Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
The Writer Christine de Pizan at Her Desk

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Berengaria "the Great"

Berengaria of Castile, queen regnant of Castile (died 8 November 1246)

The formidable twelfth-century ruler, Urraca of Castile and León, fought throughout her life to maintain the unity of her kingdom--her chief antagonist was her own husband, Alfonso I of Aragon. But she prevailed, and after her death, her son inherited the throne, becoming Alfonso VII of Castile and León. 

An eighteenth-century sculpture
of Berengaria,
But the kingdom whose unity Urraca had preserved was divided by her son: when Alfonso VII died in 1157, his older son became Sancho III, king of Castile, and his younger son became Ferdinand II of León. It was left to another queen regnant, Berengaria to reunite the two kingdoms.

Born in 1180, Berengaria (also known as Berenguela) was the eldest child of Urraca of Castile's great grandson, Alfonso VIII, and his wife, Eleanor of England. (Eleanor was the daughter of a woman we've met before, Eleanor of Aquitaine.) She was her father's heir presumptive until the birth of Ferdinand in 1189. (Queen Eleanor of England had given birth to two boys, one in 1181 and another in 1184, but both had died soon after birth.)

Given her proximity to her father's throne, Berengaria was a very desirable match--a marriage contract between the princess and Conrad, one of the sons of Frederick Barbarossa, the Holy Roman emperor, was agreed upon in 1187, and Conrad was knighted by Alfonso in 1188. 

But by 1191, the contract was dissolved--it may have been her grandmother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, who objected to Berengaria's marriage to the son of the Holy Roman emperor because of the political pressures such a union might place on her own French possessions.

The question became moot when Conrad was assassinated in 1196--perhaps by a woman he had raped, perhaps as a result of an infection that resulted from being bitten by a woman he was attempting to rape. In either case, Berengaria was lucky to avoid marriage to a man whose contemporaries described as "a man thoroughly given to adultery, fornication, defilement, and every foulness" (he wasn't totally condemned by this chronicler, however, who went on to add "nevertheless, he was vigorous and brave in battle and generous to his friends").

It was Berengaria's mother who seems to have been instrumental in arranging her daughter's marriage to Alfonso IX of León. It was an expedient choice: the king of León had invaded Castile (with the aid of Muslim forces, which had resulted in his excommunication).

Of course Alfonso already happened to have a wife--he had married Teresa of Portugal, his first cousin, in 1191, and by 1196, the couple had three children. In 1196, however, their marriage was annulled by Pope Celestine III.

A manuscript illustration of Alfonso IX and
Berengaria of Castile
And so Alfonso married Berengaria, variously described as his first cousin, once removed, or his second cousin. Whatever their exact relationship, this marriage was also challenged on the basis consanguinity, the kingdom placed under interdict by the pope.

Nevertheless, Berengaria and Alfonso remained together--they would have five children, despite their marriage being declared invalid in 1198. 

In 1204, despite the couple's efforts to secure a dispensation, the marriage was formally annulled, though the offending parties did manage to have their children declared legitimate. Berengaria returned to her father’s court in Castile.

The peace between Castile and León wad disrupted by the separation of the royal pair. Alfonso attacked Castile again in 1204, though treaties between the two kingdoms were made in 1205, 1207, and 1209. The conflicts were exacerbated by Alfonso's efforts to disinherit his children by Berengaria in favor of his children by Teresa of Portugal.

When her father died in 1214, Berengaria became guardian and regent for the young Enrique I, her brother. (Enrique was born in 1204; Ferdinand had died in 1211). Although she was quickly replaced by disaffected Castilian nobles, when Enrique died in 1217 Berengaria herself became ruler of Castile. 

Her succession as queen regnant was problematic, however, in part because there was some question about whether she or her sister Blanca was the next legitimate heir to the throne, and in part because her former husband, Alfonso of León, was her son's closest male relative--and potential heir. After receiving the crown, therefore, Berengaria abdicated in favor of her son, who was recognized as King Ferdinand III

Berengaria's husband invaded Castile. Although he did not succeed in efforts to unseat the young king, Alfonso of León's opposition to Berengaria persisted; when he died in 1230, instead of naming Ferdinand to succeed him in León, his two daughters by his first wife were named as his heirs. 

Berengaria a advised her son "with great prudence," indicating how to gain León without shedding more blood. Negotiating with his half-sisters, Ferdinand exchanged rich dowries for the crown of León, thereby reuniting the kingdoms of Castile and León. 

Berengaria continued to play a significant role in the kingdom; she advised her son about military and political affairs until her death in 1246.

Berengaria's tomb,
Monasterio de las Huelgas de Burgos
There are two important new studies of Berengaria and her queenship: Janna Bianchini's The Queen's Hand: Power and Authority in the Reign of Berenguela of Castile and Miriam Shaddis's Political Women in the High Middle Ages: Berenguela of Castile and Her Family.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Back to the Future, Part 7: Nothing to See Here--Just a "Deranged" Guy with a Gun

Another Day, Another Mass Shooting . . . 

Unfortunately, nothing is new in the latest mass shooting--just another young, "upset" white guy who picks up a gun and shoots a bunch of people. 

In response to which, 45 takes a break from golf to fill a little airspace with meaningless word bubbles: thoughts and prayers, a guy with "problems," "this isn't a guns situation."

And maybe, as more details are released, there really is nothing new here. 

A violent young man, who has previously beaten the crap out of his wife and small child, packs up his guns (a Ruger AR-556--a "military style" semi-automatic "tactical rifle"--and two handguns, a Glock 9mm and a Ruger 22-caliber), heads off to a place where he can find lots of easy targets, and starts firing.

In this case, the shooter chose a church that his in-laws attended--although, as it turned out, they were not in the church on Sunday morning. But that didn't make any difference to the shooter. Twenty-five innocent men, women, and children are now dead.

As the research group Everytown for Gun Safety reported just months ago, "domestic violence is a driving factor in mass shootings."

The data published in Mass Shootings in the United States: 2009-2016 (March 2017) makes the link between domestic violence and mass shooting painfully obvious.

In the eight years under analysis, there were 156 mass shootings in the United States using FBI definitions for what constitutes "mass murder": "a number of murders (four or more) occurring during the same incident, with no distinctive time period between the murders. These events typically involved a single location, where the killer murdered a number of victims in an ongoing incident." 

These 156 "mass shootings" resulted in 848 deaths and 339 injuries. 

The majority of the cases--"at least 54%," or 85 of the 156 incidents--"were related to domestic or family violence" (3).

The carnage is shocking: 422 victims killed, 40% of them children (3).

The data in Mass Shootings was drawn from FBI homicide statistics and "media reports." Now that the FBI (and Department of Justice) have scrubbed pesky data like the relationship between murderers and their victims and the ages of homicide victims from their annual Crime in the United States report, good luck keeping track of the numbers . . . 

Just another deranged guy with a gun? Here's a modest proposal for what to do.

Update, 9 November 2017: For more on this topic, you may be interested in this podcast from WBUR (Boston) and its On Point broadcast, "The Link Between Domestic Violence and Mass Shootings" (9 November 2017)--to listen, click here.

One of the people interviewed for this broadcast is German Lopez, senior reporter for Vox. To read his piece, "America's Domestic Violence Problem is a Big Part of Its Gun Problem," click here.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Mary Henrietta, Regent of Orange

Mary Henrietta Stuart, Princess Royal (born 4 November 1631)

Almost a year ago, I wrote about Mary Henrietta's younger sister, Elizabeth Stuart, who had a short and unhappy life--she died when she was fourteen years old. 

Mary Henrietta, born on 4 November 1631, lived a longer life, but she certainly didn't live to be an old woman. The eldest daughter of King Charles I of England and his French-born wife, Henriette Marie, Mary Henrietta, named after her mother, was only twenty-nine years old when she died on 24 December 1660.

Princess Mary Henrietta, 1637,
Anthony Van Dyck
Not a long life, by any standard, but she outlived four of her six siblings--only her two brothers, Charles II and James II lived longer than she did. The deprivations and excesses of Charles's life resulted in his death at the relatively young age of fifty-four. James II, forced to abdicate the English throne in 1688, was in exile in France until his death at age sixty-seven in 1701, the last ten years of his life living as a penitent.

A mostly short-lived, mostly unhappy set of siblings.

But at least Mary Henrietta lived long enough to marry, to be co-regent of the principality of Orange for her son, William, and to see her brother restored to the throne of England as Charles II. And, although she did not live to see it, her son would become king of England in 1689.*

Although she was celebrated for her beauty and her intelligence, the young princess was not well educated--the humanist ideal of educating young women, like her Tudor predecessors, Mary and Elizabeth, or Jane Grey, had been lost. Instead, the Stuart princess was instructed in religion and music and not much else. (Her nieces, both of whom became queens of England, Mary II and Anne, were also notoriously ill-educated.)

Her real significance lay in her marriage and its potential for securing important political alliances. As early as January 1640, a marriage between the English princess and William, the son of Frederick Henry, prince of Orange had been suggested by the statdhholder of the Dutch Republic. (Even earlier, however, Henrietta Maria's mother, the French queen and regent Marie de' Medici, had suggested the match to William for Charles's younger daughter, Elizabeth.)

But the English king was a bit more ambitious for Mary Henrietta, hoping to marry her to a Spanish prince, the son of Philip IV. The Spanish match (perhaps influenced by his own father's efforts to marry Charles to Philip III's daughter, Maria Anna of Spain) did not materialize, however, and by February of 1641, the nine-year-old princess's marriage treaty with William had been completed.

The marriage between the English princess, nine, and William, fifteen, was celebrated at Whitehall on 2 May 1641. Although the terms of the marriage agreement allowed for the girl to remain in England until she reached the age of twelve, circumstances dictated a change in plan when civil war broke out in England in 1642. 

In February 1642, Mary Henrietta left England in the company of her mother, Queen Henrietta Maria, the two traveling together to Holland. By 1644, in the words of the delightful 1893 biographical essay in the Dictionary of National Biography, she was "fully installed in her conjugal position."

Mary Henrietta, Princess of Orange, 1647,
Gerard van Honthorst
There she began receiving foreign ambassadors, fulfilling her required role in state functions, and participating in court entertainments.

Her strong sympathy for her father in his struggle with the English parliament, however, did not make her popular with the Dutch. (For her part, she did not like the Dutch and made no effort to learn their language.)

After Frederick Henry's death in 1647, William succeeded to his father's hereditary titles and, at the same time, was elected to his father's position as stadtholder. Neither his ambitions to become a monarch rather than an elected ruler nor his warm embrace of Charles I of England, contributed to William's political popularity in the Dutch Republic.

By 1650, William had decided to use force to resolve the political conflict. He sent forces to besiege the city of Amsterdam. Bad weather contributed to the surrender of the city, but William's victory was short-lived. He died of smallpox on 6 November 1650, leaving Mary Henrietta pregnant.

Mary Henrietta's son, William III, was born just days later, on 14 November. Although her husband's mother, Amalia of Solms-Braunfels, would serve as chair of the regency council for the infant from his birth until 1672, her wish to be the child's guardian was denied. 

Instead, by the terms of an agreement signed on 16 August 1651, Mary Henrietta was designated the teacher and guardian of her child. But, never popular, she was even more politically endangered when she offered a safe haven to her brothers who had been forced to flee England. 

She was denied permission to receive them (or support them), and her reputation suffered when it was rumored that she was involved with either George Villiers, duke of Buckingham, or Henry Jermyn, a member of her brother James's household.

In 1652, war erupted between Holland and England--after negotiating peace, Oliver Cromwell, who had become Lord Protector of the Commonwealth that had executed Mary Henrietta's father, demanded that all English exiles should be expelled from Holland.

Protesting these demands, and with her health suffering, Mary Henrietta left Holland in 1654. She traveled to Spa (Belgium), where she spent several weeks, leaving from there for another spa city, Aix-la-Chapelle. She met her brother, Charles, in Cologne (July 1655), moved on to Frankfort, and from there traveled to Paris (January 1656), where she was treated royally.

She stayed in Paris until November, meeting up again with her brother, this time in Bruges. She returned to The Hague in February 1657. When she returned, Mary Henrietta fully expected to become some regent for her son--she had finally attained her "full majority"--age twenty-five--and by the terms of her husband's will, she should have succeeded her mother-in-law as regent.

But Princess-Dowager Amalia did not give up so easily, and a protracted struggle between the two followed, Mary Henrietta's claims were buttressed by the arrival of French war frigates. Louis XIV seized Orange--the city capitulated to the French on 25 March 1660.

Mary Henrietta, Princess of Orange,
detail from a painting by
Gerard van Honthorst
This was not exactly the resolution designed to reconcile Mary Henrietta with the Dutch, nor did it assure she would become sole regent for her son. But a welcome event soon distracted her--her brother, Charles, was restored to the English throne. 

In May of 1660, Mary Henrietta informed the States-General of her brother's restoration. He joined her briefly before returning to England--and, significantly, he met his young nephew, William, now in the English line of succession--the boy who would eventually become king of his uncle's realm.

Mary Henrietta and her son were now feted throughout Holland--bonfires in The Hague, four days of festivities in Amsterdam, special honors in Haarlem. 

In September, Mary Henrietta left Holland to join her brothers in London. Given her support for her brother during his exile, she was warmly greeted. She took the opportunity to ask that the payment of a promised dowry of 40,000 pounds, never made, be finally paid. A commission was supposed to look into the situation.

But as the year ended, Mary Henrietta became gravely ill. She dictated her will on the day she died, 24 December 1660.  

There is no biography of Mary Henrietta Stuart, but you might enjoy Robert S. Rait's Five Stuart Princesses:  Margaret of Scotland, Elizabeth of Bohemia, Mary of Orange, Henrietta of Orleans, and Sophia of Hanover, which you can access via the Internet Archive by clicking here.

(By the way, here are Rait's Stuart princesses: Margaret of Scotland is the daughter of James I of Scotland, who married Louis, the dauphin of France [she died in 1445 at age twenty]; Elizabeth Stuart is the daughter of James I, who married Frederick of the Palatinate; Mary Henrietta, princess of Orange; Henrietta Stuart is Mary Henrietta's younger sister, who married Phillippe of France, Louis XIV's younger brother [she died in 1670 at age twenty-six], and Sophia of Hanover, who was Elizabeth Stuart's daughter.)

*William of Orange invaded England, aiming to depose his uncle, precipitating James II's flight from the country in 1688. William had married his first cousin, James's daughter, Mary, and while she might have inherited her father's throne and ruled alone as Mary II, she did not--parliament declared William and Mary to be joint sovereigns: "the sole and full exercise of the regal power [would be] executed by the said Prince of Orange in the names of the said Prince and Princess during their joint lives." Parliament further decided that, if Mary died before her husband, William would continue to remain as king--thus James's second daughter, Anne, did not become queen until eight years after her sister's death in 1694 (she was only thirty-two years old)--William continued to reign as king until his death in 1702.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Oh, Yay! More Great News for Women! 2017 Edition!

The World Economic Forum's 2017 Global Gender Gap Report

The World Economic Forum has just published its annual Global Gender Gap Report. Published every year since 2006, the report "benchmarks 144 countries on their progress towards gender parity across four thematic dimensions: Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment."

Of course, we'd like to believe that women are closing the gap--that, all over the world, despite the obstacles they face, women are making progress. 

Unfortunately, that is not the case. Last year, assuming "[a]ll things held equal," the global gender gap was projected to close in 83 years. But things did not hold equal--today, "with current trends, the overall global gender gap can be closed in exactly 100 years [emphasis added] across the 106 countries covered since the inception of the Report" (viii).

Let's start with the good news, or at least the sorta good news: "On average, the 144 countries covered in the Report have closed 96% of the gap in health outcomes between women and men." This is the "smallest gap," but the numbers remain unchanged since last year. Still, "the gap is larger than it stood in 2006" (25), when the first Global Gender Gap Report was published.

And now, the bad news: 
on current trends, the education-specific gender gap could be reduced to parity within the next 13 years. The widest gender gap, in the political dimension, is also the one exhibiting the most progress, narrowing by 9% since 2006, despite a slowdown in progress this year. On current trends, it could be closed within 99 years [emphases added]. (25)
And now (because that's the kind of woman I am), the worse news:
Some of the most challenging gender gaps remain in the economic sphere. At the current rate of change, and given the continued widening of the economic gender gap already observed last year, it will now not be closed for another 217 years [emphasis added]. This year, the economic gender gap has reverted back to where it stood in 2008, after a peak in 2013. (25)
As for the U.S.? Don't look for them in the "top ten"--that is, the countries which have succeeded in "closing more than 80% of their overall gender gap" (14-15). Those countries? Iceland, Norway, Finland, Rwanda, Sweden, Nicaragua, Slovenia, Ireland, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

Where is the U.S.? It's ranked at 49 among the 144 countries in the global report. --right below Bangladesh and Peru, right above Zimbabwe and Jamaica. 

If you want to see the complete list of rankings, look for Table 3 (10-11). And you can see a "country scorecard" by clicking here.

For my blog post on last year's Global Gender Gap Report, click here.