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Jone Johnson Lewis

Powerful Queens of the 12th Century

By June 26, 2013

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Rulers of Leon and Castile - 12th Century Frescoes - San Isadoro Basilica, Leon, SpainThe 15th and 16th centuries are known for having many queens in Europe including Isabella I of Castile, Mary I of England, Queen Elizabeth I of England and Mary, Queen of Scots, but in the 12th century, these three women were powerful rulers. The civil unrest accompanying their lives added to the presumption that it was dangerous for women to rule.

Urraca of León and Castile: She inherited Urraca's second marriage was intended to unite into a single Spain the separate kingdoms of León, Castile and Aragon. The marriage was not successful and many blamed the civil war that followed on her being a woman ruler. She was queen regnant from 1109 to 1126 in León, Castile and Galicia.

Empress Matilda: as her tomb inscription notes, she was the daughter, wife and mother of three Henry's. She was designated as the heir of her father, Henry I, King of England, but her cousin usurped the throne and civil war followed. Matilda (also called Maud) briefly prevailed over her cousin in 1141, but was never crowned.

Eleanor of Aquitaine: though she was queen consort to kings first of France then of England, she was the ruler in her own right (1137 - 1204) of the vast duchy of Aquitaine. She supported a rebellion of her sons against their father, and her husband, Henry II of England, imprisoned her when he defeated the rebels.

Image: 12th Century frescoes showing rulers of Leon and Castile, San Isadoro Basilica, Leon, Spain: Luis Castaneda Inc. / Getty Images

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