History Revealed

MEDIEVAL QUEENS AND POWER

Q: How much power did medieval queens actually have?

A: One of the big debates in this area of research is whether we should use the terms ‘power’ or ‘agency’ when referring to medieval queens – agency is being able to decide something for yourself and not have someone tell you what to do, whereas power is more about telling someone else what to do.

Agency is often used in relation to medieval queens, but there is an argument that this might underplay the power of queens, because the so-called ‘soft power’ is harder to see. That type of influence, particularly when exerted over queens’ husbands, may have taken place in private and not necessarily been noted down. Equally, sometimes it’s not recorded because – especially in the Middle Ages – monastic chroniclers perhaps didn’t want to overplay the power of women, or maybe weren’t as aware of the power of women in those more intimate settings.

Obviously it’s much easier to see regnant and regent queens exercising power and authority, by ruling in their

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