking, as far as we can.  Generally, after an article or review has been laid out, it is sent back to the copyediting team and authors for a last run through to make sure everyone is happy we’re meeting our standards.  Previously, the journal has used Publisher for layout, but we are currently in the process of rejigging things with the intent to use Word from here-on-out.  There’s a general consensus that this switch will hopefully make the last-minute chaos that ensues in publishing when trying to meet deadlines a lot less chaotic!

Cathleen: Good luck with that! Besides layout editing for the journal, you have of course also your own research. Could you tell us a bit more about this?

Danna: My main research interest are the wives of the Welsh rulers before Wales was conquered by the English in 1282.  In particular, I focus on the ideals and expectations concerning women and gender found in the native and normative Welsh sources roughly composed during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and examine these against what records of practice actually tell us about the types of agency royal and noble women held.  Welsh queenship and kingship are very complicated topics because the whole system of rulership was pretty ill-defined and even use of the terms queenship and kingship are debatable.  My research on Welsh queens, nevertheless, is proving exciting because after some painstaking delving into the sources, it‘s pretty clear that women enjoyed real levels of political and economic agency that effected the administration/management of family lordships, as well as native Welsh polity and international relations.  It’s a topic that’s been ignored for too long and I just find it fascinating.

Diana: My research focuses on the role of the queens of Castile during the Late Middle Ages, especially in their role as the wives of kings. My main objective in my PhD was to understand the role of the queen consort in the different spheres of participation in the kingdom. By this reason, I have observed the political relevance of the wives of King Juan II of Castile (1406-1454), because these two women established a singular conflict against the king’s favourite, the Constable of Castile, Álvaro de Luna. The research on these Castilian queens, in relation to examples given by other queens of the Trastamara dynasty, has inspired other angles concerning Castilian queenship, such as the role of the queen as mother, the configuration of the queen’s itinerary, or the formation and composition of the queen’s household, among other aspects. The study of these women has been absolutely fascinating for me, because it helps me appreciate the importance of the queen in her context and the true role that developed with the evolution of the Crown of Castile. It is really suggestive and, in my opinion, it is a research field as interesting as necessary to understand the functions of the queen in the medieval period.

Cathleen: Alright, both of you share this fascination of medieval Queens – be it Welsh or Castilian. And, come to think of it, Castilian medieval queens and noble women in general are also research interests of the chief copy-editor of the Royal Studies Journal, Jitske Jasperse. Can you tell us a bit more about this fascination of medieval queens? For example, what exactly were their roles in politics? Did they mostly have influence via cultural patronage, or how did this work in a mostly male dominated world?

Danna:    For me, the fascination with queenship stems from the traditional lack of understanding (and, really, historic disinterest) concerning women’s lives in general.  There is so much research now showing that women were hardly on the periphery of society as most of history has led us to believe.  I think it’s crucial that we understand the varying levels of agency and downright power that women actually wielded from every aspect of society in order to have a more balanced view of the past.  I think this, in turn, has a direct impact on changing gender and sex relations and attitudes in our own cultures.

As for royal women in medieval Wales, there is a lot of evidence that strongly suggests that the office of the ‘queen’ was one that allowed the ruler’s wife significant political agency, on both the national and international stages.  In fact, there is very little evidence between 1100-1282 of the queen’s influence in terms of cultural patronage or the import of the pigeon-holed role of the woman as mother.  Though medieval Wales has been portrayed as a male-dominated society, all surviving evidence seems to singularly point towards real social and cultural expectations that women, and especially the wives of Welsh rulers, be both politically and economically active.

Diana: Well, I think the study of the relationship maintained by the women and power from the past let us to know the capacity and the implication of women in history, but also in the history of themselves. This is very important, since it increases our knowledge, especially with respect to the relations between the sexes and their mechanisms of acting. There are different roles developed by the queens, and the case given by the Crown of Castile is very interesting for its complexity and wealth of the scenarios where queens could participate. Concrete, during the government of the Trastamara dynasty (during the 14th/15th centuries), the same to which Isabel the Catholic belongs, we can observe the importance of Juana Manuel de Villena, the first queen of the dynasty, who legitimized her husband for the Castilian throne, thanks to her succession rights; her example is very similar to Catalina of Lancaster, as heir of the succession rights of Pedro I, the king who was murdered by Enrique of Trastamara. This relevance of the queens from the birth of the dynasty motivated a particular evolution and their specific weight in the Castilian Late Middle Ages. This was fruit of a historical relevance of the women of the royal family, because they could govern and inherit the throne according with the traditional law, different, for example, of the case of France where the Salic Law impeded it. In consequence, throughout medieval history of the Crown of Castile we can see strong queens consort, queens mother exerting the government as regents and queens regnant, too.

Cultural patronage is a fundamental field of study for understanding medieval queens, because it is possible to contrast the impact of their religiosity and their taste for literature, but it is not the only sphere where we can find the queens. The Castilian queens participated with her husband in the concession of privileges and they took part of the political evolution of the kingdom. In this sense, the queens were close to their husbands in the war against the Muslims; in occasions they even commanded the troops, as happened in the case of Juana Manuel during the Civil War after the death of king Pedro I. The capacity of the Queen to transmit her identity and her political perception can be observed clearly, such as reveals the example of María of Aragón against the royal favourite, who tried to separate her from the king Juan II. We can appreciate (at least in part, because not all documentation has been conserved) their functions in towns and cities that composed her lands as Queen of Castile, in addition to knowing her relevant influence on her children, thanks to their authority as mother.

Cathleen: Finally, is there anything you like to add – any way an author for the journal can help make your job easier, or anything else?

Danna & Diana:  I think our switch from Publisher to Word will make everyone’s job easier in the long-run, from the submission stage to the final layout.  It’s a good move to make.

Cathleen: Thank you both so much for doing this interview!

Danna & Diana:  Our pleasure!


Conference Report “Seals and Status 800-1700”

Jitske Jasperse shared her conference report with us on “Seals and Status 800-1700” at the British Museum from December 4th to 6th, 2015.
Have you also been to an interesting conference in the field of Royal Studies? Send us your conference report!

The conference Seals and Status 800-1700, held in London’s British Museum from 4-6 December 2016, was an engaging conference. This was largely due to the variety of topics addressed: from the well-known seals of kings and queens to those of the lower classes, from seal matrices from Anglo-Saxon England to Chinese seals on paintings and lead seals in Byzantium, and from saints and seals to the manufacturers of seals and their production process. In addition, the multidisciplinary approach, with speakers presenting material from different perspectives, certainly stimulated the exchange of ideas and was inspiring for those who would not label themselves sigillographers. While no justice can be done to all individual contributions, some general observations can be made.

Materiality turned out be an important theme. While this might not come as a surprise, that many seals survive as fragments and are often detached from the documents they were originally attached to can make us forget that these wax of lead objects were originally related to matrices, parchment, cords and other seals. Moreover, they were of specific dimensions, shape, colour (green, red, brown/black, and natural) and material, as Elke Cwiertnia and Paul Dryburgh demonstrated. Markus Späth’s paper on city seals from the Upper Rhine region cleverly showed that iconography of German wax seals attached to a charter of 1284 in which the towns of Speyer, Worms, Mainz and Strasbourg agreed to a two-year peace (Landfrieden), instigated by King Rudolph I of Habsburg, is just one element that aids to our understanding of the function and meaning of the seals. Size and the sequence of the seals as attached to the parchment charter (of which three copies exist, originally one copy for the five party involved) were and are equally important for our understanding of the seals’ use, function and the status of the parties involved.

Späth’s research is part of a project ‘Verkörperung kommunaler Identät’ in which fingerprints that are left in Speyer’s wax seals are forensically investigated. Brigitte Bedos-Rezak emphasized that fingerprints found in the wax are life size and that through these imprints the body was incorporated in the seals. Fingerprints are thus part of the sealing process and offer an extra level of identification. While we do have little information on the actual sealing of documents, it is evident – amongst other from fingerprints – that seals were not merely markers of an agreement, but that they also were part of gestures and ritual. The relation between ritual and seals was investigated by Laura Whatley who studied the iconography of lead seals in the Latin Kingdom. She argued that the depicted architectural features and liturgical objects, such as censers and lamps, were not simply meant to refer to an actual building (with the Holy Sepulchre as the most famous), but also to evoke the place and its rituals. These objects were thus about the active imprinting of (past) experiences.

These social aspects of seals – the way people interact with them – were also addressed by Mei Xin Wang in her paper on Chinese seals as stamps of status on Chinese paintings and calligraphy. The so-called Admonitions Scroll (fifth to early seventh century AD) from the British Museum are a fine example of Chinese art collectors who stamped their seals on paintings in order to proof their ownership, as well as to demonstrate their status and taste. In addition, the seals add to the value of an artwork since they are proof of its provenance. As a result both art and seals were collected. Seals became an integral part of painting and even a scholarly form of art. The use of seals was, however, not restricted to the happy few, as became evident from Elizabeth New’s discussion of the seals below the nobility and knightly classes in medieval England and Wales. Even though these seals offer more challenges than those of the nobility because of their (sometimes) poorer quality and absence of legends, this should not withhold us from investigating them, as Judith Bennet’s research on medieval working women reminds us of. Thinking about the relation between seals and status, can – and should – also include the way women interacted with seals. Louise Berglund, in a paper on illustrious ladies in Sweden, pointed out that sealing is a social practice since it involves consent and participation of several persons. Overstepping the social boundaries related to sealing practices could lead to problems of authority. Turning to royal women, such as Birgitta of Sweden, Berglund reminded us that the absence of seals, as is the case for Birgitta although charters survive, must not be taken as straightforward evidence that women played no part in matters of state.

Although the mentioned examples leave much unsaid there’s no doubt that seals, even when small, in poor condition and often are detached from their original material surroundings, trigger many questions and offer inspiring food for thought.

Jitske Jasperse, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas