Historical Ironies in the Study of Capetian Women
Adopting a dynamic perspective, the essays in Capetian Women draw on multiple methodologies to extend the range of sources and issues traditionally brought to the study of French royal women. They illuminate key aspects of individual women’s experiences, reputations, and contributions to their wider sociopolitical worlds, while also exposing the wide array of social-structural and personal resources Capetian women could tap as they forged identities and acted out roles befitting their position on the highest rungs of the lordly ladder. At the same time, these essays bring into relief the kaleidoscopic relations among prescriptive legal norms, noblewomen’s deeds, and gendered cultural values and social roles, which framed such women’s lives. They reveal that the disjunctions as well as the intersections among those incongruent domains became the sites of continuous renegotiation in a process that created both conceptual and social space for powerful women. Thus these studies also explore the contexts in which both the parameters of royal women’s activities and the office of queenship were construed and contested as the shape and structure of the French kingdom evolved. In so doing, they disclose certain meaningful ironies in recent approaches to the study of medieval noble and royal women. Exploration of those ironies indicates how further systematic research could significantly increase our knowledge of French history. That work will make it possible to integrate the contributions of these, and myriad other, Capetian women into revised narratives of sociopolitical events of their lifetimes, as well as into accounts of long-term trends in areas such as the history of queenship, French royal government, cultural patronage, and gender—power relations.
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