Interview with Charles Keenan

Charles Keenan is the Assistant Director of the Core Curriculum at Boston College. He is also author of the article The Limits of Diplomatic Ritual: The Polish Embassy of Giovanni Francesco Commendone (1572-1573) and Criticism of Papal Legates in Early Modern Europe in the special issue of the Royal Studies Journal on Taking Possession

Cathleen and Kristen: Thank you, Charles, for your interesting article in the Royal Studies Journal! In your article, you follow the papal legate, Cardinal Giovanni Francesco Commendone, to Poland-Lithuania during the interregna and elections of the 1570s. Such a mission of a legate was uncommon, especially since the use of papal nuncios spread across early modern Europe. Could you tell a bit more about the context of this mission, and why the apostolic nuncio in Poland was not enough?

Charles: Thanks for inviting me to appear on this blog! The original purpose of Commendone’s mission was to help organize a defensive league against the Ottoman Turks, which was a priority of Pope Pius V (r. 1566-1572) and his successor, Gregory XIII (r. 1572-1585). (As context, this was the same period as the famous naval battle of Lepanto.) Commendone was instructed to travel to the courts of the Holy Roman Empire and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to secure military support. This task could not have been entrusted to nuncios both because Commendone needed to speak to multiple rulers (nuncios were typically “in residence” at a single court and were only credentialed to function as a diplomatic representative there) and because of the delicate nature of negotiations regarding the league: this was a significant request that would entail substantial financial commitments, something that even the powerful Philip II of Spain balked at when asked.  Of course, following the death of King Sigismund II Augustus in 1572 Commendone was instead instructed to oversee the election of the next Polish king, and the issue of the league faded from view.


Giovanni Francesco Commendone

Cathleen and Kristen: So, his mission changed from gathering support to overseeing the election – and he failed, as you also stated in your article! How and why did Commendone fail?

Charles: I suggest there were two reasons for his failure. The first was related to the rituals surrounding diplomatic embassies, which were interrupted by the vicissitudes of the interregnum. As mentioned, the fact that Commendone was already in the middle of another embassy complicated the procedures for beginning a “new” mission to oversee the royal election, and, with no king in place, it was unclear who should receive him – the Polish diet, or only certain factions in the diet, or the one of several individuals claiming to be “leaders” of the commonwealth during the interregnum.  The second, less obvious issue was Commendone’s authority as a papal representative to intervene in secular political affairs. As I try to show in this essay, there was widespread disapproval of the legate’s role in the Polish election, which points to a larger critique of the papacy’s involvement in secular government.

Cathleen and Kristen: The close connection between a diplomat and whoever send him seems to be at the heart of Commendone’s failure. What can this failure of diplomatic ritual tell us about the bigger context of European politics, especially in a time of confessionalisation?

Charles: The rituals surrounding this particular diplomat – the legate a latere – derived their efficacy from the authority of the figure whom the legate represented, the pope. The failure of legatine rituals thus suggests a larger problem with papal authority in sixteenth-century Europe, which should come as no surprise. In many ways Commendone’s story points to a larger development, the secularization of European politics and the removal of the Roman papacy from international affairs, something that is evident during Commendone’s mission but which is unmistakable by the time of the Thirty Years’ War.

Cathleen and Kristen: Going from the subject of research to the researcher himself: How did you get started working papal diplomacy, and how does it differ from other kinds of early modern diplomacy? Was the pope still regarded as superior to all kingdoms, or was he just another ruler?

Charles: Well, if you asked one of the popes from this period, I’m sure they would maintain their superiority! It’s an interesting question. Some of the earliest resident ambassadors in Europe were stationed in Rome, and the pope was among the first rulers to send ambassadors abroad. But from the sixteenth century onward, the respect and honor paid to papal diplomats began to wane sharply. In many ways that is my argument in this paper: that there was a growing disjuncture between the papacy’s conception of itself and its authority and how other European states viewed the papacy. I became interested in papal diplomats after exploring the College of Cardinals in this period. Most of the literature on the Sacred College after the Reformation focus on cardinals’ roles in the growing papal bureaucracy (especially after Sixtus V reorganized the Roman curia in the 1580s), but a significant number of cardinals did not reside in Rome and instead served as papal diplomats across Europe.

Cathleen and Kristen: Finally, the events surrounding Commendone during the election of the new Polish king are described much like a game of Chinese whispers – what was the role of rumours, communication, representation, and so on?

Charles: Given the sheer distance involved, with diplomats active in courts stretching from Paris to Warsaw, it was inevitable that communication issues were an important factor in this story. Dispatches could be delayed or lost altogether, and competing diplomatic networks – papal, French, Polish, imperial, Spanish – picked up on different rumors and transmitted them to different locations at different speeds. One walks away with an appreciation for difficulties facing all the parties involved. Policy decisions were difficult to negotiate on their own, but the communication and implementation of those policies presented another set of challenges altogether.

Cathleen and Kristen: Charles, thank you for showing us how diplomatic failure can actually expand historical research! What are you working on now? Any interesting new projects we might soon be hearing more about?

Charles: I just finished preparing a translation of a sixteenth-century Jesuit devotional manual, Gaspar Loarte’s Exercise of the Christian Life, which is now available, and an overview to the historiography of Jesuit devotional literature should be appearing soon. Besides revising my book manuscript, which examines Catholic responses to edicts of toleration in the sixteenth century, I’m also drafting two articles at the moment: one that explores the difficulties Catholic diplomats faced in gathering information about Protestant Britain, and another that traces the career of Vincenzo Lauro, a contemporary of Commendone who was nuncio to Scotland, Savoy, and Poland before being created cardinal.

Cathleen and Kristen: Thank you so much for answering our questions, and good luck with your writing projects!

 

 

Interview with Cloe Cavero de Carondelet

Cloe Cavero de Carondelet will be joining the Institute of Art History at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich as a Research Associate in April 2017. She recently obtained her PhD in History and Civilisation at the European University Institute in Florence with a dissertation entitled “Art, Piety and Conflict in Early Modern Spain: The Religious and Artistic Patronage of Cardinal Bernardo de Sandoval between Toledo and Rome (1599-1618)”. She is the author of several essays on the suburban villas of Spanish cardinals, and her articles are set to appear in Archivo Español de Arte and the Boletín del Museo del Prado. Her recent article “Possessing Rome ‘in absentia’: The Titular Churches of the Spanish Monarchy in the Early Seventeenth Century” appears in issue five of the Royal Studies Journal, our first special issue on “Taking Possession.”

Kristen and Cathleen: Thank you, Cloe, for a wonderful and thought-provoking article. We learned a great deal about early modern Rome. To begin, for readers less familiar with your topic, could you explain what a titular church is? Were cardinals known as Cardinal [their name] or Cardinal [name of church]?

Cloe: Curiously, even the most informed visitors that marvel at the churches of the city of Rome are often unaware that almost every one of these was – and still is – the titular church of a cardinal. In some way mirroring the pope’s association with San Pietro in Vaticano and the connection between a bishop and his cathedral, seventy churches located in the city of Rome and its surroundings were attached to the corresponding number of cardinals of the Sacred College. Although the foundations of the cardinals’ association with the Roman churches are multiple and not yet completely clear, we can say that one of its main objectives was to establish a spatial and material link between the cardinals and the papal city. It was a mutually advantageous situation. The cardinal obtained a residence and a ceremonial space in the papal court, and the church received a source of patronage, which included the always needed architectural renovations and artistic refurbishments.

Most interestingly, as you have well pointed out, the temporary ownership of a Roman church also provided the cardinal with a new, symbolic identity. This was reflected in a fundamental element – the cardinal’s name. As it happened with Cardinal Carlo Borromeo – also called the Cardinal of Santa Prassede – it was a frequent practice, in which cardinals simultaneously employed their surname and the name of their titular church. However, as there was no fixed rule for the cardinals’ naming, sometimes they were also known by the name of their dioceses. In the case of Cardinal Sandoval, the archival documents refer to him as “Cardinale di Toledo” as a general rule, occasionally as “Cardinale di Sandoval”, and almost never as “Cardinale di Sant’Anastasia”.

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Sant’Anastasia al Palatino. Photo courtesy of Cloe Cavera de Carondelet

Kristen and Cathleen: At one point your article mentions a lack of available titular churches. Were there usually more cardinals than churches? Would some cardinals never be assigned a titular church?

Cloe: The number of titular churches and indeed cardinals was not fixed until 1586, when Sixtus V made an effort to control the increasing number of cardinals, by imposing a limit of seventy cardinals within the Sacred College. Consequently, this decision was simultaneous with the adjustment of an equivalent of number of titular churches. In fact, San Pietro in Montorio was only established as a cardinalatial title after this decision. However, despite this numeric concordance between cardinals and churches, the churches were not automatically granted to the new cardinals. There was one necessary condition for the allocation of a titular church: attending the ritual of closing-and-opening-of-the-mouth with the pope in Rome or, as I have shown in my article for RSJ, ensuring that the ceremony took place by proxy. Nonetheless, the delay in the allocation of Cardinal Sandoval’s titular church suggests that other additional symbolic elements came into play, besides mere availability. Although there were available churches when Sandoval achieved the red hat, none of them corresponded with the churches traditionally granted to the Primates of the Spanish Monarchy. In my opinion, this was the main reason why it took almost two years to endow Cardinal Sandoval with Sant’Anastasia, a church of no particular importance or previous connection with the Spanish Monarchy.

Kristen and Cathleen: How were cardinals chosen during this era?

Cloe: From a ritualistic point of view, the creation of cardinals took place throughout three consistories. After listening to the suggestions and opinions of the College of Cardinals on the most adequate candidates, the pope decided who should receive the cardinal’s hat. From a political point of view, however, the situation was far more complex and negotiated. The unique system of government of the Holy See determined a curious situation. While the creation of cardinals was one of the most important prerogatives of the pope, the pope was elected from the College of Cardinals by the cardinals themselves. Thus, it is not surprising that the pope, the Italian families and the sovereign rulers of Catholic Europe all invested considerable efforts in influencing the appointments of these prospective papal electors. As one can imagine, this significant power was rarely given to individuals devoid of means or of humble origins. In fact, only in the years immediately following the Council of Trent can we find several cardinals chosen for their piety and devoted spirit. Furthermore, the creation of crown cardinals entailed a previous level of negotiation. As I mention in my article for RSJ, the Spanish king was the one who suggested the Spanish candidates who were to be considered for the cardinal’s hat. Being shortlisted for the purple was therefore also the result of complex negotiations within the royal court.

Kristen and Cathleen: Your article mentions that the cardinal creations of 1596 and 1599 negatively affected the Spanish monarchy. How so?

Cloe: Even if this affirmation may seem a bit excessive, I believe that it is safe to say that cardinal appointments were an important barometer of the political situation in early modern Europe. They indicated which of the main Catholic monarchies – the French or the Spanish – enjoyed the favour of a given pope in a given moment. From 1595, it is possible to see how the Holy See gradually moves away from its alliance with the Spanish monarchy and aligns with the French monarchy instead. The 1596 and 1599 consistories did not benefit the interests of the Spanish monarchy, either in the creation of cardinals aligned with their faction or with that of crown cardinals. The bitter complaints and numerous criticisms recorded in the correspondence maintained between the Spanish ambassadors in Rome and the court of Madrid in these years evinces the significant importance that cardinal creations had for diplomatic relationships between Spain and Rome.

Kristen and Cathleen: It seems having cardinals from your kingdom was an important part of diplomacy. How did the Spanish monarchy compare with its rivals?

Cloe: Known as the teatro del mondo, early modern Rome was a sort of international setting where the rulers of Catholic Europe negotiated their power. Every ruler could have formal or informal agents in Rome, but only a few of them had resident ambassadors, and an even greater minority had cardinals from their own kingdom at the papal court. Between the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century, almost 75% of the Sacred College of Cardinals consisted of Italians. The rest was divided between French and Spanish cardinals, who had a steady 10% each, and by Germans, Austrian, Poles and other European territories. Therefore, both the French and Spanish monarchy enjoyed a valuable diplomatic privilege, which provided them with additional diplomatic agents and with valuable ceremonial spaces.

When in Rome, the French and Spanish cardinals acted as a sort of ambassadors; we may want to call them “ecclesiastical diplomats”. Similarly to resident ambassadors, they lived in lavish palaces and played a relevant symbolic role in the ceremonies and rituals of the monarchy that took place in the city of Rome. This was especially the case with the crown cardinals, who held the status of cardinal-protectors of a kingdom. Although there is still much to be done on this issue, I am certain that cardinals from the French and Spanish monarchies went through conflicts similar to those of their ambassadors. It is very likely that the cardinals argued about matters of precedence and status during papal ceremonies and informal encounters, apparently banal arguments that were instead regarded as important diplomatic tensions.

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A Cardinal’s Procession by Ottavio Leoni (1578-1630). Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, http://www.metmuseum.org.

Kristen and Cathleen: What are your current projects?

Cloe: Having recently obtained my PhD, I am at the moment focusing on two main projects. The first one, as you might anticipate, is the turning of my doctoral dissertation into a book. I will be working on the manuscript in the coming months, and hope to have it completed as soon as possible. My second project, which I will be carrying out at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich, is the examination of the visual normativity of childhood sanctity in early modern Europe. I will scrutinise images of child saints to consider how the emotional qualities of infancy shaped the construction of these saints’ visual representation and the reception of their cult during the Catholic Reformation. This new research project stems from one of the outcomes of my dissertation, that is, the fundamental role that art patronage had for the conformation, shaping and forging of sacred history in early modern Spain. In connection with some of the issues discussed in my article for RSJ, an essential part of the project will be to analyse how the lay and ecclesiastical authorities negotiated the contested dimension of childhood sanctity between Spain and Rome, paying special attention to the ceremonies of canonisation and other rituals.

Kristen and Cathleen: Thank you so much for answering our questions. We look forward to reading your work in the future!

 

Interview with John Hunt

John Hunt is an assistant professor of History at Utah Valley University and currently a fellow at Harvard’s Villa I Tatti Center in Florence. He is the author of The Vacant See in Early Modern Rome: A Social History of the Papal Interregnum (Leiden: 2016), as well as several articles on  various aspects of Roman society in the early modern era that include gambling on papal elections, rumor and the dissemination of news, and male violence. His article, “Carriages, Violence, and Masculinity in Early Modern Rome,” won the I Tatti Prize for Essay by a Junior Scholar of 2014. His current project is about gaming, sociability, and street life in early modern Italy.

 Kristen and Cathleen: Thank you, John, for a fascinating article! We had no idea carriages had such an exciting history! To get started, could you give us a sense of what these carriages looked like? Are we talking stagecoaches or maybe Disney princess?

John: Definitely more extravagant Cinderella than plain stagecoach. Just like Julian Munby’s depiction of the state carriages of Elizabeth I of England, the carriages of the elites in Baroque Rome were “Wardrobes on Wheels,” in that they had to be ostentatious in their use of rich ornamentation, so necessary on the conveyance of magnificence and power in the “Teatro del Mondo.” Few carriages from the seventeenth century survive intact (the Museu Nacional dos Coches in Lisbon has a carriage used by Philip III of Spain). Therefore, historians must rely on contemporary prints of festivities as well as written accounts for descriptions of carriages from the period. Most carriages of the elite were lower to the ground and less tall than stagecoaches. Moreover, they were gilded with gold and silver, used velvet and brocade for the curtains, and accoutered the horses’ manes and tails with silk ribbons. The coachmen as well as the pages and grooms that accompanied the carriage were dressed in the ambassador’s or nobleman’s livery. All these elements together could run the cost of tens of thousands of scudi (gold coins) for one carriage, not including the pay of servants, the horses and their upkeep, and the construction of places to park carriages. Finally, by the seventeenth century, keep in mind most ambassadors, cardinals, and noblemen kept at least three or four carriages (although a few of these would be less ornate vehicles used for travel in the countryside).

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Coach from the Palazzo Braschi, late 1700s (photo by John Hunt)

Kristen and Cathleen: How did the carriage become so popular and move away from its initial status as transportation for women?

John: Noblewomen, ladies, and even courtesans (although papal decrees forbade the latter from doing so) never stopped riding in carriages throughout the early modern era. The great transformation occurred when men, both noblemen and ecclesiastics, began using carriages in the late sixteenth century. It took a while for two reasons. First, most noblemen and gentlemen preferred to ride horses as a way of displaying martial prowess and masculinity. Second, even mild popes such as Pius IV and Gregory XIII inveighed against their use by men, especially cardinals. Only with the reign of Sixtus V did popes give up their moral war against the luxurious carriage. By this time, members of the Roman elite recognized that the carriage was an ideal status symbol, much akin to owning an urban palace and a country villa. Some might also point out this happily coincided with the papacy’s “taming” of the rambunctious Roman Barony, but as my article shows the carriages themselves often provoked a great deal of violence over precedence and etiquette (often tied to political issues). By the early years of the seventeenth century, resident ambassadors and cardinals at the papal court found it necessary not only to ride in carriages during quotidian outings but also to incorporate them into courtly ritual. As I argue in the article, the carriage has become a mobile extension of the casa (both in the sense of the family and of its physical habitation in the city) and, for ambassadors, the state.

Kristen and Cathleen: How did you get started working on carriages and diplomacy?

John: My research broadly focuses on street life in early modern Rome and Italy. This includes how early modern people navigated the city and how they used urban spaces for a variety of social and cultural activities. In the course of doing research on my book, The Vacant See in Early Modern Rome, I became interested in how foreign powers, particularly the kingdoms of France and Spain, made their presence felt in the streets of Rome, beyond the court and the conclave, where scholars generally located diplomatic influence. In following the line of research I discovered how important the carriage was to ambassadors resident in Rome, particularly in the seventeenth century. By then many of the arguments, brawls, and street battles over precedence involved the ambassadorial carriages and their entourages.

Kristen and Cathleen: Your article talks about ambassadors using their carriages to battle for precedence in the streets of Rome. What sorts of sources do you use to trace these events and their results?

 John: Even though I have used a lot of judicial trials and criminal records in other research projects, I found that these sources really did not exist for elites and their carriages. Elites were typically above the law. In most cases, coachmen and the pages serving in ambassadorial cortèges are the types of people that can be found in these kinds of records. Therefore I rely mostly on private handwritten newsletters (the avvisi), printed accounts of ambassadorial entries, and private diaries. The diary of the beleaguered Governor of Rome, Giovanni Battista Spada, has proven exceptionally useful. Spada, as the chief magistrate of Rome’s criminal tribunal from 1635 to 1643, kept a running account of all the trouble caused by ambassadors and their carriages.

Kristen and Cathleen: Your article mentions closing the carriage curtains as a deliberate act. How did the opening or closing of carriage curtains play into these battles for precedence?

John: Seventeenth-century courtesy books addressed the arrival of the carriage on the ritual landscape of Rome, a city that had developed a system of ceremonial precedence for elites, especially for the ambassadors and agents of the Catholic powers of Europe and Italy. Etiquette required the ambassadors further down the political and ritual pecking order to give precedence to those of a higher rank upon meeting them in streets. This meant stopping the carriage before the ambassador of greater political worth, opening the curtain, and greeting him as he passed. Failure to perform this ritual correctly was seen as an intentional affront, and indeed, many ambassador sought to dishonor their political rivals by not opening the curtain upon meeting another ambassador. As I mentioned in the article for RSJ, the most famous incident of this occurred between the Taddeo Barberini, the lay nephew of Urban VIII, and the Venetian ambassador, who refused to recognize the elevation of Barberini to Prefect of Rome.

Kristen and Cathleen: Is there any evidence about how the less elite citizens of Rome regarded this jockeying for power via carriage? Was it ever a spectator sport to watch ambassadors square off in their carriages or were encounters not quite so deliberate?

John: Less elite members were probably awed by the spectacle of sumptuous carriages and the large entourages that accompanied them. At the same time they cast a wary eye towards carriages since commoners who failed to get out of the way of moving carriages often suffered serious injury and even death. Moreover, pages armed with clubs preceded the carriages of ambassadors, cardinals, and nobles to clear the path for their masters.

The carriages themselves, rather than the brawls and disputes, more likely caught the attention of the city, both among its elite and non-elite inhabitants. The owners of carriages intentionally rode out in the streets (andare a spasso), specifically to be seen by a citywide audience in order to show off their refined taste and magnificence. Certain areas were considered the best places to perform the “theater” of the carriage, namely Piazza Navona and the via del Corso, the wide street that ran from Piazza del Popolo to Piazza Venezia. Ritual occasions, such as Carnival and the papal possesso, were also times to show off in a carriage. So although elite Romans intentionally performed in their carriages, and part of this performance included deliberate assaults on the honor of rivals, the resulting street battles were something the populace at large sought to stay clear of, best to watch from the safety of their homes.

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Print of Rome by Lievin Cruyl from 1692 (image courtesy of John Hunt)

Kristen and Cathleen: Finally, any particularly juicy carriage stories that you weren’t able to fit into your article but want to share?

 John: I can think of a few but one of the most salacious events involving carriages in Rome took place on the first night of Carnival in 1637. On Saturday, February 14, papal constables stopped a rented carriage on the wide via del Corso that contained the courtesan, Checca Buffone, and a servant of the ambassador of the Holy Roman Empire. Both were masked, along with several other unnamed men in the carriage. Papal decrees forbade courtesans and prostitutes from riding in carriages throughout the city. These decrees were difficult to enforce; however, during Carnival season and other festive moments in the year papal police made concerted efforts to repress the activity. It is clear that the bargello wanted to make an example of Checca; she was jailed as punishment for her transgression. Fearing the dishonor that would result from such a public action, the Imperial ambassador and the Cardinal Protector of Germany (Maurice of Savoy) issued petitions to the Governor of Rome, Giovanni Battista Spada, to save Checca. In reality the ambassador and the Cardinal of Savoy were more interested in preserving the reputation of the Holy Roman Empire in Rome. This can be seen by the Governor’s response, which also reveals how carriages had become an extension of diplomatic reputation. Spada told the ambassador and his allies that Checca’s punishment would continue as scheduled “since the woman did not go under the ambassador’s name, nor was she in his carriage.” Yet, the matter did not stop there. Several days later, on Giovedi Grasso (Fat Thursday) armed pages and grooms of the Savoyard cardinal attacked the carriage of Sebastiano Antinori, a gentleman in the service of the cardinal-nephew Antonio Barberni, as he made his way to watch the famous horse races that took place on the Corso. Savoy evidently blamed the Francophile Barberini for the action against Checca and the subsequent tarnishing of the Empire’s reputation.

Kristen and Cathleen: Thank you so much for answering our questions. We look forward to reading your work in the future!

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Interview with Jennifer Mara DeSilva

Jennifer Mara DeSilva is an Associate Professor of History at Ball State University (Indiana, USA). Her research focuses on Renaissance Italy and the Papal Court, especially cultural, political, and social history of the Renaissance and Reformation movements. Her current research focuses on how individuals and groups at the Papal Court established identities through office-holding, rituals, and relationships with groups and sites. She has also just edited the first thematic issue of the Royal Studies Journal on the topic of “taking possession”.

 

Kristen and Cathleen: Hi Jennifer, thanks for doing this interview for our readers at the Royal Studies Journal Blog! Could you maybe first tell us a bit how this special issue of the Royal Studies Journal came to be, and what the idea behind the topic of “taking possession” is? Who takes possession of what?

Jennifer: Hi Kristen and Cathleen, it is a pleasure to speak about this exciting new issue of the Royal Studies Journal. This issue began life as a series of panels that I organized at the 2015 Sixteenth Century Studies Conference in Vancouver, Canada. The CFP invited scholars who work broadly on entry rituals and ceremonies of possession across the early modern world. I am a firm believer in the importance of conferences to bring scholars together who work on similar themes. Successful interactions create new communities that sometimes result in printed studies. A subset of the papers presented offered a conversation about the diversity of possession rituals in projecting messages about royal authority and identity, so I proposed a special issue on the topic to the RSJ editor-in-chief. One of the advantages of collections that emerge from conferences is that the contributors have already done the core research work, so working up an article-length study does not take too long. Conversations with other panelists and the audience help to expand their conception of the topic and its context. Also, big conferences like SCSC draw scholars from all career levels, which incorporates early career scholars into the conversation and helps to publicize their work. Keeping our field dynamic depends upon bringing new people and new ideas to the table.

The concept of “taking possession” has been around for a long time, but has mostly been explored in rather traditional forms: royal progresses by new monarchs, processions that affirmed the pope’s episcopal role, and New World territorial conquests. While these are the best-known examples of individuals and groups “taking possession” of communities, these studies only scratch the surface of the concept. The act of “taking possession” is a mechanism for asserting authority, reputation, and relationships. This has been done for centuries in a wide variety of settings and by far more people than princes, popes, and pioneers. RSJ Volume 3 Issue 2 is an opportunity to consider how early moderns applied the idea of “taking possession” to their own situations and means in order to project messages about their position in the local and global hierarchy and the privileges and responsibilities that their positions entailed. What we found was that the stratum immediately below monarchs was quite active on behalf of their royal masters. Ambassadors, cardinals, legates, agents, and even city fathers used entry ceremonies to negotiate reputations for themselves and the monarchs that they represented or greeted. Examining these events allowed us to consider how a monarch and state’s reputation for strength was constantly reinforced across a wide variety of sites, from the national cardinal’s titular church in Rome to congested city streets. The spaces that were possessed – communities, churches, squares, and intersections – are better understood as sites and opportunities for expressing strength based on relationships and resources. True possession was rarely had, but monarchs and their proxies avidly sought the local reputation and influence that resulted from these events.

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Jean Bourdichon: Le Voyage de Gênes: entrée de Louis XII à Gênes

Kristen and Cathleen: So, taking possession of a space was far more ceremonial, symbolic, and a representation of authority. But inhowfar are such ritual entries representations of already existing power relationships, and how do they contribute to a change in this relationship?

Jennifer: Up to a point these events reflect and display the extent of existing hierarchies. A minor state is not going to rise above a major state simply because it puts on an impressive show. However, these events are opportunities to publicly display relationships within those hierarchies, which involves a larger group in the reputation-making process and lays plain the composition, growth, and rivalry of factions. Accounts of ritual entries allow historians to see how witnesses quantified reputation and reacted to displays produced by monarchs and their proxies. These accounts offer a glimpse into the deeper effects of “mere ritual” and sometimes provide commentary on developments in political relationships, as John Hunt’s article shows.

Kristen and Cathleen: You brought together authors concerned with entries in early modern Lille, Rome, and the Papal states. Are there any similarities across early modern Europe considering the actors of such entries, the ritual forms, or the expectations from local and distant audiences?

Jennifer: There are certainly broad similarities across ritual entries. Ellen Wurtzel’s study of the new monarchs, Archduke Albert and Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia, in Lille and Cloe Cavero Carondelet’s study of a proxy agent in Rome, standing in for King Philip III of Spain’s newest cardinal, reveal this clearly. Specifically, these articles show similarities in how the ritual expected participants to travel through spaces, greet specific people, perform acts, and thus have their identities, positions, and responsibilities affirmed by the ritual and the witnessing crowd. Nonetheless, this concept of “taking possession” through ritual action was applied in diverse ways and spaces. The frequent publication of accounts of entries through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries shows an interest in documenting and disseminating both ideal rituals and innovative developments across Europe. However, we must not forget that the tone, experience, and political results of these events could vary widely and depended on the individual context and the specific relations between organizers, “possessors”, and observers.

Kristen and Cathleen: You said already a bit about the entries from the point of view of the possessor respectively how these entries were supposed to be viewed by the possessed. However, if we turn the perspective around, were such possessions also a sign of the need for the subjects to accept the authority; i.e. a symbol of power from the ruled over the ruler?

Jennifer: Yes, in many cases. The rituals established a relationship between the ritual actor/monarch/authority and the community. The well-known progresses that French kings made were similar in purpose to the pope’s possesso ritual that involved traveling with the entire Papal Court from the Vatican Palace across the city to his episcopal see of St. John Lateran. In both cases the rulers followed traditional itineraries through their cities in order to meet with distinct groups and ratify their privileges and relationships with the central authority. As with other aspects of social life in communities with low literacy rates, public memory played an important role in these events. The observing community was called on to affirm the historical roots of the ritual forms, the legitimacy of the actors involved, and the legality of the adopted roles. While it was possible to avoid witnessing these entries as a statement against the proposed authority, this was not always a profitable avenue of negotiation. In many cases the situation was more delicate. As Charles Keenan’s article shows, observers might accept the individual’s right to office, but have a conflict with his or her intended policy and future actions.

Kristen and Cathleen: There is a huge emphasis on the rituals and spaces of these entries, which raises the question of sources – what kind of sources have survived to bring these entries to life? Is Geertz’s thick description possible from a 400-500 years distance? Or, in different words: how can we today understand the (symbolic) language of rituals?

Jennifer: There are a wonderful array of sources that have survived that help us understand the mechanism of and reaction to rituals of possession. These include published and personal accounts, images of events and apparati – see the British Library’s online collection of Renaissance Festival Books –, records of planning, construction, and payments, as well as the spaces themselves in some cases. While not all records survive for each event, enough do in cities, galleries, libraries and archives worldwide to reveal how there were global norms and patterns of action and interest on the part of both actors and observers. Geertz’s method of thick description is possible, but hinges on immersion in the sources, acknowledging the reality of festive labor, and using context to its maximal effect. The language of rituals, symbolic as it may be, has maintained certain core ideas over the centuries.

Kristen and Cathleen: Finally, could you please tell us a bit about how these early modern rituals of taking possession are still influential today, e.g. todays importance of the keys of the city, or the Lord Mayor’s Show in London?

Jennifer: Modern communities continue to hold entry rituals to greet leaders and celebrities, and politicians seeking election participate in progresses across their electoral districts. They depend upon public observers to show support, negotiate relationships, and thus build their reputations. Our ability to record and manipulate these events has grown with the development of the modern media and especially with the proliferation of individualized digital platforms. Today we are more likely to see rituals of possession as an integral part of celebrity or political culture, but the presence of an important or popular figure riding in a parade waving to crowds – be it members of a champion local soccer team, a newly crowned or elected head of state, or pop singers performing on a float – remains the same. We continue to participate in the process by which messages of reputation based on office or achievement are publicly ratified by traveling to and through landmark spaces under the public eye. These events are wide ranging, from traditional royal or ecclesiastical progresses to the Olympic flame relay and Santa Claus parades. Even in the twenty-first century, we seek out opportunities to interact locally with political, religious, and cultural leaders, and share our communities with them. Perhaps it is a common human need that makes us want to stake a claim to visitors, just as they want to “take possession” of us.

Kristen and Cathleen: Thank you very much for this interview, Jennifer! All of you who are now even more curious to read more about taking possession of a space, head over to the Royal Studies Journal, and enjoying reading the first thematic issue!

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The very beginning of the Olympic Torch starting it’s entry into Rio de Janeiro in 2016

Interview with Theresa Earenfight

Theresa Earenfight is a professor of history at Seattle University. She is the author of The King’s Other Body: María of Castile and the Crown of Aragon (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009) and Queenship in Medieval Europe (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). She is currently working on Catherine of Aragon and a database of royal pregnancies in Europe.

Kristen and Cathleen: Hi Theresa, thanks for doing this interview for our readers at the Royal Studies Journal Blog! First of all, could you tell us a bit more about how you became interested in medieval and early modern queenship?

Theresa: I loved the history of queens since middle school, especially those rousing popular biographies that I devoured like a genteel bodice ripper, but with real people, not fictional heroines. In grad school, I worked with Joe O’Callaghan, whose work on Spanish kings got me interested in monarchy, specifically the fifteenth century Crown of Aragon because of its fascinating federative character. Well, Alfonso V (1416-58) spent most of his time after 1432 conquering and governing the kingdom of Naples, which left the peninsular realms kingless. At first I thought, oh, it must be ruled by his brother or a high-ranking prelate. Wrong on both counts. I was actually surprised to find out first, that Queen Maria (sister of the king of Castile) was in fact running the realm and second, that she faced no serious pushback from the nobles and clerics in Spain. None. Not a peep of the sort of hostile criticism that contemporary French queens faced. That really surprised me, and I’ve been trying to figure out the dynamics of monarchy ever since.

Kristen and Cathleen: Currently you are working on an article comparing medieval attitudes about three queens: Maria of Castile, Isabel of Castile, and Catherine of Aragon. Have you found any interesting commonalities about what writers said about these queens, some who had children and some who did not?

Theresa: The cross-generational commonalities are striking, and I think it is due largely to the political culture of Castile where they were all raised. They were all educated similarly and they all read, or were exposed to, many of the same writers. Some of this literature is misogynistic (there is a strong “querela de mujeres” strand) but much of what they read, or at least what their libraries contained, was strongly supportive of women in monarchy. I think this shaped Maria of Castile first, who simply stepped into the breach when Alfonso moved to Naples and stayed there. Isabel was stewed in this, but she was not supposed to reign, and only after the death of her brothers did she seize the throne and negotiated a deal with Fernando making him king-consort, not king-regnant in Castile. That is important, for both her own sovereignty and that of her daughter, Catherine and Catherine’s daughter, Mary Tudor. I’m not sure how children play into this directly, but that is something definitely worth studying. The idea of a childless queen was very much a concern for Maria of Castile, but as far as I know, there was little commentary on this in her lifetime. Alfonso was chided often for leaving his peninsular realms “like a widow,” which is a fascinating criticism. Isabel, of course, used her maternal status skillfully, as Liz Lehfeldt has very convincingly shown. Catherine of Aragon is the most famous of the three for her six pregnancies and only two live births, a son who died soon after birth and, of course, a daughter Mary. I’ve been reading lately some excellent new work on the literature of the period relative to women by Núria Silleras-Fernández and Emily Francomano, so this part of my work is still very much in progress.

 

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Catherine of Aragon by Lucas Hornebolte

Kristen and Cathleen: You are currently writing a biography of Catherine of Aragon. How much of a role did her inability to have a son play in her divorce from Henry VIII?

Theresa: It was fundamental. Had their son, Henry, lived (he died a few months after his birth), I wager that their marriage would have survived. King Henry would probably still have had a number of affairs, but with a male heir, there would have been no reason for the divorce. So, I think that the English Reformation would have taken a rather different direction had the baby lived.

Kristen and Cathleen: Some medieval kings did not divorce their childless wives. Why was Henry VIII different?

Theresa: I think it’s both personal and bureaucratic. He was a spoiled man with advisors who gave him what he wanted. But it’s more than his corrosive personality. The Tudors had a serious legitimacy problem, starting with the Battle of Bosworth Field, and then getting worse with two pretenders (Perkin Warbeck and Lambert Simnel), so Henry had a strong impulse to prove that the Tudors were blessed by God. First Cardinal Wolsey and then Thomas Cromwell worked to give Henry what he wanted, although Wolsey ultimately paid dearly for his failure. But the Protestant Reformation’s anti-papal rhetoric provided a legal foundation for Henry to divorce and he happily took the bait.

 Kristen and Cathleen: In 2013, you presented some preliminary ideas on developing a database for royal genealogy, focusing on pregnancies and births – can you tell us a bit more about where this project is now?

Theresa: It is still in the development stage. I have been accumulating evidence for the database, but this is a much bigger project than I first envisioned and it needs an international team to do the research into genealogies, family histories, chronicles, and medical records (if they exist) to put all the facts together. My next step is to assemble that team of scholars to put our heads, and our sources, together to fill in the blanks. Eventually, the database will be open-source with an option for credentialed scholars to contribute.

 Kristen and Cathleen: With this project, you are working on the border of queenship studies and medical history – can you tell us a bit about the sources you use, and if there are any special difficulties?

Theresa: The sources are very tricky. Even for an early modern queen like Catherine of Aragon, at a court as well documented as the Tudors, the sources for the history of medicine are sketchy. We have knowledge of the court physicians, but very little is said or known of Catherine’s pregnancies, and until recently some pregnancies were considered dubious. This is due, in part, to a secrecy about her later pregnancies and miscarriages. But it is also due to the way that the physicians and midwives at court kept, or did not keep, records. For Maria of Castile, I know when she had her first menstrual period only because she wrote to her mother telling her about it. Maria’s health has been the subject of speculation, but very little real study by someone with expertise in the history of medicine. And there is a lot of ignorance and misogyny embedded in the hypotheses, most of which blame her for “infertility” when, in fact, she and Alfonso lived apart for most of their marriage. Yes, he had three illegitimate children, but what some scholars call her infertility may well have been simply the absence of sexual intercourse.

 Kristen and Cathleen: This summer, you raised also some interesting questions about periodization of queenship on your blog, https://theresaearenfight.com/ – could you please elaborate a bit on this? In what ways does it actually play a role, if we define something as early modern or medieval?

Theresa: I am still struggling with this question, even more so now that I’m working on Catherine of Aragon who straddles the conventional periodization of medieval and early modern. There seem to be so many ways that queens face similar challenges and opportunities across time—they are defined by their fathers or husbands, they are expected to bear children, they get beat up for the same sort of sexual issues, they are second choices in the hierarchy. But after 1600, it seems something really does change and I think it’s a new political world after the rise of secretaries. But then again, I wonder if it’s not all that different from the earlier conversations queenship scholars had about the 11th and 12th centuries and the thesis on how women fared with the rise of bureaucratic kingship. I wonder if in the early modern period, region and religion matter more than time periods, if as the Reformation took shape, those monarchies in Protestant realms differed in important ways from those of Catholic ones. There are several ways this question could be investigated. One thing we know very little about is royal women in the Islamic world. There are some studies, but Muslim women need to be studied comparatively. And this makes me want to change the question a bit, to consider regional differences in a Braudelian way, as in the Mediterranean or the North Atlantic. Elena Woodacre’s recent collection of essays on queens in the Mediterranean does this well, but that was just the beginning.

Kristen and Cathleen: At the moment, much of queenship studies are concentrated on medieval and early modern Europe – do you have any insights what goes on beyond these borders, e.g. within Extra-European queenship studies, or in regards to modern queenship?

Theresa: I think we need to look beyond Europe, especially Asia after 1300, when Marco Polo and other traders opened Europe up to another set of influences, and the Americas after the Columbian voyages. Cultural points of contact may well have shaped the practice of monarchy in Europe, but until we do that work, all we can do is speculate. The differences between Asia, the Americas, and Europe complicate comparisons, but the more we know about how royal women around the world exercised authority and power, the sharper and more focused our comparisons can be.

Kristen and Cathleen: Thank you so much! We look forward to your future work.

Conference Report “Saints and Sinners: Literary Footprints of Mary and Margaret, Queens of Scots”

Just at the beginning of this month, on October 6th&7th, the University of Edinburgh hosted the conference Saints and Sinners: Literary Footprints of Mary and Margaret, Queens of Scots, organized by Claire Harrill and Lucy Hinnie. This conference was supported by the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH, University of Edinburgh), the Society for the Study of Medieval Language and Literature (MEDIUM ÆVUM), and the Centre for the Study of the Middle Ages (CeSMA, University of Birmingham). Heta Aali from the University of Turku (Finland) kindly send us her conference report to share the discussions with all of you.
Have you been to an interesting conference lately? Send us your impressions!

Heta Aali: With eight speakers and two keynote lectures, by Dr Sarah Dunnigan (University of Edinburgh) and Dr Catherine Keene (Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX), the conference allowed for a productive discussion and a profound exchange of thoughts on representations created by and of the medieval queens in question. As the title of the conference indicates, the focus of the conference was on literary footprints of the two famous Queens of Scots, Mary I (died 1587) and St Margaret (died 1093). Yet, the topic was to be interpreted comprehensively, as could be seen from the wide range of approaches in the papers, and it was understood more in general as images of medieval queenship, gender, and women’s reading and writing. Noteworthy is that many papers focused on the literary representations of famous queens created by men. And moreover, as all the speakers were women, this also meant that at the conference, women explored the way men had examined famous medieval queens. This point did not escape the attention of the participants and in the final roundtable discussion the problem of gender segmentation between disciplines was brought up and the way literate studies (especially about queens) are so strongly identified as “feminine” field.

The conference started with two presentations on saintly medieval queens, and also a little bit on non-saints. My own presentation started the conference with a discussion on the representations of Merovingian queens created by early nineteenth-century French historians. Minji Lee (Rice University) continued by presenting Hildegard of Bingen’s and Birgitta of Sweden’s idea on childbirth. Mary Hardy from Aberdeen University focused in her paper on the way Queen Margaret was used by later authors to emphasise Catholic devotion in various European educational institutions whereas Amelia Heath from King’s College, London examined successfully how Margaret’s gender was presented as crossing the gender norms, or rather, as stretching the boundaries. Amy Hayes, also from the University of Aberdeen, discussed the problem of using sixteenth-century sources in studying the Middle Ages and the fifteenth century. The problem is relevant to all those studying the Middle Ages or any remote period with only few sources left and therefore the question in how far we can trust those later sources. Unfortunately, there is no clear answer since the sources are often difficult to replace even if their context of writing is known to be problematic. Allison Steenson (University of Edinburgh) presented her very interesting research project concerning the Hawthornden Manuscripts. The first keynote lecture, by Dr Dunnigan, focused on Mary, Queen of Scots, as a poet, a side of her which was very interesting though fairly seldom discussed in research. In Dr Dunnigan’s presentation, Mary was not only the object of male writing but she herself participated actively in the creation of her own image. The second keynote lecture, by Dr Keene, discussed the images and imagenary of Margaret and Virgin Mary holding and reading books, and more generally the association between women and books in the Middle Ages. The last two presentations, by Kate Ash-Irrisari (University of Manchester) and Anne Rutten (University of St Andrews) examined the Scottish queens’ later reputation and images especially during the Stuarts’ rule over Scotland, and later also England..

The conference concluded with a round table discussion with all speakers and other participants in which the general arguments and major themes of the conference were drawn together. Queenship and textuality was first brought up as a major theme since most speakers examined the textual images of the queens. Secondly, women’s writing was emphasised; either as queens who wrote or as historians writing about queens. What were these women permitted to write and what not? Thirdly, and most interestingly, it was discussed how women were remembered, who controls their representations, and the polarized opinions on politically significant women. It seems that historians, authors, and political thinkers used similar literate devices and models to either promote or derogate the queens depending on the political situation and on author’s affiliations at the time of the writing.

Female sovereignty, authority, and national identity were relevant questions in many presentations. The medieval, early modern, or nineteenth-century authors’ and historians’ opinions about female sovereignty and national identity played an important role in the creation of the representations despite the differences in time and place. What united the women discussed in the conference was that they were all somehow described as escaping the gender frame imposed by contemporary and later historians and authors. The gender frame(s) differed from one time to another, from one place to another, but the queens were often pictured as not quite fitting in.  In addition, several questions were raised concerning the current academic situation of studying medieval queens. For example, the question of how disciplinary boundaries, or strict separation of disciplines, affect the research was brought up. The strict boundaries were even seen as possibly hindering the research. Research of medieval queens calls for interdisciplinary approaches that would take into consideration textual and material cultures simultaneously. According to many participants, the relevant disciplines continue to be gendered which can also affect the outcome of the research. It was agreed that one should aim to overturn the preconceptions on and juxtaposition of “soft” and “scientific” history.

The conference participants also had the chance to enjoy a short presentation of the ongoing “Dangerous Women Project“. It aims to discover the different meanings of “dangerous women” by publishing every day for one year a blog of what it means to be a dangerous woman. Each day the blog has a different author and approach to the question, thus offering a wide range of answers.

 

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.

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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.

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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.