Author Archives: kristenleeg

Interview with Louise Tingle

Louise Tingle is an independent scholar who recently completed her PhD in history at Cardiff University. Her work focuses on late medieval English queens. Her article “Aurum Reginae: Queen’s Gold in Late Fourteenth-Century England” appears in issue 7.1 of the Royal Studies Journal.

Philippa of Hainault. Image in public domain and from Wikipedia

RSJ Blog: Thank you for talking with us! For those who don’t know, could you briefly describe queen’s gold?

Louise: Queen’s gold was an extra payment on fines owing to the king, with the profits going to the queen and her household. Originally the custom was in return for the queen’s activity as an intercessor, but by the late fourteenth century, it was essentially an extra tax whether the queen had intervened or not – no wonder it was unpopular and difficult to make people pay! By this time, the tenure of Philippa of Hainault, queen’s gold had been set at a rate of ten per cent which recipients had to pay on essentially any privilege granted by the king, including licences, pardons and other perks. However, when individuals argued against having to pay essentially an extra tax, they tended to base their arguments on whether the fine in question was one liable for queen’s gold, rather than arguing against the queen’s right to claim queen’s gold as a whole. Others seem not to have responded at all, as shown by the multiple examples of the same writ issued for the same claim.

RSJ Blog: What are some of the source problems you faced researching and writing about queen’s gold?

Louise: The main problem with looking at the writs for queen’s gold is that very few of the writs survive. Fortunately, in the seventeenth century a large selection of records from Eleanor of Aquitaine to the Tudor queens were transcribed with the objective of investigating the possibility of queen’s gold under the queen consort at that time. Of the writs surviving in the National Archives, a large amount of these were issued under Philippa of Hainault, which is unsurprising given Philippa’s fairly long tenure for a medieval queen, lasting over forty years. Even so, most of these writs derive from a very few years towards the end of Philippa’s life and still may not represent all of the writs issued. In addition, few records exist for the accounts of the revenues derived from collecting queen’s gold, which makes it difficult to ascertain just how much of the writs issued were actually paid.

RSJ Blog: Since your article focuses on Philippa of Hainault, what are your thoughts on her as a queen?

Louise: I think the image that survives of Philippa in the popular memory is very different from the historical Philippa! There are several stories relating to Philippa – for which we have the chronicler Froissart as well as Victorian biographers to thank – which probably aren’t even true at all. The most famous of these is the story of Philippa’s intercession for the burghers of Calais which poses Philippa as the quintessential merciful queen, when in reality she probably wasn’t present at all. It is however a story that has done wonders for Philippa’s reputation!

I do think that Philippa maintained a close working relationship, if not a loving one, with her husband and it seems that Edward chose to retire in his later years to be near her. Philippa is often forgotten in contrast to queens like Eleanor of Aquitaine and her mother-in-law Isabella of France, who were both queens who in some ways stepped outside the bounds of conventional femininity. Philippa’s role as a prolific mother and her reputation as an intercessor would have classed her as a ‘good’ queen according to contemporaries, even if they might not have liked her lavish lifestyle and spending. Her inconspicuous reputation may have been deliberate in contrast to the upheaval caused in the previous reign when Isabella was involved in the deposition of her husband.

RSJ Blog: What are your current projects?

Louise: I’m currently writing the chapter on one of Philippa’s successors, Isabella de Valois, for a four-volume set on English royal consorts in Palgrave Macmillan’s Queenship and Power series. I’m also in the process of publishing my first book, Chaucer’s Queens, in the same series, which focuses on Philippa of Hainault and Anne of Bohemia, and where queen’s gold features as the linchpin between queenly intercession and patronage.

RSJ Blog: Thank you! We look forward to reading your new work!

Book of the Month: Portraying Pregnancy: From Holbein to Social Media

This month, the Royal Studies Journal blog is featuring a book that accompanies an exhibit at the The Foundling Museum. Both the book and the exhibit are entitled “Portraying Pregnancy: From Holbein to Social Media” and were curated by Karen Hearn. The exhibit runs until 23 August 2020 and tickets can be purchased here.

As Karen explained to the blog: “The book and exhibition are the first ever to focus on portraits of pregnant women in British art over a 500-year period.  Although up to the early 20th century many women spent most of their adult years being pregnant, their pregnancies are seldom made apparent in surviving portraits. Portraying Pregnancy considers the different ways in which (from the late Middle Ages onwards) a sitter’s pregnancy was, or was not, visibly represented to the viewer, and how the social mores and preoccupations of different periods have impacted the ways in which pregnant women have been depicted.

The book addresses a number of British royal women, including Anne Boleyn, Mary I, Elizabeth I, Anna of Denmark, Henrietta Maria, and Charlotte Augusta, Princess of Wales. The book is extensively illustrated with painted portraits, drawings, miniatures, prints, photographs, sculpture, textiles and objects.

Both the book and the exhibition offer a new lens through which to look at history and art history, by rethinking the context in which portraits of women were made in the past.”

The book contains 60 high-quality illustrations, making it a fantastic accompaniment to the exhibit or a substitute for those of us who are unable to visit The Foundling Museum. The book can be purchased here or through The Foundling Museum when purchasing exhibit tickets.

Conference Report on “Global Royal Families”

This conference report comes to us from Paige Emerick at the University of Leicester. Thank you, Paige!

Global Royal Families: Concepts, Cultures, and Networks of International Monarchy, 1800–2020. Conference held at the German Historical Institute London, 16–18 January 2020. Conveners: Falko Schnicke (GHIL), Cindy McCreery (University of Sydney), and Robert Aldrich (University of Sydney).

Co-financed by the GHIL and the University of Sydney, this event
brought together scholars from four continents and eight countries to
discuss the timely issue of global monarchies. Over the two and a half
days there were almost forty attendees, and nineteen speakers presented
ideas spanning royal families across two centuries and the continents
of Europe, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. Despite the wide variation
in time periods and geographical locations covered, there were
many overlapping and complementary themes, including the importance
of the visibility of monarchs, the need to secure status on a global
stage, the role of royals as official and unofficial diplomats, and the
media’s influence over the public image of a royal person or dynasty.
The conference’s main findings were that the global, national, and
regional aspects of royal families were constantly intertwined, and
that the political significance of monarchies recurred in different
nineteenth- and twentieth-century contexts.

The conference opened with Robert Aldrich’s (University of Sydney) introductory talk detailing the coverage of global royal families
in history and historiography. Starting with comparative examples
from both the early nineteenth century and modern-day marriages
between the Napoleon and Habsburg dynasties, Aldrich highlighted
the intertwined genealogical, political, and cultural ties between
royal families across the world. He maintained that in the nineteenth
century European monarchies were affected by empire, which demonstrated their power to conquer and their interest in collections of
‘exotica’. Yet at the same time, non-European monarchies were adopting Western styles of clothing, architecture, and court culture in order
to be more accepted on the global stage.

The first session focused on royalty in international affairs and
diplomacy and opened with a paper by Moritz A. Sorg (University of
Freiburg), which examined the extent to which the First World War damaged the relationships of royal families across Europe. Sorg provided
parallel case studies of Ferdinand I of Bulgaria and Ferdinand
I of Romania to demonstrate how the First World War placed related
monarchies on opposite sides, and the consequential impact this had
on how these royal individuals were viewed in their respective countries
and under the conditions of increasing nationalism. Next,
Michael Kandiah’s (King’s College London) paper looked at how the
British royal family has utilized its ‘soft power’ since 1952 to improve
diplomatic relations between countries. Using oral testimonies of
British diplomats, Kandiah explored how Queen Elizabeth II has
been able to use her royal status, which places her above politics, in
order to maintain good relationships through official engagements,
both internationally and in Britain.

The second session centred on the House of Windsor and their re –
lationship with foreign royal houses. Continuing the focus on Queen
Elizabeth II and the current British royal family, Falko Schnicke
(GHIL) delivered a paper which analysed the content of speeches
given at state visits and highlighted the input that the government
and the Palace had into these. He proved that it was the Foreign
Office which inserted personal family remarks into speeches in order
to demonstrate the network of monarchies and the intensity of international royal relationships. Thus the royal family functioned as a
collective unit rather than as a collection of individuals. Following
this Hilary Sapire (Birbeck College, University of London) examined
the relationship between the British and Zulu royal families in South
Africa in the colonial period and through the early twentieth century.
She argued that royal events and the links to the British monarchy
were used by both Zulu monarchists and nationalists to advance their
cause of independence.

The first day closed with a keynote lecture by Frank Mort (University of Manchester), which analysed how the media was used to
transform the monarchy under George V and Queen Mary, and
Edward VIII, into a consumable entity for the public. The increased
visibility of the royal family through informal royal visits both in
Britain and the colonies helped to make them more accessible to the
ordinary public. Mort took a bottom-up approach to judging how the
public emotionally responded to different members of the royal family
by drawing upon first-hand accounts of seeing royalty. He argued
that the rise of human-interest journalism meant that there was a more extensive and global coverage of the royal family, and an attempt to make them more approachable by encouraging them to conduct unceremonious visits. He stressed the differences between George V and Queen Mary, helping to solidify the notion of the royal family as a domestic unit, while the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VII) fostered a celebrity culture around his younger lifestyle.

The second day of the conference began with session three, which
looked at the global reach of the British monarchy, with John R. Davis
(Queen Mary London/Historic Royal Palaces) beginning with British
attitudes towards India in the nineteenth century. Using Queen
Victoria’s diaries and the Royal Library catalogues, Davis
argued that Queen Victoria was first introduced to German
philology by Prince Albert. This early introduction to philology,
and repeated meetings with renowned scholars such as Max Müller,
helped to fuel her interest in Indian culture during the latter part of
her life. Moving into the twentieth century, Christian Oberländer
(University of Halle-Wittenberg) presented a contrast to this with a
paper analysing how the British royal family was a model for
Japan’s Imperial house, looking particularly at the role of the
Japanese sovereign as a ‘symbolic’ emperor after the Second World
War. He argued that through the Japanese Imperial family
embracing state visits, they placed themselves as the figureheads of
the nation and allowed Japan to open itself up to the public at home
and in the West.

Session four continued the theme of royal travel by focusing on
the Spanish and Austrian royal families. First, Javier Moreno-Luzón
(Complutense University of Madrid) explained how Alfonso XIII of
Spain (r.1886–1931) fostered closer relations with Latin America
through royal visits, celebrations, and a shared culture to create a
transnational image of the royal family. He argued that from the late
nineteenth century to the end of the 1920s, the royal family successfully
promoted Spanish national identity centring on the monarchy
through the careful selection of different royal individuals to send to
Hispanophone Latin American countries. They were thus able simultaneously to promote historic ties with Spain and highlight a progressive future. Aglaja Weindl (University of Munich) provided a
case study of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and how he became an
‘unexpected global royal’ because of his world tour in 1892–3. This
extensive travelling not only educated the Archduke but provided an opportunity to build better relations with Protestant and Orthodox
countries. Using Franz Ferdinand’s own accounts, Weindl provided
a personal insight into the repetitive nature of royal ceremonies
across Europe and how the guests felt about attending them.

Session five focused on global encounters, with Judith
Rowbotham (University of Plymouth) using a range of local, national,
and colonial newspapers to analyse the reception of the British
royal family within different colonies. Taking examples of tours
through India, Canada, Australia, and beyond from the late nineteenth
to the early twentieth century, Rowbotham emphasized the
impact that these visits had on global networking and diplomacy.
Specifically tailoring the tone of the visit and activities not only aided
relationships with the authorities, but allowed a sense of community
to develop in the colonial public. Cindy McCreery (University of
Sydney) followed this with a case study of the 1881 visit to Japan by
King Kalakaua of Hawai’i and princes Albert Victor and George of
Great Britain, and explored how this occasion was used to promote
better relations between the countries. Highlighting similarities that
mirrored Oberländer’s paper, McCreery argued that the opening
of Japan to royal visits was an attempt by the country to reinvent
its global image, appear more welcoming, and encourage trade
deals. Such a tour also allowed the King of Hawai’i to develop an
international presence. Photographs of the visit demonstrated that
there was a clear acknowledgement of the status of foreign
royalty, while showing differences in hierarchy due to age and
position in relation to the throne.

The next session focused on the importance of letter-writing between royals, with emphasis on female family relations. Susanne Bauer (University of Trier) presented her research project of cataloguing
and analysing the 20,000 letters of Augusta Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, Queen of Prussia and Empress of Germany. Bauer argued that Augusta expressed many political opinions in these letters, tried to advise her husband (whether he asked for advice or not), and was a key factor in building relationships with royalty and politicians across Europe and beyond, with approximately 230 royal and nonroyal correspondents. Mary T. Duarte (Cardinal Stritch University, Milwaukee, USA) analysed letters written over the course of the nineteenth century by four generations of female royals from the line of descendants of Maria Theresa of the House of Habsburg. She scrutinized the type of advice passed from mother to daughter, and between grandmother and granddaughter, especially
pertaining to marriage and sexual life. She contended that as the
generations went on, the tone of this advice softened, although
duty and obedience were still often stressed.

The second keynote lecture of the conference was delivered by
Irene Stengs (Meertens Instituut/Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam),
who provided an in-depth anthropological analysis of the mourning
culture in Thailand following the death of King Rama IX in 2016, and
the meaning of the symbolism and rituals in the coronation ceremony
of King Rama X in 2019. Taking a step-by-step approach through
the elements and stages of the coronation ceremony, Stengs highlighted
how this event was used to unite the country through shared
experience and emotions. While there were historical and religious
precedents for several aspects of the event, the incorporation of modern
technology, such as mass television broadcasting and drones,
gave the new monarch increased accessibility and a personal quality.
She also presented a close analysis of the use of colour by the organizers
of the event to mark a new reign, and explained the significance
this holds within Thai culture.

The final day of the conference started with a session exploring
regional dynasties and transnational royal families. Aidan Jones
(King’s College London) gave a case study of Alexander II of Russia’s
visit to Britain in 1874 on the occasion of his daughter Marie’s marriage
to Prince Alfred. He analysed the dynastic politics of the marriage
arrangement and the wider implications this had for international
diplomacy. Priya Naik (University of Delhi) followed this with
a paper exploring the consumption of Britishness by Indian princes
in the first half of the twentieth century. She argued that by consuming
goods, language, culture, and customs, Indian princes were hoping
to be accepted by British society and to join an international aristocratic

The final session analysed the different international models of
monarchy. Nicholas Miller (University of Lisbon), like McCreery,
focused on King Kalakaua of Hawai’i (r.1874–91) but compared him
to Sultan Abu Bakar of Johore (r.1886–95) in the Malay States. He
focused on the two kings’ different approaches to ruling small monarchies and gaining international recognition for their states, and
addressed the issue of labour migration. Charles Reed (Elizabeth City
State University, Elizabeth City, USA) closed the conference by
returning to India via the Gaekwad of Baroda. Like Naik, he highlighted
the Gaekwad’s desire to foster good relations with the British.
Reed’s approach was to explore how this was achieved through the
lens of royal visits to Britain from the later nineteenth century and the
public image they were trying to promote of a princely state in India
during the colonial period and after independence.

The conference closed with reflections from the co-organizers,
who drew out some of the key themes from across the papers. The
breadth of the time period and geographical locations covered highlighted
that monarchies had achieved local, national, and global
reaches. Several papers pointed out that royalty was used, often
unofficially, for diplomatic reasons to improve relationships between
dynasties and nations, which provoked discussions about how individual
royal persons perceived their role. It was agreed that monarchy
is an evolving concept, and in recent times, by embracing modern
technology and utilizing media coverage, royal families have
been able to appear relatable and relevant to contemporary society.
The importance of the family unit at the heart of the monarchy was
understood to be a central factor in emphasizing the longevity and
stability of the institution, and some of the paradoxes of private life
and public role for royal families had been illustrated throughout the
papers. Finally, the visibility of royalty, either through first-hand
accounts of travel, or increased coverage in the press and
accompanying images, was a central theme across many of the
papers. This increased visibility frequently allowed royal individuals
to appear more personable, and enhanced their popularity
nationally and globally. The conference also confirmed the need for
further studies, even in the twenty-first century, on the evolving
central position in political, social, and cultural life occupied by
monarchs and their royal families in many countries.

Interview with Lucy Pick

Dr. Lucy K. Pick’s book Her Father’s Daughter: Gender, Power, and Religion in the Early Spanish Kingdoms was the winner of the 2019 Royal Studies Journal and the University of Winchester Book Prize. Congratulations to Dr Pick for writing such a wonderful book and winning the prize. Her Father’s Daughter is the RSJ Blog’s Book of the Month for January 2020.

Her Father’s Daughter focuses on the royal daughters of the kingdom of León-Castilla and the ways in which their extensive personal property and status as consecrated virgins gave them power. These women were part of a corporate monarchy in which the king was one player in a network of power relationships. These royal daughters, who then became royal sisters to kings, were fiercely loyal to their natal families, although sometimes they used their power to benefit one brother at the expense of another. When it came to competing brothers, such as Sancho II, Alfonso VI, and García (sons of Fernando I), the support of their royal sisters Urraca and Elvira Fernández could make or break a monarch.

Chapter One, “Visigothic Inheritance, Asturian Monarchy,” lays the foundation. First, it explores Visigothic inheritance laws that required all daughters and sons to inherit equally from both parents. In the early medieval period in northern Spain, a more matrilineal system dominated (in contrast to Romanized, patrilineal succession systems elsewhere), which made women key players in the relationships of her husband, sons, and brothers. Pick argues that early Asturian royal succession reflects this matrilineal system: the founder, Pelayo, was king because he was his sister’s brother. Later Pelayo’s son was king because he was the brother of his sister (Ermesinda), but when Pelayo’s son died, Ermesinda’s husband became king rather than his nephews. Ermesinda’s husband, however, came from a patrilineal system, which then competed with the matrilineal succession practices. In 785, one of the royal daughters, Adosinda, became a consecrated virgin, and from then until c.1100, royal daughters generally did not marry. This did not leave the daughters powerless, however. In fact, refusing to marry off their daughters/sisters reflected a position of strength for the kings of León-Castilla. It emphasized their superior status because the kings would marry “down,” with local noblewomen, but would not reciprocate. This allowed the kings to have hostages for the good behavior of their nobles, but to not put themselves in the same vulnerable position. And rather like with the emirs of Al-Andalus, their ability “to keep their daughters back in the midst of the pressure to make a reciprocal exchange affirmed their authority and difference from their rivals” (Pick, 57). The king’s daughters retained their high rank, and their consecrated status gave them additional cache and power.

Chapter Two, “Virgins and Martyrs,” looks at the religious status of the royal daughters. Pick argues that these women were not abbesses of individual monasteries, but consecrated virgins who were dominae of numerous religious foundations. This status permitted them to wield the power of virginity (akin to martyrdom for women) without breaking any rules against claustration and poverty. Pick notes in this chapter that the reign of Alfonso VI saw the introduction of outside religious influences, especially from Cluny, which weakened the position of secular, consecrated virgins.

Chapter Three, “Networks of Property, Networks of Power,” examines a few cast studies of property transactions made by royal daughters/sisters. Pick argues that these property transfers were about creating relationships, just as much as they were about land changing hands. Pick does a masterful close reading of several charters to show how women such as Urraca (sister of Alfonso VI) built alliances with other elite women through the transfer of properties between these women and to monasteries. When Urraca had her allies confirm her gifts of property to a monastery, and then had her brother Alfonso VI do so as well, Urraca was binding her supporters into a relationship with Alfonso as well. Urraca’s property transfers were thus acts of power that did not need her brother’s approval, but had her brother sign on as a way to strengthen his hand. Since royal daughter’s inherited substantial property from both parents, as required by Visigothic law, these women were often in a position of their brothers needing them rather than the other way around. The substantial property independently held by royal sisters could be used to help their natal family form alliances and outmaneuver noble opponents.

Chapter 4, “Memory, Gift, and Death,” focuses on how royal daughters were instrumental in memorializing their families. Daughters would give gifts that remembered their families, such as properties to religious foundations in exchange for prayers. Royal women might also donate liturgical objects. This became increasingly common in León-Castilla as the influence of Cluny encouraged the saying of masses rather than just prayers. Given that masses needed to be conducted by men, this could limit the involvement of women in the commemoration of their families. By donating the liturgical vessels for the mass, women could remain involved and use this as a supplemental, rather than a replacement, to their duties as custodians of family memory.

The conclusion, “Looking Forward, Looking Beyond,” discusses how Alfonso VI changed things by marrying off his daughters to form alliances. This brought León-Castilla in line with other contemporary rulers, but it meant royal daughters would have a different relationship with their brothers. Pick’s conclusion also notes that León-Castilla was not unique in having royal women remain unmarried and fill religious roles; similar behavior appears in imperial Germany and early medieval England. However, this practice seems to have extended longer in León-Castilla, generating more records and making it easier for historians to track.

Pick’s book provides a fresh look at early medieval monarchy, emphasizing the corporate nature of medieval rule. She also explores an under-studied aspect of royal women’s power: the daughter and sister rather than the wife and mother. This excellent study will be influential for years to come and gives all scholars of monarchy insights to contemplate and carry into their own work.

Recently, the RSJ blog chatted with Dr Pick about her great book!

RSJ: How did you get the idea for the book?

Lucy: The first germ of an idea came in a class with my doctoral adviser, Jocelyn Hillgarth. I was studying the tenth-century monastic cartulary of Sahagún, and I was astounded to see how many women were involved in its documents. That was the origin of an article on royal daughter Elvira Ramírez who ruled for her nephew, my first foray into the subject. As I continued to study, I realized that powerful royal sisters and daughters were normal, not exceptional, and I realized I needed to examine them as a group, to understand why that might be the case.

RSJ: Your book makes extensive use of Spanish archives. Are there any you would particularly recommend as a starting place for beginning researchers? Any that are especially user friendly?

Lucy: I have experienced extraordinary kindness and generosity from Spanish archivists and librarians who have welcomed me as a foreigner studying their history, though it is true that ecclesiastical archives and libraries can be idiosyncratic, with shorter hours than state repositories like the Biblioteca Nacional and Archivo Histórico Nacional, both in Madrid. There is nothing like being handed a thousand-year-old manuscript, like Queen Sancha’s prayer book in the university library in Salamanca, or the copy of Isidore’s Etymologies she had made for her son in El Escorial. When I went to the archive in the cathedral of Túy to look at the original parchment of Urraca Fernández’s gift to that see the document I discuss at length in the book, I learned that the canon archivist was also the priest of the church outside the town that had been the cathedral built after Urraca’s gift. He took myself and my husband there to see it, and it was amazing to see the eleventh-century building. Most cathedrals that old were later rebuilt and rebuilt again, but when they decided to rebuild in Túy, they chose a different site, leaving this building intact. We even went down into the crypt where there were Roman-era rooftiles from the original dwelling. So I urge beginning researchers to be brave – you don’t know what you will discover, but it will be an adventure.

RSJ: We are fascinated by your wonderful examination of matrilineal succession, which is something you don’t hear about as much. How is matrilineal succession different from matriarchy? In a less patriarchal society, could matrilineal succession mean succession from mother to daughter rather than father to daughter’s husband or maternal uncle to nephew?

Lucy: Most matriarchies will be matrilineal, but not all matrilineal societies are matriarchal. Identifying matriarchy versus patriarchy is in part a subjective value judgement about how power works in a given society, while matrilineality and matrilocality (when the dwelling place of married couples is connected to the wife’s family rather than the husband’s) are determined by more objective criteria. I have learned a lot from the anthropologists, whose area of expertise this is. I know some identify, for instance, the BriBri people of Costa Rica and the Khasi of India as groups that are matrilineal, matrilocal and also matriarchal, and inheritance from mother to daughter places a role in this.

RSJ: Would unmarried royal women be able to exercise such power without being consecrated virgins? The consecration was probably necessary to ensure that outsiders believed that these women remained virgins?

Lucy: Consecration and the status of virginity that went along with it took them out of the marriage economy and have them a sacral status that enhanced their authority. One question is the status of the immensely powerful royal daughter Sancha Raimúndez who lived in the twelfth-century. I don’t think we have any evidence of her being consecrated, but she remained unmarried. Janna Bianchini is working on her right now, and we will have to wait and see what she discovers.

RSJ: In your research, were you able to form an opinion on why Urraca and Elvira supported their brother Alfonso VI over their other brothers? Were they supporting the brother most likely to win or might more personal issues have been at play? Do the documents even allow for such speculation? You have also written a historical fiction novel, Pilgrimage. What was different when writing a novel? Was anything similar?

Lucy: I’m going to answer these two questions together, because, as you’ll see, they fit together well. I think writing fiction has made me a better and more interesting writer. My fiction is heavily informed by my research, though it is liberating not to have to footnote everything and I can present hypotheses about how things were that I cannot put into academic writing. The main difference is that writing fiction makes you realize how many realities of everyday life academic historians don’t consider. The two genres do bleed into each other, however. While I was writing this book, I was also working on a novel about the epic hero El Cid and his wife, who lived at the time of Urraca and Alfonso VI until I decided I had to put off finishing the novel until the academic book was done because I was afraid of making things up. In the novel, Urraca’s preference for Alfonso VI is personal. In real life, I think we can say as a fact that the choice was made as much by their parents, who gave their eldest son the smaller and less well-situated kingdom of Castilla, and gave León, a larger kingdom with more opportunity to Alfonso, as by the two sisters. Was that simply because Sancho, the eldest, got his father’s inheritance, while Alfonso got his mother’s? Or was there some partiality involved? That’s why we need novelists.

RSJ: What are your current projects or plans? We look forward to more of your brilliant work!

Lucy: I did finish the novel, so I am looking for an agent and publisher for that. I am returning to earlier work on Jews and Christians, and researching an early Latin translation of Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed. And I am at the beginning of a big project on the lives of women saints and how they were used among communities of woman religious which will connect the Leonese court I describe in this book with Ottonian royal women and religious houses.

Book of the Month: Queenship in Medieval Europe by Theresa Earenfight

q ship med euro

This month’s book of the month is Queenship in Medieval Europe by Theresa Earenfight (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). Although a recent work, this book is already a go-to text for students and scholars alike.

The introduction is especially valuable for scholars of queenship who are seeking a theoretical framework. Earenfight highlights the plural nature of monarchy, and persuasively argues that queens were an integral part of rulership.

The four chronological chapters cover the years 300-1500. The first chapter focuses on 300-700 and details the birth of medieval queenship out of Roman, Germanic, and Christian antecedents. What developed was neither quite Roman or Germanic, but indebted to both. Christianity loomed large, with piety, sometimes even sanctity, being expected of queens. The second chapter, spanning 700-1100, examines the transformation of the king’s wife into a queen, with a special focus on coronation. Chapter three, covering 1100-1350, looks at queenship within the matrix of family power.  Queens linked their natal and marital realms, making them vital partners. In addition, the increased bureaucracy of royal government did not mean queens were sidelined in favor of functionaries, but rather could use bureaucrats to help them manage their own lands and wealth. The fourth chapter, from 1350-1500, is about changing queenship during years of crisis (such as the Wars of the Roses in England). Queens played valuable roles in dynastic continuity (or lack thereof), as well as in cultural patronage. The fifth and final chapter sums up medieval queenship and briefly explores the differences in the practices of queenship between the medieval and early modern era.

Throughout the book, Earenfight maintains a broad chronological scope. Byzantine empresses, Scandinavian queens, and rulers from Kievan Rus appear alongside queens from France, England, Castile, and Aragon. The chapters have a well-marked conclusion section, as well as suggestions for further research. This makes the book ideal to use in a course on medieval queenship or to give to students who want to conduct independent research. The bibliography is extensive, and Earenfight has a larger one available online, at Queens in the Middle Ages.


Interview with Erin Jordan

Erin Jordan is Assistant Professor of Instruction in the Honors College at Ohio University. She has written numerous articles on Cistercian women and elite women’s religious patronage. She is the author of Women, Power and Religious Patronage in the Middle Ages and is currently at work on The Woman of Antioch: Gender, Power and Political Culture in the Latin East.  Her article “Corporate Monarchy in the Twelfth-Century Kingdom of Jerusalem” was published in the Royal Studies Journal, Volume 6, Issue 1.


Coronation of Melisende and Fulk from Paris, BN MS Fr. 779, accessed via Wikimedia Commons

RSJ Blog: Hello, Erin! Thank you for talking with us! Your article on Melisende was great. How did you come to study her?

Erin: Thanks. I’m glad you liked it. I actually became interested in Melisende when I taught a course on the Crusades a few years ago. Until then, I’d studied women and authority in Western Europe, but hadn’t realized how prominent ruling women were in the Latin East. At the time, it seemed contrary to prevailing scholarly wisdom about the ability of women to exercise authority in the Middle Ages, especially in a particularly volatile region. I was hoping to figure out what was “in the water” so to speak in the Crusader States to produce so many women who believed in their right to wield power.

RSJ Blog: Your article is about corporate (or plural) monarchy and how the idea of rule by more than one royal can help us understand rulership in the kingdom of Jerusalem. Do you think corporate monarchy applies to the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem for the entirety of its history?

Erin: My research on Jerusalem does not extend beyond the life of Melisende, but based on what I’ve seen in the literature, I would say no. I definitely think the model applies in the early years, but there is a distinct shift after the death of Baldwin III. King Amalric does not seem to have included his wives in governing in a way that would align with the model of corporate monarchy in place prior, nor does Baldwin IV.  There does seem to be a brief revival during the rule of Sybilla and Guy, but that doesn’t seem to survive past the death of Sybilla in spite of the fact that women continued to inherit the throne. The later queens seemed to have played a minimal role in actual governance.

RSJ Blog: Your article also mentions that corporate monarchy is especially applicable to the Latin East and the medieval Mediterranean. Why do you think this is?

Erin:  I think a corporate approach to ruling fit the medieval Mediterranean and the Latin East for a number of reasons. Monarchy in these areas faced external pressures along their frontiers that resulted in nearly constant military conflict during the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Someone needed to assume responsibility for the daily business of governing during the king’s absence in the field. The type of bureaucracy that assumed such responsibilities in the West had yet to develop in the region at this stage, providing an opportunity for family members to step in and assist in governing. I also believed that corporate monarchy appealed to the dynastic ambitions of King Baldwin II, who, in the absence of a male heir, wanted to be sure that his daughter succeeded him. Providing a capable consort would increase the likelihood that the nobility of the kingdom would consent to this arrangement.

RSJ Blog: Melisende’s family sounds fascinating. Could you tell us more about her sister, Alice, who had designs on Antioch but was thwarted?

Erin: I find all four of Baldwin’s daughters fascinating, though next to Melisende, we know the most about Alice. After the death of her husband Bohemond II of Antioch, she attempted to exert control over the principality on three separate occasions. It is striking that in doing so, she was willing to challenge her own father, King Baldwin I, as well as her brother-in-law, Fulk. Unfortunately, it is difficult to piece together the exact course of events due to the limitations of the sources. The most detailed narrative account is that provided by William of Tyre, who clearly had strong feelings about her actions, dismissing her ambitious as dangerous and her actions illegitimate. Yet the support she had among other powerful nobles in the region, including the Count of Tripoli and Hugh of Le Puiset, suggests that not everyone shared William’s views.

RSJ Blog: One of your major sources is the chronicle of William of Tyre. What are your impressions of this source? Is William reliable? What are his biases?

Erin: As I indicated in reference to Alice in the previous question, William of Tyre’s narrative can be a bit tricky. The detail and insight it provides into events is obviously a strength, and explains why so many scholars rely so heavily on it in their investigations into the Latin East. However, the account is rife with his opinions and his personal sentiment which require careful navigation. Literary scholars have noted his admiration and personal affinity for Amalric, which seems to influence his presentation of Amalric’s predecessors, particularly Melisende. I do think there is an interesting gender dynamic at play, though have not spent enough time with the complete text to make any concrete determinations.

RSJ Blog: What are you working on now? Are you doing more with Melisende or moving on to someone else?

Erin:  The original plan was to write a book about all four of Baldwin’s daughters-Melisende, Alice, Hodierna and Iveta-that examined gender and female authority in the Latin East in order to explain the prominence of women in this region. Unfortunately, the sources on the four sisters are so uneven that any study I produced would have been skewed in favor of Melisende, who has already been the subject of several studies. I did publish an article on the youngest sister, Iveta, who became the abbess of Bethany and the article on Melisende that appeared in the RSJ. I have since shifted my focus North and am working on political culture in the Principality of Antioch. This book examines the experiences of four prominent women associated with the principality-Constance I, Alice, Constance II, and Maria-in order to understand the attitudes and ideas prevalent in the region that determined who was able to exercise authority. It will also examine their respective experiences in order to explain why some of them succeeded in their bid to wield power while others failed.

RSJ Blog: Thank you so much! Best of luck with your work. We look forward to reading it!


Interview with Kyly Walker

Kyly Walker completed a MA (Research) at the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Monash University in 2018, investigating how bishops asserted their authority during the reign of King Stephen of England. She is active on Twitter (@kyly­_walker), especially during conferences, and enjoys baking when she gets the time! Kyly has recently written the article “Westminster Abbey, King Stephen, and the Failure to Canonize King Edward in 1139,” which you can read in the Royal Studies Journal, Volume 5, Issue 2 (2018).

Westminster Abbey, London

Westminster Abbey. Photo by Kristen Geaman

RSJ Blog: Thanks for talking with us, Kyly! Many of us associate Westminster Abbey so closely with Edward the Confessor that it can be surprising to learn the house was not founded by him. Can you give us a little more information on the abbey’s early history?

Kyly: Thanks so much for having me! Well, when it comes to Westminster Abbey’s history, there’s the legend and then there are the facts. According to Sulcard, who wrote a history of Westminster in the eleventh century, a church was founded on the Abbey site by an unknown rich man—Osbert of Clare said it was King Sæberht of Essex—and his wife during the reign of King Æthelberht of Kent (reigned 589–616). Sulcard tells a fantastic tale of how St Peter came down from heaven and consecrated the church in the middle of the night, usurping the Bishop of London, with only a fisherman as witness. This episode was probably invented to assert that Westminster was exempt from the bishop’s authority.

There’s actually little evidence of Westminster in the historical record before the tenth century. King Offa of Essex allegedly restored the church in the early eighth century and King Offa of Mercia—of Offa’s Dyke fame—possibly granted some land. The monastery was founded in the 960s–70s, during the time of King Edgar (reigned 959–75) and St Dunstan, archbishop of Canterbury. Edgar sold the land to Dunstan, who founded a monastery on the site. Edgar and Æthelred Unræd—better known as Ethelred the Unready—granted and confirmed various lands to the new monastery. It looks like the Abbey became quite successful in the early eleventh century and King Harold Harefoot (reigned 1035–40) was buried there, showing that it had become important and was connected to royalty. But Harold’s corpse was later dug up, beheaded, and thrown into a fen near the Thames on the orders of his half-brother and successor Harthacnut. So, although Westminster promoted itself as an ancient house, the Abbey would have been less than 200 years old during Stephen’s reign.

RSJ Blog: Your article mentions that some of Osbert’s devotions were very Anglo-Saxon. What were some other notable differences between Anglo-Saxon and Norman religious practices at this time?

Kyly: Wow, that’s a big question! Well, William the Conqueror justified his invasion of England—at least partially—because the English Church was degenerate. What the exact problem was isn’t certain, but it probably had a lot to do with the recent renewal that the Norman Church had undergone. The Normans had abandoned some practices that the English had not. For example, pluralism—the practice of overseeing more than one diocese or monastery—was very common in England. Stigand, the archbishop of Canterbury, was also bishop of Winchester, and Abbot Leofric of Peterborough ruled four other monasteries. Stigand kept his post for a few years, but his position was precarious, and he was deposed in 1070. Leofric died soon after the Battle of Hastings, which probably prevented him suffering a similar fate.

Until recent years, one of the major differences was seen to be attitudes towards sanctity. For a long time, it was assumed that the Normans were very skeptical about the holiness of many English saints and rejected several cults. As Susan Ridyard has shown, this was far from true, and English saints’ cults were adapted to suit a monastery’s particular situation. Nationality wasn’t an issue: the new religious hierarchy would use any tool at their disposal—including an Anglo-Saxon saint’s cult—to protect and improve their church. Some churchmen were initially cautious about certain saints venerated in their churches, the most famous being Lanfranc, archbishop of Canterbury. There is a story in Eadmer’s Life of St Anselm that Lanfranc doubted that one of his predecessors, St Alphege, was a saint, and had to be convinced by another future archbishop, St Anselm, that Alphege was indeed a saint, as he’d been martyred by the Danes. Lanfranc accepted Anselm’s arguments and supported and promoted the cult of Alphege and other Anglo-Saxon saints from then on.

Other differences were organizational. Under the Normans, several sees moved from rural areas to towns. The canons who served the cathedrals were organized into formal chapters and were given particular roles to perform within the chapters, such as treasurer. Small parish churches were also established at the expense of larger churches, called minsters, which had controlled larger areas (this had already begun before 1066, but the process accelerated after the Norman Conquest).

RSJ Blog: Can you tell us a little more about the forgeries that were created to help Westminster Abbey enhance its status in the early 1100s? How many were there? How similar were Westminster’s actions to that of other medieval abbeys?

Kyly: The exact number of forgeries is difficult to pin down, as scholars disagree over whether some are genuine or not, and others appear to be based on genuine documents that have been altered at a later date. There is evidence that around 40 pre-Conquest charters—mostly in Edward’s name—were either forged or tampered with. There are definitely forgeries in the names of Kings Edgar (at least one), Edward the Confessor (at least three), William I (up to ten), Henry I (around four), and even Stephen (six). Most date to the twelfth century, but a few were forged in the 1200s. Other charters were allegedly issued by Archbishop Dunstan and Pope Paschal II, and possibly by Pope Innocent II as well. Westminster’s forgers fabricated charters for other monasteries too, such as Ramsey and Coventry Abbey, so it seems their skills were well-known in monastic circles, and it was not an unusual practice. Several monasteries, with longer histories than Westminster, also created impressive portfolios of forged documents. These included Worcester Cathedral Priory, St Augustine’s Abbey at Canterbury, and Gloucester Abbey. They all faced the same problem: many of their lands and rights had been granted in the distant past, and documents confirming the monasteries’ possession of them had either never existed or had been destroyed by the passage of time. The monasteries therefore remedied this lack through forgery. Ideas about forgery were very different in the twelfth century, and the monks didn’t see their activities as wrong. They believed they were creating documents that had or should have existed. As I mention in my article, the monks were dealing with the change from “oral to written testimony,” and they did it the only way they could, by re-creating documents.

RSJ Blog: Westminster Abbey very much wanted to be seen as the premier royal site in England at this time. Were there other avenues Osbert and the monks could have pursued to accomplish this or was getting Edward the Confessor canonized the only viable option?

Kyly: Well, to gain the position it wanted as the royal site in England, Westminster needed to obtain the undivided attention of the monarchy. The Abbey was certainly understood to be the place for royal coronations, and some other occasions. Coronations were rather infrequent though and the location of Christmas events etc. was not fixed. So, it was difficult for the Abbey to develop firm ties to the king.

Establishing the Abbey as a royal dynastic mausoleum was a path that Westminster tried to follow. The monks went to a lot of effort in 1118 to have Henry I’s first wife, Matilda of Scotland, buried at Westminster Abbey. There was a family connection, as she was Edward the Confessor’s great-great niece, and at the time her son was the heir to the throne. Linking the dynasty to Edward and Westminster probably seemed like a good idea. But according to the Augustinian Priory of Holy Trinity Aldgate in London, Westminster’s monks bribed King Henry—who was out of the country—to ensure that Matilda was buried at the Abbey, which was quite possibly against her wishes. Matilda had founded Holy Trinity and so she may have wanted to be interred there; according to the Priory’s account, her body had been moved there before Westminster took possession of it. It was quite common for royal persons to be buried in the church of monasteries they had founded: William the Conqueror was interred at his foundation of St Stephen’s Abbey at Caen in Normandy and similarly Henry I was buried at Reading Abbey. Unfortunately for Westminster, Holy Trinity told the king about what the monks had done, and he wasn’t particularly happy about it. Additionally, Matilda and Henry’s son died tragically two years later, throwing the succession into question. Any plans Westminster Abbey had had to link their fortunes to Henry’s dynasty thus came to naught, and the monks’ next plan to raise the Abbey’s status was Edward’s attempted canonization.

RSJ Blog: Your article mentions that the cardinals were divided, with some supporting Matilda and some Stephen. Why did some of the cardinals support Matilda? Was it connected to her time as Empress?

Kyly: Yes, the support Matilda received from some cardinals is at least partially linked to her time as Empress in Germany. The persuasive abilities of her envoys probably had something to do with it too. Matilda’s first husband, Emperor Henry V, was involved in a huge dispute with the papacy over who had the right to appoint bishops during the 1110s–20s. The resolution of this quarrel would have involved a lot of diplomatic to-ing and fro-ing, and Matilda probably met several papal representatives at this time, whom she may have later lobbied for support against Stephen. At least two future popes—Honorius II and Innocent II—spent time in Germany as papal representatives trying to resolve the dispute. John of Salisbury’s comment that Pope Celestine II was elected with her favor suggests that Matilda kept in close contact with the papal court, to keep her hopes of ruling England alive.

RSJ Blog: Despite the failure of Edward’s canonization in 1139, did Osbert manage to increase Westminster Abbey’ status anyway?

Kyly: Yes, I think he did, but not to the extent that he planned. By linking Westminster, Edward, and the idea of a royal church, Osbert put an idea in peoples’ minds about the Abbey’s importance in London and the kingdom. Although Osbert’s actions didn’t lead to an immediate increase in the Abbey’s fortunes, they created a catalyst that later generations could capitalize on when circumstances were better.

RSJ Blog: What are you working on now?

Kyly: At the moment I’m employed outside of academia, which leaves very little time for scholarly pursuits! I’m adapting part of my MA thesis for this year’s International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds. All going well, I’ll be starting a PhD at the University of Leeds in October, working with Professor Julia Barrow. My project looks at written expressions of authority in twelfth century bishops’ charters. I’m interested in discovering what influenced the development of this language and how it evolved throughout the century.

RSJ Blog: Thank you for talking with us!

Article of the Month: “The King’s Two Genders” by Cynthia Herrup

In November, the RSJ blog highlighted Ernst Kantorowicz’s magisterial The King’s Two Bodies. This month we feature one of the many excellent pieces of scholarship that build on Kantorowicz’s work.

Cynthia Herrup’s “The King’s Two Genders” was originally delivered at the North American Conference on British Studies in October 2005. It was later published in The Journal of British Studies 45 (July 2006): 493-510.

In her article, Herrup does not retread Kantorowicz’s work so much as use his concept of the dual monarchial body to explore other avenues. Herrup focuses her article on Tudor-Stuart England and argues “that it might also have been functional for rulers to inhabit an artificial body that was gendered neither exclusively male nor female, but both” (Herrup, 496).

To support this argument, Herrup develops four main points. First, she discusses language: The terms king and prince were used for male and female monarchs. She then turns to the concept of tyranny and its associations with femininity. The tyrant allowed womanly characteristics to predominate and lacked much-needed masculine self-control. Third, the existence of multiple female monarchs and the excellent scholarship devoted to them has shown how successful women rulers embodied both masculine and feminine identities. But, Herrup contends, we must also look at how male kings had to embody both genders. Fourth, scholars must look at how monarchs exercised their right to pardon the guilty; rulers had to walk a fine line between overly-masculine harshness and overly-feminine pity. All rulers needed to exercise mercy, but they had to find balance so it did not undermine their authority or make them seem too effeminate.

Herrup ends her article with an acknowledgement that more detailed research needs to be done to better support her argument that early-modern English monarchs had two genders, but she has provided a fantastic starting place for scholars interested in further exploring gender and monarchy. Herrup’s concept of the monarch, male or female, needing to embody both male and female can be used in a variety of different chronological or geographical contexts. The king’s two genders is a fascinating, clearly-presented concept that encourages fruitful research in royal studies.

The RSJ Blog even had a chance to ask Cynthia (Professor Emerita of History and John R. Hubbard Chair in British History Emerita at the University of Southern California) a few questions about this article.

RSJ Blog: How did you come up with the idea of the king’s two genders? What were you working on that inspired you to develop this concept?

Cynthia: As I was researching material for a project on pardons, I discovered that political commentators were quicker to see pardoning as a dangerous prerogative than as a reassuring safeguard, and the danger was presented as gendered. One official even praised Elizabeth I’s attitude as manly and James I’s as effeminate. That got me thinking about why pardoning was a threat, why monarchs were advised to hold it so closely, and what these ideas meant for the definition of proper rule. The two genders was my result.

RSJ Blog: The concept of the king’s two genders seems to work well for medieval and early modern England, but your article suggests this balance might have become more difficult as the realm grew larger and more diverse. How so?

Cynthia: I think that personal monarchy itself gets increasingly problematic as government becomes more diverse geographically and culturally. Moreover, as real power shifts to a prime minister and ideological political parties, the monarch becomes less important and as that happens, their personal qualities and style become less relevant. So distance and impersonal government change what people expect from their ruler and at the same time they change the ruler’s ability to hinder or help subjects individually. Monarchs remain powerful officials but are less often expected to shape government in their own image.

RSJ Blog: Any early-modern English monarchs that you think were especially unsuccessful at balancing the king’s two genders?

Cynthia: Charles I is an easy target for ‘unsuccessful’ but he does seem to have been exceptionally tone deaf. He seems never to have understood that success in monarchy means being both reliable and adaptable.


RSJ Blog: Thank you for speaking with us!

Full citation:

Herrup, Cynthia. “The King’s Two Genders.” Journal of British Studies 45 (July 2006): 493-510.

Interview with Christopher Mielke

Christopher Mielke is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Al-Quds Bard College for Arts and Sciences in East Jerusalem. In 2017 he was awarded a PhD in Medieval Studies from Central European University receiving a “magna cum laude” for his dissertation “Every hyacinth the garden wears: the archaeology of medieval queens of Hungary, 1000-1395.” Prior to this, he had received an MA in Medieval Archaeology from the University of Reading in 2011 and an MA in History from the University of Maryland, College Park. From 2012 to 2017, he was the host, organizer, and lead correspondent for CEU Medieval Radio (, having interviewed over 70 guests for the biweekly program “Past Perfect!” His article “From Her Head to Her Toes: Gender Bending Regalia in the Tomb of Constance of Aragon, Queen of Hungary and Sicily,” recently appeared in the Royal Studies Journal, Volume 5, Issue 2 (2018).


The Crown of Constance of Aragon. In the public domain. © José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro


RSJ Blog: Hello, Chris, and thanks for talking with us! Your article on Constance’s crown was fascinating! For those of us who don’t know much about crowns, could you give us a primer on the difference between eastern/Byzantine crowns and western European crowns?

Chris: I’ll do my best! For the medieval period, royal crowns in the west tended to consist of open circlets. These circlets were usually a metal band across the brow that could be plain, studded with gemstones, or topped with decorative devices such as crosses or lilies. There are both male and female examples of this in the west. Crowns of Byzantine emperors tended to be enclosed, by contrast – there would be a circlet as a base with two bands meeting in the center.  That being said, imperial crowns do appear in the west, such as the eleventh century Reichskrone which has one band across a tall circlet. Crowns for Byzantine empresses tended to be an open band topped by triangular and circular pinnaces. These are general rules, and there are examples here and there which will contradict them no doubt, but for the thirteenth century these seem to be the main differences.

RSJ Blog: Since it seems this Byzantine-style crown was Constance’s, do you think she obtained it when she was queen of Hungary? Or were crowns of this type popular throughout the Mediterranean?

Chris: Byzantine style crowns did appear in Hungary in the 11th century (for instance the Holy Crown of Hungary) but it is very doubtful that the crown Constance was buried with came from there. By the time Constance became queen of Sicily, Byzantium’s influence in the Mediterranean was considerably reduced, but traditions die hard – there are Greek influences on other royal artifacts from this time period, such as in seals and coins. Medieval crowns in general very rarely survive in their original format, but artistic depictions of crowns from the Mediterranean world (particularly Sicily) show a strong Byzantine influence.

RSJ Blog: Why was Constance exhumed in 1491? Any hints why the people who completed that exhumation might have moved her crown?

Chris: I have no idea, in all honesty! The 1491 exhumation was done at the behest of the Vice-Regent of Sicily ruling on behalf of the King, Ferdinand II of Aragon. It could have had something to do with an Aragonese connection between the current King of Sicily and Constance’s roots, or the removal of the body could have been precipitated by something more practical, like the need for a repair. It was a grand spectacle in 1491 though, with all of the leading patricians and nobles of Sicily in attendance, and upon opening the tomb, the sight of the dazzling crown could have sparked a lot of curiosity. It is a magnificent piece and very unusual and my suggestion is that after they examined the crown, they did not wish to disturb the Queen’s body, which is why they might have later placed it in the wooden box at her feet.

RSJ Blog: Your article describes Déer’s theory as romantic. Is there any evidence left offering any clues to Constance’s and Frederick II’s marriage? Would Déer have had anything to base his romantic interpretation on (other than the crown’s placement)?

Chris: The marriage between the two was unusual for a few reasons. In the first place, the bride was at least ten or fifteen years older than the groom (who would have been about fourteen) and she had already lost a husband and a son. Frederick II had lost his mother very young as well, and many secondary historians have surmised that Constance filled an almost maternal role as his wife. Constance’s strong role in the government as regent of Sicily shows that he placed a great amount of trust in her; none of Frederick’s other wives seem to be so favored. Unfortunately, most of the details about their marriage that survive relate more to either financial or political issues, but those few details show that Frederick did rely on her in a singular manner.

RSJ Blog: Your footnotes hint that Constance’s son Henry (VII) lived an interesting life. Could you tell us more about him?

Chris: I’ll try! Henry (VII) was the eldest son of Frederick II and Constance, and he has been a difficult character to analyze. When he was in his early 20s, the younger Henry became involved in a series of wars with the other German princes and eventually against his father. By 1235, Henry had been bested by his father. He was stripped of his titles and imprisoned for the next seven years. In 1242, Henry fell off his horse – some contemporary chronicles suggested that it was a suicide. He was buried with full honors and his skeleton was exhumed in the late 1990s. An osteoarchaeological analysis revealed evidence of leprosy on his face and his feet. This raises the question as to whether or not Frederick II imprisoned his son due to acts of rebellion or whether it was the result of Henry’s illness – for symptoms of leprosy to be present on his skeleton shows that it was a very severe case which required isolation.

RSJ Blog: What are you working on now?

Chris: I have a few projects that I’m finalizing at the moment. I am in the process of publishing several interviews from my time as host of CEU Medieval Radio. I am also co-editing a volume focusing primarily on medieval women involved in the sex trade in Central and Eastern Europe. This article here on Constance was originally a part of my doctoral dissertation that never made it into the final version – but at the moment I am working on a manuscript of my dissertation to be made into a book.

Regarding work projects, I was fortunate enough to spend last year at Al-Quds Bard College in Jerusalem as a CEU Global Teaching Fellow. This year I am working at a museum in West Virginia called the Beverly Heritage Center as the Head of Programming. This year I am planning a total renovation of the exhibit we have up there in the original Randolph County Courthouse.

RSJ Blog: Thank you for talking with us!


Interview with Jock Phillips

Jock Phillips is a free-lance professional historian. Until 2014 he was the General Editor of Te Ara, the Online Encyclopedia of New Zealand in the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. He was previously New Zealand’s Chief Historian following 16 years teaching American and New Zealand History at Victoria University of Wellington.  He was also the founding Director of the Stout Research Centre for the study of New Zealand society, history and culture; and was the Conceptual Leader for the History exhibitions at Te Papa, Museum of New Zealand. He has published fifteen books on New Zealand history, of which the best known is A Man’s Country: The image of the Pakeha male – a history. His latest book, To The Memory, is a comprehensive illustrated history of New Zealand war memorials. Read his article on the Maori and royal tours in the Royal Studies Journal Volume 5.

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Memorial for the soldiers of the Arawa tribe who died in World War I. Photo by Jock Phillips.


RSJ Blog: Hello, Jock! Thanks for participating. We often see think-pieces about the “cult of celebrity” or “celebrity worship.” Does our modern interest in celebrity provide rivals to royalty or do they benefit from our fascination? Both?

Jock: At least since the coming of mass media with newspapers, there have always been celebrities who have been rivals in popular interest for royalty. In New Zealand’s case significant indications of this have been ‘tours’ by people other than royalty; and it is revealing to list some of the tours by non-Royals which made a powerful impression.  In the 19th century tours by authors such as Mark Twain, Anthony Trollope and (a bit later) Rudyard Kipling were big news; in the early 20th century there were major tours by heroes of the British Empire such as Robert Falcon Scott and Baden Powell.  In the mid 20th century sporting heroes were much feted – there were huge crowds in Wellington to welcome the MCC ‘bodyline’ cricket team in 1933, not to mention tours by local heroes such as the 1925 Invincible All Black rugby team and the runner Jack Lovelock.  In the 1960s there were huge crowds in the streets to welcome The Beatles and The Rolling Stones; and a bit later the numbers were repeated (along with a few protestors) for the American President LBJ.  Some may argue that the plethora of mass media now – television, film and the internet besides the printed page – have increased the number of non-royal competitors for celebrity; but they have long been there.

 RSJ Blog: Why might indigenous people see the monarch as their benefactor (or “benefactress” as they termed Queen Victoria)?

 Jock: I can only really talk with any authority about the case of Maori.  For Maori the Queen was seen in positive terms because she was the other signatory to the Treaty of Waitangi; and subsequently Maori saw her as providing a protection against local white governments whom they felt had disregarded the terms of the treaty.

RSJ Blog: A number of the articles talk about “race patriotism” or “British race patriotism.” How has the British monarchy both supported and challenged these ideas?

 Jock: Most members of the British Empire regarded the monarch as the symbolic head of the Empire and therefore the purest expression of the values of the British race.  Interestingly even some Maori accepted this because it was argued that Maori were ‘honorary whites’, an Aryan people, who shared the racial characteristics of the Anglo-Saxons. But of course this was purely symbolic, because all the evidence is that some members of the royal family, most notably Edward, the Prince of Wales, during his 1920 tour, were appallingly racist towards indigenous people, especially Maori.

RSJ Blog: It seems that the monarch and the white colonizers of New Zealand saw the Maori in a more positive light than the monarch and the white colonizers of Australia saw the Indigenous Australians. Is this an accurate impression? If so, why might that be? Is it due to the Treaty of Waitangi (1840)?

 Jock: I think the main reason that white colonial powers in New Zealand including the British monarch, regarded Maori more positively and treated them with more respect than the treatment of indigenous Australians is that Maori had been very effective militarily.  From about 1500 when there was a growing Maori population and a competition for resources, a strong tradition of military achievement developed in Aotearoa.  Iwi or tribes developed who built thousands of fortified pa around the country and a cult of military prowess emerged. In the early 19th century Maori very quickly gained access to guns and through fights between iwi developed a remarkable skill in the new warfare – indeed some have argued that Maori were the first to really develop trench warfare as a response to guns. When white people arrived they quickly found that Maori were no push-over militarily, and indeed in both the 1840s and 1860s wars Maori very nearly defeated the colonizers who had to call for professional assistance from the Imperial army.  In this context the only way white people could establish a foothold in the country was to negotiate – hence they were forced into negotiating the Treaty of Waitangi.  So in my view respect for Maori came out of the barrel of a gun. The Treaty was a consequence of this respect, not the cause of it. In Australia we now know that there was more armed resistance than once believed, but it was never on the scale of Maori resistance.

RSJ Blog: How similar and different is the relationship of the British monarchs with the indigenous people of Australia and New Zealand?

Jock: I think the existence of a treaty in which the monarch was the other signatory did make a big difference.  Maori put enormous energy in the 19th and early 20th centuries into appealing to the British monarch – through elaborate welcomes when royalty toured and through numerous attempts to travel to England in order to petition the monarch. It was also true that because of their military strength Maori had to be given a place in the local political scene (Maori could vote on the same terms as Europeans from the beginning and from 1867 there were Maori seats in parliament).  This allowed them access to the local political authorities who were controlling royal tours and relations with the monarch, which indigenous Australians did not have.

RSJ Blog: Since monarchs are now generally supposed to be above politics, how can the royal family help indigenous people in their pursuit of justice?

Jock: To be honest in 2018 I do not see the royal family having much impact on the politics of member states of the Commonwealth.  However if members of the royal family respect indigenous culture and give it appropriate time and recognition, this may have some impact on local perceptions.

RSJ Blog: What is the new nationalism in late-twentieth century Australia? Was there a new nationalism in New Zealand around this time as well?

Jock: As both Australia and New Zealand emerged out of the British Empire from the 1960s, a similar new nationalism emerged.  In New Zealand’s case the old nationalism saw New Zealand as a ‘better Britain’, a country which had all the values of the British race but none of the social problems.  New Zealanders thought of themselves as the ‘most loyal’ dominion of all.  From the 1960s this view came under attack, and a new nationalism emerged which positioned New Zealand as an independent South Pacific country.  Maori and Pacific culture became more important to the identity; and in place of a role as a loyal territorial of the Anglo-American Empire, the country pushed values of international peace and regarded its anti-nuclear position as central to identity.

 RSJ Blog: Thank you for your time! How are things progressing with your work on war memorials?

Jock:  I have worked for over 30 years on studying the history of war memorials and my book on the subject, To the Memory, was finished last year; but I continue to follow up side-issues and give talks on this subject especially with the centenary of the armistice upon us.  I have now just completed a memoir about my life as a historian, Living History, which I expect to be published next year.