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|How to be a Successful Queen?
In my forthcoming book, Queenship in Early Modern Europe, I explore the various strategies queens
followed to create powerful and influential queenships. So, what makes a successful queen? As Early
modern Europe was a male dominant society, queenly power was usually legitimized by a woman’s
kinship relationship to a man, whether father, husband, or son. Not surprisingly, the most successful
queens were also those who maintained loving and productive relationships with their husbands, who
were the source of all royal power. Queens favored and loved by their kings could gain access to
patronage, act as a political counselor, influence foreign policy, and exercise control over the raising of their
children. Queens such as Bona Sforza of Poland and Elisabeth Farnese of Spain both wielded a king’
s prerogative with their husband’s full approval. As kings provided role models for their male subjects to
emulate, queens did the same thing for their female subjects, emulating such virtues as modesty, chastity,
obedience to male authority (at least outwardly!) as well as being a good wife and mother. As Early
Modern Europe was a Christian society, queens gained prestige for their religious works and
observances, such as going on pilgrimages, distributing charity, and founding religious houses, as did
Anne of Austria of France, who founded the convent of Val-de-Grâce. A number of queens took their
religiosity to the extremes, such as Marianna of Spain and Maria of Portugal, who led extremely ascetic
lives, as did a number of Holy Roman Empresses. Not surprisingly, most of the successful queens of
Europe, such as Isabella of Castile and Maria Theresa of Austria, took their religiosity seriously, and
were ostentatiously pious.
Queenship was a peripatetic vocation; most queens were not native to the kingdoms where they were
queen. Most successful queens swiftly learned the language and adopted the customs of their adoptive
kingdoms, such as Anna Jagiellon, Queen of Hungary and Bohemia, who was fluent in German,
Czech, and Magyar, and Caroline of Ansbach, Queen of Great Britain, who underwent a crash course
in English language and culture. Being fluent in several languages was always helpful, as it was for
Elizabeth I of Spain, who could converse with all the ambassadors of Western Europe in their native
tongues. Even Marie Marie Leszczyńska of France, who is usually considered a powerless non-entity,
spoke Polish, German, and Swedish with diplomats at court, something her husband, Louis XV of
France, was unable to do. Aug. 6. 2019.