Introduction Family, Sex, and Power: The Rhythms of Medieval Queenship

  • John Carmi Parsons


While this anthology reflects current interest in the queens of medieval Europe as an outgrowth of feminist historical studies since the 1960s, it also highlights the curious fact that only recently has much notice been taken of queenship itself. It is almost deplorably easy to account for this state of affairs. A renewed interest in women’s history first produced accounts of prominent women — nobles, abbesses, saints — including that handful of medieval queens who have always excited popular interest: Eleanor of Aquitaine, Blanche of Castile, Margaret of Anjou, Isabella of Castile. These works are, however, limited by the tendencies to depict queens as moral pendants to husbands or sons, and to dwell on their lives but not their offices (N. Davis 1976; Stuard 1987b: 62–63, 72). More recently, queens and queenship have fallen into some disrepute as feminist historical scholarship has shifted its focus to socioeconomic studies that concentrate on the less fortunate sisters of the well-known; a current distaste for administrative and institutional history has, moreover, impeded investigation of queenship’s resources, its links to the king’s office and, most important, queens’ relationships with kingdoms and communities.


Succession Custom Birth Family Popular Interest Hereditary Succession Royal House 
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© John Carmi Parsons 1998

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  • John Carmi Parsons

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