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From PhD dissertation to award-winning book

From PhD dissertation to award-winning book

My book, Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe: Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette examines the debate surrounding these two controversial queens consort as wives, mothers and mistresses of royal households during the years preceding the English Civil Wars of the 1640s and the French Revolution in the late-18th century, respectively. The book manuscript developed from research undertaken over the course of my MA and PhD in the Department of History at Queen’s University.

During my MA, I examined maternity and Marie Antoinette, analyzing how King Louis XVI of France’s consort became part of wider debates concerning the role of women in their families and how motherhood informed her trial before the Revolutionary Tribunal in 1793. My PhD research, supervised by Dr. Andrew Jainchill and Dr. Jeffrey Collins, with funding from the university and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), expanded the scope of this research. I compared Marie Antoinette to another controversial queen consort: Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of King Charles I during the English Civil Wars of the 1640s. Henrietta Maria faced similar challenges to Marie Antoinette. Each queen was critiqued as a wife and mother then faced formal attacks on her position as part of the delegitimizing of monarchical government.  Unlike Marie Antoinette, Henrietta Maria escaped execution but she was impeached in absentia by England’s House of Commons in 1643.

Research, on both sides of the channel

My research concerning Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette took me all over Europe. In 2009, I spent six months at Birkbeck College as a Visiting Overseas Research Student. I examined a wealth of source material concerning both queens in the British Library, including French revolutionary pamphlet literature and 17-century newsletters Not all sources pertaining to Henrietta Maria were in England. I traveled to the Sorbonne to read the negotiations preceding her marriage and the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth, which houses her treasurer’s papers. For papers concerning Marie Antoinette’s household and reputation, I made research trips to Paris, visiting the Archives Nationale and the Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris.

My time in Europe allowed me to follow in the footsteps of both queens over the course of their tumultuous lives, gaining greater insights into their decisions concerning their families. In Paris, I visited the palace of St. Germain-en-Laye (now France’s National Museum of Archeology) where Henrietta Maria spent her childhood as a French princess and the Louvre, where her wedding reception took place. In England, I visited her residences, including the Queen’s House at Greenwich, Hampton Court Palace and Somerset House. My travels concerning Marie Antoinette took me to the Hofburg and Schonnbrunn in Vienna (where she spent her childhood), Versailles (including her model farm and private residence at Petit Trianon), Fontainebleau, and the Conciergerie where she spent her last days.

Connecting with academic book publishers

After completing my PhD in 2012, I knew that I wanted to develop my dissertation in a book. Attending the American Historical Association conference in New Orleans in 2013 gave me the opportunity to meet with a variety of academic book publishers. I was impressed by Palgrave Macmillan’s Queenship and Power series. I read numerous works from the series over the course of my PhD research and reviewed the most recent works for my royal history website, royalhistorian.com.

After stepping away from the manuscript to write my first book, Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada, which was published by Dundurn Press in the Spring of 2015, I developed my dissertation into Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe: Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette, which was published by Palgrave Macmillan as part of the Queenship and Power series in the fall of 2015.

[book cover for Queenship and Revolution]

In the spring of 2016, Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe received the first Royal Studies Journal book award for the best book on the history of monarchy, sponsored by Canterbury Christ Church University. The book prize committee praised the book’s comparative framework, observing, "this approach allows us better understanding of [each queen’s] motives, career trajectories, and their small successes and large failures, as well as the social/political settings facing both queens."

Next up: royal parenting

In January 2017, Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe will be published in a paperback edition, allowing the book to reach a wider audience of general readers in addition to scholars in the field. I am also revisiting Charles I and Henrietta Maria and Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette within the context of longer trends in royal parenting. My third book, Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting, will be published by Dundurn Press in April 2017. The book examines the challenges faced by 25 sets of British and European royal parents over the past 1000 years and the precedents that they set for the royal family today.