As the summer winds down, those of us who teach are returning to our colleges and universities. I had a busy summer at conferences in the US and UK, working on the maternity database, and getting ready for a year of events on campus about health in historical perspective (see the earlier posts, Royal Mothers).

The conferences in the UK at the University of Leeds (the International Medieval Congress) and the University of Winchester (The Royal Studies Network) were rich and rewarding. Take a look at the papers I listed in an earlier post in April to get a sense for the range of subjects and approaches. From these conference sessions, there are a number of book projects in the works on queens, and as they come to fruition I’ll post the titles and links to articles.

If the dissertations, articles, and books published recently are any indicator, the field of queenship studies continues to flourish. Here are the titles of works I recently added to the Bibliography:


  • Jennifer McRobbie, “Gender and violence in Gregory of Tours’ ‘Decem libri historiarum.’” University of St Andrews, doctoral dissertation, 2012. Author’s abstract: The ‘Decem Libri Historiarum’ of Gregory of Tours, our only coherent narrative source for the latter half of the sixth century in Gaul, has been the subject of much lively scholarly debate as to its reliability and original purpose. Literary approaches have proved useful; however, the findings of gender studies, applied so fruitfully in many other areas of historical research, have thus far had virtually no impact on the study of Gregory’s work. For the first time, this thesis examines the role of gender in the DLH. Just as gender assumptions were vital to the thought world of the writers of the books of the Old Testament, so too they were vital to Gregory, who took these books as his main inspiration. It will be shown that gender can offer a fresh and vital perspective on some of the most contentious issues associated with the DLH, taking us closer than ever to a full appreciation of Gregory’s objectives. In exposing Gregory’s literary devices and strategies, this study goes beyond Gregory’s viewpoint, with implications for the study of kingship, and particularly queenship, in the sixth century. It will be shown that competing norms of elite masculine and feminine behaviour were in flux over the period, and required careful negotiation. This study also has repercussions for gender studies more widely. In demonstrating the usefulness of gender approaches in analysing a text to which such approaches have never before been applied, the thesis indicates that gender must be considered an essential analytical tool in historical research.
  • Emma Jane Thomas. “The ‘second Jezebel’ : representations of the sixth-century Queen Brunhild.” University of Glasgow, doctoral dissertation, 2012. Author’s abstract: This thesis explores the representation of the sixth-century Merovingian Queen Brunhild. By examining seven of the divergent sources which present the queen, the construction of Brunhild, or multiple Brunhilds, is analysed through gendered, literary and political lenses. Rather than attempting to reconcile the extremities of depictions of this queen, during her life and after her death, I demonstrate that Brunhild is a series of historical and textual problems at different political moments. I also show that the themes damnatio memoriae, feud and queenship, commonly used to analyse her career, are inadequate to understand the queen herself, the authors who wrote about her, and the age in which they lived. Three main themes within Brunhild’s extensive career allow the exploration of the tensions inherent within the seven main sources which present her. The ‘construction of queenship’ is an examination into Brunhild’s move from Visigothic princess to Frankish queen, a transition often dismissed, but one which proves pivotal to understanding the queen’s later Visigothic dealings. The ways in which authors recognised her at the point of marriage is nuanced by their political context, looking back on the queen upon her husband’s death. The ‘politics of survival’ goes on to study Brunhild’s relationship with the church: first, the positive associations between a queen and piety, and then, the results when that relationship goes awry. It is Brunhild’s tension with the church which labels her ‘the second Jezebel’. Finally, ‘dynasty and destruction’ explores Brunhild’s relationship with her offspring. During three regencies, spanning three generations, the queen’s connection to her family was critiqued in different ways. Her involvement in Visigothic succession politics to the end of her career is examined, alongside Brunhild’s maternal image, and finally the accounts of her death. How Brunhild’s physical and political body is neutralised is crucial to understanding each author’s motives. There is no other early medieval queen with the textual afterlife of Brunhild and this thesis is the first full examination of the extremities of her representation. Subjected, it has been said, to damnatio memoriae, the vilification, or more literally, destruction of memory, Brunhild and her textual manifestation is read in an entirely new way. The contemporary recognition of this queen, together with her textual representation, betray a tension which illustrates that Brunhild was, in fact, more alive after she was dead.


  • Elena Woodacre, The Queens Regnant of Navarre: Succession, Politics, and Partnership, 1274-1512.  Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. From the publisher: The five reigning queens of Navarre comprise the largest set of female sovereigns in a single European realm during the Middle Ages. However, the lives and careers of these women are largely unknown beyond the region and have never been investigated as a group or in the context of female rule. This survey of Navarre’s queens finally fills this scholarly lacuna by focusing on issues of female succession, matrimonial politics, agency, patronage, and the power-sharing dynamic between the queens and their male consorts. It also highlights the importance of Navarre to major political events of the era and traces these queens’ connections to other female European rulers, including Isabel of Castile and Giovanna II of Naples.


  • Madeline Caviness. “Of Arms and the Woman in Medieval Europe: Fact. Fiction. Fantasy.” FKW // Zeitschrift für Geschlechterforschung und visuelle Kultur 54 (2013): Author’s abstract: The complex relationship between women and arms in Europe, from Roman times to about 1200, is reexamined in light of literary traditions, historical records, and the modern preoccupation with women warriors that inevitably inflects historical judgments. Overall, the issue has suffered from a scarcity of hard evidence and an abundant politics of interpretation. Some historical examples indicate an acceptance of female hereditary governance in Europe during the early middle ages, including the command of troops. Yet many historians have greeted the idea of a woman wielding a sword in battle with skepticism. Figures such as Boudicca who led a revolt against the Romans in Britain, the Anglo-Saxon queen Aethelflaed, and the later women who fought in the crusades, or defended their own property, have been politicized. Narratives like that of the Old Testament Judith and the Nibelungenlied became ideological tools to raise the alarm about phallic women. By the thirteenth century, Saxon law declared that a widow must immediately surrender her husband’s sword to the male heir. Female fighters were increasingly vilified, culminating in the accusation of heresy against Joan of Arc, and her execution.
  • Courtney Luckhardt. “Gender and Connectivity: Facilitating Religious Travel in the Sixth and Seventh Centuries.” Comitatus: A Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 44 (2013); 
pp. 29–53. Author’s abstract: Using gender as a lens, this article evaluates the nature of female networks of religious connection and communication in the early medieval period. The vitae of three female saints of the sixth and seventh centuries, Radegund of Poitiers, Brigid of Kildare, and Gertrude of Nivelles, demonstrate the way that women facilitated and instigated networks of contact through their relationships with others, especially men and particularly their kin. These relationships allowed women to play a crucial role in forming heterogeneous cultural and religious connections across both long and short distances in the period. The methodology of connectivity, which as a concept needs to be both engaged with and challenged, allows the probing of questions of how and why medieval people communicated and connected with one another across geographical and imaginative boundaries.


  • Amalie Foessel, “The Political Traditions of Female Rulership in Medieval Europe.” In Judith M. Bennett and Ruth Mazo Karras (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Women and Gender in Medieval Europe, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).
  • Jill Harries. “Men without Women: Theodocius’ Consistory and the Business of Government.” In Christopher Kelly (ed.), ‪Theodosius II: ‪Rethinking the Roman Empire in Late Antiquity, Cambridge: ‪Cambridge University Press, 2013, pp. 67–89.