Version of the signet of the House of Capet, one of France’s royal dynasties. Image Credit: WikiCommons.

The rulership of France has changed dramatically over its history, with the shifting boundaries from Roman governance through to Merovingian, Carolingian, Capetian, Valois, and Bourbon dynasties. The kingdom of France itself in the post-Carolingian world was initially smaller than what we conceive of today, with rulers of several regions doing homage to the king or ruling independently. It was after the reign of Philip Augustus (1165-1223) that France expanded significantly and began to take form. The absolutist monarchy in France came to an end initially during the French Revolution with the execution of Louis VIII and Marie Antoinette, with a brief system of imperial and monarchical rule taking place until the death of Napoleon III in 1870. Though it has been popularly assumed that the rule and rights of royal women in France was somewhat limited, in part due to inheritance issues linked to Salic law, the reality is different. As with many of their royal counterparts, queens in France had access to and regularly exercised power.

You can find out more about some of these fascinating women below!


Bertière, S. Les Reines de France au temps de Valois. 2 vols. Paris: Fallois, 1994

Broomhall, Susan, ed. Women, Power, and Authority at the French Court, 1483–1563. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2018

Cosandey, Fanny. “De lance en quenouille. La place de la reine dans l’État moderne (14e–17e siècles).” Annales: Histoire, Sciences Sociales 52:4 (1997): 799– 820

Cosandey, Fanny.  La Reine de France: symbole et pouvoir, XVe–XVIIIe siècle. Paris: Gallimard, 2000

Delogu, Daisy. Allegorical Bodies: Power and Gender in Late Medieval France. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015

Doyle, William, ed. The Oxford Handbook of the Ancien Régime. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011

Facinger, Marion. “A Study of Medieval Queenship: Capetian France, 987–1237.” Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History 5 (1968): 3–47

Gaude-Ferragu, Murielle. Queenship in Medieval France, 1300-1500. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016

LoPrete, Kimberly. “Historical Ironies in the Study of Capetian Women.” In Capetian Women, edited by Kathleen Nolan, 271–286. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004

LoPrete, Kimberly. “Women, Gender and Lordship in France, c.1050–1250.” History Compass 5: 6 (2007): 1921–1941

McCannon, Afrodesia E. “Two Capetian Queens as the Foreground for an Aristocrat’s Anxiety in the “Vie de Saint Louis”.” In Capetian Women, edited by Kathleen Nolan, 163–76. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004

McCartney, Elizabeth. “Ceremonies and Privileges of Office: Queenship in Late Medieval France.” In Power of the Weak. Studies on Medieval Women, edited by Jennifer Carpenter and Sally-Beth MacLean, 178–219. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1995

McCartney, Elizabeth. “The King’s Mother and Royal Prerogative in Early Sixteenth-Century France.” In Medieval Queenship, edited by John Carmi Parsons, 117–141. Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 1994

McCartney, Elizabeth. Queens in the Cult of the French Renaissance Monarchy: Public Law, Royal Ceremonial, and Political Discourse in the History of Regency Government, 1484-1610. London: Routledge, 2007

Nelson, Janet L. “Queens as Jezebels: The Careers of Brunhild and Balthild in Merovingian History.” In Medieval Women. Dedicated and presented to Prof. Rosalind M. Hill, 31–77. Oxford: Blackwell, 1978

Nelson, Janet L. “Women at the Court of Charlemagne: A Case of Monstrous Regiment?” In Medieval Queenship, edited by John Carmi Parsons, 43–61. Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 1994

Nelson, Janet L. “Les Reines Carolingiennes.” In Femmes et pouvoirs des femmes à Byzance et en Occident (Vie–XIe siècles), edited by S. Lebecq, A. Dierkens, R. Le Jan, and J.-M. Sansterre, 121-132. Lille: Centre de Recherche sur l’Histoire de l’Europe du Nord-Ouest, Université Charles de Gaulle-Lille 3, 1999

Nelson, Janet L. “Queens as Converters of Kings in the Earlier Middle Ages.” In Agire da Donna. Modelli e pratiche di rappresentazione (Secoli VI–X), edited by M. C. La Rocca, 95-107. Turnhout: Brepols, 2007

Nolan, Kathleen. Queens in Stone and Silver: The Creation of a Visual Imagery of Queenship in Capetian France. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009

Poulet, André. “Capetian Women and the Regency. The Genesis of a Vocation.” In Medieval Queenship, edited by John Carmi Parsons, 93-116. Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 1994.

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