E. William Monter


On his book The Rise of Female Kings in Europe, 1300-1800

Cover Interview of January 18, 2012


One of the most satisfying aspects of this book is that it has been possible to complete it at a time when one can combine old-fashioned historical research with the multiple resources available through the internet.  I still explore a few dusty archives, read rare books in major western European languages, and inspect places in various countries that remain closely associated with long-ago women rulers.  But I could never have sifted so much diverse written and pictorial information so efficiently without the internet.

It has also proved extremely helpful that during my professional lifetime, English has become the standard or default language for scholars throughout Europe as well as in other parts of the world.

In combination, these advantages offer optimum possibilities for deepening our comprehension of what these thirty women sovereigns could and could not do about commanding all-male political elites.

Although Europe’s female monarchs were much likelier than their male counterparts to abandon their grip on sovereignty, this work interprets Europe’s overall experience of female rule as a glass that is half-full rather than half-empty, I expect it to spark controversy; the Republic of Letters usually requires dialectical processes in order to produce incremental improvements.

I further realize that a 75-year-old man inevitably perceives many things differently from the mostly younger women who will probably comprise a majority of my readers.  Nevertheless, I think being male helps me understand one vital problem about “female kings”: why were their orders routinely obeyed by entirely male political elites who had been conditioned to regard women as inherently inferior?  My epiphany occurred on a transatlantic flight when a woman’s voice announced on the intercom, “This is your Captain speaking.”  Captain is also a military rank, and every man on board knew that he should follow orders from someone with unquestionable credentials to call herself Captain Renée.