Dr. Diana Pelaz Flores has received her PhD from the University of Valladolid, Spain. Her research focused on the study of Castilian Queenship during the 15th century, especially in the reign of Juan II of Castile (1406-1454) and his two wives, Queens María of Aragón (1420-1445) and Isabel of Portugal (1447-1496). Currently, she is working in different research projects related to the symbolic importance of water in the Middle Ages and the formulation of the meaning of queenship in the Iberian Kingdoms.
Dr. Danna Messer has received her PhD from Bangor University in Northern Wales (and for everyone who has ever been to Bangor, that means she is also very adept at climbing steep hills). Her research focuses on women living in native Wales before the English conquest of 1282. While her PhD primarily concentrated on married women from the aristocratic and noble classes, she is now taking a closer look at ‘queens‘ and royal women from the native princely dynasties in historical and literary sources and records of practice.
Diana and Danna are the layout editors of the Royal Studies Journal – we got together with them to ask them, what it is they do and also a bit about their research.
Cathleen: Thank you both for doing this interview. First of all, could you tell us a bit more what a layout editor does?
Danna & Diana: Well, essentially, to coin a friend’s term: the clue is in the title! After an article or review has successfully gone through the peer-review process and is submitted for publication, it goes through the stages of being proofread and copy-edited. Eventually, the final version is sent to our team to template it and lay it out according to our guidelines. As editors, we work closely with the layout assistants; assigning articles and reviews to be laid out so the work is spread out as equally as possible and, ideally, with enough leeway time so there’s not a lot of stress involved at the end of production. It’s not really just a matter of simply delegating work. It’s about working with each other, including laying out articles ourselves, and helping with any glitches that arise. There’s also the matter of looking after the online system that we have set up for the journal and making sure all the right boxes are ticked (figuratively and literally). This side is important because if we don’t go through the proper technical channels, the journal physically can’t be published.
Cathleen: So, you are pretty much the last step to make sure everything is as it should be. How does your work fit in with all the other steps, e.g. section editors, copy editors and so on? Is there a lot of communication going on between these different roles?
Danna & Diana: Really, with the journal overall there seems to be a lot of open communication across the board. Certainly, as layout editors we work pretty closely with the copy editor, since her job also entails issues concerning agreed house formatting and style.
Cathleen: There is a quite a team of layout editors at the journal. Could you tell us a bit more about how you organise the work between you? Are there multiple rounds of checking? Also, what kind of software to you use? And what are the challenges there?
Danna & Diana: The main task is overseeing the OJS side of things so we can make sure the publication is pushed through on time and that the articles and reviews that appear in the publication are the final versions that are meant to be there.
We have an absolutely fantastic team to be working with. Everyone is so enthusiastic about getting their hands dirty, so to speak, in order to help this journal be a continued success. And, communication within the layout team is impressive given we are all busy with other life demands and spread so far and wide – if an email is sent querying something or if someone flags up an issue that needs to be dealt with it’s usually within a matter of a couple of hours at the most that any of us have to wait for a response. It’s brilliant. And reassuring.
We do multiple rounds of checking, as far as we can. Generally, after an article or review has been laid out, it is sent back to the copyediting team and authors for a last run through to make sure everyone is happy we’re meeting our standards. Previously, the journal has used Publisher for layout, but we are currently in the process of rejigging things with the intent to use Word from here-on-out. There’s a general consensus that this switch will hopefully make the last-minute chaos that ensues in publishing when trying to meet deadlines a lot less chaotic!
Cathleen: Good luck with that! Besides layout editing for the journal, you have of course also your own research. Could you tell us a bit more about this?
Danna: My main research interest are the wives of the Welsh rulers before Wales was conquered by the English in 1282. In particular, I focus on the ideals and expectations concerning women and gender found in the native and normative Welsh sources roughly composed during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and examine these against what records of practice actually tell us about the types of agency royal and noble women held. Welsh queenship and kingship are very complicated topics because the whole system of rulership was pretty ill-defined and even use of the terms queenship and kingship are debatable. My research on Welsh queens, nevertheless, is proving exciting because after some painstaking delving into the sources, it‘s pretty clear that women enjoyed real levels of political and economic agency that effected the administration/management of family lordships, as well as native Welsh polity and international relations. It’s a topic that’s been ignored for too long and I just find it fascinating.
Diana: My research focuses on the role of the queens of Castile during the Late Middle Ages, especially in their role as the wives of kings. My main objective in my PhD was to understand the role of the queen consort in the different spheres of participation in the kingdom. By this reason, I have observed the political relevance of the wives of King Juan II of Castile (1406-1454), because these two women established a singular conflict against the king’s favourite, the Constable of Castile, Álvaro de Luna. The research on these Castilian queens, in relation to examples given by other queens of the Trastamara dynasty, has inspired other angles concerning Castilian queenship, such as the role of the queen as mother, the configuration of the queen’s itinerary, or the formation and composition of the queen’s household, among other aspects. The study of these women has been absolutely fascinating for me, because it helps me appreciate the importance of the queen in her context and the true role that developed with the evolution of the Crown of Castile. It is really suggestive and, in my opinion, it is a research field as interesting as necessary to understand the functions of the queen in the medieval period.
Cathleen: Alright, both of you share this fascination of medieval Queens – be it Welsh or Castilian. And, come to think of it, Castilian medieval queens and noble women in general are also research interests of the chief copy-editor of the Royal Studies Journal, Jitske Jasperse. Can you tell us a bit more about this fascination of medieval queens? For example, what exactly were their roles in politics? Did they mostly have influence via cultural patronage, or how did this work in a mostly male dominated world?
Danna: For me, the fascination with queenship stems from the traditional lack of understanding (and, really, historic disinterest) concerning women’s lives in general. There is so much research now showing that women were hardly on the periphery of society as most of history has led us to believe. I think it’s crucial that we understand the varying levels of agency and downright power that women actually wielded from every aspect of society in order to have a more balanced view of the past. I think this, in turn, has a direct impact on changing gender and sex relations and attitudes in our own cultures.
As for royal women in medieval Wales, there is a lot of evidence that strongly suggests that the office of the ‘queen’ was one that allowed the ruler’s wife significant political agency, on both the national and international stages. In fact, there is very little evidence between 1100-1282 of the queen’s influence in terms of cultural patronage or the import of the pigeon-holed role of the woman as mother. Though medieval Wales has been portrayed as a male-dominated society, all surviving evidence seems to singularly point towards real social and cultural expectations that women, and especially the wives of Welsh rulers, be both politically and economically active.
Diana: Well, I think the study of the relationship maintained by the women and power from the past let us to know the capacity and the implication of women in history, but also in the history of themselves. This is very important, since it increases our knowledge, especially with respect to the relations between the sexes and their mechanisms of acting. There are different roles developed by the queens, and the case given by the Crown of Castile is very interesting for its complexity and wealth of the scenarios where queens could participate. Concrete, during the government of the Trastamara dynasty (during the 14th/15th centuries), the same to which Isabel the Catholic belongs, we can observe the importance of Juana Manuel de Villena, the first queen of the dynasty, who legitimized her husband for the Castilian throne, thanks to her succession rights; her example is very similar to Catalina of Lancaster, as heir of the succession rights of Pedro I, the king who was murdered by Enrique of Trastamara. This relevance of the queens from the birth of the dynasty motivated a particular evolution and their specific weight in the Castilian Late Middle Ages. This was fruit of a historical relevance of the women of the royal family, because they could govern and inherit the throne according with the traditional law, different, for example, of the case of France where the Salic Law impeded it. In consequence, throughout medieval history of the Crown of Castile we can see strong queens consort, queens mother exerting the government as regents and queens regnant, too.
Cultural patronage is a fundamental field of study for understanding medieval queens, because it is possible to contrast the impact of their religiosity and their taste for literature, but it is not the only sphere where we can find the queens. The Castilian queens participated with her husband in the concession of privileges and they took part of the political evolution of the kingdom. In this sense, the queens were close to their husbands in the war against the Muslims; in occasions they even commanded the troops, as happened in the case of Juana Manuel during the Civil War after the death of king Pedro I. The capacity of the Queen to transmit her identity and her political perception can be observed clearly, such as reveals the example of María of Aragón against the royal favourite, who tried to separate her from the king Juan II. We can appreciate (at least in part, because not all documentation has been conserved) their functions in towns and cities that composed her lands as Queen of Castile, in addition to knowing her relevant influence on her children, thanks to their authority as mother.
Cathleen: Finally, is there anything you like to add – any way an author for the journal can help make your job easier, or anything else?
Danna & Diana: I think our switch from Publisher to Word will make everyone’s job easier in the long-run, from the submission stage to the final layout. It’s a good move to make.
Cathleen: Thank you both so much for doing this interview!
Danna & Diana: Our pleasure!