One early modern queen consort has not yet received her share of the limelight, despite a dramatic and remarkable life. Mary of Modena (1658-1718), born Maria Beatrice Eleonora Anna Margherita Isabella d’Este, married James, duke of York (1633-1701) in 1673. She was only fifteen, and the duke was forty. While such age gaps sometimes occurred in noble marriages, they were unusual amongst the Stuarts. Of the most recent royal pairs, Charles I was nine years older than his wife, Henrietta Maria, and Charles II was eight years older than his consort, Catherine of Braganza. Mary’s new husband at least shared her Catholic faith, although this faith was reviled by many in England. In the early 1670s, Charles II’s failure to produce an heir meant it looked increasingly likely that his brother James would one day be king. The English Parliament therefore tried to stop Mary and James’ marriage from going ahead because of their fear of a male Catholic heir who would supplant James’ Protestant daughters with his first wife, according to England’s tradition of male primogeniture.
The growth in scholarly works on royal women has continued apace for the last four decades, with a particular speed owed undoubtedly in part to the machinations of the Kings and Queens conference series, organised by the Royal Studies Network, and the book series Queenship & Power, with this volume being a perfect example of how the two intertwine. It is a must-read for those looking for a series of case studies on royal women and their dynasties.
With African Europeans, Olivette Otele, Professor of the History of Slavery and Memory of Enslavement at the University of Bristol, deftly weaves from past to present to tell the untold stories of the people of Africa and Europe. By restoring these stories to their rightful place in the histories of these continents, Otele provides a more complete picture of our past. It is a reminder that Africa and Europe, and their peoples, have been intwined for millennia. However, this book is much more than a work of history—it is also a manifesto for our times. The book challenges many of the ideas that surround questions of identity, heritage, and the historical presence of people of African descent in Europe. Otele uses the past to illuminate the path to a better future and demonstrates that it is only by understanding our past that we can help to build a world that is truly equal and breaks the “destructive patterns of violence and subjugation” (p.219) that have, and regrettably continue to, ruin too many lives. African Europeans is a work that seeks to resolve the problem that those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it; it is history-writing at its finest.
In my last blog post for Team Queens “Going Global: New Directions in Queenship Studies”, I talked about how important it was for us as a field to reframe queenship in a fully global context, inclusive of all periods, places and cultures. While this is a fairly new trajectory for queenship as a field, it is important to acknowledge that there is already some fantastic scholarship on royal women, from ancient Mesopotamia to the ongoing modern controversies on female succession in Japan.
Queens have been brought to life on the screen for many decades, highlighting their turbulent and enigmatic reigns and portraying key themes analysed within queenship studies – reception of female power and rulership, succession crises, sexuality, and motherhood to name but a few. But warfare as an aspect of queenship has not been a focal point for representing these queens. Although there are references to the conflicts which occurred during their reigns, it is not a theme that forms their identity as a ruler. The depiction of queens participating in warfare in films and television series, however, is gaining ground in tandem with royal women gaining more recognition in military historiography.
A member of the French Academy, a veteran, and a resistance fighter against Nazi Germany, Maurice Druon (1918-2009) was one of the co-authors of the mythical Chant des partisans – the anthem of French Resistance. But among his many nationally acclaimed works, the Accursed Kings series of historical novels (Les Rois Maudits) crossed borders to become an international success. This seven-volume story is the result of a collaborative team effort, and the names of his many collaborators can be found in each preface. The first six books were published between 1955 and 1960, with a final seventh – more independent from the others – released in 1977.
If, according to the contemporary view, the reign of Marie-Louise d’Orléans, wife of King Carlos II of Habsburg, ended with the fleeting victory of the Austrian faction at the court of Spain, her sudden death, which gave rise to tenacious suspicions of poisoning, has something to feed the romantic imagination.
Translated from French to English by Angela Krieger, this book by Murielle Gaude-Ferragu (original publication in 2014) sheds a welcome light on the last medieval queens of France from the early fourteenth to the end of the fifteenth centuries. It focuses mainly on Valois queenship, exploring through nine thematic chapters (grouped in three distinctive parts) the power held by these women at a time when the French monarchy excluded the possibility of crowning a regnant queen. Whereas previous historiography overlooked Valois queens for being “simple” consorts, Gaude-Ferragu argues they played an essential role in the monarchy throughout the nearly two centuries of crises it faced. Her aim is to define late medieval queenship in France, outlining the queen’s functions and expectations.
On a summer’s day in 1546, the Queen of England was walking with her husband when guards arrived to arrest her. King Henry VIII had already had two of his previous wives detained and later executed and for a moment there was every indication that his sixth consort was about to follow the same path. However, Henry stepped in and dismissed his wife’s enemies, who left, embarrassed and bewildered. Katherine Parr had survived. But if she said a prayer of thanks later, she kept it discreet. For it was religion that had placed her in peril of the block.
This volume, edited by Anne J. Duggan, celebrates the diverse aspects which make up the foundations of queenship in the Middle Ages. It analyses them through thematic lenses identifying core aspects affecting the execution of power by queens and the construction of queenship. The essays in this collection come from the conference ‘Queens and Queenship in the Middle Ages’ in 1995, which aimed to draw comparisons between the constructions of monarchy in Europe and the Latin East from the sixth to the sixteenth centuries. The study of queenship is deeply complex, but Duggan’s volume highlights many of the arguments which have perpetuated the study of queens as agents of the monarchy.