Kings & Queens VI in Madrid: Interview with Rocío Martínez López

Readers with a good memory might remember Rocío Martínez López from our earlier interview on her winning the first Essay Prize of the Royal Studies Journal. She is also one of the main organizers of the next Kings & Queens VI Conference at Madrid in September 2017, and will tell us a bit more about what we can expect from the first Kings& Queens Conference in Spain. Please make sure to include #KQ6 on social media, and follow the conference on the same hashtag if you cannot be there!

Cathleen & Kristen: Hi Rocío! Great to have you here again, Rocío, establishing somewhat of a continuity and hopefully showing our readers the people behind the Royal Studies Journal, the Royal Studies Network, and the conference series Kings & Queens. First, the conference is now “on tour” for the third year in a row (before going back home to Winchester next year, and then again going to Sicily). Could you tell us a bit more about how the conference came to Madrid, Spain?

Rocío: Thanks to you, Cathleen and Kristen. The work you do with the blog and other activities for the Royal Studies Network is truly remarkable. Well, regarding your question, I went to the Kings and Queens series’ congresses that were wonderfully organized in Winchester and Lisbon in the past few years, although, unfortunately, I couldn’t be in Clemson for its last edition. I found myself amazed by the concept of Royal Studies when I went to my first congress in Winchester as well as by the depth of the discussions, the variety of topics and the great expertise showed by the researchers that were present there. I thought that Spain and Spanish scholars have much to offer to this field, as there has been a great development of several lines of research linked to the Royal Studies in the last few years, but that their work were not very well known by the English-speaking experts I met in both congresses and that there should be a way to give their work more exposure in an English-speaking, international context. Likewise, I noticed that the Royal Studied Network wasn’t very well known in Spain, where a great deal of people interested in this kind of studies right now might be interested in joining. I really thought that the contact between the Royal Studies Network and its members, and the flourishing Spanish royal scholars would be enormously helpful for both parts, so to host one of the Kings & Queens congresses in Madrid would be a wonderful way to bring them all together. I talked to Ellie Woodacre about this possibility around three years ago and asked her if she had thought about the possibility of bringing the congress to Madrid sometime in the future, and she showed a great enthusiasm for the idea. At first, I just wanted to bring Kings & Queens to Madrid, and I didn’t think I could have been the chosen one to make this wish come true. I really thought they would choose someone with more experience. But Ellie, who has always showed great support for young career scholars, trusted us with this task and the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED), has been always wonderfully supportive with this whole project. So, three years and the support of a lot of wonderful people after, Kings & Queens 6 is just a couple of days away!

Cathleen & Kristen: The organisation of such a conference is always a difficult matter with a lot of coordination, planning, and stressing out over problems going on. Could you tell us a bit more about how you are doing it in Madrid this year, e.g. who else is in the organisation committee, or how you divided all the work?

Rocío: Of course. Organizing the congress of this size is always a challenge. At first, we didn’t expect to host so many people and were working with a number of attendants closer to the ones who went to Winchester and Portugal. But we ended up receiving about 170 paper proposals from all over the world! The real preparation began more than a year and half ago when the project was officially presented in the Department of Early Modern History of the UNED, and they gave us not only their blessing, but their whole support. The institutional support given to us from the UNED was outstanding and we are very grateful for it. The number of people who could collaborate with us was a little small and all had their own research and teaching responsibilities, so the organization was quite a challenge. Also, one of our principal concerns was money. A congress this size is an important investment and we needed to know we would be able to back up financially all our promises. We also wanted to try to get some additional funding to help young historians or early career experts without a fixed post to come to Madrid, as to come to this kind of meetings is also very challenging economically for young historians and a lot of great new researchers haven’t been able to travel to big congresses like this one for economic reasons. We wanted to do our best to help and thanks to the UNED and the work of my co-organizer, Antonio José Rodríguez Hernández, we could obtain a grant which gave us the funds to organize the congress. Through the aforementioned grant, the UNED allowed us to offer 42 grants for young historians from around the world, to be able to organize the congress without having to impose a registration fee and to subsidise the outings. Without the UNED’s support, that would have been impossible to achieve. Once the economic part was settled, the real work began. We drafted the Call for Papers and began to receive proposals almost immediately. They were evaluated by two different experts from our Committee linked to the specific discipline of each proposal. Also, we began to work to organize all kinds of things that were needed for the congress, from the organization of the outings to El Escorial and the Prado Museum to contingencies as the reservation of the rooms for the congress, to the preparation of materials and the crafting of materials (just the bio & abstracts document is several hundreds of pages long). At the same time, we have tried to attend questions and petitions of our attendees to the best of our ability. All of this while we also attended to our other obligations in the university which, especially in certain times of the year, are enormously demanding. As none of us were devoted only to the organization of the congress and everyone had their own obligations to deal with, everyone in the committee took responsibility of the things they could do at the time and we are grateful for the help of lots of people. Besides Antonio José and me, the help of Luis Ribot, José Antonio Vigara Zafra, Ellie Woodacre, Julio Arroyo Vozmediano, Cristina Agüero, Ana Echevarría, Diana Carrió, Jitske Jasperse, Maria de la Cruz Carlos Varona, José María Iñurritegui, Marcela Miranda, Sergio Gutiérrez, Anabel del Prado, José Luis Sancho, Almudena Pérez de Tudela, Antonio Rubio Sánchez and many, many more was invaluable. A lot of people showed us support in concrete matters in all this time and we are very grateful to them, too. I especially want to thank Patrimonio Nacional and Museo del Prado, who offered us all the help we requested to organize the outings. And I apologize if I forgot someone!


El Escorial (top) and Prado (bottom)

Cathleen & Kristen: That does sound like we can expect one of the biggest Kings & Queens Conference to date, and thank you for spending so much time on this, and making sure, we will feel welcome!

Another topic: Can you tell us a bit more about the state of research in Royal Studies in Spain? From the outside, it looks like a very central topic with lots of interesting stuff being done on medieval king- and queenship, and of course on the Habsburg studies. Also, how does being a modern monarchy reflect on this field?

Rocío: That is a very interesting question. As I appointed before, the royal studies are flourishing in Spain. I can safely say that the royal studies in Spain are trending right now. In different Spanish universities and research groups, we find great works focused on different aspects of royal studies. For example, in the Department of Early Modern History of the UNED we have some of the leading experts in the study of seventeenth century Europe, like Luis Ribot, Juan Antonio Sánchez Belén, José María Iñurritegui and Antonio José Rodríguez Hernández, who had made great advances in the knowledge and research of this period in the fields of political, military and diplomatic history. This last aspect, as well as others like the representation of power, royal propaganda and the relationship between nobility, royalty and art is also well represented in our Department of History of Art, with experts like the aforementioned José Antonio Vigara, Diana Carrió and young researcher Cristina Agüero. Some of these topics are also present in our Department of Medieval History, to which the member of our organization Ana Echeverría also belongs. In the University Rey Juan Carlos, there is currently a great and very interesting project focused on Royal Sites and its varied functions, composed by experts like José Eloy Hortal, Félix Labrador Arroyo, Koldo Trápaga and Gijs Verstegeen, who are going to present a panel in the congress and they are also going to present the latest developments of the project they are working on aided by the latest technological advances. Also, the Autonoma University is doing a great work in the field, with experts like Antonio Álvarez-Ossorio Alvariño, who is going to give the closing lecture, and the activities and projects linked to the Instituto Universitario “La Corte en Europa” (IULCE), whose new director, Manuel Rivero Rodríguez, is also going to be with us, as well as other members, like Javier Revilla Canora. In addition, we will have with us experts from the Centro Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC) of Spain, like Rubén González Cuerva, who has recently published a book with Brill about court factions in Early Modern Europe’s court which is very promising. And, to connect with your last question, last but not in any way least we have the Complutense University, which is going to be very well represented by several of their leading researchers, like the vice rector David Alonso. From said university, we are going to be able to listen to some remarkable experts in Medieval, History of Art and Early Modern History, but we also count with a very interesting panel focused in Contemporary royal history leaded by Raquel Sánchez. Royal Contemporary History  (meaning their study from Isabel II and Alfonso XII’s reigns onwards) as such weren’t a big line of research in Spain until recent years and its study was relatively limited to royal biographies, law and constitutional history and works of political history that, in most cases, weren’t focused on topics related to royal history and this approach was just a little part of a bigger idea, like the works related to the evolution of the Spanish political and constitutional system from Franco’s dictatorship to democracy, for example. But this is slowly changing and we hope that his congress can be a way to show this change. Other Spanish institutions, like the University of Barcelona, of Zaragoza, of Valencia or of Valladolid, amongst others, are also well represented in this congress. To sum up, we have representative of many of the leading research institutions of Spain and we hope our initial intention, which was to give exposure in an international setting to the leading Spanish research institutions and their researchers and forge a successful relationship between said Spanish researchers and the people linked to the Royal Studies Network, will come true.

Cathleen & Kristen: So, in the conference next week: what can we expect? What is planned, and what should we absolutely not miss when visiting Madrid? Also, could you please tell us a bit how you planned panels and breaks, and what you hope this conference achieves?

Rocío: We have a lot of plans for the congress and we hope for the attendees to enjoy it. We hope to go further than the papers themselves, and for it to be a way for scholars of different parts of the world, who seldom have the opportunity to meet, to exchange points of view, information and projects and maybe for it to be the beginning of a lasting relationship between scholars of different institutions, countries and research interest. I would like to highlight three points that we have worked a lot to bring to reality: firstly, for all the attendees to enjoy the possibility of hear papers of great quality from some of the most important and most interesting researchers  of the whole world, and for it to become a meeting place for hearing of the most innovative trends followed by different countries and universities, interact with researchers of different backgrounds and interests and exchange ideas, information and even plans for future projects and publications. In the second place, we expect for it to be a way to showcase all the possibilities that Spain has to offer in the field of royal studies, both with the presence in the congress of members of the leading Spanish universities and with the presentation of projects, future publications and collaboration that could spark our attendees’ interests. And, in third place, we also intend for it to be a way for young or early career scholars to present their current work in an international setting. Both the Royal Studies Network and the UNED are institutions who are trying very hard to promote young talents and help gifted young scholars to begin and develop their research careers. We hope for this conference to be a way to help them to thrive in their fields of choosing and meet older, more experience scholar who could assist them in the future, at the same time they reward us with new, exciting views, theories and investigations. All of these will be achieved not only through the panels and sessions given, but also with the other activities we planned for the congress, with two exciting guided visits to the great Monastery of San Lorenzo El Real de El Escorial and the Prado Museum and other activities in the congress, like the presentation of the exciting project about royal sites lead by the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos which uses the latest advance of technology to recreate and study the Spanish Royal Sites, and a meeting with the Royal Studies Journal’s leading members that will talk to those who are interested about their international publication and how they can become members of their staff, amongst other activities. All of this and much more will take place in during the congress, under the umbrella and support of the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED).


Impressions of Madrid

Cathleen & Kristen: Thanks for doing this interview! Is there anything you’d like to add?

Rocío: Just that we really hope that all our attendees enjoy the congress and the activities related to it and that we hope it becomes a milestone in the field of royal history. Also, we hope it is the beginning of many projects, publications and collaborations in the future. And, also, to say that all the members of the organization have worked hard and without stop for months to bring this congress to reality, so I hope everybody enjoys it and can forgive any human error we can commit. We are doing our best and we hope we all have a great experience at Kings and Queens 6!

We hope to see you in Madrid – bring sunglasses, comfortable shoes, great ideas, and share with us your experiences under #KQ6!

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