Colloque – Appel à communications : Representing the Queen Consort in Europe, 1650–1918 (hiver 2022-2023)

Matthieu Mensch (Université de Strasbourg) is seeking colleagues in the fields of royal and court studies who are interested in co-organizing an online symposium “Representing the Queen Consort in Europe, 1650–1918” in connection with the Royal Studies Network. Please see below for a description of the symposium theme and if you are interested in collaborating with Matthieu on this proposed event or would like further information, email him at

Intellectual Justification

Today, iconographic representations, paintings, engravings, photographs, are considered as sources in their own right, which convey a message of a political nature and make it possible to go beyond a purely aesthetic and stylistic approach. In this renewal of the uses of portraits of sovereigns, historiography has primarily focused on the image of reigning monarchs, men or women (work by Louis Marin, Peter Burke, Louis Montrose, Bernd Weisbrod, Olga Medvedkova). But, if we consider that the royal wife participates in majesty, in courts where etiquette tightens around sovereigns, her image must complement that of her husband. In a much broader perspective, encouraged by works on the queenship, we can add to these representations, those of the wives of the heir to the throne (dauphine, princess of Asturia, princess of Wales…), brought to become queen and that of the king’s daughters, who also tend to evolve, as agents of the iconographic propaganda of the royal power.

Considered as a secondary character, the queen is however not absent from the representations. While the portrait of the sovereign gains in majesty, that it responds to certain codes and to a form of standard in the second half of the 17th century, the portrait of the queen, which can be considered as the female counterpart of that of the king, completes this duo and can be considered as the sensitive [1] part of the king’s virile and sovereign portrait. The development of engraving made it possible to reach an ever wider public than that of the ceremonial portrait and became an effective tool of royal propaganda, before photography came to complete this arsenal. After the Second World War, the end of some of the oldest monarchies, gave a new place to the ones that had survived and the representations of the sovereign no longer met the same objectives. There are no exhaustive corpus of representations of the various queens consorts, and even the best known, such as Marie-Antoinette, do not benefit from such compilation work [2]. It is therefore even more complicated to consider these portraits from a comparative perspective within the same space and more broadly within the European space. Understanding these portraits, both in their geography, their chronology and their political context can also make it possible to identify an evolution in the representation of the queen.

The maternal image of the queen evolves and must be studied as a political object. If the queen consort only exists through the birth of heirs, for a long time, this link is not necessarily put into image. In the 17th century, portraits of the queen accompanied by the crown prince in often hieratic and codified compositions, where feelings had little place, developed. The other children, and particularly the princesses, are absent from these paintings (Marie de Médicis, Anne of Austria, Marie Thérèse of Austria in France, Elisabeth Farnèse in Spain, Henrietta Marie of France or Marie de Modena in England). In parallel, we see the development of family portaits, representing the king and queen, or the heir couple, with their offspring: Naples, Vienna, Stockholm, Madrid or Paris. The evolution of these portraits at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th, proposes sovereigns closer to their children, and not simply to the heir to the throne: Marie-Antoinette, Marie-Caroline, Duchess of Berry, Louise of Saxe Gotha, Marie-Leopoldine of Austria… A form of sensitivity prevails over strict monarchical codes.

The arrival of photography offers a more direct and sometimes more intimate image of these women. Photographed in their interiors, in casual clothes, without the traditional regalia, how to distinguish the sovereign from the aristocrat? At the same time, we note the survival and circulation of official portraits in which these princesses pose richly dressed and adorned with the crown jewels: Marguerite of Savoy or Elena of Montenegro in Italy, Marie-Henriette or Astrid in Belgium, Elisabeth of Bavaria in Austria, Alexandra of Denmark in England… This new medium makes it possible to disseminate the maternal vision and to make it evolve towards the notion of home, making these sovereigns, good wives, good mothers and therefore more widely female models for all women of the nation: Alexandra of Hesse in Russia, Zita of Bourbon in Austria, Eugénie of Montijo in France, Elena of Montenegro in Italy, Victoria of Baden in Sweden… Different images compete, that of the queen, that of the mother and wife and that of the royal majesty.

We can invite the participants to this symposium to question themselves on different themes such as the prerogatives mobilized by the sovereigns on their portrait? One can question the relevance of these representations and the effective power of these women.

Does the image of the queen necessarily correspond to that of the king? If the queen participates in the dissemination of the majesty of her husband, it may seem obvious that these representations are the counterpart of those of her husband.
Is it possible to evoke a form of unification of the portrait of the queen in different European courts? Can the family ties that exist between some of the sovereigns, the circulation of artists, such as Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, Franz – Xavre Winterhalter or Philip de László or a simple desire for imitation lead to a model of the female royal image?

At the other end of the prism, if the image of the king finds itself degraded, does that of the queen undergo the same treatment or does it become a means of reaching and smearing that of the king? Does the caricature use elements present on the official iconography to divert them and make them, no longer elements of respect but of mockery (Marie-Antoinette, Marie-Thérèse Charlotte of France, Caroline of Brunswick, Marie-Christine of Spain, Eugenie of Montijo).

[1] Natalie Scholz, « La monarchie sentimentale : un remède aux crises politiques de la Restauration ? » in Natalie Scholz et Christina Schröer (dir.), Représentation et pouvoir. La politique symbolique en France (1789-1830), Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2007, p.185 – 198.

[2] Apart from a few exhibition catalogs, but far from being exhaustive, such as Marie-Antoinette, album de l’exposition, Paris, Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 2008 ou Antoine de Baecque (dir.), Marie-Antoinette, métamorphoses d’une image, Editions du Patrimoine, 2019.

Submission of your proposal

Send by email and before June 30, 2022 to Matthieu Mensch:

  • Your title proposal.
  • Your communication abstract (approx. 3,000 characters).

The symposium would be held in the winter of 2022-2023.

Flavie Leroux

Attachée de recherche au CRCV et coordinatrice du programme "Identités curiales et le mythe de Versailles en Europe : perceptions, adhésions et rejets (XVIIIe-XIXe siècles)", sous la direction de Gérard Sabatier et Mathieu da Vinha.

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Flavie Leroux (4 avril 2022). Colloque – Appel à communications : Representing the Queen Consort in Europe, 1650–1918 (hiver 2022-2023). CRCV. Consulté le 15 juillet 2024 à l’adresse

Flavie Leroux

Attachée de recherche au CRCV et coordinatrice du programme "Identités curiales et le mythe de Versailles en Europe : perceptions, adhésions et rejets (XVIIIe-XIXe siècles)", sous la direction de Gérard Sabatier et Mathieu da Vinha.

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