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Elite Power and Queenship

Seminar and Essay Questions

  • What functions did queens serve in medieval monarchies?
  • In what ways did aristocratic and royal women exercise power?


  • Please identify a primary source relevant to the theme of aristocratic/royal women's exercise of power. This can be a document, an object, a painting...Be prepared to introduce your source to the rest of the group: what are its origins? why did you choose it? what does it tell us about power?

Essential Reading

Hurlburt, Holly, 'Women and Power' in The Cultural History of Women: Vol. 3, The Renaissance, ed. Karen Raber, (Berg Press, 2013), pp.163-82.

Recommended Reading

'Introduction' in Rohr, Zita Eva and Lisa Benz (eds), Queenship, gender, and reputation in the medieval and early modern west, 1060-1600 (Springer International Publishing, 2016), pp. xvi-xliv (click on 'Front Matter', just above the 'Biography, Gossip and History' heading)

Earenfight, Theresa, 'Without the Persona of the Prince: King, Queen and the Idea of Monarchy in Late Medieval Europe', Gender and History, 19:1, (2007), pp.1–21


Further Reading

Casteen, Elizabeth, From She-wolf to Martyr : The Reign and Disputed Reputation of Johanna I of Naples (Cornell University Press, 2015)

Castor, Helen, She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England before Elizabeth (London:Faber and Faber, 2010)

Cockram, Sarah, Isabella d'Este and Francesco Gonzaga : Power Sharing at the Italian Renaissance Court (Ashgate, 2013)

Davis, N. Z., 'Women in Politics' in Davis and A. Farge (eds.), A History of Women: Renaissance and Enlightenment Paradoxes (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993)

Earenfight, Theresa, Queenship in Medieval Europe (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)

Earenfight, Theresa, (ed.) Queenship and Political Power in Medieval and Early Modern
Spain (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005).

Erler, Mary C. and Maryanne Kowaleski, Gendering the Master Narrative : Women and Power in the Middle Ages (Cornell University Press, 2018)

Fleiner, Carey and Elena Woodacre (eds), Virtuous or Villainess? The image of the royal mother from the early medieval to the early modern era (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016)

Gundersheimer, W., 'Women, Learning and Power: Eleonora of Aragon and the Court of Ferrara' in P. Labalme (ed.), Beyond their Sex: Learned Women of the European Past (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), pp.4365.

Hairston, J., 'Skirting the Issue: Machiavelli’s Caterina Sforza' Renaissance Quarterly 53 (2000), pp. 687709.

Herlihy, D., 'Society, Court and Culture in Sixteenth‐Century Mantua' in Women, Family and Society in Medieval Europe (Providence: Berghahn Books, 1995), pp. 27995

Hughes, D. O., 'Invisible Madonnas? The Italian Historiographical Tradition and the Women of Medieval Italy' in S. Stuard (ed.), Medieval Women in History and Historiography (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1987), pp.25– 57.

Hurlburt, Holly, 'A Renaissance for Renaissance Women?' Journal of Women’s History 19: (2007), pp.193-201.

Hurlburt, Holly, 'Women, Gender and Rulership in Italy' History Compass 4:3 (2006), pp. 528-535.

Jansen, Sharon (trans, and ed.) Anne of France : lessons for my daughter (Brewer, 2004)

Laynesmith, J. L., The Last Medieval Queens : English Queenship 1445-1503 (Oxford University Press, 2004)

Matarasso, Pauline Queen's mate : three women of power in France on the eve of the Renaissance (2001)

Maurer, Helen and B.M. Cron, (eds) The letters of Margaret of Anjou (Boydell, 2019) 

Nelson, Janet L., 'Medieval Queenship' in Women in Medieval Western European Culture , Linda E. Mitchell (ed), (New York: Garland, 1999), pp.179–207

Panizza, L. (ed.), Women in Italian Renaissance Culture and Society (Oxford: Legenda Press, 2000)

Rohr, Zita Eva and Lisa Benz (eds), Queenship, gender, and reputation in the medieval and early modern west, 1060-1600 (Springer International Publishing, 2016)

Tomas, N., The Medici Women: Gender and Power in Renaissance Florence (Aldershot: Ashgate Press, 2003)

Woodacre, Elena, (ed.), Queenship in the Mediterranean: Negotiating the Role of the
Queen in the Medieval and Early Modern Eras (New York: Palgrave Macmillan,

Woodacre, Elena, (ed.) A Companion to Global Queenship (Arc Humanities Press, 2018)

Elizabeth Woodville