The agency of the Burgundian-Habsburg duchesses and the creation and continuation of court-city relations in the Low Countries (ca. 1430-1503)
In the last couple of decades research into the presence and influence of women at the court has been instructive in shaping our thoughts on the agency of queens, queen-consorts, queen-mothers, princesses, duchesses, dowagers, regents and so on. The Eurasian Empires program offers me the opportunity to add to this field of study with a comparative research into a number of duchesses at the Burgundian-Habsburg court (ca. 1430-1503), in which more familiar themes, such as female patronage and religiosity, are linked to newer ones, such as women’s roles in the dynamic relations between court and city.
Despite the fact that the relations between court and city were sometimes far from peaceful, there was not only crisis, but also consensus and collaboration. Whilst the Burgundian court was still a travelling court, bonds between ruler and place of residence were nevertheless meaningful. And cities were the main stage for the performance of the often-heard trilogy of politics, piety and patronage.
The Burgundian-Habsburg duchesses played a part – at times behind the scenes – in creating, cultivating and, when necessary, restoring these mutual bonds between court and city. On the basis of my systematic research in the account books of four cities (Gent and Bruges in Flanders and Leuven and Mechelen [as an independent seigneury] in Brabant), I will select a number of case studies that illustrate how the city sought to bond with the court via the duchess and her entourage and, vice versa, how and when the duchess addressed the city and articulated her own concerns. The outcomes of the research will result in a better understanding of the dynamic, and symbiotic, court-city relations and the duchesses’ roles therein. And by implication the study will also offer more acute knowledge of these women’s personalities and their positions at the court – something already achieved for the Burgundian dukes.