Monthly Archives: May 2014

Royal Studies at Kalamazoo 2014

Earlier this month (May 2014), the 49th Annual Medieval Congress was held in Kalamazoo, Michigan. This event draws thousands of scholars, students and interested members of the public to a four day fest of papers, roundtables, talks, society meetings/banquets and other related events. It was wonderful to see that there were a plethora of papers and panels related to royal studies-although I couldn’t get to them all, I hope to highlight a few here.

First off, there were the two Royal Studies Network sponsored panels: session 135 on monarchy and matrimony and session 209 on relations between monarchy and the church. We were fortunate to have a wonderful group of speakers in each panel and heard some excellent papers. The first of our panels, with a matrimonial theme, began with a paper by Christopher Berard on the negotiations between Richard I and Tancred of Sicily over the marriage of Richard’s nephew and potential heir, Arthur of Brittany. Next, Eileen McKiernan Gonzalez explored the pan-Mediterranean marital connections of Jaume II of Aragon, drawing comparisons between his four wives from his beloved and praised wife Blanca d’Anjou to his unsuccessful marriage to Maria de Lusignan. The final two papers both focused on the formidable Maria de Molina; both Paulette Pepin and Janice North discussed different aspects of Maria’s personal and political partnership with her husband Sancho IV of Castile which weathered political storms and papal demands for them to end their marriage due to consanguinity. All four papers stressed the importance of matrimonial diplomacy and choosing the right partner, both in terms of building alliances and compatibility. Indeed Eileen’s paper and those on Maria de Molina emphasised the importance of harmonious personal partnerships, particularly in enabling a queen to be not only content (unlike the thoroughly miserable Maria de Lusignan) but at her most politically effective.  

The second RSN panel explored the often tense relationships between monarchs and the church. Wendy Marie Hoofnagle explored royal control of the forests in England post-Conquest and the concept of the forests as a ‘landscape of power’, reinforcing the overall authority of the king. Elizabeth Keohane-Burbage followed on with an examination of the use of convocation to deal with the Templars in England, as Edward II proved reluctant to follow his father-in-law’s lead and try them himself. Finally Alexandra Kotoch completed the session with a look at an equestrian statue of Philip IV of France, attempting to recreate the setting and purpose of the statue in the wider framework of Capetian royal imagery.

Beyond the RSN panels there were plenty of fascinating papers on monarchy related topics and themes. On the first morning of the conference, there was an excellent session on Elizabeth I with three fascinating papers. The first was by Estelle Paranque who drew an interesting comparison in the language of martyrdom and sacrifice employed in the speeches of both Elizabeth I and Henri III of France. The second paper by Linda Shenk, discussed Elizabeth as a ‘CFO’, deeply engaged in trading negotiations with Russia-sometimes to the dismay of her Russian counterparts who sought to keep their interactions in a purely courtly sphere. The session was rounded out by a paper by Valerie Schutte which compared the dedications of contemporary books to both Elizabeth and Mary Tudor, noting the language employed and the way in which these dedications were used to give subtle advice to the dedicatees. 

An excellent pair of papers on queenly themes were part of an IMANA panel during the Friday sessions. Núria Silleras-Fernández’s paper deconstructed a fascinating document; a primer written for Maria Manuela of Portugal by her royal parents in preparation for her marriage to Philip II of Spain. This document was a virtual how-to guide of queenly behaviour, aiming to smooth her transition into queenship and help her to navigate the difficult waters of a foreign court, emphasising the model of Isabel of Portugal, wife of Emperor Charles V as one to emulate. Zita Rohr followed with a paper which drew connections between French and Iberian royal women across the 15th century, from Violant of Bar to Yolande de Aragon, Christine de Pizan and her patron Isabeau of Bavaria, to Anne de Beaujeu and her advice for her daughter Suzanne de Bourbon. 

Other interesting papers touched on royal themes in various sessions across the conference. Examples include Linda E. Mitchell who surveyed and discussed the treatment of queens in medieval chronicles, exploring why certain activity is noted by chroniclers or ignored. She drew up an interesting handout which noted the frequency of mentions in various texts which highlighted significant variance across chronicles and periods. A paper which I sadly missed was Tania Lévy’s paper on astrology and royal entries which sounded very interesting indeed. 

I participated in a roundtable session on Saturday and was fortunate to be in the company of some excellent scholars on the panel including Amy Livingstone who organised and chaired the session, Lois Huneycutt, Marie Kelleher, Kathy Krause and Constance Berman. We all contributed our thoughts on the continuing debate about women and power in the Middle Ages. Lois began by delineating the scholarship on the topic and discussing the developing debates and important studies from the 60s to the present noting key works such as McNamara & Wemple’s ‘The Power of Women through the Family’ and studies on queenship from Fascinger to Carmi Parsons to Theresa Earenfight’s new textbook on the subject. Kathy Krause and Constance Berman both discussed their work on female lords and how the agency and significance of these women are demonstrated through patronage, poetry and documentary evidence of their activity and administration. Marie Kelleher opened up an interesting discussion about how we categorise and frame the concept of power and agency and how wide we can extend the definition in the Middle Ages to encompass a much wider group of women. I added my thoughts on the idea of gendered power and partnership, studying medieval pairs in a more holistic fashion, originally inspired by Theresa Earenfight’s seminal article ‘Without the Persona of the Prince’.

These are just a few of the papers which touched on royal themes-one of the real challenges of large conferences like Kalamazoo is that you can only be in one session at a time but in any given timeslot there can be several papers in different places that you’d like to see! If you heard another paper relevant to royal studies at Kalamazoo, leave a comment on the blog, we’d love to hear about them. 


Interview with historian, Dr. Lucinda Dean

Niki: Hi Lucy, thanks for doing this interview. First, let us start with how you became involved in Royal Studies? What is your educational background and what made you decide to research royal ceremonies?

Lucinda: Well, in regards to the first question, I put together a Scottish panel for the first Kings and Queens Conference that Ellie and Shaun organised at the University of Bath, and it was here that Ellie introduced the concept of the Royal Studies Network. I signed up right away – the conference saw the bringing together of such a diverse range of exciting and interesting scholars looking at so many aspects of ‘Royal Studies’ and I wanted to keep in touch. I then spoke at the second conference at Winchester, where Ellie announced the Royal Studies Journal concept and I have been involved from the outset, primarily on the copyediting team and I’m very much looking forward to continued involvement with these two brilliant initiatives. I have also had a further panel accepted to the third conference this year, which I’m greatly looking forward too.

In answer to the second part, it was rather a convoluted journey to the study of royal ceremony for me. I have always loved history and history of art, but after completing ‘A’ levels I shied away from academia and jumped straight into the world of work, where I worked in the catering trade as a deputy restaurant manager. However, at about twenty-one I decided that I did – as my mum had always said I would – want to go into higher education; although initially it was my passion for creative writing that drove my choice of university and I did a joint creative writing and history degree at the Kingston University. After a tentative start I came out with a First and, while I had loved every minute of both subjects, as the degree had progressed I realised (with some encouragement from my wonderful supervisor for independent research project and dissertation, Dr Marisa Linton) that history was the field I wanted to pursue into postgraduate study.

I had done my dissertation on the early Medici in Florence and the interlocking of power, politics, religion, art and display became the root of my MA dissertation looking at Louis XIV. This study considered the representation of authority of Louis through artistic means and, more interestingly, how this image was flipped around and used by Louis’s critics to attack him. When looking at continuing my studies to PhD level, I knew I wanted to continue looking at similar themes but also that I wanted to move both back in time and away from France in focus. I had always had a passion for Scottish history (my father is proudly half Scottish and I spent many a happy school holiday exploring Scottish castles!) and the original PhD proposal was to look at representations of the Scottish royal image more generally; the decision to focus on royal ceremony specifically came part way through my first year of research at the University of Stirling and I haven’t looked back since!

Niki: Wow, that sounds great. Now, is there a particular royal ceremony that especially fascinates you? Was this also a point of interest for you during your master’s degree?

Lucinda: All ceremony fascinates me – particularly the interplay of ceremony within its wider political context both at a local level and on the international stage – however, if I had to pick a particular ceremony, I think that perhaps rather morbidly I am most fascinated by funerals and memorial of the dead.

As noted in my above answer, ceremony was not central to my MA studies; however, while I didn’t focus on it extensively, the theatre of display and ceremony in the court of Louis XIV certainly intrigued me greatly – particularly how the most menial activities were given such gravitas under the guise of ceremonial.

Niki: Great! Currently, is the Scottish Monarchy your specialty? What drew you to the ceremonies of the Scottish Monarchy?

Lucinda: I have flitted about a bit in regards to country and time period in my research, and have interests that span in many directions; however, the ceremonies of the Scottish monarchy have definitely become my speciality and I have many plans that all suggest a continuation of this trend!

When I was looking into moving on from MA research to PhD – as previously mentioned – I knew I wanted to change to study Scotland and I wanted to continue in the study of themes connected to visual, oral, written representations of authority. In the histriographical research in the early days of the PhD I found that there were numerous gaps in regards to such themes in Scottish history, but perhaps the biggest and most perplexing gap to me was that in regards to ceremony – even the key ceremony of coronation was sadly underexplored. There were isolated chunks of research. For example, the inauguration of Alexander III (1249) has received abundant research, and the sixteenth century is generally better served, particularly in regards to the study of weddings (but the coverage is still sporadic). Yet, there was nothing that gave a comprehensive overview of the continuity and change found across the centuries. So, possibly biting of a bit more than one person can chew, I set off on a mission to provide such a study covering just short of 400 years covering funeral, inauguration/ coronation, and weddings/ consort coronations.

Niki: How did you approach your research from an interdisciplinary perspective? Was this approach more useful in understanding ceremonial traditions of the Scottish Monarchy?

Lucinda: My study was interdisciplinary in the sense that it drew upon political, economical, social and cultural history, as well as history of art, literature, liturgical studies, music, sigillography, architecture and archaeology, and even spatial analysis (thanks to the study a friend is undertaking as Stirling) and anthropology – although the latter two are areas into which I only dabbled my toes and would certainly like to venture more in regards to looking at ceremony in the future. In some ways, this could perhaps be deemed the route that many historians take – particularly when researching themes such as ceremony – and therefore it could be questioned whether this interdisciplinary or not. However, ultimately, I think that historical research has diversified so much that in many ways we are all working in a far more interdisciplinarian manner.

In regards to how this approach assisted my understanding of ceremonial traditions in Scotland, it was crucial. These ceremonies have to be placed within their political and social context, and need to be understood as part of the landscape in which they occurred to truly assess what drove certain developments and what led to the retaining of certain traditions. Moreover, as I know can be a problem in the medieval era for many historians, source survival for Scotland is quite poor – particularly in comparison with records that have survived in France and England – and this demanded an open approach to the variety of source materials that would need to be used.

Niki: And lastly, what is next for your research? Do you have any upcoming projects in mind?

Lucinda: So many potential projects!! Having only finished my PhD in September last year and passing my viva with minor corrections in December, I am currently in the grey area between PhD-hood and fully fledged academic, so there is quite a lot of uncertainty just now about the exact direction I’m headed. However, I am in the process of co-editing a volume with a colleague from the University of Stirling which was inspired by a conference that we ran in August 2012 on the theme of representations of authority, and I am keen to organise another conference. I’m also looking to propose a monograph to be developed from the first to chapters of my thesis on royal ceremonies of death and succession in medieval and early modern Scotland in the near future to the St Andrews Scottish History Series.

There are several avenues I would like to explore in future research (although the order in which they occur will be entirely funding/ post-doctoral post/ job dependent), but these include: creating a digital recreation of one or more of the ceremonies to try and get this research into a form more accessible to a wider public; a continuation of the sidelined research I have already done into royal baptisms and traversing the realm; and a project expanding out from my third chapter on weddings to look at the ceremonial of ambassadorial interactions more broadly, kings abroad, and the impact of foreign entourages in Scotland.

Essentially, my thesis was the tip of an enormous iceberg that should keep me busy for the foreseeable future!

Upcoming conferences

Conferences are not only a great thing to commemorate certain dates, but also to just hang out with fellow (royal studies) scholars, get caught up in new research in the field and present new ideas! So, where to go this and next conference season?

Here are some of the conferences, where you’ll probably meet fellow Royal Studies scholars:

7-10 July 2014, Leeds: International Medieval Congress (IMC)

11-13 July 2014, Winchester:  Kings&Queens 3 – Entourage: Councilors, Cousins, Courtiers & Competitors

15-18 July 2014, Harlaxton: The Plantagenet Empire, 1259-1453
(thanks @Kathleen Neal for this suggestion)

12-13 September 2014, Canterbury: Premodern Queenship and Diplomacy in Europe

12-14 November 2014, Madrid: Alfonso VIII and Eleanor of England
CfP still open! Deadline 25 May 2014

5-7 March 2015, Brussels, Bruges: Mary of Burgundy – The Reign, the “Persona” and the Legacy of a European Princess
CfP still open! Deadline 15 May 2014

18-20 June 2015, Milwaukee: Attending to Early Modern Women – It’s about Time
CfP still open! Deadline 30 September 2014

So, where are you going? What did I miss? Leave us a comment!