G5 Doctoral dissertation (article)
Merovingian Queenship in Early Nineteenth-Century French Historiography

List of Authors: Aali. Heta
Publisher: University of Turku
Place: Turku
Publication year: 2017
eISBN: ISBN 978-951-29-6742-1


In my Ph. D. thesis I examine the way French historians represented Merovingian queenship in their historical narratives between 1814 and 1848. The French monarchy was re-established in these years and it changed considerably in the early decades of the nineteenth century, from an imitation of the Old Regime to a bourgeois and constitutional monarchy. These changes forced historians and politicians to rethink both the history of France and the function of the monarchy. My objective is to gain new perspectives on the period's historiography by looking at the way in which the early medieval queens were represented and how the representations were affected by the contemporary political and historiographical discussions about the French monarchy. The representations varied according to the author and the intended readership. A historian’s task was to write about events and persons worth remembering, and the Merovingian queens Clotilde (died in 545), Fredegonde (died in 597) and Brunehilde (died in 613) were among those persons. At the same time they functioned as mere types and instruments for the early nineteenth-century historians. The queens were categorized to certain types depending on the historians' political and cultural affiliations. All historiography had a political aspect and the queens were not studied or written about for their own sake, but used by historians to make moral and political claims, to teach and instruct the reader. The political aspects of historiography were visible in the way the new, or redefined, nationalistic agenda affected historians' narratives about the Merovingian period. A history of queenship was essential to construct a shared past. One of the leading motivations for the ways in which the queens were represented was the historians' desire to prove that women could not and should not govern in France. Women could be seen as good rulers despite their gender, but never because of their gender. Women who surpassed their gender were extraordinary and yet simultaneously very dangerous, because they had not stayed in their “natural” place. This was a paradox because, while rivalling the masculine gender was admirable given male superiority over the female gender, it was perceived as very dangerous for society. The Merovingian queens and their representations offered something for everyone in nineteenth-century France; barbarous and morally upright actions, love and passion, scheming and devotion, destruction and civilisation.

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Last updated on 2019-20-07 at 17:38