Author Archives: kristenleeg

Interview with Alexander Brondarbit

Alexander Brondarbit is an Academic Planning Analyst at UC Santa Cruz and Instructor for the E-Campus at Oregon State University. His research focuses on the high and local politics of late medieval England with particular emphasis on the Wars of the Roses.  His teaching interests include the history of high and late medieval Europe, the Church in the Middle Ages, and medieval sex, gender, and culture.  You can read his article in the
Royal Studies Journal, Issue 6 here.

Kristen and Cathleen: What is a signet warrant? How does it differ from other types of documents?

The signet warrant was a means of connecting the king with the ordinary operations of his government. It was produced by the third type of writing office which arose after the other two writing offices (e.g., the chancery and privy seal office) had left the royal household to be housed permanently in Westminster. This change had occurred by reason of the high workload of those offices and the sheer volume of letters that were being produced. Obviously, the king was not always in Westminster and still needed a means of transmitting his will on official business regardless of his location. The signet office was thus formed in the early fourteenth century to meet this demand.

It differed from the Westminster offices in several ways. It was much smaller, less bureaucratic, and less solemn than the chancery. The signet was kept by the king’s secretary who was often a clerk based about the king’s person rather than say a bishop with public duties like the chancellor. A particularly interesting difference is the suspicion that often arose over the use of the signet. Initially used sparingly, the signet was seen as a method by which Richard II abused his royal prerogative as he bypassed the privy seal office in warranting the issue of letters under the great seal. The signet seal disappeared for a time when the Lords Appellant were victorious in 1388, yet it eventually reemerged in a more muted fashion afterwards as it definitely had its uses despite the concern it engendered.

 Kristen and Cathleen: Had scholars largely ignored this document before, aside from including it in histories of Eton?

I’d say many scholars do seem to have been unaware of it. The Duke of York’s signet letter was first examined by the English historian and archivist, Sir Henry Maxwell-Lyte in his A History of Eton College produced in 1875. Aside from some minor errors in his transcription, Maxwell-Lyte also did not fully appreciate the significance of the document as he focused entirely with the Yorkist regime’s treatment of Eton. This emphasis has been replicated by later historians of the college as one might expect as they were not as interested in what the document told us about this critical, and somewhat opaque, stage of the Wars of the Roses. Cora Scofield did quote a snippet of the signet warrant in her biography of Edward IV, but she relied on Maxwell-Lyte’s book and it is doubtful she ever consulted the record in person. The same goes for Charles Ross’s biography which quotes an even briefer portion of the document without any citation suggesting again that he may have been repeating the quote from Scofield’s work. I believe what we have here is a case of a great document that was known in the late nineteenth century, but sadly was forgotten except by historians of Eton College.

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ECR 39/124. Reproduced by permission of the Provost and Fellows of Eton College.

Kristen and Cathleen: Briefly, what happened to Eton under the Yorkist kings?

Edward ultimately proved vindictive toward Lancastrian institutions in the early years of his reign. It was hardly impolitic to do so given that he still did not have full control of his own realm and a constant reminder of his more scholarly predecessor whom many still believed to be the rightful king could not have been a welcome proposition. This is all the more likely given the high survival rate of propaganda that attests to Edward’s right to rule. After he became king, Edward commanded King’s College Cambridge to pay its revenues to the exchequer and many of its estates were resumed in 1461. Eton received an even harsher sentence as Edward considered suppressing the college and annexing it into St George’s Chapel at Windsor. That Edward was committed to this course of action is without doubt as he secured a bull from Pope Pius II authorizing the abolition of the college in 1463 and we see this order taking effect two years later when its moveable goods (furniture, jewels, bells, clothing etc.) were removed to Windsor. Many of Eton’s original endowments were lost to resumption as the king dispersed the lands to his supporters. The impact of this initial royal policy is quite evident in the sharp decline of revenue as the annual income fell to a mere £321 at its lowest point in 1466-7. This is quite a fall as Eton received an average annual income of £1,200 under Henry VI. The diminished income prevented operations from continuing at Eton although the provost remained living on site.

For reasons unknown, Edward softened his stance toward Eton after 1467. At the king’s request, Pope Paul II revoked the bull annexing the college to Windsor. The tale that the school was saved by the charms of Edward’s mistress, Jane Shore, is an amusing one that even the college enjoys telling today, but there is no evidence to support this. I find the timing quite surprising given that the Lancastrian threat was far from over at this stage of the reign.

Unfortunately, Richard III’s attitude toward Eton is difficult to determine. The lone account roll for his reign does show that the college’s revenue had improved to an annual income of £565 in 1483-4, but this was largely by the minor grants Edward allowed the college in the latter half of his reign. If Richard harbored plans for Eton (which I doubt he did) they were never realized by the time he was killed at Bosworth Field.

Kristen and Cathleen: Was Edward taking advantage of Provost Westbury or was it just good politics?

Largely strapped for cash, Edward was certainly pressing his advantage here as he was raising funds to pay the troops needed for his campaign against the Lancastrian army in the north. This exchange with Eton was simply one avenue at his disposal to get the resources he needed, but it was merely a drop in the bucket. The bulk of money the Yorkists acquired came from London; within a few days of his reign Edward and his allies had received some £8,700 from the city dating back to the prior year. It is also worth noting that the quid pro quo arrangement between Edward and Provost Westbury was far from unique, particularly in the opening days of his fledgling regime. In 1461, Winchester College presented gifts to earn an exemption to the act of resumption in the king’s first parliament. In that same year, Canterbury paid nearly £300 to the king for a charter granting perpetual county status to the city and confirming its pre-existing civic liberties. Had Eton not been so closely associated with the House of Lancaster it is much more likely Edward would have kept his promises to protect the institution.

Kristen and Cathleen: Is this part of a larger project? What are you up to next?

At present, I am currently reshaping my thesis into what I hope will be my first monograph. My book will examine the Yorkist political power-brokers in operation in the reigns of Edward IV, Edward V, and Richard III. Power is its major theme as I utilized records held throughout several local archives in addition to the national archive in order to develop a picture of how the politically active men and women mediated and expressed royal power. So often historians make the determination of influence by listing the patronage one acquired from the Crown. I sought to bring in other avenues by which to see their influence at work both at court and in the shires.

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 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.

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.