This exciting new study argues that medieval aristocratic women not only had power to exercise authority, but that they did so in different capacities depending on the times of their life cycle.
Berenguela of Castile (1180–1246) is a figure who is often overshadowed by her famous relatives, including her grandmother Eleanor of Aquitaine, her sister Blanche of Castile and her son Fernando III of Castile and León.
Theresa Earenfight’s new book, Queenship in Medieval Europe, stresses that the medieval royal court could be a woman’s world as much as a man’s.
Elena Woodacre’s book on the five female sovereigns of the medieval Pyrenean kingdom of Navarre is a timely study considering the latest scholarship on politically active queens in medieval Iberia. This scholarship on ruling women, however, has focused predominantly on individual queens.
In the recent years, queenship has interested and fascinated numerous scholars.(1) While some queens, notably British and French ones, have already received interest from historians, this study is keen on shedding light on the female rulers of the Mediterranean.
Lindy Grant’s long awaited and magisterial (although here one particularly laments the lack of a gender-appropriate adjective) book offers us a biography of Blanche of Castile, the Iberian princess famously chosen by her grandmother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, to marry the son of Philip II of France, Lord Louis, the future Louis VIII.
Before beginning this review, it is important to frame the commentary that follows with two caveats; first, that I (or we as academics), am not the intended audience of this book and secondly, that although I have some criticisms of this work which I will discuss further below, I did genuinely enjoy reading this.
This is an important and timely book. Engaging intelligently with a range of sources and historiographical traditions, Simon MacLean tells the story of tenth-century queenship through the prism of the Ottonian royal family. The Ottonians ruled East Francia (roughly speaking, Germany) from 919 to 1024, and from 961 northern Italy too.