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Peer Reviewed





This essay takes issue with a still common tendency to read contemporary criticisms of powerful women as straightforward evidence of their “unpopularity,” using as a cast study Isabeau of Bavaria (1371-1435), who was generally imagined to have suffered the scorn of her contemporaries. In part one of the essay we argue that the two sources that scholars have relied upon prove not that public opinion turned against Isabeau in 1405-1406, but only that her political enemy Jean of Burgundy was planting negative propaganda about her in hopes of damaging her reputation during those years. In part two we consider whether it is possible to speak at all of a queen’s reputation among the public during the early modern period. In part three we draw upon Claude Gauvard’s work on public opinion in early fifteenth-century France to suggest that when one gathers all the evidence, the image of Isabeau that emerges most consistently across different groups that might be seen to constitute the public is nothing like the negative one commonly assumed, but is that of a loving mother protecting her son, the heir to the throne.

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