Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Question from Guy - Historians' use of Queens' maiden names

Do you think it's OK for historians to refer to Henry VIII's wives as "Queen Catherine Howard" and "Queen Anne Boleyn", seeing as once they were queens they wouldn't use their maiden names? I see it written this way a lot, and think it's useful as there were 3 Catherines and 2 Annes, but I feel uncomfortable with it.


kb said...

As women are notoriously hard to keep track of it has become fashionable and practical to use ALL a woman's names. This can make for some long monikers...Lettice Knollys Devereux Dudley Blount, countess of Essex and Leicester.

Generally, historians dealing with gender issues are more detailed when using names. For example, if discussing the above woman before her first marriage, Lettice Knollys; after her first marriage Lettice Knollys Devereux, countess of Essex, etc.

As you say, it is helpful keeping track of which Queen Catherine if the last name, maiden name, is included.

Foose said...

There are several 16th-century chroniclers, letters and sources that make reference to "Queen Anne Bullen" [sic]. One of Arbella Stuart's letters mentions "Queen Jane Seimer" (Seymour). I found one reference to "Queene Katherin Haward."

In France, Catherine de Medici's surname frequently appears in contemporary sources, both for respectful dedications and malicious vilification, as "la royne Catherine de Medicis." Mary Queen of Scots is described with some regularity as "Marie-Stuart" or "Marie-Stuard."

I didn't notice a consistent pattern, though, that might identify why the surnames would be specifically cited. In most cases for the English queens, it is simply "Queen Anne" or "Queen Katherine," etc. I couldn't find a reference to Henry's grandmother being called "Queen Elizabeth Woodville" (or Wydville, etc.) by her contemporaries, simply Queen Elizabeth.

kb said...

Foose rightly points out that contemporary accounts occasionally refer to women using their maiden names after they were married. I have found this a few times myself in contemporary references to elite women of the Elizabethan court.

Was it not the 16th century custom in Scotland for women to retain their birth names after marriage? I've been told this by a few historians of the time and place.

Guy said...

Thanks, that's very interesting