Capetian Women and the Regency: The Genesis of a Vocation
To be born male or female has never been a neutral biological factor. Every society conceives its own distribution of roles unrelated to the natural distinctive capacities of the sexes. The absence of natural determinism explains the multiplicity of conditions of the female in history: theoretical or practical equality, or hierarchial difference from the male group. The conception of the woman has its source in an essentially temporal ideology that determines the specific and substantive functions assigned to males in society. Medieval woman did not escape from the connotations of these innate male rights responsible for the division of space and function; and beyond the prestigious office that established her as a living role model, a queen was the archetypical woman of her time. Despite the superficial splendor in which she lived, a queen was not exempt from the ideology that defined the female. In absolute terms, the marriage that raised her to royal rank gave her a juridical and social status identical to those of her anonymous sisters, and closed her in a domestic setting in contrast to that of the male, which centered on the exercise of power in the public and private spheres. Repressed by theology, law, and attitude, the feminine sex was the object of constant marriage speculation, organized around the requirements of male authority — or in the queen’s case, those of the royal lineage and the material signs of its power.
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