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Much ink has been spilled in service of Henry VIII and his veritable parade of wives, but not nearly as much has been spent to examine the choices and experiences of those queens and the influence they held over his court. Queens consort in early modern Britain were the most public of housewives, their domestic skills and marriages on constant display for their subjects and contemporaries to see and judge. To navigate the fraught political realities associated with being married to a sovereign, queens needed to quickly learn how to network and did so through various means, not the least of which was knowing how to throw a good party. As ‘chief hostesses’ of the realm, Catherine of Aragon and Margaret Tudor did not participate in these spectacles as performers like their later successors did, but the importance of their roles as facilitators cannot be overstated. Through their efforts, they effected diplomatic policies and enabled their sovereign husbands in political endeavours.
Catherine of Aragon and Margaret Tudor, as queens consort of England and Scotland respectively, wielded considerable influence over king and court through their participation in the distribution of patronage, court life, and public spectacle. In Queenship at the Renaissance Courts of Britain, Michelle L. Beer harnesses considerable archival research and engagement with secondary literature to argue that both of these queens “adapted the court culture of England and Scotland to create and enhance their queenly identities,” with the result that Catherine and Margaret worked as royal partners to Henry VIII and James IV respectively (2). Beer is absolutely correct when she asserts that finding queens in the archives is a difficult task, because while their lives and experiences were documented more than most women, their records were more likely to be mixed in with those of their husbands. However, Beer does an admirable job in parsing Catherine and Margaret’s experiences from the scant historical record.