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Queens in the Middle Ages

Queens in the Middle Ages have gone down in history as some of the most famous queens of all time, but they had much to contend with during their era. The medieval period was a time of darkness and death and a time ruled by religious turmoil. Christianity and the leadership of the church was forced upon many who held differing beliefs. It was a time when the church, the pope and the monarch ruled.

Queen Matilda

Famous Queens in the Middle Ages

Some of the medieval queens who are still well known today include the Norman Queens of England. The Norman Queens were those who held power during the Norman Invasions. These queens ruled between the years of 1066 and 1154 after the Battle of Hastings. They included:

  • Matilda of Flanders, Queen of William the Conqueror
  • Good Queen Maude, Queen Consort of King Henry I
  • Queen Matilda, Holy Roman Empress, granddaughter of William the Conqueror and mother to King Henry II, fought with her cousin Stephen of Blois for the crown. Lived to see her son take the throne
  • Queen Matilda of Boulogne, Queen Consort of King Stephen

Plantagenet Queens of England

The Plantagenet Queens of England were also medieval queens and they were the consorts of the Kings of England. They ruled during the time period of 1154 through 1377 of the medieval period. The Plantagenet Queens of England included:

  • Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen of King Henry II and Former Queen of France
  • Queen Berengaria of Navarre, Queen consort of King Richard I
  • Isabelle of Angouleme, Queen Consort of King John
  • Eleanor of Provence, Queen Consort of King Henry III
  • Isabella of France also known as the She-Wolf of France, Queen Consort of King Edward II
  • Philippa of Hainault, Queen Consort of King Edward III

The Royal Houses of Lancaster and York

In the period of 1455 and 1485, civil wars occurred amongst two branches of the Royal House of Plantagenet. These battles were royals in the House of Lancaster and the royals in the House of York and are generally referred to as the War of the Roses.

Queens of the Royal House of Lancaster included:

  • Mary de Bohun who was the Queen Consort of King Henry IV
  • Catherine of Valois who was the Queen Consort of King Henry V

In 1461 as the House of York claimed ascendance, Elizabeth Woodville, Queen Consort of King Edward IV became reigning Queen. Subsequently, the House of Lancaster was restored in 1470, and the crown went to Margaret of Anjou, Queen Consort of King Henry VI.

The sporadic battles for supremacy ended in 1485 when the Earl of Richmond, Henry Tudor, a remote member of the Lancaster family married Elizabeth of York (daughter of King Edward IV), effectively reconciling the warring houses. The House of Tudor subsequently held the throne and ruled England for 117 years (Tudor monarchs include King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I).

Royalty in the Middle Ages

The pope provided a singular power of the soul, but kings and queens held significant power over life, limb and land. Members of the royal family, in particular the king, were able to grant land to those who acted in service to them, such as knights (link to Knights of the Middle Ages). The Crown conferred titles on individuals as the Crown saw fit.

While basic justice systems were in place and local sheriffs, mayors and judges were responsible for governing local conduct, Kings and Queens had a great deal of power over instituting medieval punishment. Prisoners facing punishment on a local level could submit an appeal to a higher rank for intervention and pardon.

The nobility remained at the mercy of their King.

Greatest Her-Story Ever Told

Queens in the Middle Ages such as Eleanor of Aquitaine became legends of her own right. Eleanor ruled France and later England, fought wars with her husband and called men into service. The harsh conditions of the Middle Ages honed the abilities of its Queens from Matilda to Elizabeth of York creating a legacy and standard upheld through generations to Queen Elizabeth I, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II.