Damned If She Didn’t and Damned When She Did: Bodies, Babies, and Bastards in the Lives of Two Queens of France

  • John Carmi Parsons
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


Throughout history, the queen who fails in her first obligation, to provide an heir to her husband’s realm, has rarely failed to attract notice. Some childless royal marriages elicited legends of celibacy and sanctity, as with Emperor Henry II and his wife St. Cunegunde, or with King Edward the Confessor. But childless medieval queens were more likely to attract criticism. Margaret of Anjou’s eight years of childless marriage to Henry VI of England led to charges that she was unfit to be queen; when she bore a son in 1453, rumor insisted that the father was not the feeble king, but his cousin (and Margaret’s), the Beaufort duke of Somerset. In fourteenth-century Naples, Queen Sanchia of Aragon’s Franciscan piety was blamed for her childlessness, and so far from sharing the Confessor’s sanctity, his widow, Edith, was allegedly pursued to her deathbed by rumors of her adultery. Little wonder that Constance of Sicily, aged forty and after childless years as Emperor Henry VI’s wife, reputedly bore her only son in a marketplace to ensure sufficient witnesses to attest that the child was hers.1


Body Politic Customary Court Male Frame Bodily Adornment Childless Marriage 
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Copyright information

© John Carmi Parsons and Bonnie Wheeler 2003

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  • John Carmi Parsons

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