Elevate Difference

Power, Piety, and Patronage in Late Medieval Queenship: Maria de Luna

In Power, Piety, and Patronage in Late Medieval Queenship, Nuria Silleras-Fernandez examines the life of the Spanish queen, Maria de Luna, from her childhood amongst the sons and daughters of the royal court, to her successes and failures as queen in the Crown of Aragon until her death in 1406. Silleras-Fernandez systematically demonstrates how “in an age in which queens were expected to act as no more than intersectors between supplicant subjects and the authority of the king, Maria [de Luna] was an active and independent political agent.”

Maria de Luna understood that the source of her power as queen was inextricably tied to the success of her husband’s rule as king, but she also had an understanding of the measures necessary to ensure the preservation of his power, an understanding that was, many times, far superior than her husband’s. She had great foresight for the implications of and potential repercussions from political and military actions, and she took the reins when she saw her husband or son acting in ways that might jeopardize their hold on the crown. Through the course of this book, Silleras-Fernandez shows how Maria de Luna manipulated all aspects of her life to serve her power-hungry agenda, particularly those of patronage and piety. Her acts of sponsorship were used to make loyal dependents out of her subjects, while her pious acts toward the Christian clergy and her husband were used to portray a queenly image that would win the support and respect of those over whom she ruled.

Power, Piety, and Patronage in Late Medieval Queenship demonstrates how exceptional Maria de Luna was at navigating the politics of the fourteenth century, and I believe that she would be a skilled politician according to today’s standards as well. Unfortunately, that is because she managed to use her relationships to further her political aims and maintain power. She was by no means a feminist, and her patronage was extended to the women in her court insofar as she could help educate and refine them so the could be strategically married off to suitors who would fortify certain political bonds.

Power, Piety, and Patronage in Late Medieval Queenship offers interesting insight into the life of an exceptional woman, who had an understanding of the politics of power far superior to that of most men of her time, but she relied on and clung to the power of her husband all the same. Thankfully, the past few years in Chilean, Israeli, and American politics (to name a few examples), have proven that women have come a long way from the days where their power was only derived from their male counterparts.

Written by: Rebecca McBride, October 12th 2008