Berenguela of Castile (1180-1246) and Her Family: Political Women in the High Middle Ages

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Daughter, wife, and mother of kings, Berenguela of Castile (1180-1246) was a key figure in the formation of medieval Castile-León. Queen of León from 1197-1204, regent for Enrique I of Castile briefly in 1214, and then Queen of Castile in her own right after 1217, she secured the thrones of Castile and León for her son Fernando III and enabled his crusades in al-Andalus. This study examines Berenguela’s use of authority and power, her legitimacy as a female ruler, and her motherhood and patronage in her efforts to maintain the thrones of Castile and León for her family.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Shadis' Berenguela of Castile is a valuable and significant contribution to our understanding of the role and place of royal women in politics (or, as she puts it, "female rulership"), of their significant political and cultural roles in medieval society, and of their ability to act as co-rulers or as queens on their own. Although most medievalists working on the kingdom of Castile know of Berenguela's unique role as queen and as mother of Ferdinand III, there are no modern studies of her reign and life until Shadis' book. As such, Berenguela of Castile is a pioneer work, dealing with a topic hitherto misunderstood or ignored by recent scholarship." - The Medieval Review

"This book is thus more than just the biography of one medieval queen; it is an invitation to scholars of medieval queenship to situate their own subjects within a new analytical framework: one that is actively engaged with what it meant to be a female lord in particular without ignoring other important factors that at times transcended gender." - American Historical Review

"Under Shadis's deft analysis, a whole new view of Berenguela emerges; one who was not the victim of political events, but rather the architect of them." - Medieval Feminist Forum

"Berenguela of Castile is a major addition to studies of queenship and of Iberia especially. Not only does it bring scholarly attention to an individual monarch who has been often overlooked, it also interrogates the place of women - wives and especially mothers - within the jointly ruled monarchy of western Iberia." - American Academy of Research Historians of Medieval Spain

"Shadis has built an outstanding piece of political history and history of the genre which greatly enriches our historical knowledge and helps lay the groundwork for further and necessary approaches to the relationship between power, politics, and women in the medieval past." - Hispania

"This is an important study of medieval political history.Shadis convincingly critiques scholarship that dismisses Berenguela as 'queen for a day,' arguing instead that Berenguela's famous grant of kingship to Fernando in 1217 was co-rulership, not abdication.She vividly presents a superbly talented ruler who defied categorization in her lifetime and whose complex and contradictory life provoked a lively discourse on women's rule and virility as a component of kingship. Deftly linking queenship, feminist, women's, and masculinity studies, this book is at the forefront of political history." - Theresa Earenfight, Associate Professor, Seattle University and author of The King's Other Body: María of Castile and the Crown of Aragon

"Berenguela of Castile (1180-1246) and Political Women in the High Middle Ages provides a thorough and thoughtful investigation not only of the life of this medieval queen, but also of her kinswomen and peers. The Berenguela who emerges from these pages was a force to be reckoned with. Shadis's analysis of the texts also demonstrates how useful previously mined sources can be when viewed through the lens of women's agency rather than oppression. This book has much to offer and will be of interest and use to all who study the lives of aristocratic and royal women." - Amy Livingstone, Wittenberg University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312234737
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Publication date: 10/27/2009
  • Series: New Middle Ages Series
  • Edition description: REV
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,202,102
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Miriam Shadis is an Assistant Professor of History at Ohio University.

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Table of Contents

• Mothering Queenship: Leonor of England, Queen of Castile, 1161-1214
• Documenting Authority: Marriage Agreements and the Making of a Queen
• 1197-1217: The Limits of Power and Authority
• The Labors of Ruling: The Mothering Queen
• “The things that please God and men:” Berenguela, Conquest, and Crusade
• “Making Lament:” Death, Grief, Memory, Identity
• Conclusion: A Perfect Friend of God

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