7. Gender and Authority: The Particularities of Female Rule in the Premodern Mediterranean

Elena Woodacre

[print edition page number: 137]

In a period when the exercise of power by women was generally limited and fairly unusual, the Mediterranean offers a wealth of intriguing examples of female rule in the premodern era. It could even be argued that the Mediterranean offered a more amenable climate for female rule than northern Europe. Certainly it offered unique opportunities for women, enabled in part by the distinctive features of the political landscape in the Mediterranean. This essay will analyze the prospects for women to exercise power and authority in the Mediterranean sphere through a survey of case studies from the Byzantine empresses of late antiquity to Aragonese queen-lieutenants in the fifteenth century. It will examine women who ruled in their own right, including the Neapolitan queens Giovanna I and II and the queens of Jerusalem, whose reigns preserved dynastic continuity while the selection of their spouse maintained the Crusader kingdom’s tradition of elected or selected kings. It will also provide examples of women who rose to power in widowhood, as the consort of the previous ruler such as Sharjar al-Durr in thirteenth-century Egypt or as a regent for their son such as the Byzantine empresses Irene and Anna of Savoy. In addition to these more typical routes for women to access power, this survey will highlight more unusual positions of authority, including the office of queen-lieutenant, a role developed in large part to cope with the demands of ruling Aragón’s far-flung Mediterranean empire, which allowed the queen to rule on her husband’s behalf during his absence. Taken together, these regional case studies will highlight the distinctive environment with regard to gender and authority in the premodern Mediterranean and how this atmosphere created a singular climate for female rule.

The study of female rule and queenship in wider terms has been a thriving area of academic study in recent years. Examinations of queenship in the premodern period and in a European context has been a particular area of strength, however studies of female political agency in both modern and global contexts[138] are continuing to emerge.[1] Although queenship studies arguably began with biographical studies of particular figures, comparative studies and collections that highlight regional histories of female power and agency have become a trend in the field. While these collections and studies have greatly increased our understanding of queenship in particular areas, such as medieval Iberia or early modern England, the Mediterranean basin is an area that is only just beginning to be examined in the context of female authority and political influence.[2] Despite the fact that the Mediterranean region is incredibly diverse in terms of religious practice and political entities, these case studies of feminine agency, drawn from across seemingly disparate contexts, all highlight and reinforce key themes in queenship studies such as the importance of family connections, maternity, and marital relationships in framing female authority. These wide-ranging case studies also serve to increase our understanding of how women were able to access and wield political power in the premodern period both in the unique context of the Mediterranean world and beyond.

Empresses of Byzantium

The history of the ancient Mediterranean left a distinctive imprint with regard to female rule. Legendary female rulers such as Dido of Carthage, the biblical queen of Sheba, Nefertiti, Hatsheput, and Cleopatra VII of Egypt are still at the forefront of the modern imagination, providing impetus for popular culture and academic research.[3] While prohibited from direct rule, empresses of Rome, such as Livia, Agrippina the Younger, and Julia Domna are excellent examples of female agency in the classical Mediterranean.[4] This foundation built by the women of imperial Rome was later leveraged by the empresses of Byzantium. The power wielded by Byzantine empresses has not always been fully appreciated[139] in modern historiography; in order to do so, Liz James has argued that we need to step away from modern understandings of political agency and appreciate the significance of religious mediation during theological disputes and activities, such as church-building, as an expression of authority.[5] Kathryn Ringrose has argued that it is also necessary to understand the unique gendered mechanisms of the Byzantine court and the importance of eunuchs as a mediator between the male and female spheres and as an interlocutor for imperial authority.[6] Access to a team of eunuchs, experienced in court protocol and bureaucracy, was crucial, for they “acted as an extension of an empress’s power, allowing her to govern despite the constraints of her gender and the traditionalism of an elaborate court bureaucracy.”[7]

While it is important to understand the nuanced exercise of power and the complex structure of the Byzantine court to fully contexualize the agency of imperial women, there are multiple examples of empresses who clearly wielded power. These women include consorts such as the infamous Theodora, who ruled alongside Emperor Justinian in the sixth century, and the “forceful power-broker” Eirene Doukaina, mother of the chronicler Anna Kommene.[8] Women have also risen to power in the Byzantine empire as regents; seven women assumed the regency between 527–1204, and later examples include Anna of Savoy in the fourteenth century.[9] The most famous of these regents was Irene, consort of Leo IV, first regent for their son Constantine VI then sole ruler (797–802) after Constantine’s death, who adopted the male and female titles of basileus and basilissa.[10]

While royal mothers were often advantageously placed to assume a regency, serving as a key dynastic link as the widow of the last ruler and the mother of the next, women often struggled to be accepted in this role, particularly if they were considered to be a foreigner. This can be seen not only in the context of the Byzantine empire and the Mediterranean but also in cases of female regency across Europe in the premodern era. Blanche of Castile, the mother of and regent for Louis IX of France, was able to overcome initial opposition to her rule as a woman and a foreigner to create a successful regency that set an important precedent for a long line of French queens regent.[11] However, while Irene is an excellent example of a successful empress regent in the Byzantine empire, Maria of Antioch, a near contemporary of Blanche of Castile, had a short and disastrous regency for her son, Alexios II, after the death of her husband Manuel[140] I Komnenos in September 1180. Maria, who came from the Crusader States, was unpopular due to the perception that she was a westerner and the rumor that she was engaged in an illicit affair with her late husband’s nephew, Alexios the protosebastos. Her decision to install her relatives in powerful positions and enact policies that were perceived to be “pro-Latin” also opened her up to criticism.[12] Opponents of her regency included several key members of the imperial dynasty, headed by her step-daughter, Maria Porphyrogenita. Maria of Antioch was eventually unseated in a coup d’état in 1182 by Andronikos Komnenos that claimed the lives of the regent, her son Alexios II, and even her step-daughter and her husband who had opposed Maria’s regency.

However, women did not only come to power in the Byzantine empire through their husbands and sons. As Dion Smythe noted “the increasing significance attached to birth in the Porphyry Chamber of the imperial palace meant that the succession to the throne was not determined simply by primogeniture . . . [making] it possible for the supreme office to be filled by a woman.”[13] A number of women were acknowledged as imperial heirs, including Anna Komnene and Maria Porphyrogenita, daughter of Manuel I. Maria was considered to be her father’s heir for the majority of her youth; her father used her as a high-stakes piece in a European-wide effort in matrimonial diplomacy.[14] Maria was put forth as a prospective bride for Bela of Hungary, William II of Sicily, John Lackland of England, and Henry, heir of Fredrick Barbarossa, before she was finally wed to Ranier of Montferrat in 1180. Anna Komnene was keenly aware of the importance of her birth in the Porphry Chamber, which gave her the right to use the sobriquet “porphyrogenita,” and Smythe argues that “her goal in life [was] to ascend the imperial throne as empress-regnant.”[15] While it has to be acknowledged that these women were later displaced in the line of succession by the birth of brothers, despite Anna Komnene’s vociferous attempts to prevent what she saw as the usurpation of her rightful place, the fact that women were accepted as potential heirs and viable claimants is important.

An excellent example of women who were able to rule in their own right are the sisters Zoe and Theodora, who were considered the rightful heirs of their father Constantine VIII. Zoe Porphyrogenita (r. 1028–1050) was married three times; her husbands became emperor through their marriage to her. Although her birthright as her father’s heir, born in the Porphry Chamber, was acknowledged, she had to combat men who sought to prevent her from fully exercising the imperial office. Zoe’s opponents included the powerful eunuch John the Orphanotrophos, who thwarted her attempt to appropriate her father’s experienced staff of eunuchs into her service and replaced them with women[141] from his own family.[16] However, her position as empress was supported by her subjects, who rose up in violent opposition when Zoe’s adopted heir, Michael V, attempted to remove her from power by exiling her to a nunnery. According to the chronicler Michael Psellos, the mob, which included a considerable number of women and even children, cried out in indignation:

Where can she be, she who alone is free, the mistress of all the imperial family, the rightful heir to the Empire, whose father was emperor, whose grandfather was monarch before him-yes and great-grandfather too? How was it this low-born fellow dared to raise a hand against a woman of such lineage?[17]

Michael was dethroned and Zoe restored to her position, ruling alongside her sister, Theodora.[18] Garland notes that although Theodora was initially reluctant to leave the convent and embrace her imperial role, once installed as empress she was authoritative and far more determined than her sister Zoe to ensure that Michael and his supporters were adequately punished and removed from the center of political power.[19] Zoe and Theodora minted coins during their joint rule with images of both sisters and performed all duties and functions that were considered part of the emperor’s prerogative. Although the chronicler Michael Psellos was often critical of their rule, he notes that “both the civilian population and the military caste were working in harmony under [the] empresses, and more obedient to them than to any proud overlord issuing arrogant orders.”[20] Theodora was temporarily set aside after Zoe’s remarriage to Constantine IX Monomachos, but on Zoe’s death in 1050, Theodora ruled alongside her brother-in-law for five years and on her own until her own death in 1056.

Although, as Lynda Garland notes, the role of empress lacked a clear constitutional definition, the framework of the Byzantine empire allowed women to exercise power in a number of ways.[21] While female rule was permitted, imperial women had to negotiate the complex court protocols and bureaucracy, leveraging the knowledge and position of their eunuchs and crafting alliances at court to support their authority and enable them to exercise power. Empresses consort were active rulers alongside their husbands, at times overtly engaged in the political arena, while at other moments expressing their agency by more subtle means through their patronage of the Church and connection to theological disputes. Empresses possessed even more authority as regents for their sons and were recognized[142] as imperial heiresses and rulers in their own right, as the examples of Irene, Zoe, and her sister Theodora aptly demonstrate. Thus, the empresses of Byzantium are a critical case study for female agency in the Mediterranean, providing a link to the classical heritage of the region and key examples of a legal and social framework that enabled women to exercise political authority as influential consorts, powerful regents, and as sovereigns in their own right.

The Queens of Jerusalem

The inception of the Crusader kingdom of Jerusalem in the eastern Mediterranean created a truly unique environment for female rule. Although the new lords of the realm brought with them feudal ideals and legal traditions from their homes of origin across Europe, the laws of the new kingdom were arguably progressive in terms of female inheritance. It was completely permissible for a daughter to inherit property from her father, including a fief or even a throne, in the absence of a male heir. Joshua Prawer notes that the assise that allowed females to inherit their father’s holdings was an early one, possibly dating back to the time of Godfrey de Bouillon, immediately after the First Crusade, ca. 1100.[22] Prawer remarks that this assise was not necessarily in line with current practices in Europe, and Sylvia Schein concurs, remarking that the inheritance laws of the kingdom were more favorable to women than those in the West.[23] Prawer claims that female inheritance was permitted in order to reassure knights “that their family, even their distant family, might enjoy the fruits of their bravery.”[24] This legislation paved the way for many heiresses in the kingdom of Jerusalem, such as Helvis of Ramle and Stephanie of Milly, who inherited important fiefs in their own right, and also made it possible for the kingdom itself to be inherited by a woman.

The succession to Baldwin II became the test case for female succession to the throne of the kingdom of Jerusalem in the twelfth century. Initially the Crusader kingdom was founded on the principle of an elected or selected ruler, but the first three kings of Jerusalem were all closely linked by blood, and a tendency toward dynastic continuity quickly set in. Baldwin II, in contrast to his uncles Godfrey and Baldwin, had several children with his wife Morphia of Melitene and hoped to place a child of his own on the throne. Morphia died in 1126 or 1127, leaving four surviving girls but no son. Baldwin had the option to marry again in the hopes of siring a son, but he may have decided that it was better to secure the succession through the marriages of his nearly grown daughters than risk lengthy regency for an infant son. The succession to Baldwin II would be a[143] new test of the principles of succession for the still fledgling kingdom. In theory there were three options: (1) the throne could go to Melisende as Baldwin’s eldest child; (2) the throne could go to Baldwin’s nearest male relative; or (3) it could go to another unrelated man who was chosen by the assembly. The end result was a hybrid of the first and third options; Baldwin decided to marry his eldest daughter to a man chosen by the assembly, and together they would succeed him on the throne. In this way both the elective and hereditary principles would be satisfied and a precedent for an heiress was created, providing the dynastic continuity that was critical for the fledgling and vulnerable kingdom.[25]

Baldwin’s eldest daughter Melisende married Fulk, Count of Anjou, a man known to and approved by the barons of the kingdom in 1129.[26] Melisende and Fulk came to the throne upon the death of Baldwin II in 1131 and initially struggled to rule together. Fulk appears to have conceived of himself as the sole ruler of the kingdom, while Melisende saw herself as the rightful heiress to the kingdom and a co-ruler, not a consort. Moreover, she had the support of both the Church and many of the barons who felt that Fulk was disregarding Melisende’s rights as set out in the will of Baldwin II and who resented his appointment of Angevins to key posts in the realm.[27] In order to placate the barons who supported Melisende, Fulk had to acknowledge the rights of his wife as the rightful heiress to the kingdom, and, according to the chronicler William of Tyre, “not even in unimportant cases did he take any measures without her knowledge and assistance.”[28]

After Fulk’s death in 1143, William of Tyre declared that “The royal power passed to Lady Melisend, a queen beloved of God, to whom it belonged by hereditary right” although her son Baldwin III was elevated to the throne on his father’s death as Melisende and Fulk’s mutual heir.[29] Jaroslav Folda and Sarah Lambert have both analyzed images of Melisende in manuscript images and note two examples that give Melisende a key role her son’s coronation, demonstrating her position and authority.[30] In one of these images, Melisende is clearly pictured being crowned again alongside her son Baldwin III at his coronation, perhaps to[144] emphasize that she was a queen regnant and co-ruler, not regent.[31] In another example, Melisende, already wearing her own crown as queen, crowns her son in tandem with the bishop.[32]

After nearly ten years on the throne of Jerusalem, Baldwin was firmly into his majority and he wanted his mother to step aside and leave him as sole ruler of the kingdom. Melisende refused to do so and had the support of a large faction of the nobility for her continued rule. However, Baldwin had the advantage of being able to lead the army and wisely pressed this advantage in his struggle for control. Ultimately, Melisende lost her struggle with her son and was forced to give up control of the kingdom and assume the place of Queen Mother. However, she set a precedent in the kingdom of Jerusalem for female succession and left the example of a strong queen who “ruled the kingdom and administered the government with such skillful care.”[33]

This precedent enabled the succession of two of Melisende’s granddaughters, Sibylla and Isabella; however, while their right to the throne was accepted and acknowledged, both women struggled to rule the kingdom.[34] The difficulty stemmed from both the extremely turbulent political situation within the kingdom and the aggressive expansion of Saladin, which culminated in the loss of Jerusalem after the Battle of Hattin in 1187. Both women were also hampered by husbands who did not have the support of the kingdom as their king consort, unlike Fulk of Anjou, whose selection had been ratified by an assembly of the barons. While Sibylla crowned her unpopular husband, Guy de Lusignan, at her own coronation, against the will of the majority of the barony, Isabella was forced to end her marriage to Humphrey of Toron, who was felt to be an inadequate king consort. Moreover, Isabella’s second husband, Conrad de Montferrat was assassinated and possibly her third husband, Henri de Champagne as well, given his untimely death in fall from a window.[35] However, her marriage to her fourth husband, Amaury de Lusignan, King of Cyprus, did have the support of the majority of the barons as well as the influential Archbishop of Tyre. A contemporary chronicle noted that only with this more widely accepted fourth marriage[145] did she finally settle into her queenship, noting “Lors a primes fu ele royne”.[36] These examples demonstrate that although female rule and inheritance may have been accepted in principle, it was nearly impossible for a queen to assert her right to the crown if her consort was not accepted by her subjects.

While the reigns of Melisende, Sibylla, and Isabella set an important precedent for queens regnant in the kingdom, the legal right of female successors to the throne of Jerusalem was firmly established by the Livre au Roi. This important piece of legislation, believed to have been drafted in the early thirteenth century during the reign of Isabella and her fourth husband Amaury de Lusignan, clearly sets out in writing the procedures for succession to the throne of Jerusalem. This legislation also ensured that Isabella’s daughter Maria of Montferrat had smooth ascent to the throne and also enabled the succession of Maria’s daughter Yolande (sometimes referred to as Isabella II).[37]

The queens of Jerusalem are a controversial group of female rulers; both Sarah Lambert and Bernard Hamilton have argued for their diminishing power and influence, particularly after the fall of Jerusalem itself.[38] While it cannot be contested that these women all struggled to fully implement their rule in an increasingly difficult political situation in the Latin East, the fact that female succession was permitted in the kingdom and their hereditary right as queen was acknowledged, makes their situation an important case study for female rule in the Mediterranean region. There is also a key link between these Crusader queens and the Byzantine empresses of the first case study with regard to female succession, as both realms allowed women to inherit the throne in their own right.

Women and Power in the Islamic Mediterranean

It is interesting to note that during eleventh to the thirteenth centuries, the same period that saw the creation and high point of the Crusader States, there were a number of women in positions of power in the Islamic Mediterranean, including areas in close proximity to the kingdom of Jerusalem. There is often a presumption that women had no access to political power in Muslim territories; this misunderstanding stems from a general omission of female political figures in western histories and a misconstruction of the workings and composition of the[146] harem.[39] Another difficulty in recognizing female agency in the Islamic Mediterranean is the lack of an analogous term to the western counterpart of “queen” or, indeed, consistent terminology for a female ruler in the Maghreb and Levant. Fatima Mernissi explores the range of honorifics used in the Islamic world for women with high status and access to power, including sultana (the female equivalent of sultan), khatun (lady or noblewoman), malika (the closest equivalent word to “queen”), sitt (lady), and al-hurra — literally a free woman, although Mernissi argues that as an honorific it stresses that the woman was “a sovereign woman who obeyed no superior authority.”[40] There were two key criteria for recognized sovereignty in the Islamic world: the ability to issue coinage in a ruler’s name and the inclusion of the ruler’s name in the khutba or Friday prayers. Mernissi cites fifteen female Muslim rulers who meet these criteria, in addition to numerous examples of politically influential women who visibly exercised authority in spite of failing to meet the criteria of sovereignty.[41]

The eleventh century was a particularly active period for female agency in the Islamic Mediterranean, with women in powerful positions in Morocco, al-Andalus, Egypt, and Yemen. The first of these women to come to power was Sitt al-Mulk, the beloved daughter of the Fatimid sultan of Egypt al-Aziz (r. 975–996). On the death of her father, her brother al-Hakim (r. 996–1021) came to power and began an increasingly stormy reign during which his relationship with his sister deteriorated to such a degree that she feared for her safety.[42] When al-Hakim disappeared in February 1021, Sitt al-Mulk took power, ruling alone for six weeks. While her aggressive actions after her brother’s death led some chroniclers, such as Hilal al-Sabi, to view her as the likely murderer, other chroniclers, such as Ibn al-Athir, argued that, given the widespread hatred al-Hakim had incurred through his violent rule, there were many potential assassins.[43]

Sitt al-Mulk ensured a smooth transition of power to her nephew al-Zahir by eliminating any potential rivals. Yaacov Lev argued that her willingness to be completely ruthless in order to ensure her nephew’s accession gave her “a much-needed and much-appreciated quality in a ruler, that of hayba, i.e. she[147] who inspired awe, and was accordingly obeyed.”[44] She remained as the linchpin in her nephew’s government for a further two years until her death; working to stabilize the finances of the state, which had been poorly managed under the rule of al-Hakim, and lifting an edict that confined women to the home.[45] Although Sitt al-Mulk’s rise to power and political agency were certainly atypical, it is important to note that many women of the Fatimid dynasty played an important part in the family’s activities and were active patrons who possessed considerable wealth.[46]

Sitt al-Mulk possessed undeniable political authority in Egypt during her lifetime as an important and influential member of the reigning dynasty, rather than ruling alone in her own right. In the mid-thirteenth century, Sharjar (also known as Sharajarat or Sharjara) al-Durr went one step further to become the acknowledged sole ruler of Egypt. Again, Sharjar’s rule was enabled by a period of crisis following the death of a sultan, Sharjar’s husband Aiyub. Sharjar worked to temporarily conceal the death of her husband while she built alliances with the leader of the army, Fakhr al-Din, and the chief eunuch, Jamal al-Din.[47] The Crusaders, led by Louis IX of France, aimed to take advantage of the death of the sultan and killed Fakhr in a skirmish; however, Sharjar was able to rally the army under the command of her husband’s heir Turanshah, and they were able to secure victory over the Crusader army. Turanshah was later murdered by the Mamluks, who then appointed Sharjar as sultana, no longer to rule behind the scenes but alone as the official sovereign. The chronicler ibn Wasil commented:

From that time she became titular head of the whole state; a royal stamp was issued in her name with the formula “mother of Khatil” and the khutba was pronounced in her name as Sultana of Cairo and all Egypt. This was an event without precedent throughout the Muslim world: [although] that a woman should hold the effective power and govern a kingdom was indeed known . . .[48]

Sharjar managed to achieve the key criteria of sovereignty mentioned by Mernissi: the ability to issue coins in her name and the proclamation of the khutba. The khutba for Sharjar was “May Allah protect the Beneficent One, Queen of the Muslims, the Blessed of the Earthly World and of the Faith, the Mother of Khalil[148] al-Mustasimiyya, the Companion of Sultan al-Malik al-Salih.”[49] Although her khutba does emphasize her role as mother and wife, it is important that she was acknowledged as the ruler and that her own sovereign titles came before her familial and marital ties. She was forced to take a second husband by the caliph to legitimize her position but continued to reign and “maintained de facto control to the end.”[50] However, her second husband proved to be her undoing; fearing that he meant to replace her with a more pliable wife, Sharjar arranged his murder. Her involvement with the crime led to her own execution, ironically ending her period in power.

Returning to the eleventh century, two important examples of women exercising power and authority can be found in nearby Yemen, which was also in the orbit and influence of the Fatimid dynasty in Egypt. The first of these women was Asma Bint Shihab al-Sulayhiyya, who ruled Yemen as an active queen consort and co-ruler with her husband Ali Ibn Muhammad al-Sulayhi from 1047 to 1067. Eva Chaves Hernández noted that Asma was already a distinguished woman of high rank before her marriage; this may have been a factor in why she was readily accepted as a co-ruler with her husband.[51] Asma’s status as a co-ruler was affirmed by the inclusion of her name alongside her husband’s in the khutba, and Asma’s presence in councils of governance, unveiled, was recorded by contemporaries.[52]

Asma’s co-rule with her husband was an enabling factor for her daughter-in-law, Arwa Bint Ahmad al-Sulayhiyya (also known as al-Sayyida al-Hurra or Sayyida Hurra), who ruled from 1091 to 1138, first alongside her husband al-Mukarram and later independently. During her period of sole rule, the khutba was proclaimed in her name: “May Allah prolong the days of al-Hurra the perfect, the sovereign who carefully manages the affairs of the faithful.”[53] Arwa was an active ruler during her lengthy reign; she was a successful politician and military strategist as well as a prolific patron who renovated and constructed secular and religious buildings and improved the infrastructure of her realm with road building and agricultural projects.[54] She made the decision to relocate the capital from San’a to Dhu Jibla and built a palace in the new capital. Another indication of her abilities as a ruler was her appointment as hujja or head of the da’wa or missionary unit that oversaw expansion of the faith into Oman and western India.[55]

In the western end of the Islamic Mediterranean, several female contemporaries of Sitt al-Mulk and the Yemeni queens also wielded power, influence, and authority. These women included Zaynab al-Nafazawiyya, consort of a powerful Berber ruler, and Yusuf ibn Tashfin, whose domains were spread across North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula. Zaynab was, like Asma Bint Shihab al-Sulayhiyya, an active co-ruler with her husband Tashfin between 1061 and his death in 1107.[56] Again, during the eleventh century, other women were actively sharing power with husbands and sons in al-Andalus, including Subh, wife of al-Hakim II al-Mustansir bi-llah and mother of Hisam II al-Mu’ayyad, and I’timad al-Rumaykiyya, wife of Mu’tamid, king of Seville, and the mother of ‘Abd Allah, king of Grenada.[57]

Subh’s rise to power was remarkable. Beginning as a Christian prisoner of war from the Basque country in Navarre, she built her influence until she dominated the caliph al-Hakim and his chief secretary Ibn ‘Amir; she later became effective regent for her son Hisam. However, though her power was undeniable, Mourtada-Sabbah and Gully argue that Subh’s period of influence had a detrimental effect on the authority of the caliph and the stability of the realm, leading to a period of civil war.[58] Mernissi has noted that many medieval chronicles and modern historians have emphasized her non-Islamic origins in their critique of her reign, which evokes an interesting comparison to the Byzantine empress Maria of Antioch’s unpopularity as a foreign consort and regent.[59] I’timad al-Rumaykiyya was another woman who entered the harem as a slave but was able to wield enormous influence as the favorite wife of the king of Seville, al Mu’tamid.[60] Mernissi argues that women like Subh and Rumakiyya, who accessed power as the favorite of a caliph or sultan, cannot be considered true heads of state like Sharjar al-Durr or the Yemeni queen Arwa, as “they failed to cross the threshold that separated women’s territory from that of men.”[61]

While these examples of female power and influence in the western half of the Islamic Mediterranean suggest a potential high-water mark in the eleventh[150] century, it is important to note that there were other women who exercised significant influence and agency in the premodern period. Examples include Tarub and Al-Zahra, the wives and favorites of ‘Abd al-Rahman II and III respectively in the ninth and tenth centuries; A’isha al-Hurra, the mother of the last Muslim king of Grenada in the fifteenth century, Boabdil; and Sayyida al-Hurra, who wielded extensive authority in North Africa in the sixteenth century as a “pirate queen” and the ally of the infamous Barbarossa of Algiers.[62] Sayyida herself forms an interesting link between the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa, as she hailed from Andalucía and came to Morocco as a refugee from Granada after it fell to the Reyes Catolicos in 1492. Sayyida leveraged connections from her natal family and multiple advantageous marriages to wield power in the Tétouan region of Morocco, on the southern side of the strait of Gibraltar, for thirty years from approximately 1510 until 1542, when she was unseated by her son-in-law.[63] She began by co-ruling the region with her first husband and after his death took on sole governance of this strategic area, using her fleet and her alliance with Barbarossa to harass Spanish and Portuguese shipping in the Mediterranean. Her power and talent for governance attracted the sultan of Morocco, who journeyed to Tétouan to wed her, but after their marriage he allowed her to continue her effective rule of the area.[64]

These women are only a few examples of female authority in the Islamic world, but they demonstrate that, although the political systems of the Islamic Mediterranean differed from that of their northern neighbors, Muslim women could access power both as co-rulers with husbands and sons and as independent rulers, just as Christian queens and empresses did.[65] Although the legal framework of the Islamic areas of the Mediterranean did not permit females to inherit the throne in their own right, as the women of Byzantium and the Crusader States could, this did not preclude Muslim women from becoming sole rulers, as the examples of Sharjar al-Durr and Arwa of Yemen demonstrate.[151]

Female Rulers (and Proxy Rulers) in Iberia

The Iberian Peninsula was once part of the Muslim hegemony of the southern and eastern Mediterranean; the Christian kingdoms that expanded south in the process of the Reconquista developed unique traditions with regard to female agency and rule. The Pyrenean kingdom of Navarre cemented the ability of women to inherit their family lands and recognized their place in the line of succession to the throne in their Fueros or code of law and custom. This enabled the accession of five women to rule the kingdom as regnant queens between 1274 and 1512.[66] While this was the same number of female monarchs as seen in the kingdom of Jerusalem in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the Navarrese queens were able to exercise power and authority as sovereign monarchs in a way that the beleaguered Jerusalemite queens struggled to do in their ever-threatened and fast disappearing realm. In addition to these female sovereigns, Navarre possessed powerful queens regent, queens consort, and female lieutenants, such as Leonor de Trastámara and Magdalena of France, who were either closely involved with or, in some cases, solely responsible for governing the realm.

Navarre was not the only Iberian realm that permitted female rule: indeed, all of the kingdoms of Iberia — including Navarre, Castile, Aragón, and Portugal —
experienced female rule at some point in the premodern era. Castile also permitted regnant queens, including Urraca of Leon-Castile (r. 1109–1126) and the famous Isabel la Católica (r. 1474–1504).[67] Another often omitted example is Berenguela, who ruled in tandem with her son Ferdinand III from 1217 until her death in 1246. Janna Bianchini has argued firmly in her recent monograph that this was not an abdication or abjuration of Berenguela’s own right to the throne, as her position as the hereditary heiress was firmly acknowledged.[68] Portugal also permitted female rule, although the accession of Beatriz in 1383 was contested and ultimately unsuccessful, primarily due to opposition to her mother, Leonor Teles as regent and to her husband, Juan I of Castile.[69] However, in Aragón the reign of Petronilla (r. 1137–1164) proved to be an exception to succession practices that ultimately barred regnant queens, although succession through the female line continued to be permitted.[70]

Although Aragón moved to bar reigning queens, royal women were enfranchised through the Aragónese tradition of lieutenancy, which was developed as a means of administering Aragón’s expanding Mediterranean empire. On the mainland, the Crown of Aragón consisted of three major realms: Aragón, Catalonia, and Valencia; while in the Mediterranean their empire included (at various points) the Balearic Isles, Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, the kingdom of Naples, bases in North Africa, and part of the Grecian mainland. After the accession of Charles V, this empire continued to expand to include the greater part of Italy, the Holy Roman Empire, the Low Countries in Europe, and an emerging global empire as well.

The premise of the lieutenancy was to deputize a close family member with the responsibility to govern a particular region of Aragón’s Mediterranean empire, as it was impossible for the king to be everywhere at once, and it was crucial to maintain the physical presence of the dynasty in as many places as possible.[71] This also fits with the premise of corporate monarchy, which was central to the Iberian practice of rule, drawing in the skill set of various members of the dynasty to administer and govern the realm as a unit represented by the ruler. The deputy or lieutenant could theoretically be any member of the family, but it was most often the heir or the queen consort. The heir needed to learn how to govern, and lieutenancy was an ideal opportunity to do so; as the next ruler, an heir could be theoretically relied upon to protect the best interests of the realm. The queen consort was also a logical choice, as the king’s helpmeet and partner and the guarantor of dynastic continuity, she too could be trusted to work in the best interests of the empire.[72]

The Middle Ages saw a series of able queens lieutenant in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, including Maria de Luna (wife of Martín el Humano), Maria of Castile (wife of Alfonso V), and Juana Enríquez (second wife of Juan II).[73] While these women all ruled mainland provinces in the heartland of Aragón, Blanca of Navarre became queen lieutenant for her husband Martí, king of Sicily and heir of Aragón, during his absences to visit his father in Iberia or fight rebels in Sardinia. When he died in 1409, Blanca continued to rule Sicily as viceroy for the king of Aragón, retaining Sicily for the Aragónese in spite of a rebellion on the island and a period of dynastic transition in Iberia between the death of Martín el Humano in 1410 and the Compromise of Caspe in 1412.[74]

Spanish royal women continued to be deputized to rule portions of their expanding European and global empire in the early modern period. The Hapsburg rulers Charles V and Philip II continued the practice of female lieutenancy, relying on wives, sisters, aunts, and daughters to be their proxy rulers, particularly in Iberia and the Low Countries.[75] However, Theresa Earenfight has noted that after Philip II’s succession in 1555, the increasing dominance of Castilian practices and the centralization of power led to the rise of male bureaucrats who served as viceroys across the empire, leading to the ultimate demise of the Aragonese tradition of queen lieutenancy.[76]

Although the institution of queen lieutenancy and proxy rulers is somewhat unique to this region, in other ways female agency in the Iberian Peninsula demonstrates clear similarities to the previous case studies in the Mediterranean. The ability for women to inherit the throne in their own right, particularly in Castile and Navarre, mirrors that of the Crusader queens and the empresses of Byzantium. There is also a strong connection to both the Byzantine and Muslim territories in examples of women exercising authority on behalf of or alongside sons and husbands, such as the powerful regent Maria de Molina in Castile and the politically able consort Juana Enríquez, second wife of Juan II of Aragón and mother of Ferdinand II.[77]

Female Power, Authority, and Influence in the Italian Peninsula

The Italian Peninsula, linked with Aragón through its Mediterranean and later pan-European empire, also possessed a tradition of formidable female rulers. In the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily, women could inherit the crown, as did Constance and Maria of Sicily and the two Giovannas of Naples. Although both Giovanna I and II exercised sovereign power in the realm, they each struggled with difficult consorts who sought to completely usurp their position rather than rule alongside them. Giovanna I faced the most difficult challenge from the first of her four husbands, Andrew of Hungary, due to the fact that as a member of her own Angevin dynasty, he also possessed a viable claim to the throne. His murder in September 1345 removed the threat he posed in the short-term but[154] led to the invasion of Naples by Giovanna’s brother-in-law, Louis of Hungary, who blamed Giovanna for Andrew’s death.[78] Giovanna’s rights were supported by the pope, who affirmed her as the rightful ruler of the kingdom and negotiated a peace settlement with Louis of Hungary. In the terms of this settlement, the pope also protected Giovanna’s authority against her ambitious second husband, Louis of Taranto; Machiavelli noted in his Italian chronicle that the pope “effected her (Giovanna’s) restoration to the sovereignty, on the condition that her husband, contenting himself with the title of prince of Tarento, should not be called king.”[79] Giovanna remained on the throne until 1382, exercising sovereign authority in her realm and surviving all three of her children and three of her four husbands.

Her namesake Giovanna II also faced a challenge from her second husband, Jacques de Bourbon, who sought to rule as king rather than remain as a consort after their wedding in 1415. Machiavelli analyzed the couple’s relationship in his chronicle of Italian history; “between the husband and the wife wars ensued; and although they contended with varying success, the queen at length obtained the superiority.”[80] The Giovannas of Naples represent the dichotomy of female rule; it may be permitted, but reigning queens often had to defend their right to rule from uncles, sons, and husbands who sought to usurp their authority and position. In a patriarchal society, where the understanding of marriage made man the dominant figure in the partnership, Jacques de Bourbon’s assumption that he would wield power in Naples was understandable. Indeed, the Aragonese chronicler Zurita felt it was entirely “improper . . . [that] the Giovannas of Naples . . . excluded some of their husbands from the title and regiment of the realm.”[81]

In addition to these reigning queens in the South, the northern and central Italian peninsula saw a number of politically and culturally influential women across the courts of the Renaissance. While opportunities for women to rule in their own right were limited by the perception that “rulership was a specifically masculine activity,” women did exercise authority as regents for sons and absent husbands — particularly in times of political turbulence such as the “Italian Wars” of 1494–1559.[82] Perhaps the most well known of these women was[155] Isabella d’Este, who was politically savvy, an able administrator of Mantua during the absences of her Gonzaga husband, and a collector par excellence whose impressive patronage has been intensively studied.[83] Indeed, cultural patronage was a means through which many elite women in Renaissance Italy demonstrated considerable agency. Their wealth gave them the ability to control and mediate expressions of dynasty, emphasizing their own position, authority, and lineage, as McIver demonstrates in her study of Silvia Santivale and Laura Pallavicina.[84] For example, in addition to her well-known military exploits, Caterina Sforza made her wealth and agency visible through her wide-ranging patronage supporting religious institutions, refurbishing palaces, and funding improvements in the territories that she governed as regent for her son. She also used the medium of portrait medals to communicate her authority; this medium was both appropriate and effective, as Joyce de Vries notes: “portraits were central to the Renaissance ruler’s strategy for maintaining power . . . [and] an especially potent method of this self-presentation.”[85]

Although the Italian Peninsula was incredibly diverse in terms of the variety and number of political entities present in the premodern period, the key typologies of female agency are present here, just as in the earlier case studies. Once again there are female rulers who have inherited the throne in their own right, as the two queens regnant of Naples demonstrate. Politically active and culturally influential consorts and regents can be seen in the examples of Isabella d’Este and Caterina Sforza, among others, reflecting the experiences of their Muslim, Iberian, and Byzantine counterparts across the Mediterranean in exercising authority.

Conclusions: Connecting Threads

This study has highlighted many examples from across the premodern period and all sides of the Mediterranean basin. It has demonstrated that women were able to access authority and power in kingdoms, caliphates, empires, and marquisates — as Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims, Roman Catholics, and Greek Orthodox Christians. Regardless of whether these women were called by the title of Empress, Queen, Marquessa, Malika, or Sultana, they all demonstrated a high degree of agency and influence. Most frequently, these women came to power through marital and familial links, ruling beside or on behalf of a husband or a son.[156] While some of the examples in this study were elite women from noble and royal families whose standing was enhanced through the alliance that their marriage brought, other women successfully rose from slavery through the harem and into an impressive position of power and influence. However, many Mediterranean realms — such as the kingdoms of Castile, Navarre, Jerusalem, Naples, Sicily, and the Byzantine empire — allowed women to inherit the throne in their own right as legitimate successors. Even in territories that did not normally permit female rule, women such as Sitt al-Mulk and Arwa bint Ahmad successfully governed alone.

The political, ethnic, and religious diversity of the Mediterranean and its core function as a meeting point between cultures and religions and as a conduit of exchange throughout millennia has made it a fruitful area for the study of civilizations.[86] In a similar way, it makes an excellent comparative study for female rule, due to the number and diversity of political systems and cultural norms. These case studies, which highlight only a sample of the women who wielded significant power, authority, and influence in the premodern era, raise the possibility that the Mediterranean area offered an enhanced climate for women to exercise power and authority. While some of the roles and positions of authority mirrored those in northern Europe and the wider Islamic world, many of these political systems were atypical and offered unique opportunities for women. The pan-Mediterranean empires of the Byzantines, Aragonese, and the Cordoba caliphate offered women the opportunity to rule as empress regnant or regent, as a queen lieutenant, or as the favored consort of a caliph or sultan. The Crusader States, with their unusual mix of elected and hereditary monarchy, gave rise to an impressive number of female sovereigns in a relatively short history. The wealthy courts of the Italian Renaissance gave women the opportunity to wield not only political authority but also cultural influence as important patrons.

Ultimately, all of the women in this study, no matter their religion, era, or domicile, lived in patriarchal societies where men were expected to wield political power and authority. However, this study has demonstrated that women were able to exploit either the possibility for female rule in the political framework of their society or opportunities for influence that arose through accidents of fate or personal relationships and were able to exercise power and authority. While some of these female monarchs struggled to assert their authority, such as the beleaguered queens of the kingdom of Jerusalem, others, such as Arwa bint Ahmad, Irene of Byzantium, and Isabel la Católica, enjoyed lengthy reigns and are excellent examples of successful female rulers, both in the Mediterranean and beyond.[157]


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  1. An excellent work that brings together a range of studies from across medieval Europe is Earenfight, Queenship in Medieval Europe. Cambell Orr’s imortant study of queenship (Queenship in Europe 1660–1815) bridges the gap between premodern and modern research on queens consort. Cutter and Crowell’s translation of sections of Chen Shou’s records of Imperial China (Empresses and Consorts) sheds light on female agency in the Chinese court in the 3rd century bce and contains a helpful introduction to the study of Chinese empresses and the role of women in the Chinese court. 
  2. Examples of collections with an Iberian or English focus include Earenfight, Queenship and Political Power in Medieval and Early Modern Spain; and Whitelock and Hunt, Tudor Queenship. With regard to the Mediterranean context, see Woodacre, Queenship in the Mediterranean
  3. Lassner, Demonizing the Queen of Sheba; Roehrig, Dreyfus, and Keller, Hatshepsut; Roller, Cleopatra
  4. For more on these figures, see Barratt, Livia; Ginsburg, Representing Agrippina; and Levick, Julia Domna
  5. James, “Goddess, Whore, Wife or Slave?” 135. 
  6. Ringrose, “Women and Power at the Byzantine Court.” 
  7. Ringrose, “Women and Power,” 79. 
  8. Smythe, “Behind the Mask,” 147. 
  9. Garland, Byzantine Empresses, 7. For a study of Anna of Savoy, see Nicol, The Byzantine Lady, 82–95. 
  10. Earenfight, Queenship in Medieval Europe, 87. 
  11. See Poulet, “Capetian Women and the Regency.” 
  12. Garland, Byzantine Empresses, 205. 
  13. Smythe, “Behind the Mask,” 152. 
  14. Kinnamos, Deeds of John and Manuel Comnenus, 94. 
  15. Smythe, “Middle Byzantine Family Values and Anna Komnene’s Alexiad,” 125. 
  16. Ringrose, “Women and Power,” 78. 
  17. Psellos, Chronographia, Bk. 5, 99. See also Garland’s comments on the riot in Byzantine Empresses, 142–44. 
  18. Karagianni, “Female Monarchs in the Medieval Byzantine Court,” 23. 
  19. Garland, Byzantine Empresses, 143–44. 
  20. Psellos, Chronographia, Bk. 6, 113. 
  21. Garland, Byzantine Empresses, 2. 
  22. Prawer, Crusader Institutions, 25. 
  23. Schein, “Women in Medieval Colonial Society,” 141. 
  24. Prawer, Institutions, 25. 
  25. A recent study on this topic is Hayley Bassett, “Regnant Queenship and Royal Marriage.” 
  26. Fulk was well known to the nobility of the kingdom after a successful visit to Jerusalem in 1120, when William claims that Fulk “gained, as he well deserved, the favour of all the people as well as that of the king”: William, Archbishop of Tyre, A History of Deeds done beyond the Sea (Volume Two), Bk. 14, chap. 2, 50. 
  27. Mayer, “Studies in the History of Queen Melisende of Jerusalem,” 108. See also Mayer, “Angevins versus Normans”; and The Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis, VI, 390–92. 
  28. William of Tyre, History of Deeds, Bk. 14, chap. 18, 76 
  29. William of Tyre, History of Deeds, Bk. 15, chap. 27, 135. 
  30. Folda, “Images of Queen Melisende”; Lambert, “Images of Queen Melisende.” 
  31. Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, MS fr. 779, fol. 145v. (French, 1270–1279). 
  32. Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, MS fr. 2824, fol. 102v (Flemish, ca. 1300). 
  33. William of Tyre, History of Deeds, Bk. 16, chap. 3, 140. 
  34. Sibylla was crowned in 1186 and died in 1190. Isabella’s reign is difficult to date, due to her disputed marriages and the political maelstrom in the kingdom after the loss of Jerusalem. Theoretically, however, she would have succeeded her elder half-sister Sibylla in 1190. Isabella died in 1205. 
  35. For more detail on Sibylla, Isabella, and their controversial consorts, see Woodacre, “Questionable Authority.” Isabella’s husbands were (in order) Humphrey of Toron, Conrad of Montferrat, Henry of Champagne, and Amaury de Lusignan, king of Cyprus. 
  36. Morgan (ed.), La Continuation de Guillaume de Tyr 199, roughly translated as “For the first time she was queen”. 
  37. Anon., “Le Livre au Roi.” For more on the Livre au Roi, see Greilsammer, “Structure and Aims of the Livre au Roi.” Maria of Montferrat’s reign was 1205–1212, and that of her daughter Yolande or Isabella II was 1212–1228. 
  38. Lambert, “Queen or Consort”; Hamilton, “Women in the Crusader States”; Hamilton, “King Consorts of Jerusalem and their Entourages from the West,” 13. 
  39. See an excellent discussion of “the myth of the harem” in Peirce, “Beyond Harem Walls.” 
  40. Mernissi, The Forgotten Queens of Islam, particularly the chapter “How does one say ‘Queen’ in Islam?” 9–25; this quotation at 140. 
  41. Mernissi, The Forgotten Queens of Islam, chap. 5, “The Criteria of Sovereignty in Islam”, 71–87. However, Chaves Hernández (“Mujeres y poder en el Islam II,” 11) argues that coinage is not necessarily a marker for sovereignty, noting that even some male rulers did not issue coinage in their name. 
  42. Lev, “The Fatimid Princess Sitt al-Mulk,” 321–25. 
  43. Mernissi, Forgotten Queens, 166; Rustow “A Petition to a Woman at the Fatimid Court,” 10. 
  44. Lev, “Sitt al-Mulk,” 326. 
  45. Lev, “Sitt al-Mulk,” 327. 
  46. Lev, “Sitt al-Mulk,” 320–21; Rustow “A Petition,” 14–16, for detail on the architectural patronage of Fatimid women. For more detailed coverage on the women of the Fatimid dynasty, see Cortese and Calderini, Women and the Fatimids in the World of Islam
  47. For an effective biographical summary of her career, see Duncan, “Scholarly views of Shajarat al-Durr,” 52–53. Duncan’s article contains an interesting discussion of different historiographical studies and opinions of Sharjar’s rule and political career. 
  48. Ibn Wasil, cited in Gabrieli, Arab Historians of the Crusades, 298. 
  49. Mernissi, Forgotten Queens, 90. 
  50. Duncan, “Shajarat al-Durr,” 53. 
  51. Chaves Hernández, “Mujeres y poder I,” 14. 
  52. Mernissi, Forgotten Queens, 115. 
  53. Quoted in Mernissi, Forgotten Queens, 115–16. 
  54. Mernissi, Forgotten Queens, 148; Chaves Hernández, “Mujeres y poder II,” 31–44. 
  55. [149] Chaves Hernández, “Mujeres y poder II,” 26–29. Arwa’s anointment as hujja is also discussed in Daftary, “Sayyida Hurra.” 
  56. Mernissi, Forgotten Queens, 14; Mourtada-Sabbah and Gully, “‘I am, by God, Fit for High Positions,’” 197–98. 
  57. Mourtada-Sabbah and Gully, “I am, by God, Fit for High Positions,” 186. 
  58. For a summary of the effects of Subh’s rule, see Mourtada-Sabbah and Gully, “I am, by God, Fit for High Positions,” 195. 
  59. Mernissi, Forgotten Queens, 48–49. For example, “In the words of Ahmad Amin, Subh is neither malika (queen) nor sayyida (Madame); she has no title. She is Subh, the Christian” (49). 
  60. Mourtada-Sabbah and Gully, “I am, by God, Fit for High Positions,” 195–96. 
  61. Mernissi, Forgotten Queens, 50. Mernissi also examines the career of Khayzuran, who in the eighth century also began as a slave but ultimately ruled through her influence with three successive caliphs of Baghdad: her husband al-Mahdi and her two sons al-Hadi and al-Rashid. 
  62. For A’isha, see Mourtada-Sabbah and Gully, “I am, by God, Fit for High Positions,” 198–99; and for Sayyida, see Mernissi, Forgotten Queens, 18–19. 
  63. Gil Gramau, “Sayyida al-Hurra, Mujer Marroquí de Origen Andulusí,” 318. 
  64. Sadiqi et al., Des femmes écrivent l’Afrique, 52. 
  65. Additional case studies of women wielding power and influence in the Islamic Mediterranean can be found in Global Queenship, see especially Miranda “al-Dalfa and the Political Role of the umm al-walad,” Lourinho, “Queen Zaynab al-Nafzawiyya” and Echevarria and Lluch “The ‘Honourable Ladies’ of Nasrid Grenada.” 
  66. These rulers were Juana I (1274–1305), Juana II (1328–1349), Blanca I (1425–1441), Leonor (Lieutenant from 1455–1479, queen 1479), and Catalina (1483–1517, kingdom annexed by Castile 1512). For more, see Woodacre, The Queens Regnant of Navarre
  67. Works on these queens include Reilly, The Kingdom of León-Castilla under Queen Urraca; and Weissburger, Isabel Rules
  68. Bianchini, The Queen’s Hand
  69. Olivera Serrano, Beatriz de Portugal.
  70. [152] For more on Petronilla, see Stalls, “Queenship and the Royal Patrimony in Twelfth-Century Iberia.” On the development of the succession practices in Aragón, see Garcia Gallo, “El Derecho de Sucesion del Trono en la Corona de Aragón.”
  71. For more background on the practice of lieutenancy in Aragón, see Lalinde Abadia, “Virreyes y lugartentientes medievales en la corona de Aragón.” 
  72. Earenfight, “Absent Kings.” 
  73. Silleras-Fernández, Power, Piety and Patronage in Late Medieval Queenship. Earenfight, The King’s Other Body
  74. [153] For more on Blanca, see Woodacre, “Blanca, Queen of Sicily and Queen of Navarre.”
  75. Examples include Isabel of Portugal, Margaret of Austria, and Mary of Hungary (respectively the wife, aunt, and sister of Charles V) and Juana of Castile and Isabella Clara Eugenia (the sister and daughter of Philip II). 
  76. Earenfight, Queenship in Medieval Europe, 254–55. 
  77. The most recent English language biography is Pepin, María de Molina but there are also biographies in Spanish on this important regent, such as Carmona Ruiz, Maria de Molina. For Juana Enríquez, see the classic biography by Coll Julia, Doña Juana Enríquez; or, more recently, Earenfight, “Absent Kings,” 47–51. 
  78. Giovanna’s struggles to reign and her long term reputation as a ruler are very effectively analyzed in Casteen, From She-Wolf to Martyr. 
  79. Machiavelli, History of Florence, Bk. I, chap. VI, https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/m/machiavelli/niccolo/m149h/. For Giovanna I’s reign, one of the best biographies continues to be Léonard, La jeunesse de Jeanne I, given both Léonard’s excellent scholarship and access to the Neopolitan archives before the damage suffered by bombing in WWII. 
  80. Machiavelli, History of Florence, Bk. I, chap. 7. For more on both Giovannas, see Woodacre “Questionable Authority,” 390–93. 
  81. Zurita, Anales de la Corona de Aragón, 8:74. 
  82. De Vries, “Caterina Sforza’s Portrait Medals,” 23. 
  83. Recent studies on Isabella’s life and patronage include Hickson, Women, Art and Architectural Patronage in Renaissance Mantua ; and Cockram, Isabella d’Este, and Francisco Gonzaga. The extent of focus on Isabella d’Este’s career has also triggered an interest in exploring other female patrons in more depth; see Reiss and Wilkins, Beyond Isabella
  84. McIver, “Matrons as Patrons.” 
  85. De Vries, “Portrait Medals,” 24. 
  86. For an interesting discussion of this concept, see Abulafia, “Mediterranean History as Global History.” 

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Gender in the Premodern Mediterranean Copyright © 2023 by Elena Woodacre is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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