Queen María of Castile, wife of Alfonso V, "the Magnanimous,"
king of the Crown of Aragon, governed Catalunya in the
mid-fifteenth century while her husband conquered and governed the
kingdom of Naples. For twenty-six years, she maintained a royal
court and council separate from and roughly equivalent to those of
Alfonso in Naples. Such legitimately sanctioned political authority
is remarkable given that she ruled not as queen in her own right
but rather as Lieutenant-General of Catalunya with powers
equivalent to the king's. María does not fit conventional images of
a queen as wife and mother; indeed, she had no children and so
never served as queen-regent for any royal heirs in their
minorities or exercised a queen-mother's privilege to act as
diplomat when arranging the marriages of her children and
grandchildren. But she was clearly more than just a wife offering
advice: she embodied the king's personal authority and was second
only to the king himself. She was his alter ego, the other royal
body fully empowered to govern. For a medieval queen, this official
form of corulership, combining exalted royal status with official
political appointment, was rare and striking.
The King's Other Body is both a biography of María and an
analysis of her political partnership with Alfonso. María's long,
busy tenure as lieutenant prompts a reconsideration of long-held
notions of power, statecraft, personalities, and institutions. It
is also a study of the institution of monarchy and a theoretical
reconsideration of the operations of gender within it. If the
practice of monarchy is conventionally understood as strictly a
man's job, María's reign presents a compelling argument for a more
complex model, one attentive to the dynamic relationship of
queenship and kingship and the circumstances and theories that
shaped the institution she inhabited.
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