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Negotiating princely power in late medieval France: Jeanne de Penthièvre, duchess of Brittany (c. 1325–1384)

Graham-Goering, Erika (2016) Negotiating princely power in late medieval France: Jeanne de Penthièvre, duchess of Brittany (c. 1325–1384). PhD thesis, University of York.

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Jeanne de Penthièvre (r. 1341–1365) inherited the duchy of Brittany, but was challenged by her collateral relatives in a lengthy civil war and ultimately defeated, though she remained politically active until her death. This thesis uses her career as a case study of the ways princely power was expressed and implemented in the fourteenth century, and includes a critical biography and an edition of the 1341 legal brief for her succession. It focuses especially on official records such as legal arguments, charters, orders, and seals, and incorporates the close reading of individual texts alongside broader linguistic and quantitative analyses. The high nobility of fourteenth-century France has been relatively underserved by this type of examination of the influences of rank, relationships, gender, and conflict within the focused context of an individual’s life, an approach which demonstrates the flexibility of non-royal political authority. Jeanne’s participation across different areas of government (such as finances, bureaucracy, warfare, and diplomacy) reveals a variable balance of power between Jeanne and her husband as spouses and as co-rulers. The terms used to establish her power in the official acta suggest further that simple descriptions of power often used in modern scholarship on noblewomen do not adequately characterize or explain late medieval views of these dynamics. The legal arguments advanced in defence of Jeanne’s claim to the duchy reveal disagreements about the technical relationship of the duke/duchess to the rest of Franco-Breton political society. Jeanne’s ability to assert her authority was particularly important in the contested circumstances of her rule, and her adherence to or deviation from contemporary expectations was important in establishing her legitimacy. Contemporary Breton and French chroniclers, particularly Froissart, complement this perspective with their reactions to her rule; Jeanne’s reputation was informed by the multilayered standards attached to her positions as heiress, wife, and duchess.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: nobility, aristocracy, power, authority, France, Brittany, medieval, Middle Ages, Jeanne de Penthièvre, gender, rhetoric, construct, constructing, chronicle, rulership, war, legitimacy, finance, biography, diplomacy, court, charter
Academic Units: The University of York > History (York)
Depositing User: Dr Erika Graham-Goering
Date Deposited: 02 Sep 2016 12:19
Last Modified: 21 May 2018 10:12
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/13829

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