What is Royal Studies?

The Royal Studies Network and the Royal Studies Journal both grew out of the initial Kings & Queens conference in April 2012. The surge of interest and proposals that the call for papers from the original Kings & Queens conference produced, convinced us that there was a real gap in the field – that there was a group of scholars who were working on royal themes but had no academic forum to share their research.

Three years later, that forum is well established and the concept of a discrete field of ‘royal studies’ has begun to be acknowledged. However, as a field which is only begun to be clearly established, there is a lack of clarity, both within and beyond the field itself, as to what exactly ‘royal studies’ entails.

What we aim to do here is to open a discussion about how we define, or want to define, what royal studies is. I have always argued that it should be as inclusive as possible in terms of discipline, temporal and geographic parameters. We want to hear from you – what are your ideas and opinions about how we should be defining this new and exciting field of study and what key considerations should be taken on board as we establish and extend the field?

Your thoughts will form part of an editorial piece, to be published in issue 2 of the Royal Studies Journal, in June 2015. Please comment on the blog, on the RSN Facebook group, or send an email with your thoughts to royalstudiesjournal@gmail.com. All responses must be received by 25 April 2015, in order to be incorporated into the editorial, however, we will keep the comment sections of the blog open for further discussion after this date.

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Interview with Royal Studies Network Founder, Ellie Woodacre

RSJ Blog: Hi Ellie! Thanks for doing this interview; as the founder of the Royal Studies Network, what experiences or interests led you to start the network? Were you always interested in the study of royalty and royal courts?

Ellie: The RSN grew out of the first Kings & Queens conference back in April 2012. When Sean McGlynn and I put out the original call for papers, we assumed that it would be a small to medium size gathering, say maybe 20 speakers. Instead, we received about 100 proposals! It really opened my eyes to how many researchers are involved in royal studies and how wide ranging it is. It made me think that there needed to be some way for those working in the field to be able to contact other researchers with shared interests and also a way to share news and information about new books and conferences in the field. I didn’t want to create a formal ‘society’ which would require dues to be paid, memberships to be renewed and formal posts on the board-the idea was an informal, yet incredibly useful, network to enable researchers. Overall, the RSN, the Kings & Queens conferences and the new Royal Studies Journal all intend to provide a forum to share academic research in the field.

Yes, I’ve been interested in queens and royal studies since I was young — Cleopatra VII was my first interest which got me interested in both Pharaohs and Roman Emperors. However, my interests over time have led me ever forwards in time to the Middle Ages and beyond, but I suppose I’d better save that for the next question!

RSJ Blog: Sounds great, and what is your background? Did you immerse yourself in royal studies at school?

Ellie: I’m a transplanted Californian who has been living in the UK since 1998 — I began my university studies in the States and finished them in the UK after moving ‘across the pond’ with my British husband and small children (long story!). When I was younger, queenship and royal studies was something I pursued as a passion in my own time. My undergraduate studies, being split between the US and the UK did not really allow me to pursue the interest as much as I would have liked. However, during my MA, I really began to focus intensively on royal studies; choosing to do a special project on Byzantine matrimonial politics and my dissertation on the Queens of Jerusalem. That was the point when I made a conscious decision that queenship was what I wanted to focus my research on.

RSJ Blog: And what is your favorite time period in history? Royal family? Royal court?

Ellie: That is a hard one! I was hugely interested in the Plantagenets as a teenager and I will always have a fondness for that ‘family’. Of course working on my MA and PhD I became endlessly fascinated with the unusual court of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Navarrese royals of the High & Late Middle Ages. It is tough however as there are so many fascinating families, like the Tudors and Stuarts of England and the Valois in the 16th century. I am particularly interested in the moment in family ties and kinship networks, especially between female members of a dynasty so the dynamics of royal families is something that I find particularly intriguing.

RSJ Blog: Wow, that sounds great. Are there any fellow organizations you would like to collaborate with in the future? What kind of events are you looking forward to promoting for the RSN?

Ellie: I’d certainly love to build bridges with any and all organisations who were interested in linking with the RSN. We already have a positive relationship with the Society for Court Studies and I’ve had some very interesting discussions with the Centre de Recherche at Versailles and the CARMEN group. Members of many research projects are also members of the RSN and in future I hope to see new research projects growing out of the RSN itself and connections made through the network. I’d also like to expand our societal and institutional links and would welcome more connections to the RSN in the future as well as developing our existing ties.

RSJ Blog: And finally, what are your future plans for RSN and the RSN journal? What can we look forward to in the coming months?

Ellie: The plans for the future for the RSN are to keep growing and building connections-we already have over 220 members from across the globe and we would like to keep expanding our group. I am also keen to make more of our news sharing networks and renovate the website over the summer to make it an increasingly useful resource, working in tandem with the new Royal Studies Journal blog to become a first stop for information in the field.

The journal is on the verge of its official launch-the website will shortly go ‘live’ and the call for submissions will be out soon. I am looking forward to the official celebrations for the launch at Kings & Queens 3 this summer. Our aim is to have the first issue of the journal out by the end of 2014. It is an incredibly exciting time. I feel so very thankful for the wonderful people I have met through the Kings & Queens conferences, the RSN and the journal. The field of royal studies is full of enthusiastic scholars who are generating fascinating research over such a wide range of periods, places and disciplines. I see my role as an evangelist really-to get the word out about the exciting research in the field of royal studies and enable scholars working in the field to share their work and ideas with others.