Die Witwenschaft kinderloser Königinnen im Hochmittelalter

  • Anne Foerster (Autor/in)


Childlessness greatly affected the scope of possibilities for widowed queens to manage their lives after their husband’s death. While mothers of succeeding sons were usually able, and in cases of young kings often even expected, to stay at court, where they continued or increased their political influence, women without sons faced disruptive changes. What did this familial arrangement mean for queens who had not born any children in their marriage with the king? This article addresses this question by focusing on childless dowager queens in high medieval Germany, France, and England. In scrutinizing second marriages of childless women, it argues that childlessness did not necessarily reduce the attractiveness of dowager queens on the marriage-market. Instead, the prospect of forging important alliances and gaining wealth or status sometimes outweighed the fear of infertility. Drawing on the example of the so-called Empress Matilda, this piece first explores the benefits and disadvantages of remarriage. Next, the story of Cunigund of Luxemburg highlights how and why some dowager queens founded a monastery as a residence for widowhood. Finally, the discussion turns to the example of Ingeborg of Denmark to discuss the option of retiring to the dower lands. Other cases from high medieval Germany, England, and France complement the picture. For childless dowager queens, maintaining political impact and the royal status was not guaranteed, but it was not impossible either. Both anticipatory strategies and social networks could help to preserve subsistence, rank, and influence.

Keywords Widowhood; Queenship; Childlessness; Dowager Queens