Every Hyacinth the Garden Wears: The Archaeology of Medieval Hungarian Queenship (1000-1395)

Thesis author: 
Christopher Mielke
Year of enrollment: 
Duration of thesis project: 
Sep, 2011 - May, 2017
Thesis supervisor: 
József Laszlovszky
Thesis supervisor: 
Alice Mathea Choyke
Thesis abstract: 

This project is an archaeological study of material culture and material space related to Hungarian queens of the Árpádian and Angevin dynasties (1000-1395). During this period, roughly 32 women were known to be the wives of Hungarian kings, plus one who ruled in her own right as queen regnant. In addition to the textual material which has been studied very well, this study also seeks to make use of archaeological and art historical material. As such, the objects have been divided into four categories based on whether they are more official or more personal, and also based on how public or private the audience was. As such, this study will focus primarily on objects including: seals, coins, grave monuments, images of the queen in an ecclesiastic context, liturgical objects, regalia, clothing,livery, jewelry, images in illuminated manuscripts, and books. This study will also examine the relation between these queens and space, undertaking studies of residential patterns,their relationships with various monasteries, various building programs, as well as several sites associated with various queens (for instance, dower lands when they are known). Finally, there will be a chapter on material associated with the queen that is known only from the written record. These will include objects which were destroyed or lost, items attributed (often questionably) to a particular queen, and a vast array of gifts known from the literature, both to the queen and from the queen.
Theoretically, this project will undertake the approaches of object biography combined with agency theory, in order to argue that queens used a dialogue of materiality to assert their own power. The specific circumstances of this assertion could vary, however, such as a powerful queen who had no need to use objects or images to reinforce her image, while a weaker queen might have projected an image of her own strength that may not have reflected reality. These approaches will allow for these subtleties to be understood. Methodologically, there will be a catalog prepared with specific criteria and variables for each set of datum, as the different types of objects can reflect different aspects of the queen’s power.
This work has many repercussions for the study of gender in the Middle Ages, as it is an alternative viewpoint to the notion (gathered mostly from charter evidence) that while Hungarian kings wielded great power in their kingdom, the queens did not. This study will present an alternate view,focusing on specific case studies and allowing for a better understanding of how objects and space were used by queens, with the possibility of seeing parallels elsewhere in the Medieval Europe.