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The Rise of Female Kings in Europe, 1300-1800

The Rise of Female Kings in Europe, 1300-1800

William Monter
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    The Rise of Female Kings in Europe, 1300-1800
    Book Description:

    In this lively and pathbreaking book, William Monter sketches Europe's increasing acceptance of autonomous female rulers between the late Middle Ages and the French Revolution. Monter surveys the governmental records of Europe's thirty women monarchs—the famous (Mary Stuart, Elizabeth I, Catherine the Great) as well as the obscure (Charlotte of Cyprus, Isabel Clara Eugenia of the Netherlands)—describing how each of them achieved sovereign authority, wielded it, and (more often than men) abandoned it. Monter argues that Europe's female kings, who ruled by divine right, experienced no significant political opposition despite their gender.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-17807-4
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xx)
  4. 1 Early Female Sovereigns in Global Perspective
    (pp. 1-25)

    Officially acknowledged female sovereigns have been extremely rare throughout most of recorded history. As recently as 1980 a cross-cultural survey found women as heads of government in only 0.5 percent of all organized states.¹ At the same time, women rulers seem ubiquitous if one looks carefully enough. Regardless of how rigidly any highly organized monarchical state or empire tried to prohibit female government, officially acknowledged women rulers will appear in its history if it endured for more than a few centuries. Because of its extreme rarity, official female rule has yet to be studied as a distinctive historical phenomenon; and...

  5. 2 Europe’s Female Sovereigns, 1300–1800: An Overview
    (pp. 26-53)

    After 1300, female sovereignty in highly organized states became centered in Christian Europe and remained there for many centuries. With Confucius now the master text of East Asian courts, officially acknowledged women rulers vanished from Chinese and Korean history for a thousand years and almost disappeared from Japanese history: in the eleven centuries from the Heian era until women were officially prohibited from ruling Japan, only two more women became tennos and both abdicated as soon as adult male replacements became available. In the Muslim world Sati Beg (r. 1338–39) issued numerous coins in Iran, mainly using masculine language...

  6. 3 Difficult Beginnings: Heiresses with Crowned Husbands, 1300–1550
    (pp. 54-93)

    After 1300 the history of female sovereigns shifted to Latin Christendom. A pioneering article by Armin Wolf identified twelve female claimants among one hundred royal successions in eighteen different kingdoms during the century between 1350 and 1450.¹ But two other women, including Europe’s most famous fourteenth-century female ruler, had already inherited their thrones before 1350; and some significant developments occurred shortly after 1450, including some bizarre events in Cyprus, a small kingdom that Wolf omitted. Both the number of women occupying thrones—at least fifteen between 1328 and 1504—and the variety of situations involved permit an aggregate picture of...

  7. 4 Female Regents Promote Female Rule, 1500–1630
    (pp. 94-122)

    A considerable gulf separated the political authority of female regents from that of female monarchs. A regent, whether male or female, always governed on behalf of an authentic sovereign who was unable to exercise authority personally because of physical absence, youthfulness (the age of legal majority was fourteen or higher), or generally recognized incompetence. For this reason, the authority of regents was by definition delegated and temporary: young monarchs would mature, absent monarchs would return, and even monarchs declared mentally incompetent might, like George III of England, be restored to sufficient health to resume their duties. Like their male counterparts,...

  8. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  9. 5 Husbands Finessed: The Era of Elizabeth I, 1550–1700
    (pp. 123-154)

    In the second half of the five centuries 1300–1800, when kingdoms were fewer in number but larger, the husbands of Europe’s royal heiresses generally enjoyed much less political power than previously. Like their predecessors, the first three royal heiresses after 1550—Mary Tudor, who acquired England in 1553; Jeanne III d’Albret, who acquired Navarre in 1555; and Mary Stuart of Scotland, who became a monarch as a baby and a legal adult through her marriage in 1558—already had or soon acquired husbands. The first married soon after her coronation, not from personal inclination, she said, but from desire...

  10. 6 Husbands Subordinated: The Era of Maria Theresa, 1700–1800
    (pp. 155-178)

    All four of Europe’s eighteenth-century female monarchs were married when they acquired their thrones, but none ruled jointly with her husband. One of them, Ulrika Eleonora of Sweden (r. 1718–20), was considered little more than a puppet of her husband, but when her kingdom denied her request to allow her to rule jointly with him, she preferred to resign in his favor. The other three—Queen Anne of England (r. 1702–14), Maria Theresa, monarch of both Hungary (r. 1741–80) and Bohemia (r. 1743–80), and Maria I of Portugal (r. 1777–92)—exercised power while finding various...

  11. 7 Ruling Without Inheriting: Russian Empresses
    (pp. 179-213)

    Despite Russia’s reputation of being semioriental, its Westernizing eighteenth-century governments experienced the longest period of female rule anywhere in Europe. Between 1725 and 1796, four tsarinas and a female regent governed it for all but three and a half years. Like the four heiresses of Latin Europe during the same century, the combined reigns of these Russian women total almost seventy years, with one woman being responsible for half of each total. But essential differences also separate the Russian from the Latin Christian cohort of eighteenth-century female rulers, and historians have yet to analyze the Russian phenomenon adequately in either...

  12. 8 Female Rule After 1800: Constitutions and Popular Culture
    (pp. 214-226)

    The most important change to female rule in Europe after 1800 is that opportunities for women to control governments—the essential thread of this story—ceased for a very long time after Catherine II died. At the same time, revolutionary France, the enemy of all monarchs, succeeded in durably smudging the posthumous image of the last and most spectacular female ruler of the old regime—not by denying her political accomplishments, but by depicting her as a sexual monster even more depraved than the daughter of Maria Theresa whom they had guillotined. The greatest damage was inflicted by a Swiss...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 227-248)
  14. Bibliographical Essay
    (pp. 249-260)
  15. Index
    (pp. 261-271)