A discussion of LGBTQ+ stories and historical spaces

By Holly Marsden

The material remains of historic houses and the imagining of their past inhabitants enables the concurrent appreciation by their visitors of the historical specificity and otherness of the past, together with those echoes of the familiar which makes them feel real. Making connections with the ghosts of the past will remain an affective and popular approach to the history of sexuality. Lesbian and gay identities continue to be significant in the present day and give resonance to visitors seeking evidence of the dissident sexual past.[1]

– Alison Oram

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‘You spent fifty thousand on shoes!:’[1] power, gender, and sartorial expression in Versailles

By Holly Marsden

Cover Image: BBC Two

Canal+’s historical drama Versailles premiered in the UK in May 2016 on BBC Two. It is set during the building of the palace of Versailles, led by King Louis XIV in seventeenth century France. The is frivolous, dramatic and gripping, portraying Louis in his most power-hungry prime: in an attempt to re-establish his power to the waning and defying masses, the King chooses his father’s old hunting lodge to be a new court of unparalleled opulence. As you can imagine, Madeline Fontaine’s costume styling is equally as extravagant. Clothing during the seventeenth century was a tool for conveying wealth and power, and Louis XIV’s court is the perfect case study to see this in action. Although this blog post is not focusing on queenship as Team Queens usually do, it provides an insight into gender, kingship and clothing in Early Modern France and England.

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Book Review: The Favourite, Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough by Ophelia Field

By Holly Marsden

Ophelia Field’s 2002 (revised in 2018) biography of Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough is a fascinating insight into the eighteenth-century elite. The biography focuses on the intensity of the relationship between Sarah and Queen Anne, with the two having grown up together in and around the court of Charles II. Sarah was later given two of the highest positions of the early modern court when Anne ascended the throne in 1702: Keeper of the Privy Purse and Groom of the Stool. These positions are just two roles discussed by Field, a focus of her biography being the positions, hierarchies, and structures at play in Anne’s court. Another predominant theme is the writer’s voice. Like in much discussion of queenship, Churchill’s agency and self-fashioning is both emphasised and questioned throughout. Moreover, Field also analyses the use of the spoken word, exploring slander, gossip, and scandal. The depth of Field’s research provides ample background to Sarah’s story, especially for those who enjoyed Yorgos Lanthimos’s 2018 film of the same title. Field explores shared desire, passion and love as suggested by existing historical sources including correspondence between the two women. This part of Sarah’s life, and indeed Anne’s, had not yet been explicitly researched and discussed by scholars, who had previously focused on Churchill’s political ambition and patronage. In all, Field demonstrates that Sarah wielded great power, painting a portrait of an ambitious, intelligent, and passionate woman.

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Mater Dolorosa: Elisabeth in the Aftermath of Mayerling

By Lucy Coatman

Cover Image: Empress Elizabeth at Corfu by Friedrich August von Kaulbach, after 1898, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Friedrich_August_von_Kaulbach_-_Sisi_auf_Korfu.jpg

This blog post complements Lucy’s post published earlier this month, and we highly recommend reading it before delving into Elisabeth here.

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Exhibition Review: ‘Elizabeth and Mary: Royal Cousins, Rival Queens’ at the British Library

By Johanna Strong

All images unless otherwise indicated were photographed at the British Library by Johanna Strong.

Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots, form one of the most popularly famous – or rather, infamous – female partnerships of the early modern European world. While most historians of early modern England could provide more detailed accounts of Elizabeth and Mary’s relationship, most outside academic circles remember only that it was on Elizabeth’s orders that Mary faced her fate, ascending to the scaffold on 8 February 1587 at Fotheringhay Castle. The British Library’s ‘Elizabeth and Mary: Royal Cousins, Rival Queens’ exhibition is the first to examine the personal and political relationship between Elizabeth and Mary and is a timely addition to the sphere of public history. Bringing together portraiture and visual components, contemporary documents, and expert historical interpretations, this exhibition provides an intimate look at the rival queens who shared an isle.

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Film Review: Mary Queen of Scots

By Johanna Strong

Cover Image: courtesy of IMDB, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2328900/.

With the winter break behind us, some of us might be hesitant to let that holiday spirit go. With that in mind, this month’s first blog post eases back into the historical world by examining the 2018 film, ‘Mary Queen of Scots’.

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The Marriage of Augusta of Saxe-Gotha and Frederick, Prince of Wales

By Amy-Jane Humphries

Augusta of Saxe-Gotha.

In April 1736, Britain and the Hanoverian royal family celebrated the marriage of the heir apparent, Frederick, Prince of Wales, to Augusta of Saxe-Gotha. With this union, the monarchy found itself in a unique position. For the first time since they had inherited the throne from Queen Anne in 1714, the Hanoverians had both a king and a queen and a prince and princess of Wales at its helm. The early Hanoverian period, encapsulating the reigns of George I (1714-1727) and George II (1727-1760), is notable for its dearth of consort queens. George I’s divorce from Sophia Dorothea of Celle in 1694 meant that he came to Britain without a consort. George II was crowned beside his wife, Caroline of Ansbach, in October 1727 but their partnership ended with Caroline’s death a decade later and George never remarried. The absence of the queen consort was therefore the norm rather than the exception. Instead, the early Hanoverian period could be said to have been the era of the princess of Wales.

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Book Review: The Monstrous Regiment of Women: Female Rulers in Early Modern Europe by Sharon L. Jansen

By Johanna Strong

Sharon L. Jansen’s The Monstrous Regiment of Women: Female Rulers in Early Modern Europe is a foundational work in the field of queenship studies and stands in a long series of responses and allusions to John Knox’s infamous First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women (1558). Where Knox argued that women were inherently unable to rule and so should be barred from political power, Jansen highlights early modern Europe as a centre of female power, a complex “network[…] of related women and patterns of connections between them” (page 4). Instead of focusing on individual remarkable women, Jansen “explore[s] the relationships among women whose lives occupy a place in and perpetuate a continuing, though largely unrecogni[s]ed[,] tradition of political rule” (5-6).

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