The Last Medieval Queens: English Queenship 1445-1503

The Last Medieval Queens: English Queenship 1445-1503

The Last Medieval Queens: English Queenship 1445-1503

The Last Medieval Queens: English Queenship 1445-1503

Synopsis

The last medieval queens of England were Margaret of Anjou, Elizabeth Woodville, Anne Neville, and Elizabeth of York - four very different women whose lives and queenship were dominated by the Wars of the Roses. This book is not a traditional biography but a thematic study of the ideology and practice of queenship. It examines the motivations behind the choice of the first English-born queens, the multi-faceted rituals of coronation, childbirth, and funeral, the divided loyalties between family and king, and the significance of a position at the heart of the English power structure that could only be filled by a woman. It sheds new light on the queens' struggles to defend their children's rights to the throne, and argues that ideologically and politically a queen was integral to the proper exercise of mature kingship in this period.

Excerpt

What did it mean to be a queen in fifteenth-century England—a period in which so many kings were violently cast from the English throne in so short a space of years? While scholars have long argued over the implications of these events for the nature of kingship, their impact upon the role of the kings' wives has not been considered. Yet the questions of legitimate inheritance or of the appropriate and rightful exercise of authority which lay at the heart of the Wars of the Roses inevitably impinged also upon those who shared the king's throne and his bed. This book is not a traditional biography of women who were married to kings but an examination of the office of queenship in one of the most turbulent periods of England's history. What sort of woman was chosen to be a queen? What behaviour was expected of her? What power or authority was granted to her? How did the king use her in the exercise of kingship? and what happened when kingship was in crisis or the queen could not live up to the ideals expected of her? These are the questions driving the investigation in this book.

During the period under analysis, 1445–1503, the office of queen was held by four very different women. the first, Margaret of Anjou, was a kinswoman of the French king who was eventually forced by the inadequacies of her king, Henry vi, to take a far more publicly political role than was traditional for queens. Her successor, Elizabeth Woodville, was an English gentlewoman and the widow of a Lancastrian knight whose secret marriage to Edward iv caused controversy at the time and was declared invalid by Edward's brother, Richard iii, on Edward's death. Richard III's queen was an English noblewoman, Anne Neville, already his wife before he took the throne from his nephew,

I have adopted the modern spelling of 'Woodville' because it is the version most commonly used by
historians. in the 15th century it was usually written as 'Wydeville' or similar and 'Elizabeth' was usually
written 'Elysabeth'.

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