Friday, 4 November 2011

Jennifer Norris on Queenship

Mirrors for Queens: Writing Powerful Women in Medieval Castilian & Portuguese Historiography

Jennifer Norris (Lincoln College)

Hispanists take the lead this Michaelmas and Jennifer Norris has been the second speaker of this term with an interesting paper on the image of queens in Castilian historiography, more concretely, the Estoria de España by Alfonso X.

Among the different powerful women that are portrayed in this historiographical work, Jennifer chose Urraca I and Berenguela I to demonstrate how two queens in similar situations can receive a very different treatment depending on their relation towards power. By contrasting the pages of the Estoria de España devoted to both women, Jennifer made clear that Urraca I was considered a negative example of queenship, in spite of her reign having been a more or less successful and peaceful one, because of not having delegated power to the closest male appropiate candidate and having reigned for 17 years. On the other side, the behaviour of Berenguela I was considered exemplar, as she abdicated in favour of her son Fernando III after just three months in power. This contrasting attitude towards both queens affects hot only how they are portrayed, but also the structure of the written texts and when and how they are mentioned in subsequent chapters.

Urraca's comparison with Don Rodrigo was worth commenting, but the aspects that received more attention during the Q&A turn were thise related to the portrayal of Berenguela as an exemplar queen and mother. Her being described as "espejo" (mirror) for Castille and Aragon accounts for her exemplarity, while the legitimacy of her queenship and well exerted power was supported by her being who kinghted her son. Moreover, her description as a mother was linked to the allegorical figure of Lady Grammar, aside the Virgin's, and some interesting comments on current projects on queenship in Portugal followed.

In sum, other sucessful session of the I3MS. See you on week 6th!
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