Interview with Jennifer Mara DeSilva

Jennifer Mara DeSilva is an Associate Professor of History at Ball State University (Indiana, USA). Her research focuses on Renaissance Italy and the Papal Court, especially cultural, political, and social history of the Renaissance and Reformation movements. Her current research focuses on how individuals and groups at the Papal Court established identities through office-holding, rituals, and relationships with groups and sites. She has also just edited the first thematic issue of the Royal Studies Journal on the topic of “taking possession”.

 

Kristen and Cathleen: Hi Jennifer, thanks for doing this interview for our readers at the Royal Studies Journal Blog! Could you maybe first tell us a bit how this special issue of the Royal Studies Journal came to be, and what the idea behind the topic of “taking possession” is? Who takes possession of what?

Jennifer: Hi Kristen and Cathleen, it is a pleasure to speak about this exciting new issue of the Royal Studies Journal. This issue began life as a series of panels that I organized at the 2015 Sixteenth Century Studies Conference in Vancouver, Canada. The CFP invited scholars who work broadly on entry rituals and ceremonies of possession across the early modern world. I am a firm believer in the importance of conferences to bring scholars together who work on similar themes. Successful interactions create new communities that sometimes result in printed studies. A subset of the papers presented offered a conversation about the diversity of possession rituals in projecting messages about royal authority and identity, so I proposed a special issue on the topic to the RSJ editor-in-chief. One of the advantages of collections that emerge from conferences is that the contributors have already done the core research work, so working up an article-length study does not take too long. Conversations with other panelists and the audience help to expand their conception of the topic and its context. Also, big conferences like SCSC draw scholars from all career levels, which incorporates early career scholars into the conversation and helps to publicize their work. Keeping our field dynamic depends upon bringing new people and new ideas to the table.

The concept of “taking possession” has been around for a long time, but has mostly been explored in rather traditional forms: royal progresses by new monarchs, processions that affirmed the pope’s episcopal role, and New World territorial conquests. While these are the best-known examples of individuals and groups “taking possession” of communities, these studies only scratch the surface of the concept. The act of “taking possession” is a mechanism for asserting authority, reputation, and relationships. This has been done for centuries in a wide variety of settings and by far more people than princes, popes, and pioneers. RSJ Volume 3 Issue 2 is an opportunity to consider how early moderns applied the idea of “taking possession” to their own situations and means in order to project messages about their position in the local and global hierarchy and the privileges and responsibilities that their positions entailed. What we found was that the stratum immediately below monarchs was quite active on behalf of their royal masters. Ambassadors, cardinals, legates, agents, and even city fathers used entry ceremonies to negotiate reputations for themselves and the monarchs that they represented or greeted. Examining these events allowed us to consider how a monarch and state’s reputation for strength was constantly reinforced across a wide variety of sites, from the national cardinal’s titular church in Rome to congested city streets. The spaces that were possessed – communities, churches, squares, and intersections – are better understood as sites and opportunities for expressing strength based on relationships and resources. True possession was rarely had, but monarchs and their proxies avidly sought the local reputation and influence that resulted from these events.

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Jean Bourdichon: Le Voyage de Gênes: entrée de Louis XII à Gênes

Kristen and Cathleen: So, taking possession of a space was far more ceremonial, symbolic, and a representation of authority. But inhowfar are such ritual entries representations of already existing power relationships, and how do they contribute to a change in this relationship?

Jennifer: Up to a point these events reflect and display the extent of existing hierarchies. A minor state is not going to rise above a major state simply because it puts on an impressive show. However, these events are opportunities to publicly display relationships within those hierarchies, which involves a larger group in the reputation-making process and lays plain the composition, growth, and rivalry of factions. Accounts of ritual entries allow historians to see how witnesses quantified reputation and reacted to displays produced by monarchs and their proxies. These accounts offer a glimpse into the deeper effects of “mere ritual” and sometimes provide commentary on developments in political relationships, as John Hunt’s article shows.

Kristen and Cathleen: You brought together authors concerned with entries in early modern Lille, Rome, and the Papal states. Are there any similarities across early modern Europe considering the actors of such entries, the ritual forms, or the expectations from local and distant audiences?

Jennifer: There are certainly broad similarities across ritual entries. Ellen Wurtzel’s study of the new monarchs, Archduke Albert and Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia, in Lille and Cloe Cavero Carondelet’s study of a proxy agent in Rome, standing in for King Philip III of Spain’s newest cardinal, reveal this clearly. Specifically, these articles show similarities in how the ritual expected participants to travel through spaces, greet specific people, perform acts, and thus have their identities, positions, and responsibilities affirmed by the ritual and the witnessing crowd. Nonetheless, this concept of “taking possession” through ritual action was applied in diverse ways and spaces. The frequent publication of accounts of entries through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries shows an interest in documenting and disseminating both ideal rituals and innovative developments across Europe. However, we must not forget that the tone, experience, and political results of these events could vary widely and depended on the individual context and the specific relations between organizers, “possessors”, and observers.

Kristen and Cathleen: You said already a bit about the entries from the point of view of the possessor respectively how these entries were supposed to be viewed by the possessed. However, if we turn the perspective around, were such possessions also a sign of the need for the subjects to accept the authority; i.e. a symbol of power from the ruled over the ruler?

Jennifer: Yes, in many cases. The rituals established a relationship between the ritual actor/monarch/authority and the community. The well-known progresses that French kings made were similar in purpose to the pope’s possesso ritual that involved traveling with the entire Papal Court from the Vatican Palace across the city to his episcopal see of St. John Lateran. In both cases the rulers followed traditional itineraries through their cities in order to meet with distinct groups and ratify their privileges and relationships with the central authority. As with other aspects of social life in communities with low literacy rates, public memory played an important role in these events. The observing community was called on to affirm the historical roots of the ritual forms, the legitimacy of the actors involved, and the legality of the adopted roles. While it was possible to avoid witnessing these entries as a statement against the proposed authority, this was not always a profitable avenue of negotiation. In many cases the situation was more delicate. As Charles Keenan’s article shows, observers might accept the individual’s right to office, but have a conflict with his or her intended policy and future actions.

Kristen and Cathleen: There is a huge emphasis on the rituals and spaces of these entries, which raises the question of sources – what kind of sources have survived to bring these entries to life? Is Geertz’s thick description possible from a 400-500 years distance? Or, in different words: how can we today understand the (symbolic) language of rituals?

Jennifer: There are a wonderful array of sources that have survived that help us understand the mechanism of and reaction to rituals of possession. These include published and personal accounts, images of events and apparati – see the British Library’s online collection of Renaissance Festival Books –, records of planning, construction, and payments, as well as the spaces themselves in some cases. While not all records survive for each event, enough do in cities, galleries, libraries and archives worldwide to reveal how there were global norms and patterns of action and interest on the part of both actors and observers. Geertz’s method of thick description is possible, but hinges on immersion in the sources, acknowledging the reality of festive labor, and using context to its maximal effect. The language of rituals, symbolic as it may be, has maintained certain core ideas over the centuries.

Kristen and Cathleen: Finally, could you please tell us a bit about how these early modern rituals of taking possession are still influential today, e.g. todays importance of the keys of the city, or the Lord Mayor’s Show in London?

Jennifer: Modern communities continue to hold entry rituals to greet leaders and celebrities, and politicians seeking election participate in progresses across their electoral districts. They depend upon public observers to show support, negotiate relationships, and thus build their reputations. Our ability to record and manipulate these events has grown with the development of the modern media and especially with the proliferation of individualized digital platforms. Today we are more likely to see rituals of possession as an integral part of celebrity or political culture, but the presence of an important or popular figure riding in a parade waving to crowds – be it members of a champion local soccer team, a newly crowned or elected head of state, or pop singers performing on a float – remains the same. We continue to participate in the process by which messages of reputation based on office or achievement are publicly ratified by traveling to and through landmark spaces under the public eye. These events are wide ranging, from traditional royal or ecclesiastical progresses to the Olympic flame relay and Santa Claus parades. Even in the twenty-first century, we seek out opportunities to interact locally with political, religious, and cultural leaders, and share our communities with them. Perhaps it is a common human need that makes us want to stake a claim to visitors, just as they want to “take possession” of us.

Kristen and Cathleen: Thank you very much for this interview, Jennifer! All of you who are now even more curious to read more about taking possession of a space, head over to the Royal Studies Journal, and enjoying reading the first thematic issue!

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The very beginning of the Olympic Torch starting it’s entry into Rio de Janeiro in 2016

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Interview with Theresa Earenfight

Theresa Earenfight is a professor of history at Seattle University. She is the author of The King’s Other Body: María of Castile and the Crown of Aragon (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009) and Queenship in Medieval Europe (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). She is currently working on Catherine of Aragon and a database of royal pregnancies in Europe.

Kristen and Cathleen: Hi Theresa, thanks for doing this interview for our readers at the Royal Studies Journal Blog! First of all, could you tell us a bit more about how you became interested in medieval and early modern queenship?

Theresa: I loved the history of queens since middle school, especially those rousing popular biographies that I devoured like a genteel bodice ripper, but with real people, not fictional heroines. In grad school, I worked with Joe O’Callaghan, whose work on Spanish kings got me interested in monarchy, specifically the fifteenth century Crown of Aragon because of its fascinating federative character. Well, Alfonso V (1416-58) spent most of his time after 1432 conquering and governing the kingdom of Naples, which left the peninsular realms kingless. At first I thought, oh, it must be ruled by his brother or a high-ranking prelate. Wrong on both counts. I was actually surprised to find out first, that Queen Maria (sister of the king of Castile) was in fact running the realm and second, that she faced no serious pushback from the nobles and clerics in Spain. None. Not a peep of the sort of hostile criticism that contemporary French queens faced. That really surprised me, and I’ve been trying to figure out the dynamics of monarchy ever since.

Kristen and Cathleen: Currently you are working on an article comparing medieval attitudes about three queens: Maria of Castile, Isabel of Castile, and Catherine of Aragon. Have you found any interesting commonalities about what writers said about these queens, some who had children and some who did not?

Theresa: The cross-generational commonalities are striking, and I think it is due largely to the political culture of Castile where they were all raised. They were all educated similarly and they all read, or were exposed to, many of the same writers. Some of this literature is misogynistic (there is a strong “querela de mujeres” strand) but much of what they read, or at least what their libraries contained, was strongly supportive of women in monarchy. I think this shaped Maria of Castile first, who simply stepped into the breach when Alfonso moved to Naples and stayed there. Isabel was stewed in this, but she was not supposed to reign, and only after the death of her brothers did she seize the throne and negotiated a deal with Fernando making him king-consort, not king-regnant in Castile. That is important, for both her own sovereignty and that of her daughter, Catherine and Catherine’s daughter, Mary Tudor. I’m not sure how children play into this directly, but that is something definitely worth studying. The idea of a childless queen was very much a concern for Maria of Castile, but as far as I know, there was little commentary on this in her lifetime. Alfonso was chided often for leaving his peninsular realms “like a widow,” which is a fascinating criticism. Isabel, of course, used her maternal status skillfully, as Liz Lehfeldt has very convincingly shown. Catherine of Aragon is the most famous of the three for her six pregnancies and only two live births, a son who died soon after birth and, of course, a daughter Mary. I’ve been reading lately some excellent new work on the literature of the period relative to women by Núria Silleras-Fernández and Emily Francomano, so this part of my work is still very much in progress.

 

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Catherine of Aragon by Lucas Hornebolte

Kristen and Cathleen: You are currently writing a biography of Catherine of Aragon. How much of a role did her inability to have a son play in her divorce from Henry VIII?

Theresa: It was fundamental. Had their son, Henry, lived (he died a few months after his birth), I wager that their marriage would have survived. King Henry would probably still have had a number of affairs, but with a male heir, there would have been no reason for the divorce. So, I think that the English Reformation would have taken a rather different direction had the baby lived.

Kristen and Cathleen: Some medieval kings did not divorce their childless wives. Why was Henry VIII different?

Theresa: I think it’s both personal and bureaucratic. He was a spoiled man with advisors who gave him what he wanted. But it’s more than his corrosive personality. The Tudors had a serious legitimacy problem, starting with the Battle of Bosworth Field, and then getting worse with two pretenders (Perkin Warbeck and Lambert Simnel), so Henry had a strong impulse to prove that the Tudors were blessed by God. First Cardinal Wolsey and then Thomas Cromwell worked to give Henry what he wanted, although Wolsey ultimately paid dearly for his failure. But the Protestant Reformation’s anti-papal rhetoric provided a legal foundation for Henry to divorce and he happily took the bait.

 Kristen and Cathleen: In 2013, you presented some preliminary ideas on developing a database for royal genealogy, focusing on pregnancies and births – can you tell us a bit more about where this project is now?

Theresa: It is still in the development stage. I have been accumulating evidence for the database, but this is a much bigger project than I first envisioned and it needs an international team to do the research into genealogies, family histories, chronicles, and medical records (if they exist) to put all the facts together. My next step is to assemble that team of scholars to put our heads, and our sources, together to fill in the blanks. Eventually, the database will be open-source with an option for credentialed scholars to contribute.

 Kristen and Cathleen: With this project, you are working on the border of queenship studies and medical history – can you tell us a bit about the sources you use, and if there are any special difficulties?

Theresa: The sources are very tricky. Even for an early modern queen like Catherine of Aragon, at a court as well documented as the Tudors, the sources for the history of medicine are sketchy. We have knowledge of the court physicians, but very little is said or known of Catherine’s pregnancies, and until recently some pregnancies were considered dubious. This is due, in part, to a secrecy about her later pregnancies and miscarriages. But it is also due to the way that the physicians and midwives at court kept, or did not keep, records. For Maria of Castile, I know when she had her first menstrual period only because she wrote to her mother telling her about it. Maria’s health has been the subject of speculation, but very little real study by someone with expertise in the history of medicine. And there is a lot of ignorance and misogyny embedded in the hypotheses, most of which blame her for “infertility” when, in fact, she and Alfonso lived apart for most of their marriage. Yes, he had three illegitimate children, but what some scholars call her infertility may well have been simply the absence of sexual intercourse.

 Kristen and Cathleen: This summer, you raised also some interesting questions about periodization of queenship on your blog, https://theresaearenfight.com/ – could you please elaborate a bit on this? In what ways does it actually play a role, if we define something as early modern or medieval?

Theresa: I am still struggling with this question, even more so now that I’m working on Catherine of Aragon who straddles the conventional periodization of medieval and early modern. There seem to be so many ways that queens face similar challenges and opportunities across time—they are defined by their fathers or husbands, they are expected to bear children, they get beat up for the same sort of sexual issues, they are second choices in the hierarchy. But after 1600, it seems something really does change and I think it’s a new political world after the rise of secretaries. But then again, I wonder if it’s not all that different from the earlier conversations queenship scholars had about the 11th and 12th centuries and the thesis on how women fared with the rise of bureaucratic kingship. I wonder if in the early modern period, region and religion matter more than time periods, if as the Reformation took shape, those monarchies in Protestant realms differed in important ways from those of Catholic ones. There are several ways this question could be investigated. One thing we know very little about is royal women in the Islamic world. There are some studies, but Muslim women need to be studied comparatively. And this makes me want to change the question a bit, to consider regional differences in a Braudelian way, as in the Mediterranean or the North Atlantic. Elena Woodacre’s recent collection of essays on queens in the Mediterranean does this well, but that was just the beginning.

Kristen and Cathleen: At the moment, much of queenship studies are concentrated on medieval and early modern Europe – do you have any insights what goes on beyond these borders, e.g. within Extra-European queenship studies, or in regards to modern queenship?

Theresa: I think we need to look beyond Europe, especially Asia after 1300, when Marco Polo and other traders opened Europe up to another set of influences, and the Americas after the Columbian voyages. Cultural points of contact may well have shaped the practice of monarchy in Europe, but until we do that work, all we can do is speculate. The differences between Asia, the Americas, and Europe complicate comparisons, but the more we know about how royal women around the world exercised authority and power, the sharper and more focused our comparisons can be.

Kristen and Cathleen: Thank you so much! We look forward to your future work.

Conference Report “Saints and Sinners: Literary Footprints of Mary and Margaret, Queens of Scots”

Just at the beginning of this month, on October 6th&7th, the University of Edinburgh hosted the conference Saints and Sinners: Literary Footprints of Mary and Margaret, Queens of Scots, organized by Claire Harrill and Lucy Hinnie. This conference was supported by the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH, University of Edinburgh), the Society for the Study of Medieval Language and Literature (MEDIUM ÆVUM), and the Centre for the Study of the Middle Ages (CeSMA, University of Birmingham). Heta Aali from the University of Turku (Finland) kindly send us her conference report to share the discussions with all of you.
Have you been to an interesting conference lately? Send us your impressions!

Heta Aali: With eight speakers and two keynote lectures, by Dr Sarah Dunnigan (University of Edinburgh) and Dr Catherine Keene (Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX), the conference allowed for a productive discussion and a profound exchange of thoughts on representations created by and of the medieval queens in question. As the title of the conference indicates, the focus of the conference was on literary footprints of the two famous Queens of Scots, Mary I (died 1587) and St Margaret (died 1093). Yet, the topic was to be interpreted comprehensively, as could be seen from the wide range of approaches in the papers, and it was understood more in general as images of medieval queenship, gender, and women’s reading and writing. Noteworthy is that many papers focused on the literary representations of famous queens created by men. And moreover, as all the speakers were women, this also meant that at the conference, women explored the way men had examined famous medieval queens. This point did not escape the attention of the participants and in the final roundtable discussion the problem of gender segmentation between disciplines was brought up and the way literate studies (especially about queens) are so strongly identified as “feminine” field.

The conference started with two presentations on saintly medieval queens, and also a little bit on non-saints. My own presentation started the conference with a discussion on the representations of Merovingian queens created by early nineteenth-century French historians. Minji Lee (Rice University) continued by presenting Hildegard of Bingen’s and Birgitta of Sweden’s idea on childbirth. Mary Hardy from Aberdeen University focused in her paper on the way Queen Margaret was used by later authors to emphasise Catholic devotion in various European educational institutions whereas Amelia Heath from King’s College, London examined successfully how Margaret’s gender was presented as crossing the gender norms, or rather, as stretching the boundaries. Amy Hayes, also from the University of Aberdeen, discussed the problem of using sixteenth-century sources in studying the Middle Ages and the fifteenth century. The problem is relevant to all those studying the Middle Ages or any remote period with only few sources left and therefore the question in how far we can trust those later sources. Unfortunately, there is no clear answer since the sources are often difficult to replace even if their context of writing is known to be problematic. Allison Steenson (University of Edinburgh) presented her very interesting research project concerning the Hawthornden Manuscripts. The first keynote lecture, by Dr Dunnigan, focused on Mary, Queen of Scots, as a poet, a side of her which was very interesting though fairly seldom discussed in research. In Dr Dunnigan’s presentation, Mary was not only the object of male writing but she herself participated actively in the creation of her own image. The second keynote lecture, by Dr Keene, discussed the images and imagenary of Margaret and Virgin Mary holding and reading books, and more generally the association between women and books in the Middle Ages. The last two presentations, by Kate Ash-Irrisari (University of Manchester) and Anne Rutten (University of St Andrews) examined the Scottish queens’ later reputation and images especially during the Stuarts’ rule over Scotland, and later also England..

The conference concluded with a round table discussion with all speakers and other participants in which the general arguments and major themes of the conference were drawn together. Queenship and textuality was first brought up as a major theme since most speakers examined the textual images of the queens. Secondly, women’s writing was emphasised; either as queens who wrote or as historians writing about queens. What were these women permitted to write and what not? Thirdly, and most interestingly, it was discussed how women were remembered, who controls their representations, and the polarized opinions on politically significant women. It seems that historians, authors, and political thinkers used similar literate devices and models to either promote or derogate the queens depending on the political situation and on author’s affiliations at the time of the writing.

Female sovereignty, authority, and national identity were relevant questions in many presentations. The medieval, early modern, or nineteenth-century authors’ and historians’ opinions about female sovereignty and national identity played an important role in the creation of the representations despite the differences in time and place. What united the women discussed in the conference was that they were all somehow described as escaping the gender frame imposed by contemporary and later historians and authors. The gender frame(s) differed from one time to another, from one place to another, but the queens were often pictured as not quite fitting in.  In addition, several questions were raised concerning the current academic situation of studying medieval queens. For example, the question of how disciplinary boundaries, or strict separation of disciplines, affect the research was brought up. The strict boundaries were even seen as possibly hindering the research. Research of medieval queens calls for interdisciplinary approaches that would take into consideration textual and material cultures simultaneously. According to many participants, the relevant disciplines continue to be gendered which can also affect the outcome of the research. It was agreed that one should aim to overturn the preconceptions on and juxtaposition of “soft” and “scientific” history.

The conference participants also had the chance to enjoy a short presentation of the ongoing “Dangerous Women Project“. It aims to discover the different meanings of “dangerous women” by publishing every day for one year a blog of what it means to be a dangerous woman. Each day the blog has a different author and approach to the question, thus offering a wide range of answers.

 

Interview with Talia Zajac

Talia Zajac is a PhD Candidate in Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto and newsletter editor for the Early Slavic Studies Association (ESSA). She is currently completing revisions on her dissertation, “Women Between West and East: the inter-rite marriages of the Kyivan Rus’ Dynasty, ca. 1000-1204” (co-supervised by Isabelle Cochelin and Allan Smith). As its title indicates, the dissertation analyzes the marriage alliances of the Riurikids, the Orthodox rulers of Rus’ (the ancestor state of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus), with Catholic rulers. Drawing on studies of medieval queenship, her research focuses on the individual experience of cultural displacement and continuity of elite women in these marriages. Her article “Gloriosa Regina or ‘Alien Queen’?: Some Reconsiderations on Anna Yaroslavna’s Queenship (r. 1050-1075)” appears in issue four (2016) of the Royal Studies Journal.

We recently caught up with Talia to chat about her article and her research.

Kristen and Cathleen: Thank you for a great article! To get started, could you tell us some basic information about Anna of Kiev?

Talia: Anna was the daughter of prince Yaroslav “the Wise” of Kiev (d. 1054) and princess Ingigerd (d. 1050), the daughter of King Olof Eirikson Skötkonung of Sweden (d. 1021/1022). Sources do not record Anna’s birth date, only those of her brothers, but we can estimate that she was born in the early 1020s. The French embassy led by bishops Roger of Châlons-en-Champagne and Gautier of Meaux arrived in Kiev in 1049 to ask for Anna’s hand in marriage on behalf of the French king Henri I. They returned to France between 1050 and 1051. Subsequently in 1051, Anna was the first queen of the Capetian dynasty to be crowned and married in Reims Cathedral, which could be indicative of the special prestige attached to her marriage.

When her eldest son Philippe was born in 1052 he was the first member of the Capetian dynasty to be given this name, which was still very rare in France. A name of Greek origin for the heir to the throne was highly unusual and points to Anna’s influence. In addition, a few charters suggest that Anna participated in the patronage of local ecclesiastical institutions in the Ile-de-France during her husband’s lifetime. Her participation in governance increased after her husband’s death in 1060, when she ruled as co-regent with her brother-in-law Count Baldwin of Flanders on behalf of her eight-year-old son Philippe. Twenty-three surviving charters from the years of Philippe’s minority (1060-1067) indicate that Anna played a key role in ruling France during this period and in confirming the rights and privileges of monasteries and churches, including such important abbeys as Saint Martin-des-Champs and Saint-Maur-des-Fossés.

In 1061, however, Anna remarried with Count Raoul of Crépy-en-Valois (d. 1074). This hasty remarriage a year after her husband’s death may suggest that Anna was still, to a certain degree, an outsider at the French court, in need of a local protector. As a result of this second union, Anna also became Countess of Valois, and ruled likewise as a seigniorial lady.

In the early 1060s (probably 1063), Anna, or a chaplain acting on her behalf, signed one charter in favor of the abbey of Saint-Crépin-le-Grand in Soissons in Cyrillic script as “ANA PЪHNA” (Ana rьina, i.e., Anna regina). This remarkable document, which survives in the original in the Bibliothèque nationale, testifies to Anna’s ability to maintain ties to her natal Rus’ culture after a decade in France. It also indicates that the effects of the “scandal” of Anna’s second marriage on her queenship has also been somewhat exaggerated in secondary literature. The charter is issued in her son’s name, but the consent of her second husband Raoul is also noted in the charter. Despite her second marriage, Anna continued to participate in the life of the royal court and did not become a persona non grata.

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Nineteenth-century statue of Anna Yaroslavna (c) Natalia Zajac 2013

Kristen and Cathleen: What was the significance of this east-west marriage, and how did it come to be (especially during a time of growing distance between the east and west churches)?

Talia: This is an excellent question! Since no primary source directly discusses the motivations for this long-distance marriage alliance, to a certain degree any answer must rely simply on speculation. We can make a few informed guesses, however, as to the benefits that both Yaroslav the Wise of Kiev and King Henri of France could hope to gain from such a marriage.

Political concerns probably led Henri to make his choice of a long-distance alliance. It is helpful to remember that the Capetians were still a relatively new dynasty in the mid eleventh century: Henri I was only the third king of this new line. As parvenus, who had ousted the Carolingian dynasty, the Capetians needed to make marriage alliances with established ruling houses in order to legitimize their reign. Marion Facinger and Constance Bouchard have shown that, although later Capetians would be content to marry the daughters of counts, the early Capetians in the tenth and eleventh centuries sought to marry the daughters of kings. Nevertheless, it grew increasingly difficult to find suitably elevated women who were also not related to them within the seven prohibited degrees of consanguinity.

In 988, Hugh Capet, Henri’s grandfather, had searched for an eastern marriage alliance. He had Gerbert of Aurillac (later pope Sylvester II) write to the Byzantine Emperor Basil II, asking him to send a bride for his son Robert. We do not know if the Byzantine court even bothered to reply, but the letter indicates that the Capetian court had no qualms with seeking an eastern Christian bride. In doing so, Hugh Capet may have hoped not only to abide by consanguinity regulations, but also, perhaps equally importantly, to legitimize his dynasty by marriage into the Byzantine imperial house.

Robert was ultimately threatened with excommunication by Pope Gregory V by taking as his second wife Bertha of Blois to whom he was related within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity (the couple were anathematized in 998 and finally divorced in 1001).  By marrying Anna of Kiev, Henri I may likewise have sought not only to satisfy consanguinity regulations that had plagued his father, but also to find a woman of royal blood to marry.

Anna of Kiev satisfied the demand for a bride of noble blood as she was related to the Byzantine imperial house: upon his conversion to Christianity in 988/989 her grandfather Vladimir (Volodymyr) Sviatoslavich, had married the Byzantine princess Anna, sister of Basil II (after whom she could likely have been named). Henri may also have heard about Anna of Kiev through his previous wife Matilda of Frisia (d. 1044), because Matilda’s niece, Oda of Stade, was married to Anna’s brother, Sviatoslav.

Finally, Anna of Kiev was part of the first generation of the rulers of Kiev to grow up in a Christian setting, since official conversion had only occurred late in her grandfather Vladimir’s reign. The growing liturgical and theological differences between Latin Christianity and Orthodoxy must not yet have seemed so great in newly-Chrisitanized Rus’ as the basic difference in belief between Christianity and paganism.

Anna had at least two other sisters who also became western queens: Elizabeth, who married King Harald Hardraada of Norway in 1044 and Anastasia, who married King Andrew I of Hungary around 1039-1050. Alexandr Musin recently (2014) has suggested that Henri I sought an alliance with Yaroslav the Wise, due to Yaroslav’s ties to Norway, in order to encircle William of Normandy. The theory is an intriguing one, especially since William of Normandy made a marriage alliance with Matilda of Flanders in 1049, the same year that Henri sent his marriage embassy to Kiev, but there are no primary sources that support the theory directly.

Kristen and Cathleen: Wow, this marriage really gives insights into the complex international relations of this time! Your article mentions that earlier work often uncritically repeated legendary material. Any favorites among these fabrications?

Talia: One of my favorites is the story that her second husband Raoul kidnapped her on horseback while she was riding in the forest of Senlis and married her by force. One can find this story repeated in some English works on Anna, for example, in the entry on her life in The Modern Encyclopedia of Russia and Soviet History (1976), but it is not substantiated by any medieval source.

But the most widespread tale about Anna is that she was responsible for bringing into France the so-called “Reims Gospel Book” or Slavonic Gospels (Reims, Bibliothèque municipale Carnegie, MS 255) on which subsequently French kings swore their coronation oaths. This claim has been disputed multiple times in scholarly articles and yet continues to appear in publications. The Gospel Book appears for the first time in the treasury inventory of Reims Cathedral in 1622 which states that the manuscript was donated to Reims Cathedral in 1574 by Cardinal Charles of Lorraine (1524-1575). He might perhaps have picked it up during the course of his travels to the Council of Trent. We have no have no specific source references to the actual use of Reims MS 255 in French coronations. Even today, the Reims Municipale Library has a special section of its website in Russian solely for the purpose of demonstrating that this manuscript has no connection to Anna of Kiev.

Kristen and Cathleen: The article notes in several places that some of Anna’s charters are only available in later copies. What is the story of these primary sources?

Talia: The royal demesne and centralized monarchical power was at its most limited extent during the reign of Henri I (1031-1060). Consequently, his reign is the least well documented of any Capetian monarch as the number of acts issued by the royal chancellery declined. Without further research it is difficult to say, however, why certain specific acts have survived in the original, while others are known only through later copies. Certainly, in some cases, only the beneficiaries of the acts (ecclesiastical institutions) have preserved copies of a given document.

Kristen and Cathleen: What does Anna of Kiev tell us about medieval queenship? How did the “Capetian Trinity” of royal authority work?

Talia: The “Capetian Trinity” was a term first coined by Achille Luchaire (1846-1908) to describe royal government of the early Capetian dynasty: in which king, queen, and heir to the throne to a certain degree shared royal power and authority (auctoritas): the king is at the head of government, but the queen consort and heir to the throne also consent to and participate in royal decisions. The queen was subject to the king, but all were subject to God, who held the ultimate auctoritas. In this hierarchical and yet collaborative model of rulership, there was scope for the queen consort to exercise a role of intercessor and adviser in the royal court/council (curia regis). Her office was established ritually and publicly through her anointment, coronation, and marriage.

Indeed, Anna’s presence in the curia regis, her subscription to acts, her role as co-regent for her son, and as  patron of monasteries and houses of regular canons, indicate that she took an active role in the court life of her new homeland, fulfilling the roles expected of her in her anointing as queen.

My article showed that it is not helpful to think of her as an “alien” or “exotic” queen; adjectives which are tinged with Orientalist overtones. Rather, Anna’s queenship exemplifies a fluidity of religious-social identity: she both adapted to the roles and expectations of western queenship conferred to her upon her crowning and anointing, and, at the same time, as seen in her Cyrillic signature or the Greek name given to her eldest son, continued to have some degree of contact and connection to the Orthodox land of her birth. Her reign can give us insight into the ways in which “foreign” medieval queens successfully negotiated these fluid identities.

Kristen and Cathleen: It is quite surprising that Anna’s orthodoxy rarely plays a role in her life as French queen – could you maybe expand on this a bit? Is there an explanation?

Talia: This is a fascinating question and one which I am currently pursuing further in my dissertation on the other marriage alliances of the Riurikid dynasty, to which Anna belonged, with Latin Christian rulers.

Perhaps Anna’s adaptation to life in France as a married woman can be at least partly explained by the fact that she already was growing up in a court setting that was multi-lingual, multi-cultural, and open to ties with Latin Christendom.  Anna’s father Yaroslav had relied upon Varangian (Viking) mercenaries to gain the throne of Kiev following the succession struggle that broke out after Vladimir’s death in 1015. During these military struggles, he had married the Swedish princess Ingigerd around 1019. As a result, Anna had a Latin Christian mother and an Orthodox Christian father. Prior to her marriage with Henri I, Anna would have seen Latin Christian mercenaries, merchants, as well as her own siblings married off to Latin Christian rulers. Anna’s brothers-in-law Harald Hardraada and Andrew I of Hungary both spent time as exiles in Rus’ so she would have met them directly. Thus, although she grew up in an Orthodox Christian setting, to a certain degree she was also exposed to the customs of western Christians prior to her marriage to Henri I.

Kristen and Cathleen: Anna of Kiev came to the French court, and seemingly adapted very well to her new role. But what about her entourage? Are there any sources telling us what they did?

Talia: Anna would have surely been accompanied by an entourage befitting her high status as she set off on her long 2,000 km (1242 mile) journey between Kiev and Paris. Unfortunately, medieval sources preserve absolutely nothing about the number, gender, and status of the people who made up Anna’s entourage (did they include female attendants? Male nobles? clerics or lay persons?).

Based on the carefully formed uncial (Russian: ustav) script in which Anna’s Cyrillic signature on the charter for Saint-Crépin-le-Grand is executed, other charters extant in the original have a cleric signing on her behalf (in Latin), and the royal chancellery at the time was linked to the royal chapel, it is possible that a Rus’ cleric might have executed the Cyrillic signature at Anna’s request. Such a cleric might have been a member of Anna’s entourage. On the other hand, if that were the case, it is curious that no other source should mention his presence. The long-standing theory that the Cyrillic signature is Anna’s autograph remains equally plausible.

Although we do not have any information on Anna’s entourage, charters do preserve mention of members of her household. One charter issued between 1060 and 1067 mentions a certain Amalric, “the queen’s seneschal.” Ingeran, Philippe’s tutor, also appears in the witness-list in seven extant charters until Philippe’s majority in 1067. His name is French, but in some charters he is given a rather Greek title, pedegogus. Unfortunately, the occasional occurrence of this title is rather slim evidence on which to extrapolate any evidence concerning Anna’s role in educating her children.

Kristen and Cathleen: Thank you so much for this interesting insight into the life of an Eastern queen in France in the 11th century. Two final questions: how did Anna spend her last days?

Talia: During her widowhood, Anna restored from ruin the church of Saint-Vincent in Senlis north of Paris, which she refounded as a house of regular canons sometime before 1069 (when her son Philippe issued a confirmation charter for the abbey). Thereafter, Saint-Vincent celebrated an annual obit (memorial service) for Anna on September 5th until the French Revolution.  Based on the last charter in which she subscribes (1075) and a charter of Philippe I in which he gives a gift to Cluny in 1079 for the soul of his parents as well as the date of the obit, Anna must have died on September 5th, between 1075 and 1079. Her place of burial is unknown; one medieval chronicle, the early twelfth-century Historiae Franciae, states that Anna Yaroslavna returned alone to Rus’ after the death of her second husband, Raoul.

img_3421

Saint Vincent in Senlis (c) Natalia Zajac 2013

Kristen and Cathleen: And what are your next projects? You already talked about tracing more Eastern-Western marriages in this time; anything else?

Talia: The presence of Rus’-born princesses in Latin Europe is a topic that has received relatively little attention in Anglo-American scholarship, but is one which offers rich avenues for further research. Besides investigating the neglected role of Rus’ princesses as queen consorts of Latin Christian lands, my research also focuses on the social-political roles played by elite women within Rus itself. Currently I am working on an article tracing the material objects circulated by Rus’ princesses upon their marriages to Western European rulers and what happened to these objects as they entered royal and ecclesiastical treasuries.

My longer-term research goals include expanding upon my dissertation to write a monograph on Rus-born queen consorts of Europe and what their reigns can tell us about the social effects of the “Schism” between Orthodoxy and Catholicism on the lives of medieval elites.

In the future, I also intend to pursue a more in-depth comparative investigation of Anna Yaroslavna’s place in the national imagination of French, Ukrainian, and Russian historiography from the early sixteenth to the twentieth century. Her life has been the subject of two operas, multiple novels, as well as a Soviet film, each of which offers a different vision of the relations between Rus’ and the Western Europe. The project will investigate Anna’s “post-medieval” image and what it can tell us about France, Ukraine, and Russia’s constructions of their intersecting history/histories, as well as the different ways in which relations between Eastern and Western Europe have been understood over time.

Kristen and Cathleen: Thank you so much for a wonderful interview and great article! We are looking forward to reading your work in the future.

CCCU Article Prize Winner – Interview with Rocío Martínez López

The first winner of the Royal Studies Studies Journal Article Prize is Rocío Martínez López, a doctoral candidate at the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (Madrid, Spain). She is also involved in the organisation of the next Kings & Queens conference which will take place in Madrid in September 2017.

Rocío has translated her article with the invaluable help of Ellie Woodacre and Jitske Jasperseand. It appears in the current issue of the Royal Studies Journal here.

I caught up with her to ask a few more questions about her article, and her research in general.

 

Cathleen: Hi Rocío! Thanks for doing this interview.
You recently won the Royal Studies Journal Article Prize, sponsored by Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) for your article ‘La infanta se ha de casar con quien facilite la paz o disponga los medios para la guerra‘. Las negociaciones para la realización del matrimonio entre la infanta María Teresa y Leopoldo I (1654-1657) in the journal Revista de Historia Moderna 33 (2015). Congratulations!
First of all, could you tell us a bit about this article? What is it about?

Rocío: Hi, Cathleen! Thanks for your congratulations! I feel really honored and I want to thank the Royal Studies Journal, the Canterbury Christ Church University and the ECR and Young Researchers’ Article Prize Committee for it. Well, my article focuses on the analysis of the marriage negotiations between Felipe IV of Spain and the emperors Ferdinand III and Leopold to arrange the marriage between the King of Spain’s prospective heiress, infanta María Teresa, and the heir of the Imperial branch of the Habsburgs. These negotiations, which lasted more than a decade, can help us understand the complex relationship maintained between both branches of the House of Habsburg after the peace of Westphalia, in a moment in which the problem of the Spanish Succession was of capital importance in Europe. After the death of Prince Baltasar Carlos, Felipe IV’s only son and heir, in 1646, the question of the marriage of his only surviving daughter and heiress became a crucial point in the European diplomacy of the moment. María Teresa was the direct successor of her father for more than ten years in an especially difficult moment for a Spanish monarchy immersed in a grueling war against France. Wanting to assure the inheritance of the Spanish monarchy for his line, in case that Felipe IV would die without a male heir, Emperor Ferdinand III tried to arrange the Infanta’s marriage with his heir, first with King Ferdinand IV of Hungary and, after his death, with Leopold I. But these ultimately failed negotiations were anything but easy. Felipe IV wanted to assure the future of his daughter and his monarchy, arranging a marriage for her that would help him to put an end to the war with France and, also, that would follow his interests regarding a possible goverment of the Spanish monarchy. For his part, Ferdinand III wanted for this marriage to follow his own dispositions and refused to let his son and heir renounce to the Crown of the Empire to marry the Infanta and to live in Madrid, even when Felipe IV ended up offering the hand of his daughter in marriage to Leopold. Ferdinand III died without resolving this issue and Leopold I showed very soon his good disposition to travel to Madrid and renounce the possibility of being elected Emperor, even when he realized that he could end up with nothing if Felipe IV had a male child. They were negotiating this arrangement when Mariana of Austria, Felipe IV’s second wife, gave birth to a son, Prince Felipe Próspero. From that point onwards, María Teresa wasn’t the heiress of the Spanish monarchy anymore and her father had more freedom than before to arrange her marriage to his liking. This birth changed the rules of the game and Leopold I ended up losing the bride for whom he was ready to renounce the Crown of the Empire without any guarantees of getting the Spanish monarchy in return. It is a very interesting episode and shows us how the international politics could change drastically in connection with the dynastic problems and the crisis of sucession in Early Modern Europe.

452px-Retrato_de_la_infanta_María_Teresa_(3),_by_Diego_VelázquezInfanta María Teresa (by Diego Velázquez, 1652/53)

Cathleen: This question of the Spanish succession as well as the diplomatic negotiations regarding the marriage of María Teresa, daughter and heiress of Felipe IV, dominated the second half of the 17th century between the Thirty-Years-War and later the wars of María Teresa’s eventual husband, Louis XIV. How do these failed marriage negotiations relate to the War of the Spanish Succession a few decades later?

Rocío: This marriage is closely related to the War of the Spanish Succession. We need to take into account that the problem of the Spanish Succession isn’t a circumstance that emerged in the last years of the seventeenth century, but an issue that had a great importance in the European policy from 1646 until the outbreak of the War of the Spanish Succession. In the question of the Spanish succession, Felipe IV’s daughters and Carlos II’s sisters, María Teresa and Margarita, had a crucial importance, as the most immediate relatives of the childless King. The marriage of María Teresa with Louis XIV was preceded by a solemn renunciation, made by the Infanta, of all her rights to the Spanish Monarchy for herself and her descendants, but Louis XIV began to fight against its legality soon after the marriage took place. This renunciation made her little sister Margarita the legitimate heiress of Carlos II, following said renunciation and Felipe IV’s last will. Margarita ended up getting married to her sister‘s old suitor, Leopold I, and her line would be considered as the legitimate heirs of the Spanish monarchy until its extinction in 1699, despite France’s claims. Louis XIV‘s pressure regarding the Spanish sucession came from his marriage to María Teresa and the fact she was Felipe IV’s eldest daughter. If she had married Leopold I, as it was originally planned, and had had surviving issue, France would not have had the same claims to the Spanish succession and this process would have been very different. Felipe IV didn’t want his inheritance to leave the House of Austria. Both Felipe IV and Ferdinand III were very aware of the problems that could befall their dynasty if the inheritance of the Spanish monarchy were to end up in the hands of France and that belief was very present in this marriage negotiation. On one point, Felipe IV’s counsellors advised their King that he should marry María Teresa with the Emperor’s heir because they would need his help in case France claimed any territories of the Spanish monarchy in any instance. Felipe IV was aware that the marriage between María Teresa and Louis XIV was the most convenient possibility to end the war, but he couldn’t allow it while his daughter was his only heiress. It was the birth of two possible male heirs that made him feel secure enough about the future of his own line to choose another destiny for María Teresa. But its connection with the War of the Spanish Succession is very clear and can show us how the Spanish’s succession crisis influenced the European policy decades before its outbreak.

Cathleen: So, just as a thought experiment: What if this marriage between María Teresa and Leopold I, between the two branches of the Habsburg dynasty, came to be? How would that have changed the course of events in the late 17th and early 18th century?

Rocío: The easy answer to that question would be that the War of the Spanish Succession would never have happened. None of the infantas who married into the Imperial branch of the Habsburgs renounced to their rights of succession to the Spanish throne and it wasn’t expected for Maria Teresa to do so if she married Leopold, as she had to do when she married Louis XIV. The possible rights to the succession of the Spanish throne that Louis XIV claimed on María Teresa’s behalf since 1660 onwards were linked to the fact that his wife was the eldest daughter of Felipe IV and eldest sister of Carlos II. Without said marriage, he wouldn’t have any claims to the Spanish territories with three descendants of Felipe IV (Carlos II, María Teresa, and Margarita) alive and with the possibility of having their own descendants. Other international problems linked to the succession crisis, like the War of Devolution (1667-1668) would have had a very different nature as well. Also, the marriage of Maria Teresa’s younger sister, Margarita, who eventually married Leopold years later, would have to be with another person, something that would have altered the rules of the game once more. As you can see, the history of Europe during the second half of the seventeenth century would have been very different. But I also have to add that these changes would have taken place only if María Teresa and Leopold, as well as Margarita and the one who would have been her husband, had surviving issue. Without them or their descendants, the succession would have been disputed between the descendants of the infanta Ana, eldest daughter of Felipe III of Spain, married to Louis XIII and mother of Louis XIV, who renounced her rights to the Spanish throne before her marriage (as María Teresa had to do) and those of the empress Maria Anna, youngest daughter of Felipe III, wife of emperor Ferdinand III and Leopold I’s mother. So if they would have died without any descendants, we would have been back to square one. And the chances of that happening weren’t as slim as one could think. María Teresa had six children with Louis XIV, of which only one, the Dauphin Louis, survived into adulthood and Margarita had four children with Leopold I, of which only the archduchess Maria Antonia survived and her line became extinct before the end of the century. But, even taking this into account, we can assume that the history of Europe from 1660 onwards would have been very different if the marriage between María Teresa and Leopold would have taken place as expected and, with descendants of this marriage, the War of the Spanish Succession probably would have never taken place.

Guido_Cagnacci_005Leopold I who did not marry María Teresa

Cathleen: The level of interest of Leopold I in this marriage is very surprising – even against the wishes of his father, he pressed for the negotiations and was prepared to relinquish the election to be emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Why was he so keen on marrying the Spanish infanta?

Rocío: When we talk about this, we must remember that, at the time, Felipe IV’s inheritance was composed of the most vast and extensive monarchy in the world. It has its problems, without any doubt, but the power it entailed was far greater than the one Leopold could efectively hold as an emperor, especially after the peace of Westphalia and the negotiations surrounding it imposed important limitations on the powers of the imperial ruler. I think that the prospect of being the king of the Spanish monarchy was too tempting for Leopold to refuse, especially when almost everybody thought that the possibility of Felipe IV having a surviving male heir were slim and he was sure that he could mantain control of the patrimonial lands of the Habsburgs in Central Europe, as well as of Hungary and Bohemia. Ferdinand III wanted for his heir to remain linked to his patrimonial lands and to the crown of the Empire and was very aware that his son could end up with very little if María Teresa wasn’t finally the heiress of the Spanish monarchy. In fact, if Felipe IV hadn’t tried to convince Leopold to present himself as a candidate for the Imperial Crown and had come to Spain when he wanted, he would have ended up only with his patrimonial lands after his prospective wife was relegated to a secondary place in the line of succession. Leopold was prepared to take the risk to have the oportunity of becoming one of the most powerful monarchs of the time through his wife, even if that meant giving up the difficult crown of the Empire, for whose government he had to rely heavily on the difficult Imperial princes. From his point of view, it was worth the risk and he was ready to take it at that moment, but it wasn’t mean to be.

Cathleen: What are you working on right now?

Rocío: I am currently working on my dissertation. It is focused precisely on the problem of Carlos II of Spain’s succession during his reign and how it influenced its political relationship with the Empire and Bavaria, using as a common point the fact that Infanta Margarita, archduchess María Antonia of Austria and Prince Joseph Ferdinand of Bavaria were considered as the rightful heirs of the Spanish Monarchy by Madrid’s government. I had the opportunity of consulting documents of several archives of Spain and Vienna and I have been awarded a grant to conduct further research in Munich in autumn, so I am very happy with the results and I hope for my dissertation to be completed in winter 2017. Also, I am preparing two articles, one focused on the negotations for the marriage of Leopold I and Margarita of Austria after María Teresa’s marriage and the other presents an analysis of the rights of succession of the infantas and archduchesses of the House of Habsburg during the Early Modern period. And, finally, I am also working on the organization of the next King&Queens conference, who will take place in my hometown, Madrid, where I hope to see you all!

 Cathleen: Good luck with your research and your PhD and thanks so much for doing this interview! Hope as well to see you all at the next Kings&Queens Conference in Madrid which we will later have more about!

Royal Studies Journal – Next Round

A new issue of the Royal Studies Journal is out! Already the fourth issue dealing with all topics on Royal Studies, and showing the breadth of the field in its articles and book reviews.

Enjoy reading about the complicated, and ultimately failed, marriage negotiations between the two branches of the Habsburg family in the second half of the 17th century, and their influence on a major dispute like the Spanish War of Succession. This article by Rocío Martínez López won the 2016 RSJ/CCCU article prize. Also, learn more about the new prizes for articles and books in the statements from Lois L. Huneycutt and Zita Eva Rohr. Don’t think, this is all we have for you: there is even more to learn from Talia Zaja about the Rus-born queen Anna Yaroslavna of French king Henri I, and new sources are being examined by Gordon McKelvie on the reception of the bastardy of Edward V.

Summer time is upon us and with it reading time: check out the book reviews from English, German, French and Spanish books on Royal Studies.

Let us know what you think about this new issue! If you have an article for the Royal Studies Journal, see our submit-page. Know a Royal Studies book you would like to review? See here for further information on getting your review into the Journal.

And finally, keep a look out for our interviews with the authors of this issue, and learn more about their research.

CCCU Book Prize Winner – Interview with Carolyn Harris

The winner of the first CCCU RSJ Book Prize, Dr. Carolyn Harris, is a historian, author and royal commentator (and isn’t this a great job title) from Toronto, Canada. She completed her PhD in spring 2012 at Queen’s University (Kingston, Canada), and has been very busy since then. Her prize-winning book Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe: Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette (Palgrave Macmillan: Queenship and Power Series) is already her second published monograph, the first one being Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada: Democracy, Law and Human Rights (Dundurn Press 2015), and the third is scheduled for 2017: Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting (Dundurn Press). Besides obviously spending her days researching and writing, she also teaches at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies, and is a guest lecturer for museums, libraries, universities, and educational organisations. Occasionally, she even gives lectures at sea for cruise ship enrichment programs.

Find her also on Twitter @royalhistorian and here.

We got together with Carolyn to ask more about her research.

Cathleen: Hi Carolyn! Thanks for doing this interview!
You recently won the Royal Studies Journal Book Prize, sponsored by Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) for your monograph Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe: Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette. Congratulations!

Could you first tell us a bit more about this book, especially for our readers who haven’t yet a chance to take a look inside?

Marie Antoinette 517px-HenriettaMariaofFrance02
Marie Antoinette (by François-Hubert Drouais) and Henrietta Maria (by Anthony van Dyck)

Carolyn: Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe analyzes Queen Henrietta Maria, queen to King Charles I and Queen Marie Antoinette, queen to King Louis XVI in their roles as wives, mothers and heads of royal households during the years preceding the English Civil Wars and French Revolution respectively. I compare the two queens and the political cultures of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The book is structured thematically, examining the contrast between how each queen viewed her domestic role and the expectations of her husband’s subjects. The final chapter compares the impeachment of Henrietta Maria by the House of Commons in 1643 with the Trial of Marie Antoinette by the Revolutionary Tribunal in 1793 then the book concludes with the lasting impact of the debates concerning each queen’s place in her family during periods of political turmoil.

Cathleen: While the comparison between Charles I and Louis XVI has often been made, their wives were usually a bit marginalized in the political history of the English and the French Revolution. How did you develop an interest in these two queens?

Carolyn: I have always been interested in the position of royal women in court culture and how these figures have been perceived by the public. My article for Canadian Slavonic Papers, The Succession Prospects of Grand Duchess Olga, examines the public role of Emperor Nicholas II’s daughters during the years prior to the Russian Revolutions of 1917. I also wrote a chapter about how Queen Victoria’s fourth daughter Princess Louise was perceived during her years as vice regal consort of Canada in the book Canada and the Crown: Essays on Constitutional Monarchy.

Examining Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette, I found the parallels between their experiences fascinating. They were both youngest daughters in large royal families where their mother’s wielded political power. As queens consort, they were judged as wives, mothers and mistresses of royal households and scrutinized as foreign influences over their respective ruling husbands. Henrietta Maria was impeached by the House of Commons during the English Civil Wars and Marie Antoinette was executed during the French Revolution after being tried and sentenced by the Revolutionary Tribunal. I wanted to explore the parallels between these two queens and how they conducted their lives in the public eye during periods when the role of women in society was debated during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Cathleen: You certainly emphasize the role of public opinion in the treatment of these queens. Could you please expand a bit more on this?

Carolyn: Criticism of the queen was a method of critiquing the king’s policies without direct criticism the king himself. Both Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette were women and foreigners and there was enormous popular anxiety about the potential for them to exert political influence. Critics of the queen could present themselves as loyal subjects who wanted to neutralize foreign influences. There was a long tradition in both England and France of critiquing advisors to the monarch and criticism of Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette became part of this tradition.

Critiquing the queen as a wife and mother was also a means for people of diverse social backgrounds including women to engage with the political process. High politics was the preserve of the elites but people of all social backgrounds could discuss the queen through their own experiences and observations of marriage and motherhood. Henrietta Maria’s critics included female writers who questioned the sincerity of harmonious imagery of the queen’s marriage and women arrested for seditious speech who spoke aloud of how they influence the king if they were the queen. Marie Antoinette was a patron of female writers and artists but women were divided in their opinions of the queen as a wife and mother. During the childless early years of her marriage, Marie Antoinette was criticized by Parisian market women because she had not given France a Dauphin. During the French Revolution, Olympe de Gouges dedicated the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen to the queen but the historian Louise de Karalio placed Marie Antoinette within a centuries long tradition of supposed crimes committed by Queens of France.

 Cathleen: After having read your book, it seems quite clear that between the times of Henrietta Maria (mid-seventeenth century) and of Marie Antoinette (end of eighteenth-century) not only the role of women in society was debated, but also quite a few changes happened concerning the role of women in their families and marriages as well as a different political culture in regards to (informal) counsel at court. How does this relate to these two queens?

 Carolyn: Both Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette became wives and mothers in the public eye during times periods of ideological debate concerning the role of women in their families. During Henrietta Maria’s lifetime, there was enormous concern among Protestants in England and Scotland regarding recusant wives and mothers who might influence their families toward Roman Catholicism. Henrietta Maria was a Roman Catholic princess married to a Protestant king and the terms of her marriage contract gave her both her religious freedom and authority over her children. Henrietta Maria therefore became the highest profile example of this phenomenon of recusant wives and mothers.

In late eighteenth century France, Enlightenment scholars debated the role of women within their families, especially whether the position of women arose from laws created by man or the conditions found in nature. Jean-Jacques Rousseau argued that women were naturally inclined to the domestic sphere while the public sphere was a male realm. Marie Antoinette adopted certain elements of the late eighteenth century conception of natural childrearing including breast feeding and allowing her young children freedom of movement but she also expected to exert political influence in the public sphere. Marie Antoinette therefore became part of wider French debates about the proper role for women in their families and society.

Cathleen: This interest in early modern English and French queens seems quite different from your first book on the Magna Carta, especially its reception in Canada. Could you also tell a bit more about this?

Carolyn: Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe: Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette arose from my PhD research at Queen’s University. The manuscript was under development when I began working with Magna Carta Canada, writing historical articles about King John and Magna Carta for the exhibition that toured in Canada for the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta in 2015. In 2014, the co-chairs of Magna Carta Canada invited me to write the companion book for the Magna Carta Canada exhibition, Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada. The two book projects came together around the same time: Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada was published by Dundurn Press in May 2015 and Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe was published by Palgrave Macmillan in November 2015. There is common ground between the two books: the legacy of Magna Carta informed both the English Civil Wars and the French Revolution.

Cathleen: That is true – Magna Carta had a renaissance in seventeenth-century England as well as inspiring revolutionaries from all times. Besides writing prize-winning books, you are also quite active giving lectures and interviews as well as teaching and writing – honestly: how do you manage all this? What got you started?

Carolyn: The past five years have been extremely busy. During my PhD at Queen’s University, one of my professors recommended me to the media for interviews about royal history during weeks prior to the wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton in 2011. I became the university’s royal expert, undertaking a diverse range of media work in print, online, radio and TV. In 2012, the year I completed my PhD and began teaching at the University of Toronto, School of Continuing Studies, I established my website royalhistorian.com and twitter account @royalhistorian and continued to expand my media work. I am involved in a variety of projects in addition to teaching and providing royal history commentary for the media. I write regularly for the Historica Canada Canadian Encyclopedia, fact check documentaries and consult on museum exhibitions. I have guest lectured about history and royalty in a variety of settings including universities, libraries, retirement residences and cruise ships!

Screenshot HPScreenshot of Carolyn’s website with a glimpse of her book on Magna Carta

Cathleen: This sounds amazing! And you still find time for your own research! What are you working on right now?

Carolyn: I’m currently working on my third book, Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting, which will be published by Dundurn Press in 2017. The book will profile 25 sets of royal parents and the challenges they faced from fending off Viking attacks to fending off the paparazzi! I am also working on a scholarly article about Queen Henrietta Maria’s reputation during her widowhood. She continued to be an active and controversial political figure for twenty years after Charles I’s death but this period in her life has received comparatively little attention.

Cathleen: That is true. Much like for other queen consorts, there also seems a lot to learn about Henrietta Maria. Best luck for your new projects and thanks so much for doing this interview!

For more see our upcoming issue where you can read about why Carolyn’s book was selected and read Courtney Herber’s review of her prize winning book.