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Kingship and Masculinity in Late Medieval England explores the dynamic between kingship and masculinity in fifteenth century England with a particular focus on Henry V and Henry VI The role of gender in the rhetoric and practice of medieval kingship is still largely unexplored by medieval historians Discourses of masculinity informed much of the contemporary comment on fifteenth century kings for a variety of purposes to praise and eulogise but also to explain shortcomings and provide justification for depositionKatherine J Lewis examines discourses of masculinity in relation to contemporary understandings of the nature and acuisition of manhood in the period and considers the extent to which judgements of a king s performance were informed by his ability to embody the right balance of manly ualities This book s primary concern is with how these two kings were presented represented and perceived by those around them but it also asks how far Henry V and Henry VI can be said to have understood the importance of personifying a particular brand of masculinity in their performance of kingship and of meeting the expectations of their subjects in this respect It explores the extent to which their established reputations as inherently manly and unmanly kings were the product of their handling of political circumstances but owed something to factors beyond their immediate control as well Consideration is also given to Margaret of Anjou s manipulation of ideologies of kingship and manhood in response to her husband s incapacity and the ramifications of this for perceptions of the relational gender identities which she and Henry VI embodied together Kingship and Masculinity in Late Medieval England is an essential resource for students of gender and medieval history


14 thoughts on “Kingship and Masculinity in Late Medieval England

  1. says:

    Henry VI is remembered as the unmanliest and most useless king in English history while his father Henry V is considered the epitome of a great king and a great man his masculinity so well performed that it became in essence invisible in its perfection We don’t need to remark on his character or his actions to understand that his masculinity was unuestionably accepted just as we don’t need to study Henry VI in any detail to know that his kingship was doomed to fail because he was unable to “be a man” Katherine J Lewis’s Kingship and Masculinity explores these diametric opposite figures and the role that being able to perform masculinity became a vital even if unnoticed part of kingship in the fifteenth century Kingship and Masculinity in Late Medieval England is a focus on gender and kingship in Middle Ages joining Christopher Fletcher’s earlier volume on Richard II and manhood Richard II Manhood Youth and Politics 1377 99 It is a very very interesting subject and given the criticism of Henry VI’s kingship as emasculated particularly relevant in discussing Henry VI’s life personality and reign The added discussion of Henry V also lets the reader see how masculinity was “meant” to be and had been performed There is no other pair where the difference between their masculinity is so starkly pronounced and the impact on their kingship so visibleLewis’s approach is one of exploration not revision – she isn’t trying to argue that Henry VI was really manly it was only his critics who said he wasn’t but talking instead of how he was viewed It is interesting that her discussion of Henry V suggests that his masculinity was one he knowingly constructed and performed while her discussion of Henry VI suggests that his masculinity is one that was projected onto him – a vital problem with any study of Henry VI and his reign one that Lewis herself acknowledges in her text is that it is truly difficult to determine at what points if ever was Henry VI governing as opposed to being the figurehead others governed through One feature of Lewis’s work I definitely appreciated is that Lewis put things into their context and divorced them from modern perspectives and judgements Therefore Henry V’s reported chastity is not seen as proof he was priggish or prudish or as one historian recently suggested misogynistic and incapable of ‘fun’ but evidence of his true masculinity the ability to have control of his own bodyThis is a deeply thought provoking study of two kings in the late medieval ages and the ways in which their gender was performed and seen I would recommend this to anyone who wishes to study both kings in order to gain real insight into their lives and times


  2. says:

    This is one of the best books about medieval gender I have ever read Lewis's definition of gender makes the most sense to me and I find her analysis of Henry V and VI clear and easy to grasp