Kings & Queens 2: Making Connections, held at the West Downs Centre at the University of Winchester on 8-9 July 2013, is the follow up to last year’s highly successful conference on royal studies. This year’s conference featured 72 speakers in 29 sessions over two days and approximately 90 attendees overall, making it a very reasonably sized event. One of the strongest features of the conference is the amount of variety, even though the conference is focused on a particular discipline. The papers spanned from Byzantine Empresses of Late Antiquity up late 19th century Imperial Russia and ranged from medieval China to every corner of Europe. We also had an excellent variety in terms of our highly international group of participants, including leading scholars in the field such as our keynote speaker, noted queenship expert Theresa Earenfight, late medievalist Michael Hicks, Elizabethan scholars Charles Beem and Carole Levin and the doyennes of Portuguese queenship studies, Ana Maria S.A. Rodrigues and Manuela Santos Silva. However, we also had an equally strong representation from postgraduate scholars from those literally just embarking on doctoral study to those defending their thesis.
The ability of so many graduate students to participate in the event, 41 of whom were giving a paper, was greatly aided by a generous grant from the Royal Historical Society. This grant helped us to keep student fees below those of academic staff, both for attendance and accommodation. The conference organizers (and certainly the students as well) are extremely grateful to the RHS for their support of the event. Nine Winchester graduate students who helped at the event, either by speaking, chairing or assisting with registration and delegate management including Gordon Mckelvie, Kate Weikert & Adam Bowley.
The conference began with a fascinating keynote address from Theresa Earenfight, from Seattle University. Although Theresa is well known for her work on Iberian queenship and well as her general considerations of queenship, including her recently released textbook, Queenship in Medieval Europe (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), she spoke to us about her current research on royal fertility and the difficulty posed by childless couples who were unable to secure the succession. This is perhaps particularly appropriate given the media frenzy about the impending birth of the royal baby.
While it is impossible to note every paper in detail in this report, there were several key themes which resonated across panels which were highlighted by some of the papers given by Winchester department members. One of these themes was alliances and matrimonial diplomacy which Ellie Woodacre focused on in her examination of the strategies employed by the medieval kingdom of Navarre. Networks and family ties was another theme which consistently appeared and both Michael Hicks and Cindy Wood spoke about this in particular relation to the English Royal Family. Winchester PhD student Angela Clark highlighted the importance of papal networking in her examination of queenly applications for indulgences. A third theme which can be seen in the papers given in the conference is that of representation. Three Winchester students, Courtnay Konshuh, David McDermott and Karl Alvestad discussed the representation of three Early medieval rulers while another Winchester student, Lilly Cespedes, gamely filled in at the last minute with a discussion of her innovative research on the representation of real and imagined early medieval queens in modern comics. Carey Fleiner also took on the modern representation of a medieval queen in her paper on Isabella of Angoulême.
The conference also featured ‘working groups’ during the lunchtime breaks. On the first day, the possibility of starting an open-access academic journal was discussed, while on the second lunchtime there was a meeting for those interested in contributing to a new collection on motherhood, ambition and power. Both sessions were well attended and underline the key purpose of the Royal Studies Network-to bring together scholars in the field to share research and collaborate.
Plans are already afoot for more Kings & Queens conferences. Kings & Queens 3 is tentatively set for 11-12 July 2014 and a call for papers will be out in September. There are also plans for the conference to go ‘on tour’ in 2015 and 2016, to Lisbon and the U.S. respectively. More information about these new initiatives and upcoming events can be found on the RSN website (www.royalstudiesnetwork.org).
Many thanks to everyone from the History Department at the University of Winchester who took part in the event. This not only helped the event run smoothly but showcased the incredible research going on in the department.