Author Archives: kristenleeg

Conference Report: Representar La Reginalidad En La Monarquía De Los Austrias (Siglo XVII) – Representing Queenship in the Habsburg Monarchy (17th Century)

Many thanks to Aoife Cosgrove (Trinity College Dublin) and Amy Saunders (University of Winchester) for this excellent and comprehensive conference report!

In March 2023 a group of international scholars gathered for the first AGENART symposium: Representar La Reginalidad En La Monarquía De Los Austrias (Siglo XVII) – Representing Queenship in the Habsburg Monarchy (17th Century). This was organized byPeter Cherry (Trinity College Dublin) and Alejandra Franganillo (Universidad Complutense de Madrid). The I+D project ELITFEM also collaborated in the organization of this event. The two-day symposium took place across Madrid, with the first day at Centro Cultural la Corrala, part of the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, and day two starting at the Biblioteca Histórica Marqués de Valdecilla, part of the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. The afternoon of the second day also included a choice between two activities, either a walking tour of Madrid led by María Cruz de Carlos Varona (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid), or a tour of the Museo del Prado led by Peter Cherry (Trinity College Dublin). Whilst all presenters delivered their papers in person, some participants joined to watch the event online.


Split into three themes the symposium began with a keynote given by Adam Jasienski (Southern Methodist University, Dallas) whose book Praying to Portraits: Audience, Identity, and the Inquisition in the Early Modern Hispanic World will be published in May 2023 and explores portraiture and religious imagery. Jasienski’s keynote took as its focus a particular example of a “retrato a lo divino”, a form of portraiture in which the sitter is depicted in the guise of a religious figure. Juan Pantoja de la Cruz’s reimagining of the Annunciation featuring the Spanish queen Margaret of Austria as the Virgin Mary and her daughter Anna Maria as the angel Gabriel was explored through the lens of female religiosity in the seventeenth century. Jasienski argued that such images should be read alongside prevailing practices of meditation and visualisation circulated in religious literature of the time, taking into account the guidance that was given to women on how to experience their faith through vision and emotion. By these means, such “divine portraits” can be considered as devotional aids which also served to remind those people portrayed of their responsibility to serve as vessels of God’s will as expressed through the monarchy.

Section 1: Political Uses of Habsburg Women’s Portraiture

Following this, the first theme explored the political uses of Habsburg women’s portraiture featuring María Cruz de Carlos Varona (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid) and Amy Saunders (University of Winchester). De Carlos Varona’s paper explored representations of queens at the courts of Philip III and Philip IV, focusing in particular on Margaret of Austria and Isabella of Bourbon. De Carlos Varona argued that women were active agents in the construction of their images, and that the repeated use of certain typologies and formats, as well as the inclusion of miniature portraits of family members, and heraldic symbols integrated into clothing, were all part of a queen’s self-fashioning. As such, queens’ portraits allowed them to visually demonstrate their affiliations and virtuous qualities. Following this, Saunders explored constructions of Queen Henrietta Maria’s motherhood and Catholicism in portraiture and print, drawing particular attention to how these artworks are now represented in modern heritage sites in England. Saunders sought to combat the all-too-common practice of excluding or minimising royal women’s contributions to the commissioning and collecting of art in favour of their husbands by showing the ways in which Henrietta Maria exercised her agency through her commissioning of portraiture and the decorating of her residences. At the end of each theme a panel debate then brought the presenters for each section together for questions and further discussion.

Section 2: The Construction of Identity Through Images

The conference’s second section examined the fashioning of identities through imagery, taking a closer look at how Habsburg women’s portraits adapted the image of the queen to suit the present moment, be it a time of grief, war, or celebration. Yelsy Hernández’s (Yale University) contribution to this topic looked at the literature and imagery surrounding the funeral rites of Queen Margaret of Austria, exploring how this Spanish queen’s posthumous legacy was constructed in the period immediately following her death. With evidence from contemporary sources originating from both Spain and Italy, this paper was able to demonstrate the foregrounding of Margaret’s relationships with men in the symbols and imagery which surrounded her at the time of her funeral, as well as the similarities between her representation in posthumous texts and those of female saints. The following paper, given by one of the conference organisers, Alejandra Franganillo Álvarez (Universidad Complutense de Madrid), reinforced the utility of funeral orations as sources for studying the fashioning of queenly identities. Her paper, which focused on Queen Isabella of Bourbon, examined the construction of this queen’s persona in later life during a time of war, in particular, studying how her role as queen was conceived of as an equal but opposite counterbalance to the role of king. With the king representing military might, Isabella became a symbol of peace and womanly virtue, garnering identification with strong female figures such as Esther, Judith, and Bellona, some of which were featured in her funeral dedications. These strong female figures were also key to the imagery surrounding the subject of the final paper of this section, Christine of France, Duchess of Savoy. Franca Varallo (Università di Torino) described the various mantles which this queen adopted in her imagery: widow, mother, goddess, equestrian. Christine’s choice of the diamond as her personal symbol, coupled with her representations as strong, bright, and tough on the walls of her home, showed her as a woman well aware of her individual power and the power of imagery to convey it to others. Indeed, each of the queens examined in this section utilised text, imagery, and symbolism in tandem to fashion identities which served their purposes, identities which continued to be reiterated and promoted by their supporters following their deaths.

Section 3: Private Uses of Portraits: Exchange, Collecting, and Display

The third and final section of the conference – which took place on the second day – grappled with a variety of questions regarding the functionality of royal portraits, exploring their publics, mobility, and reproduction. Silvia Mitchell’s (Purdue University, Indiana) paper reconstructed not just the image of the widowed queen Mariana of Austria as regent and queen mother, but also sought to reassemble and analyse her vast collection of luxury goods with the help of a soon-to-be-published inventory. Mitchell’s talk demonstrated that although Mariana found herself in a precarious position following the death of her husband, she managed to bolster her power as queen mother through her depiction in official portraiture, as well as by surrounding herself with precious and magnificent objects such as tapestries, clocks, porcelain, books, and portraits of her relations. The subsequent paper by Andrea Sommer-Mathis and Christian Standhartinger (Academia de Ciencias Austríaca, ÖAW Vienna) expanded upon the importance of objects in the relationships between royal persons, taking a particular interest in the exchange of portraits between courts. By studying the extant letters of the Viennese Habsburgs, Sommer-Mathis and Standhartinger were able to explore both the personal and political functions of these portraits, demonstrating their significance in the establishing of marriage alliances, but also their more human function as aide-mémoirs and love tokens. A true likeness of the person depicted was revealed as a very valuable aspect of such portraits, foregrounding the importance placed on having an able court painter at one’s command. The final paper of the day and of the conference – given by the second of the conference’s organisers, Peter Cherry (Trinity College Dublin) – took a closer look at this facet of portrait painting, focusing on the workshop and output of the painter Velázquez during the 1650s. Raising questions as to the relative agency of a painter and sitter, the sometimes perplexing use of symbolism within portraits, and the painting, repainting, and copying of royal images, Cherry’s research revealed the difficulties inherent in producing sufficient images of a regent to sate international demand, and the necessity for cooperation between court artists, copyists, and their patrons in order to design and disseminate a suitable image of a ruler. By examining portraiture’s complex web of meanings and uses, this section allowed for deeper reflection on the role of portrait as object, sign, and memory.


After a vast array of stimulating papers, the conference ended with the opportunity to explore the themes and topics which had been discussed in a more hands-on way, leaving the confines of the lecture room and venturing out into the cityscape of Madrid. Attendees had a choice between two workshops which each furthered the discussion on one of the central focuses of the conference: one could either visit the Museo Nacional del Prado in order to experience in person and dissect some of the seminal portraits of Habsburg women of the seventeenth century, or else take to the streets in order to explore the “immaterial” legacy of Habsburg women on the urban landscape by reconstructing the itinerary of the royal entry of the Spanish queens into Madrid, this being the most import ceremony associated with them in the Early Modern period. These workshops facilitated a more informal continuation of the stimulating discussions begun by the speakers’ papers and allowed attendees to experience in physical terms the presence of these queens as etched onto the landscape of the city in which they ruled.


This inaugural event was hugely successful, showcasing a fascinating range of work from an international group of scholars. The beautiful surroundings of Centro Cultural la Corrala and the Biblioteca Histórica Marqués de Valdecilla were the perfect setting for a symposium exploring the activities of seventeenth-century Habsburg women, their artistic patronage, and influence over other royal and elite courts. The Biblioteca Histórica Marqués de Valdecilla was simultaneously hosting an exhibition on Universos del conocimiento: libros para pensar, libros para observar, libros para soñar (Universes of knowledge: books to think about, books to observe, books to dream about), which delighted attendees during the breaks, showcasing many beautiful early modern books and prints. Many of the paintings discussed over the symposium are found within the collection of the Museo Nacional del Prado, and were enthusiastically discussed on the tour on the final afternoon.

The fascinating discussions that took place across the two-day symposium will form a special edition of the Libros de la Corte which is due for publication in summer 2024. This peer-reviewed, open access journal will not only highlight the work of those who presented at the event, but will also incorporate additional articles related to the main themes explored. With the symposium’s success and this future journal edition to look forward to, Representar La Reginalidad En La Monarquía De Los Austrias (Siglo XVII), will continue to have an impact far beyond two beautifully sunny days spent in Madrid.

For forthcoming symposia organized by the I+D AGENART and for freely available materials on Spanish Queens in English and Spanish, please visit:

Photographs are (c) the authors


The Tudors: Art and Majesty in Renaissance England

An exhibition review by Valerie Schutte

The Tudors: Art and Majesty in Renaissance England is a powerhouse exhibition of Tudor artifacts currently touring the United States. I was able to see the exhibition twice in Cleveland at the Cleveland Museum of Art during its stay from 26 February to 14 May 2023. The exhibition was first showcased at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, from 3 October 2022 to 8 January 2023, and will make its third and final stop at the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, from 24 June to 24 September 2023. For those who cannot make it to the exhibition, you can search YouTube to find videos that were recorded by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, such at the exhibition’s virtual opening, as well as how the “Sea Dog” table on loan from The Devonshire Collection at Hardwick Hall is dismantled.

Photo taken by Valerie Schutte

The entire exhibition includes 123 items, though not every item is on display at all three museums and some items only feature in the beautiful accompanying catalogue and are not exhibited at all. Those items not displayed were agreed to be exhibited when the exhibition was originally slated to be opened in autumn 2020, but were since cut. In Cleveland, approximately 80 items were displayed. For example, the British Library 1557 English copy of Juan Luis Vives’s Instruction of a Christen Woman is only exhibited in New York and San Francisco, while item six, the funeral pall of Henry VII, is not exhibited anywhere. The Society of Antiquaries’s copy of Hans Eworth’s 1554 painting of Queen Mary I was exhibited in New York only, but the Cleveland Museum of Art was able to privately loan the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s copy of Antonis Mor’s 1554 painting of Mary in its place, which therefore does not feature in the exhibition catalogue.

At the exhibition in Cleveland, seven rooms were beautifully arranged with tapestries, various suits of armor, paintings and drawings, portrait medals, jewels, cups and bowls, stained glass windows, and printed books and manuscripts. The splendor that the Tudor monarchs envisioned for themselves, as well as that which was commemorated by its most loyal courtiers, is evident in every room. Some of my personal favorite items on display were the two golden portrait medals of Queen Mary I on loan from the British Museum, one containing an allegory of peace that was created by Jacopo da Trezzo in 1554 and the other created by Jacques Jonghelink in 1555 that features a cameo of Philip on the obverse. These were displayed alongside a golden portrait medal of Elizabeth and a silver portrait medal of William Herbert. In the same room was Hans Holbein’s portrait of Jane Seymour, positioned next to Holbein’s drawings of both Jane and Anne Boleyn, as well as a painting of Edward VI by Guillim Scrots, the Heneage jewel on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum, and miniatures by Lucas Horenbout and Nicholas Hilliard.

Photo taken by Valerie Schutte

The breadth of items collected from museums and private collections across Europe and the United States certainly makes this seem like an exhibition focused on the Tudors, not just one specific artist, such as Hans Holbein, of this proportion will not occur again in America anytime soon. From the bronze statuaries meant for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey’s funeral monument on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum and Sint-Baafskathedraal to the Elizabethan New Year’s gift roll lent by the Folger Shakespeare Library, this exhibition features a collection of objects and artifacts to be admired by all Tudor enthusiasts.

Prince Philip: The Centenary

By Sarah Betts with Saira Baker

Today marks 100 years since the birth of Prince Philip on the 10th June 1921 on the island of Corfu as the fifth child, but only son of Prince Andrew (a younger son of King George I of Greece) and his wife Alice of Battenberg (a great-grandchild of Queen Victoria). Philip was thrust on to the global stage in 1947 when he married Princess Elizabeth, who later became Queen Elizabeth II in 1952. Their marriage lasted over 70 years until he died on the 9th April 2021, just a couple of months short of his hundredth birthday, the longest serving consort in the history of the British Royal Family.

Philip and his life have been written about for decades, but rarely (and only relatively recently) in an academic setting. However, both the changing world around, and the personal circumstances of, Philip’s long life provide a vast array of avenues of academic enquiry to explore that match well with many of the directions being seriously pursued within the now well-established, and burgeoning, field of Royal studies. So we have seen, even before his death, that, as the study of modern and contemporary monarchies begins to garner more scholarly weight, essays focused, or part-focused on discussing him have begun to appear in collections such as Charles Beem and Miles Taylor’s, The Man Behind the Queen, (2014), Matthew Glencross, Judith Rowbotham and Michael D. Kandiah’s The Windsor Dynasty: 1910 to the Present, (2016), and The Routledge History of Monarchy (2019), whilst he also appears as an interesting case study in Edward Owens’s monograph, The Family Firm. Monarchy Mass Media and the British Public, (2019).

Most obviously, Philip fits into the study of consorts and consortship which has been for many years a central facet of Royal Studies, and he is set to feature again in this context in the fourth volume of the major forthcoming collection edited by Aidan Norrie, Carolyn Harris, Joanna Laynesmith, Danna Messer, and Elena Woodacre, English Consorts: Power, Influence, Dynasty. However, as someone born into one of Europe’s many exiled/abolished monarchies who married into its most prominent surviving one, a member of an elite European-wide genetic network of influential and royal families who also saw action in the British Navy as plain Lt. Mountbatten, a consort of multiple realms across the world in a global age, an enthusiastic and sometimes visionary patron of innovation in science, technology, arts, sports, youth leadership and the environment, as a man honoured with a grand Royal funeral in a time of restrictions and hardships of a global pandemic, Philip’s life, lifetime, heritage and legacy offers opportunities for comparison and contextualisation across a variety of current and emerging interdisciplinary approaches to Royal Studies.

Interview with Ann Black

Ann Black is Reader and Associate Professor of Law at the University of Queensland where she is also the Executive Director of Comparative Law, for its Centre for Public, International and Comparative Law. She researches comparative law and legal pluralism with a focus on Asian and Islamic law. She is the author of numerous books and articles, a list of which can be found here. Her article “Marching to the Beat of a Different Drum: Royalty, Women, and Ideology in the Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam” is available in the Royal Studies Journal issue 7.2.

RSJ Blog: Thank you for an insightful article about the sultan of Brunei. We learned so much! For those interested in studying Brunei, what languages would a researcher need to know? What archives should a researcher access?

Ann: The local language is Brunei Malay. It is also the official language. However, because Great Britain colonised Brunei, English has been the main language used for government, commerce and law. For example, English is used in the superior courts, and foreign common law judges sit on both the High Court and the Court of Appeal. Court reports are in English with most now available online through the Judiciary’s website. Legislation is available in both English and Malay and is similarly available online. Newspapers are available in English and Malay. So whilst knowledge of both is desirable, one can conduct research in English.

RSJ Blog: How did the legacy of British colonialism contribute to authoritarianism in modern Brunei?

Ann: In the colonial government, known as a Residency, all power – executive, legislative and judicial – was concentrated in one person: the British Resident. During that time, the Sultan only had control over the religion of Islam. When Brunei became self-governing, the powers of the Resident transferred to the Sultan who also retained his control over Islam. In essence, Brunei adopted the colonial model of power concentration; referred to as an Islamic Malay Monarchy. There was no participatory democracy in the colonial era. One can speculate as to whether Brunei might be democratic today if the Residency had embedded such practices and concepts..

RSJ Blog: What is the sultan’s “personal” wealth?

Ann: We do not know. The Sultan alone determines the allocation to himself and the royal family from the nation’s revenues, and this is not publicly disclosed. Estimates of his net worth are speculative. Neither the Sultan, nor the family are accountable for how their allocation is spent. Their lifestyles are lavish. For a nation with a population less than half a million people, the royal place, decorated with vast amounts of gold, is the largest in the world. The Sultan has a collection reportedly of 7,000 luxury cars with 500 of those Rolls Royce, which is said to be the world’s largest private car collection..

RSJ Blog: The article mentions that Brunei has nobility. Is a substantial part of the population of Brunei nobles or aristocrats?

Ann: Yes, Brunei has an heredity nobility with a complex structure of titles and entitlements, and the Sultan can award lifetime peerages. I am not sure of what percentage of the population today falls into either category but for a small nation there seems to be many with noble titles.

RSJ Blog: Your article mentions that not everyone is satisfied with the current political system in Brunei. Are these people fighting for constitutional monarchy? No monarchy at all?

Ann: People cannot advocate for change to the system, much less ‘fight’ for it in the stronger sense as occurs in other countries. To question or criticize the current monarchial system is seditious, and because the Sultan is head of Islam, it can be heresy. The recent Syariah Penal Code Order added another layer of censorship upon an already heavily censored society. As there are no elections in Brunei, the Sultan personally appoints Bruneians to government positions that they hold ‘at his pleasure’. There is no government opposition, and without elections, there is little need for political parties. The one political party permitted in Brunei, had to affirm its support for the existing Monarchical system.

RSJ Blog: Thank you so much for this great contribution to studies of modern monarchy!

The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire

This is a classic: The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire by Leslie P. Peirce (Oxford University Press, 1993). In this excellent text, Peirce presents a nuanced understanding of the Ottoman harem and its dynastic politics for a western audience.

            To start, Peirce explains what the imperial harem was and what it decidedly was not. Orientalist assumptions have profoundly colored how westerners understood the harem, painting sexually lurid pictures. In fact, the harem was not especially sexual but was rather the place where the sultan’s family (his mother, consorts, children, and many, many slave servants) resided. Peirce emphasizes that part of this misunderstanding has come from modern western ideas of public vs private space (something which many historians of queenship are not doubt familiar). While the harem had restricted access, it was a space of power. Even the sultan was generally secluded; Peirce helps readers visualize this by describing how power in the Ottoman world was a function of outer to inner, rather than down to up as in many western places. The closer one moved inward, to the sultan, the greater that person’s power.

            In order to understand the vital role women played in Ottoman sovereignty, Peirce next explains the dynasty’s reproductive strategies and succession practices. Although the first couple of Ottoman rulers made dynastic marriages, that practice quickly came to a halt as the family increased their power. As the premier dynasty in the region, the Ottomans had no need for legitimation through alliances. The trade-off of outside family alliances was not seen as worth the high-status brides. Consequently, the dynasty turned to reproduction through slave concubines, initially following a one mother-one son policy, which was broken in the 1500s. Because the Ottoman dynasty was of such high status, concubines who birthed sons were retroactively ennobled. This enabled these mothers to serve as part of the ruling dynasty.

            Initially, when a prince reached his majority (late teens), he was sent to rule in a provincial city. His mother went with him, and was his main protector and one of his main advisors. This was a high-stakes duty because the dynasty practiced widespread fratricide until the end of the sixteenth century. The Ottoman dynasty as a whole was always regarded as more important than any individual, which sometimes led to fathers executing sons who threatened (or were thought to threaten) the father’s rule. A mother whose son did not became sultan was likely to lose her son to strangulation. In the generations after Süleyman (known as “the Magnificent” in the west), the pattern of father-son succession changed to that of seniority: the eldest male in the dynasty succeeded. A number of elements caused this transition, but the main causes were the ending of princely careers (the princes did not go to the provinces by stayed in the palace), the cessation of fratricide, the sedentarization of the dynasty as offensive war slowed, and the succession of several young sultans. These were all interrelated. When a young sultan who had not proven his reproductive capacity succeeded, it was unwise to execute his brothers and risk the extinction of the dynasty. With the princes remaining in the palace, they were not permitted to reproduce and thereby achieve full adulthood, which meant by around 1600 and beyond, every sultan was of unproven reproductive capacity. Fratricide was also more difficult for the populace to accept when it happened in Istanbul, in prominent view (one sultan was buried with his nineteen underage sons, killed by their elder half-brother). With a series of unproven sultans, the queen mother – valide sultan – became the glue that held the Ottoman dynasty together.

            Peirce explains how the power of early sultans’ favorites, such as Hurrem the favorite of Süleyman, ultimately led to an increase in the power the valide sultan exercised in the 1600s. This power became institutionalized, and was reflected in the massive public works that queen mothers undertook and the huge stipends they received. Since valide sultans were beyond their sexual years (even if they were physically able, they were seen as socially past that stage of life), they were held in higher esteem and possessed greater power and influence than the sultan’s concubines. With the changed mode of succession, the “the relationship between mother and son … became the fundamental dynastic bond, in terms not only of its political utility … but also its public celebration” (229). The valide sultan represented the elder generation and so was the head of the dynastic family. She might even be called on to sanction the deposition of one sultan and his replacement by another Ottoman, again emphasizing how sovereignty was vested in the family as a whole. Her role was particularly important during the early 1600s when a series of youthful and incompetent sultans ruled, but waned over time. Her official role could not infringe on sultanic authority.            

Peirce’s work excellently showcases how the early-modern Ottoman state relied on a family model of rule, although the sultan was obviously supreme. The valide sultan’s role was not a corruption of sovereignty but a necessary part of dynastic rule. The book also details how princesses, through their marriages to high-ranking officials, helped their mothers form blocs of power that could ultimately benefit their brothers. In the Ottoman system, “the principal tension within the dynastic family was generational competition for power” (285). As the family elder, the valide sultan had a vital role, although she could not obstruct the sultan’s exercise of power.

Playing Their Part: Vice-Regal Consorts of New South Wales 1788-2019

Playing Their Part: Vice-Regal Consorts of New South Wales 1788-2019 was edited by Joy Hughes, Carol Liston, and Christine Wright (Royal Australian Historical Society, 2020). You can purchase a digital copy of the fascinating, beautiful, and affordable book here. This book gives a fascinating look into the lives of the women and men who represented the British Monarchy in New South Wales. Although the Governor of New South Wales was an official posting, the role of consort was a required, albeit unofficial, one. Governors who did not have spouses would have a daughter or sister fill the role.

Royal Australian Historical Society

The vice-regal consorts were supposed to set social standards and to be above reproach. It was mainly a social role: the consort was to attend social functions, support charities, and not be overtly political. The consorts played a vital role in ensuring the success of the vice-regal governors, and several of the consorts were instrumental in advancing their spouse’s careers. For instance, the first governor, Phillip, owed a great deal to his two wives, who helped him to advance socially. Other consorts served as secretaries to their husbands, and one, Anna Josepha King (consort 1800-1806) was even known as Queen Josepha (page 31) because she was so helpful to and influential over her husband.

Nearly all of the consorts engaged in traditional feminine patronage, supporting orphans, schools for underprivileged girls, mother and infant health, and later, the Girl Guides. Generally, their social welfare work endeared them to the New South Wales population, although there might still be criticisms in the newspapers about who and how they entertained. The biography of Nea, Lady Robinson (consort 1872-1879), highlights how she was a social success overall, yet was still subtly criticized for not doing “enough to raise standards in social life” (91).

Many of the consorts kept personal diaries and sent many letters, which served as valuable sources for these biographies. A number of the consorts really come alive on the page through these personal anecdotes. Lady Woodward’s comment that she moved around so much she learned she could not plant a lettuce and then eat it (172) was one of many amusing and lively comments in the book. Newspapers also served as a major source for the book, which provided valuable insight into how the media portrayed and perceived the various consorts. While the papers often praised the vice-regal consorts, frequently commenting on their fashion (not much has changed!), the papers would also critique.

Of particular interest is Margaret, Countess of Jersey (consort 1891-1893). Her involvement in the conservative party organization the Primrose League and her role as founding president of the Victoria League “places Lady Jersey as one of the leading imperialists in Edwardian Britain” (106). Her biography highlights some of the ways that aristocratic women promoted imperialism and also reminds readers that women had a vital role to play in enacting British power. While women were disadvantaged in some respects (such as their lack of the vote, which the Countess supported), elite British women also upheld the hierarchies from which they benefited.

The biographies are also microcosms of societal changes. Many of the earlier governors and consorts were gentry, followed by several members of the high nobility. Later, there were many servicemen, until the 1990s, when Governor Samuels was appointed, the first lawyer and Jewish governor. His wife Jacqueline, was an actor who had had a long career in both the arts and at universities. The Samuelses were followed by Sir Nicholas Michael Shehadie, the first male consort, and Governor Professor Marie Bashir. Since 1946, the vice-regal families have been Australian, indicating recognition of the power and prestige of Australia itself.

The book is full of fascinating little facts, such as that Elizabeth Northcott, who served as consort to her father when her mother was ill, was required to curtsy to him when they met in the morning (168)! Grandchildren had to curtsy to their grandfather governor as well (173). Lady Rawson kept a pet kangaroo and some parrots (125).* These biographies also highlight how mobile people were during the colonial era. Many of the consorts had traveled with their spouses around the world, from posts in Canada, South Africa, and India, among others.

Finally, the book has many great images and photographs. Sketches and photographs chronicle the changing face of Government House, while images of many of the consorts provide an intimate touch. For anyone interested in the colonial government of New South Wales, this book will prove invaluable. It is also accessible for people with a general interest in monarchical studies, given that one does not have to be an expert in Australian history to enjoy the biographies. Overall, this book provides a great look into how monarchies showcase their power through “offshoot” (if you will) monarchies.

*This reader was surprised Lady Rawson was the only consort specifically mentioned as keeping a kangaroo as a pet. If I were a vice-regal consort, my number-one goal would be to have at least one pet kangaroo!

Interview with Matthew Firth

RSJ Blog: Hello Matthew, thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview for us!

You’ve done a fascinating study on the ‘Character of the Treacherous Woman in the passiones of Early Medieval English Royal Martyrs’. Can you give us some background about why you chose this fascinating subject? Why these three royal women in particular?

Matthew: The starting point for this article, as with so much of my research, was the reign of Æthelred ‘the Unready.’ It was a reign that began in murder. Æthelred succeeded to the throne in 978 around the age of ten, following the assassination of his half-brother Edward ‘the Martyr.’ At his side was his mother Ælfthryth. Ælfthryth would wield significant political power in Æthelred’s minority and likely served as queen-regent.

She is a fascinating figure of late tenth-century English history. In contemporary sources Ælfthryth is a powerful and politically active woman: charter witness, landholder, legal advocate, reformer, patron of female religious houses, mediator with the king. She was also England’s first-known native-born queen-consort to be anointed as such. Yet, in the minds of the post-Conquest hagiographers and historians who relayed Edward’s assassination, Ælfthryth’s agency was anathema and it was she, in her thirst for power, who was the architect of Edward’s murder. This is a tradition that seems to start about a century after the event, and there is no contemporary evidence for her involvement in the plot.

So, as I began to research Ælfthryth’s evolving legacy, I also began to notice similarities between her characterisations and those of other royal women in early English saints’ lives. And here there are two tropes running parallel. Firstly, that of the so-called ‘boy-king’ martyrs, a reasonably common sub-genre of English hagiography which revolves around the murder of an innocent. And secondly, that of the ‘wicked queen,’ which is something of a universal motif with biblical and classical precedents. My survey of these saints’ lives landed on three cases that typified the intersection between these tropes: St Æthelberht of East Anglia and Queen Cynethryth of Mercia, St Kenelm of Mercia and his sister Cwenthryth, and Edward and Ælfthryth. The question then became, what underlies this literary construct? What societal attitudes would inform the transition of such royal women from early English history into stock literary antagonists at the hands of post-Conquest writers?  

RSJ Blog: Is this a well sourced area of royal studies? Did you encounter any challenges during your research?

Matthew: It’s a bit mixed. The ‘boy-kings’ of pre-Conquest England received some significant attention in the twentieth century. Even if commentary on the role of the female antagonists in their stories is limited, it does mean there is a body of scholarship to draw on. It also means there are accessible transcriptions of the texts, though only the Life of St Kenelm has an up-to-date critical edition. The Passion of St Æthelberht in particular could use a new edition as significant new manuscript traditions have come to light since it last received dedicated attention in 1917! This said, I am fortunate that in all cases the hagiographies exist in multiple manuscripts and that many of these have been digitised. Though the secondary challenge that then presents itself is sorting out which narrative tradition each manuscript belongs to; the lives of Æthelberht, Kenelm and Edward each have multiple progenitors.

RSJ Blog: Finally – can you tell us about any projects you’re working on at the moment?

Matthew: I’m mainly working on my thesis at the moment (which is what my supervisors want to hear!) – there I’m looking at the historicity of depictions of early medieval English kingship in the sagas of Icelanders. Which said, I do have a couple of other interesting projects on the go.

I recently published an article on the importance of sea-power to English kingship in the tenth century in the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology with Dr Erin Sebo, and we’re collaborating again on an article examining the fabrication of King Hiarni in Saxo Grammaticus’ Gesta Danorum. She and I also have an edited volume in the works on extreme or alien emotive display in medieval North Sea cultures. We’re quite excited about that project, it’s bringing together an excellent group of scholars from Celtic, Scandinavian, English and Frisian studies working across history, literature and archaeology disciplines.

Otherwise, I’m working as a research assistant on the Flinders University-led project Exiles: Medieval Responses to Isolation. One of the outputs from this will be a collection of themed essays for an upcoming issue of Neophilologus. For that, I’m writing an article, together with my colleague Cassandra Schilling, that looks at queenly exile in Old English literature and the correlating experiences of widowed queen-consorts in tenth-century England.

And that’s probably enough to be going on with! There are a few other projects on the horizon, but for now the thesis beckons…

RSJ Blog: Thanks again for talking to us!

The Proclamations of the Tudor Queens

This is another classic, The Proclamations of the Tudor Queens by Frederic A. Youngs, Jr (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976). Our sincerest thanks go to Valerie Schutte, who has authored this guest post for us. For more of Valerie’s work, please visit her website about Tudor Queens.

Frederic A. Youngs’s study, The Proclamations of the Tudor Queens, may be 44 years old, but it contains many ideas that still ring true for studying England’s first two regnant queens. He takes royal proclamations as the jumping point for comparing the two queens, as only one decade earlier, Paul F. Hughes and James F. Larkin produced their three-volume set of Tudor Royal Proclamations (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1964, 1969), offering transcriptions of the proclamations of all five Tudor monarchs. Youngs builds upon Hughes’s and Larkin’s work by offering analysis of the proclamations issued during Mary’s and Elizabeth’s reign, while in the same year, Rudolph W. Heinze did the same for the proclamations of Henry VII, Henry VIII, and Edward VI, in The Proclamations of the Tudor Kings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976).

            Youngs shows that royal proclamations were important because they had the ability to reach a wide audience, being both printed and hung in public spaces, as well as read aloud for the illiterate. They were also temporary and limited, so as not to interfere with Parliamentary legislation. Both Mary and Elizabeth issued royal proclamations in response to crises and disorder, as well as to assist with the interim religious settlements until their first Parliaments met. Both queens also issued royal proclamations on dissident books which challenged official policy, although Elizabeth issued several more as she had to deal with both Catholic and Protestant dissent. Primarily, they used the proclamations as temporary legislation or to notify the public of some new government administration.

            For the Tudor queens, often proclamations were issued to protect their personal honor, not from personal interest; Henry VIII left behind personally corrected draft proclamations while neither queen did. Rather, Mary and Elizabeth’s proclamations were more about public policy. During Mary’s reign, she and her Privy Council issued 64 royal proclamations, while during Elizabeth’s reign she and her Council issued 382. Comparisons of these proclamations show that Mary used proclamations to explain changes in religion and justify her decisions, such as to marry Philip, while Elizabeth did not give her opinions to the masses. Youngs repeatedly emphasizes that proclamations were meant to deal with issues in the short term, until Parliament could enact permanent law or the specific issue at hand was handled.

            In three sections, Youngs shows how proclamations were used to deal with matters of security, social and economic interest, and religious settlement and dissent. For security purposes, both queens issued proclamations in response to rebellions and to keep the peace in various localities. For economic management, Mary and Elizabeth issued a total of 225 proclamations on topics ranging from coinage to wages to market regulation; both queens had to address the wool trade in regards to their current foreign relations. Youngs points out that one of earliest and most pressing matters for both queens was the religious settlement. He writes, “although the permanent settlements at which they arrived were diametrically opposed, the half-sisters experienced the identical need to preserve order and to prevent religious contention, and thus there was a great similarity between the interim settlements: they regulated preaching, controlled the press, forbade plays which touched on religion and matters of state, and provided instruction on doctrine (183).” All of this was done using proclamations.

            Unsurprisingly, with Elizabeth’s reign being 40 years longer than Mary’s, there are many more proclamations and evidence on which Youngs draws upon. But he does make a valiant effort to compare and incorporate both queens in all sections of his book. It reinforces how both queens faced similar challenges and rebellions which required royal response. For example, Youngs spends a whole chapter demonstrating how religious opposition in both reigns was greatly fostered through print; dissenting books caused continual problems. Yet, both regimes used similar tactics against dissent. A Marian statute against seditious books was reissued and applied in Elizabeth’s first Parliament, and again in 1581.

What is so remarkable about Youngs’s study is that in his comparison he does not find either queen wanting in her abilities as monarch, nor use one queen as a foil to bolster the other. He straight-forwardly explores the proclamations issued by each queen, which were often done to address an immediate threat, and explains how each queen similarly used proclamations often to the same effect, relying upon the precedent and tradition of their father. He also remarks upon instances when Elizabeth followed the precedent of Mary regarding the issuance or subject matter of a specific proclamation. For example, in 1553, Mary issued a proclamation to enforce nine previous statutes. Similarly, in 1561, Elizabeth ordered that thirteen of her statutes be enforced. Refreshingly, he finds many similarities among the proclamations, but does not do so at the expense of Mary. Youngs’s book truly seems ahead of its time in exploring aspects of governance that Mary demonstrated for Elizabeth and should be given its due as seminal to the study of the Tudor queens.

Loyalty to the Monarchy in Late Medieval and Early Modern Britain, c.1400-1688

Loyalty to the Monarchy in Late Medieval and Early Modern Britain, c.1400-1688 was edited by Matthew Ward and Matthew Hefferan (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020). Matthew Ward graciously summarized the book for interested readers. Thank you, Matthew! This sounds like a fantastic collection!

Purchase Here

The book explores the place of loyalty in the relationship between the monarchy and their subjects in late medieval and early modern Britain. It focuses on a period in which political and religious upheaval tested the bonds of loyalty between ruler and ruled. The era also witnessed changes in how loyalty was developed and expressed. The first section focuses on royal propaganda and expressions of loyalty from the gentry and nobility under the Yorkist and early Tudor monarchs, as well as the fifteenth-century Scottish monarchy. The chapters illustrate late-medieval conceptions of loyalty, exploring how they manifested themselves and how they persisted and developed into early modernity. Loyalty to the later Tudors and early Stuarts is scrutinised in the second section, gauging the growing level of dissent in the build-up to the British Civil Wars of the seventeenth century. The final section dissects the role that the concept of loyalty played during and after the Civil Wars, looking at how divergent groups navigated this turbulent period and examining the ways in which loyalty could be used as a means of surviving the upheaval.

Four chapters deal with the issue of propaganda and royal attempts to foster loyalty among their subjects. The first of these, by Emma Levitt, considers the importance of tournaments in allowing the first Yorkist king, Edward IV, to cultivate friendship and personal loyalty among the English nobility following his usurpation of the crown. Wesley Corrêa’s chapter focuses on royal propaganda under the Yorkist and early Tudor monarchies and suggests that propaganda was not, at this time, a one-way flow of information, but rather a dialogue in which the crown used the channels of information available to it to promote itself and court the people for approval, legitimacy, taxation and loyalty. Likewise, Michael A. Heimos uses two important legal cases from the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries to examine what the common law concept of ‘allegiance’ reveals about the way in which contemporaries understood and discussed the loyalty that each subject owed to the monarchy. Finally, Janet Dickinson examines how Elizabeth I was able to use the concept of courtly love to foster loyalty among her nobles, some of whom had difficulty reconciling their Catholic faith with their allegiance to Protestant England.

On the other side of the coin, many of the chapters in this volume are concerned with the way in which the subjects of British monarchs expressed their loyalty. Callum Watson offers a valuable re-reading of Blind Harry’s fifteenth-century poem The Wallace to argue that, rather than being a subversive text written in support of those dissatisfied with King James III of Scotland’s rule, the poem was intended to encourage those with grievances against the king to cling to those values for which the king was supposed to stand, even when the king failed to embody those values himself. Other chapters explore how loyalty to the monarchy was demonstrated for less idealistic reasons, and more in the self-interest of the person or community professing loyalty. Simon Lambe uses the Paulet family of Somerset as a case study to demonstrate how expressions of loyalty to the monarchy could be used by a gentry family in the hope of receiving royal patronage in the form of land and office, especially as religious reforms gained pace in the 1530s. Similarly, Valerie Schutte uses the previously untapped evidence of book dedications during Henry VIII’s reign to show how the sixteenth-century nobility used dedications to profess loyalty to the king in the hope of receiving royal favour and influence as they navigated a new religious and political landscape. John Pagan, meanwhile, explores how the royal colony of Virginia sought to use the reciprocal relationship of loyalty and protection with the king of England to avoid a parliamentary tax that the colonists found unduly burdensome, but were ultimately unsuccessful in the face of the British monarchy’s unwillingness to use grievance petitions as vehicles for questioning imperial policies formulated by the king and parliament. Finally, James Harris investigates how ‘repeated testimonies of duty and affection’ were used in Cornwall and southwest Wales to reaffirm loyalty to the crown following the restoration of the monarchy in the second half of the seventeenth century.

A number of chapters in this volume are, by contrast, interested in disloyalty, dissent and subversion. Jamie Gianoutsos examines how religious persecution in the seventeenth century tested the boundaries of loyalty to the English monarchy. Focusing on the persecution of three key puritan protestors, John Bastwick, Henry Burton and William Prynne, Gianoutsos argues that these men adopted a mixture of religious polemic, historical exempla and gendered language to successfully justify disobedience to the English Church. Religious division was not the only cause of dissent in the seventeenth century. The reign of Charles I, and the Civil Wars which it encompassed, was also divisive. This is reflected in the chapter by Richard Bullock, which assesses how sheriffs in the East Midlands found their loyalties divided between the king and their local community when Charles I sought alternative sources of revenue to parliamentary subsidies and the enhanced use of prerogative rights. Edward Legon, meanwhile, examines how disloyalty to the crown continued even after the Restoration in 1660, often with dangerous consequences for those involved. Nevertheless, despite the opportunities for dissent that the Civil Wars presented, others remained loyal to the British monarchy. This included, as Andrew Lind’s chapter demonstrates, a number of Scottish Royalists who, despite the dangers that support of the crown presented for them, remained steadfast in their deep-rooted belief that good subjects owed loyalty to the king.

Book of the Month: Counsel and Command in Early Modern English Thought by Joanne Paul

This month the RSJ Blog is delighted to feature Counsel and Command in Early Modern English Thought by Joanne Paul.

Book available here

Joanne’s book takes up the issue of counsel in early modern England. As her introduction expertly lays out, counsel is tricky: if counsel is required, it diminishes the monarch’s sovereignty but if counsel is optional, it becomes essentially useless.

The book argues for three things:

            it provides an account of the move from the monarchy of counsel to modern notions of sovereignty, making the argument that the paradoxes inherent in the discourse of counsel prompt this transition. Second, it contributes to an understanding of the boundaries of this change, in particular the division between public and private that is essential to modern ideas of politics. … Thus, third, this study contributes a new perspective on the development of modern ‘political science’, by tracing the moves from moral philosophising to historical knowledge to the observation of contemporary affairs in the writings about the counsellor (4).

The first chapter, on the humanist counsellor, focuses on the writings of Erasmus, More and Castiglione. These works grapple with ideas about princely education, too, and the balance between instruction and counsel. The second chapter investigates what humanists said about the timing of giving counsel. Erasmus and More largely argued for silence until the opportune moment, while a younger generation of writers, such as Thomas Starkey and Thomas Elyot, disagreed. They wanted counsel to be more public and institutionalized. Although these humanists disagreed on when a counsellor should speak up, they all agreed that rulers needed to listen to counsel.

Chapter three looks at Machiavellian counsel in England. Machiavelli argued it was better for the ruler to be good and capable than his counsellors to be. In addition, he thought counsellors would probably be selfish and should be kept in check. The ruler needed to command and dominate his counsellors, a contrast with humanist arguments. Exploring eight related aspects of Machiavellian counsel, this chapter expertly contrasts it with humanist perspectives that saw counsel in more positive terms.

Chapter four looks at the acceptance of Machiavellian ideas even by those opposed to his work. Prudence in the political sphere is separated from morality. Politics becomes morally flexible or even amoral, and counsellors are not expected to keep a ruler from being a tyrant by cultivating the monarch’s virtue. Chapter five, “Late Tudor Counsellors,” focuses on how these new ideas, coupled with “weak” monarchs (children and women) led to increased institutionalization of counsel as represented by Parliament and the Privy Council. Humanist texts promoted the idea that child and female monarchs would be in particular need of advice, but Machiavellian ideas suggested individual, selfish counsellors could and would exploit these monarchs for their own gain. This tension helped to change the way counsel operated.

Chapter six looks at “Reason of State,” wherein knowledge of the contemporary world, rather than virtue, is the main qualification for a counsellor. The chapter argues the Stuart monarchs preferred this idea because it helped them to re-assert monarchical power after the “weak” (and so exceptionally counsel-needing) late Tudor rulers. The counsellor is further subordinated to the monarch because he transmits information rather than guidance on morally-correct governance.

Chapter seven looks at some of the counsel-related problems faced by James VI/I and Charles I. While both kings saw counsel as subordinate to their authority, they relied on personal favorites as counsellors. On the other side, theorists and politicians saw Parliament as the best choice of counsel, contending that Parliament’s self-interest was the state’s interest. Another aspect of the English Civil War is the fight over counsel. Through investigation of the writings of theorists such as Thomas Hobbs, the chapter argues that ideas about counsel fade away in the later 1600s as discourses of sovereignty come to the fore.

This fascinating book gives insight not only into the political thought of early modern England, but also offers ideas on why and how political discourse has changed over time.

The blog also caught up with Joanne to ask her a few questions.

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

Joanne: This book emerged out of my PhD, which I completed under the supervisor of Professor Quentin Skinner at Queen Mary, University of London. From my undergraduate onwards I had been interested in what we might think of as the ‘middle men’ in the Tudor court, as well as in the writings of the time which theorised about their role. The Tudor political discourse thought a lot about these intermediaries, who sat between ‘the people’ and ‘the ruler’. When I first sat down with Professor Skinner, we discussed that two ways in which we might explore these figures and the writings about them: (a) work on ambassadors and themes of representation or (b) work on counsellors and themes of rhetoric. I chose the latter. This was largely because almost every political text of the time, especially in England, devotes significant attention to the role of ‘the counsellor’, and yet there was no book-length study of the topic. I focused particularly on the relationship between ‘counsel’ (giving advice) and ‘command’ (giving orders): a relationship which thinkers have been contemplating since Homer and which reached a head (as it were) during the English Civil War. The ‘paradox’ is fairly straightforward: if your advice isn’t obligatory and can be ignored, what is the point in giving it (especially when it might come at great cost)? On the other hand: if it is obligatory, then it isn’t advice. In either case, counsel becomes less important than command. The working out of this paradox shapes much of the political thinking of Tudor and Stuart England, defining events such as the Break with Rome and the Civil War and sweeping up figures such as Thomas More, Elizabeth I and Charles I.

RSJ Blog: For students who want to undertake similar work, what archives or printed sources do you recommend starting with?

Joanne: Fortunately, much of what I was looking at is available in print form, and some in modern editions (such as Utopia, The Prince, Leviathan, etc). Those that have not been printed since the Early Modern Period can be found on online resources such as Early English Books Online. It is difficult to read any political tract of the age without coming across the figure of the counsellor (and most were written by counsellors themselves and offered as advice!). For those looking at the inner workings of counsel itself, which is not something I devoted much time to in this book but is work that needs doing, State Papers Online is a fantastic repository of letters offered by counsellors (formal and informal) to those they advised (not always their monarch). Most calendars of papers (for instance those on British History Online) also give a good impression of the type of advice given, how it was framed, the rhetorical devises used, and so on. But I do think it is difficult to understand such sources without understanding the widely-held and circulated ideas about these matters. There were essentially guidebooks about how to give advice, based on the texts about rhetoric taught in schools. I think we can wander astray if we do not understand the intellectual framework in which these counsellors were consciously and unconsciously operating.

RSJ Blog: What are you working on now?

Joanne: I have just finished my first draft of a narrative history of the sixteenth-century Dudley family, to be published with Michael Joseph (Penguin imprint), a book I had the idea for while working on Counsel and Command. I am also working on modern editions of two sixteenth-century texts. The first (for Tudor and Stuart Texts) is The French Historie, written by Anne Dowriche in 1589, which I also used in Counsel and Command. This is an often overlooked text by a female Elizabethan writer, and I think it deserves a modern edition. I am also producing a new edition of Utopia by Thomas More (for Oxford World Classics), based on the mid-sixteenth-century English translation. This early translation of More’s text is interesting in its own right, and I will be striving to bring that out in my editing. This work follows up on my book on Thomas More’s thought, published with Polity in 2017.   

RSJ Blog: Thank you!