16.08.09, García-Fernández and Cernadas Martínez, eds., Reginae Iberiae

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Elena Woodacre

The Medieval Review 16.08.09

García-Fernández, Miguel, and Silvia Cernadas Martínez, eds. Reginae Iberiae. El poder regio femenino en los reinos medievales peninsulares . Santiago de Compostela: Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, 2015. pp. . ISBN: 978-84-16183-88-3 (paperback).

Reviewed by:
Elena Woodacre
University of Winchester

The study of medieval Iberia, queenship in the Middle Ages and beyond and the nexus between these two areas of research, medieval Iberian queenship, have all been active and innovative areas of scholarship for several decades. This collection, a subset of the proceedings of a conference on royal women in medieval Iberia held in May 2014, amply demonstrates the excellent caliber of studies which are continuing to emerge in this area. The volume draws together participants based in several countries, and crucially the editors explain that they took the deliberate decision to encourage the authors to publish in their native languages, so that their arguments and evidence could ring forth as strongly as possible. While this approach has considerable benefits in terms of the expression and eloquence of all of the papers, the reader needs to be comfortable reading in several languages (Castilian Spanish, Catalan, English, Portuguese and Italian) in order to take in the complete contents of the collection. However diverse the language of the papers may be, they are very cohesive in the editors' aim to highlight the vital importance of the female element of monarchy in medieval Iberia. This unity is demonstrated by the decision not to group the papers into thematic blocks, as is so often the case with edited collections, but to simply order the papers roughly chronologically from the eleventh to the late fifteenth century.

The papers begin with Janna Bianchini's contribution on the relationship between infantas in twelfth-century Castile. The pivot point for these relationships is the Infantazgo, a collection of royal territories which fell under the administration of various infantas over the course of the central Middle Ages in León-Castile. Bianchini notes the considerable debate who was eligible to hold and/or alienate the territories of the Infantazgo, in terms of both legitimacy and marital status. Bianchini then discusses the fosterage of infantas by their female relatives within the dynasty which she argues built not only ties between royal women but a sense of enduring dynastic identity for the infantas.

The next two papers share a focus on funerary practices and material culture. First is a comparative study of the burials of royal women in the Christian kingdoms of Iberia between the eleventh and thirteenth century by Sonsoles García González. García González begins with an overarching discussion of the liturgy, custom and rituals for royal burials and a historiography of previous study and sources, noting that chronicles of the period offer a sometimes useful but incomplete source for these events. Then a series of five case studies of four royal women and the necropolis at las Huelgas demonstrates García González's central argument that while we can learn a great deal from the sarcophagi about the importance of these burials, the textual sources give us a limited view of the funeral services for the women themselves. The subsequent paper, by Joana Ramôa Melo, focuses on one particular tomb at Santa Maria de Alcobaça in Portugal which has been associated with two different royal women. Ramôa Melo offers an insightful discussion of the tomb itself and a thorough engagement with the evidence and the debate over whether or not it should be associated with Urraca (d. 1220), mother of Afonso II of Portugal or Beatriz (d. 1300), wife of Afonso III.

While the following paper by Maria do Rosário Morujão remains focused on Portugal and the iconographical representation of its queens, the author brings in an entirely different source base, that of seals. Rosário Morujão notes that the survival of queenly seals from the period are very limited-only examples from Mécia Lopes de Haro, Beatriz de Guzman, Isabel of Aragon, and Leonor Teles have survived from the first dynasty. Rosário Morujão highlights the variation in the design of the seals, from Lopes de Haro's format which shares iconography common to many European queenly seals of the period, to Beatriz de Guzman's rare depiction on horseback, a model far more common for medieval kings than queens.

Moving away from Portugal briefly, the next paper takes us to the Eastern end of the Iberian realms, to the Balearic kingdom of Mallorca. Gabriel Ensenyat Pujol examines the spirituality of the women of the House of Mallorca and their strong ties to the Franciscan order. Ensenyat Pujol studies the religious patronage of both women who married into Mallorca, such as Esclaramunda de Foix, wife of Jaime II, and natal members of the dynasty, including Sancha of Mallorca, wife of Robert of Anjou, King of Naples. The protagonist of the next paper, Isabel of Aragon, was also known for her spiritual nature, eventually canonized as Saint Isabel (or Elizabeth) of Portugal. However, Giulia Rossi Vairo focuses instead on Isabel's support of her son Afonso in his rebellion against her husband, King Dinis and portraying her as a strong authoritative queen rather than the more typical view of Isabel as a peacemaking saint. The following paper takes us from the well-known Isabel of Aragon, Queen of Portugal to the little known Maria of Portugal, sent to Aragon to marry the brother of Pedro IV. Elena Cantrell Barella offers an insight into the challenges faced by the Portuguese princess who was swept up in the conflicts generated by her husband, whose ambition alienated him from the kings of both Castile and Aragon and led to his assassination by Pedro IV in July 1363. After her husband's death, Maria of Portugal languished in Aragon for 10 years as an effective hostage as Pedro IV sought Portugal's help against Castile. Cantrell Barella highlights the fascinating story of a royal woman whose fate hung in the balance of Iberian politics and deserves greater attention-this paper, including the substantial documentary appendices which follow, should raise awareness of Maria's difficult period at the Aragonese court.

The next paper, by Juan Antonio Prieto Sayagués, returns to the theme of religious patronage, focusing on the important role played by royal and elite women in Castile from 1350 to 1474. This paper also ties in well with the earlier discussion of tombs and female funerary customs begun by García González and Ramôa Melo, particularly with regard to how women chose their preferred site of burial. Prieto Sayagués argues that royal women provided a model for patronage and religious practices for both their successors and other elite women to follow.

Francisco José Díaz Marcilla glibly pulls in a popular culture reference to Game of Thrones in the title of his paper on sister queens. This paper is a comparative study of two pairs of sisters who were both queens of Castile and Portugal, respectively Catalina and Philippa of Lancaster and María and Leonor of Aragon. Díaz Marcilla particularly concentrates on how these sister queens were represented in literature, querying traditional notions of depictions of religious devotion in the Portuguese historiography or a more maternally focused role in Castilian sources.

Next, Victor Muñoz Gómez explores the widowhood of Leonor de Alburquerque, dowager Queen of Aragon and a considerable heiress in her own right. This paper is a valuable addition to the collection as dowager queens are understudied and deserving of greater attention. Leonor de Alburquerque makes a particularly compelling case study given her continuing involvement in the turbulent political landscape, attempting to secure the dominance of her family and maintain peaceful relations between the various branches of the Trastámara dynasty. In the following paper, Diana Pelaz Flores looks at the queen's household in Castile, primarily focusing on the court of Leonor's daughter, Maria of Aragon and that of Maria's successor, Isabel of Portugal. Pelaz Flores employs an element of social network analysis and rich examples which demonstrate the relationship between queen and those who served her. These queens built a network of service using gifts, offices and matrimonial alliances within the household as a way to cement relationships with her servitors and secure their long-term loyalty.

The final paper, by Helena Carvajal González, returns to Aragon and gives a comparative overview of the book collections of its queens across the later Middle Ages. Carvajal González argues that books were a political instrument and uses a range of varied sources including wills, inventories, accounts and letters to trace the literary acquisitions of several queens. Carvajal González notes that some queens, such as Elisenda de Montcada, received books from their husbands while others, such as Violant de Bar and Leonor Plantagenet leveraged relationships with their natal families to bring in books from abroad. These books in turn could be gifted to others or left in their wills to support religious foundations, enhancing their patronage of particular orders and institutions.

In sum, even though the collection has not been ordered thematically there are three major themes that stand out which highlight key aspects of queenship, both in this particular temporal and geographic context, and beyond. One theme is that of relationships, both within the family and dynasty and in Pelaz Flores' case, in the context of the household. Another theme that can be clearly seen here is in terms of representation and commemoration in literature and in material culture such as seals and tombs. Finally, patronage is another aspect which resonates across the volume, particularly in the sense of religious patronage. While grouping the papers together in these three thematic strands would certainly have emphasized these clear links and ideas, there have been some convenient connections which have occurred in the chronological layout, as have been pointed out during the overview of the papers.

Regardless of the benefits of thematic or chronological organization of material, a constant issue for all authors and editors when preparing their work, this is a very strong collection of papers. Each of the chapters offers excellent insight into the queens of medieval Iberia, through the author's particular area of focus. The richly varied case studies deepen our understanding both of queenship itself and of the Christian kingdoms of Iberia as they developed over the course of the Middle Ages. There is an effective balance between the three largest realms; Portugal, Castile and Aragon, though it would be useful perhaps to include Navarre more explicitly in the discussion as well. For the future, a follow up volume which brings together studies of the Christian experience of queenship in medieval Iberia with studies of Muslim royal women in the Peninsula would offer an intriguing comparative collection. Given the increasingly global direction that queenship and royal studies are currently taking and the rich vein of scholarship on the Islamic rulers of medieval Iberia, this would be an ideal direction for a companion collection to this excellent volume.

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