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Medieval Queenship

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What was the role of the queen in the medieval world?

Past generations of historians focused on kings: male rulers and their achievements in politics and war.

The role of queens was frequently overlooked. This module will explore the notion of Queenship.

Through a series of case studies, ranging from the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries and drawing examples from England, France, and Spain, we will examine the role that queens played in medieval society.

You will be introduced to a vibrant recent scholarship, which reinstates royal women in their rightful position as leaders in the medieval world - as mothers and consorts responsible for the perpetuation of royal lines - but equally importantly as strong political figures, even as rulers in their own right, and as patrons of religion and culture.

We will examine medieval queens in the wider context of women of the period, questioning the extent to which we are able to reconstruct their roles using male-dominated written accounts.

You will be introduced to modern approaches to studying Queenship, and explore a wide range of written source material and surviving material culture, to understand the power of the queen in the medieval ‘game of thrones’.

Learning and teaching

The module will be taught online, incorporating recorded lectures and online seminars and workshops involving class discussion and group work on specific topics relating to the module.

The discussion and group work will enable you to think critically and to contribute to the debates and topics presented during the lectures.

The discussion-led sessions and the lectures will be supplemented by resources available to students via Learning Central.

Syllabus:

  • Understanding women in the medieval world
  • Theories of queenship
  • Raising royal children: queens as mothers
  • Queen consorts: the role of the royal wife
  • Queens regnant: ruling monarchs
  • Queens and culture
  • Reassessing the study of medieval queenship

Coursework and assessment

You will be expected to complete two pieces of assessed work:

  • a short source analysis
  • a 1000-word essay

Advice and support will be provided for both assignments and you will receive detailed feedback relating to strengths and areas for improvement on both pieces of work.

Reading suggestions

  • Bennett, Judith M. and Ruth Mazo Karras (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Women and Gender in Medieval Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).
  • Castor, H., She-Wolves: The Women who Ruled England before Elizabeth (London: Faber, 2010)
  • Carmi-Parsons, J. (ed.), Medieval Queenship (Stroud: Alan Sutton, 1994)
  • Duggan, A. J. (ed.), Queens and Queenship in Medieval Europe (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1997)
  • Earenfight, T., Queenship in Medieval Europe (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)
  • Hilton, L., Queens Consort: England’s Medieval Queens (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2008)

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.

Accessibility

Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and dyslexia screening.