A mirror for princesses : the portrayal of queenship in three French vernacular chronicles, c. 1260 - c. 1310.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
France in the thirteenth century offers a significant example of the changing role of queens in government: power was centralised and the queen’s political role was reduced. The transformation of French government in this period has been the subject of many studies, yet medieval perceptions of the queen’s role remain under-explored. This thesis examines three French vernacular chronicles written between c.1260-c.1310 in order to deepen our understanding of attitudes towards Capetian queens and queenship during this key period of change. The Minstrel of Reims gives a fictionalised version of recent French history in his Récits; John of Joinville, a nobleman, provides an eyewitness account in the Vie de Saint Louis; and Primat gives a monk’s perspective on France’s broader history in his Roman. The chronicles, written for royal or noble audiences, were intended, in part, to encourage good behaviour by presenting models of desirable and undesirable actions. This thesis explores the presentation of queenship in these texts via four areas: familial relations, piety, sexual agency, and government and influence. It demonstrates that each chronicler minimised the involvement of queens in political affairs. Instead, each chronicler placed emphasis on the queen’s role as a mother and as a loyal and pious wife. In so doing, each writer revealed his support for the administrative changes to the office of queenship. The thesis thus demonstrates that the vernacular French chroniclers each presented a model of queenship that acted in the interests of the Capetian royal family. It establishes that these chroniclers showed that a queen, following the expectations of her position, would help ensure the peace and stability of the kingdom. This, in turn, ensured the strength and legitimacy of Capetian rule by establishing and solidifying contemporary expectations of queenship for an aristocratic and royal audience.