Learn more about our plans for the project, the context of our research and ideas for future directions
This proposed workshop series and conference forms the foundational stage of an international collaborative project to bring together scholars and postgraduate students researching the revenue and expenditure of royal women in premodern Europe (c. 1000-1800 CE). The universally acknowledged connection between money and power works in both directions—financial means are a vital basis for gaining and maintaining authority while access to power can also bring enhanced access to financial resources. In premodern Europe, monarchy was the most ubiquitous political system and royal women (including the consorts, mothers, daughters and sisters of rulers as well as women who ruled in their own right) formed the crucial female element of that political structure. Royal women had considerable access to financial resources from complex revenue streams including not only lands and territorial rights but income from taxes, fines, customs, urban centres, gifts, markets, trading monopolies and even religious foundations. A queen’s resources could come from her dower, jointure, propter nuptia donation or morgengabe—a package of revenues that she was granted by a husband after her marriage and/or after her installation in office. While some revenues were intended to support a royal woman as a widow, in other cases a consort was given access to these funds on her marriage for the duration of her life. She might also have funds or lands which formed part of her dowry from her natal family or lands which she inherited in her own right as an heiress.
These revenues gave her considerable political and cultural wherewithal, providing crucial funds to maintain her household as well as capital for religious and cultural patronage and industrial investments such as mills, breweries and factories. It also allowed her to build and maintain political networks through her ‘affinity’ of officials who assisted in administration of her lands and investments and formed a key element of her power base across the realm. Yet while the financial element of the queen’s role is central to her exercise of power and authority, the economic aspect of queenship and royal studies more broadly is understudied as Charlotte Backerra highlighted in her opening address at the recent Monarchy and Money conference. While emerging works such as Cathleen Sarti (ed.), Women and Economic Power in Premodern Royal Courts (ARC Humanities Press, 2020) have begun to shed light on this important area, there is pressing need to build a wider, comparative picture of the financial agency of European royal women in the medieval and early modern periods to deepen our understanding of this nexus where economic history, gender studies, political history and royal studies meet.
This project aims to address this lacuna through a series of workshops, held virtually via video conferencing, to bring together an international group of researchers, from senior scholars to postgraduate and early career researchers, for discussions that will enable them to share the results of their investigations on the resources and revenues of royal women. The workshop series will culminate in a conference, to be held at the University of Winchester in late 2022 which will bring together participants from all of the themed workshops to reflect collectively and comparatively on the revenues of royal women. By joining together individual studies, often focused on the resources of one particular figure or a small cluster of queens in a particular realm, we will be able to gain a wider understanding of the economic agency of royal women by comparing their revenues over the whole of the premodern period across Europe. This research will not only shed light on queenship, the gendered exercise of authority and management of crown finances, but it also gives us a greater understanding of rulership and the wider mechanisms of monarchy. The queen’s lands and resources were often drawn from larger collections of territories and prerogatives which belonged to the crown and her natal dynasty. The strategic allocation or alienation of lands to the queen was a means of delegating authority, co-rulership and enhancing the visibility and reach of the crown in areas which the queen administered. The comparative nature of the project—over the medieval and early modern periods and across several European regions—will help us understand continuity and change over time as well as how the complex mechanisms of royal and queenly finances varied in different courts and cultural contexts.
The key outputs of these activities will be an edited collection/special issue derived from the papers presented at the conference along with the development of an application for a major funding bid to enable the construction of an interactive database to map the lands, revenues and resources controlled by royal women. The questions explored in these workshops and the final conference are vital to the success of the database project to understand the range of material which will need to be included as well as similarities and differences between periods and regions which will be important to factor into the development of the database. The conference will include presentations from database experts to advise on how best to frame our project and dedicated time for grant writing for the funding application. While this phase of the wider programme of research is focused solely on incoming revenue streams and resources, in future phases we aim to examine the expenditure of royal women to give a more holistic understanding of the economic aspect of queenship including household and financial management, investment strategies and the development of their financial resources and networks.