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Anna of Denmark was more than queen consort: Mapping childhood and cultural influence

An EU-funded initiative delved into the childhood and transnational experiences of Anna of Denmark, widening the discussion on the queen consort’s later cultural endeavours and conception of status.

Society

“Anna of Denmark’s time at the Stuart court in England has historically been the primary focus of research,” notes Jemma Field, lead researcher on the Mapping Anna project, funded under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie programme. “This Anglo-centric approach has clouded our understanding of how Anna’s Oldenburg birthright and European connections shaped her role and value at court and impacted Stuart foreign policy, and how her transnational experiences underpinned her aims, activities, networks and behaviour.” This knowledge gap had to be addressed. With the support of James Knowles, project coordinator and currently Dean of Arts and Social Sciences at Royal Holloway, University of London, Field conducted in-depth archival research to learn more about Anna’s cultural activities in England and Scotland, as well as those of her parents and siblings. She also considered the interaction between European and British/English/Scottish culture at the time. Project work “consistently sought to uncover the influential role that her childhood experiences in Denmark-Norway (and the ongoing activities of her siblings at their marital courts) had on her later cultural endeavours and conception of status,” Field explains. Key to the research was Anna of Denmark’s connection to an extended dynastic network – mother and aunts, in particular. Against this background, Knowles notes: “The key is how early modern elite women used culture to empower themselves – especially in diplomacy and foreign policy where they had a more involved and direct role than hitherto recognised.” This is significant in terms of the political impact of the research. “In part, this requires us to recognise different ways of doing politics – itself a significant shift in understandings of the period, of gender-based distribution of roles and attributes, and of power,” he underlines.

Reaching a wide audience

Other research included the analysis of extant artefacts associated with Anna of Denmark in holdings across Denmark, Sweden, England and Scotland. The findings informed several conference papers and peer-reviewed articles, including one publication in The Court Historian. Field is also preparing a monograph to be published by Manchester University Press. Project work and outcomes have been communicated beyond academic circles too, including an interview with BBC Radio Scotland for their programme 'Time Travels'. Field has been writing an essay on clothing and jewellery at the Stuart courts, which was originally marked for a catalogue publication to accompany an exhibition on King James VI and I.

The importance of recognising heritage

When asked about the gender dimension, Field notes: “Raising academic and public awareness about women’s role in history is an ongoing conversation.” She further reports that Mapping Anna confirms the political value of early modern cultural forms, adding: “It demonstrates how these were successfully used by women to legitimise positions, visualise political ambitions, or to show their allegiance, favour or dynastic membership.” Research findings have helped uncover the centrality that Anna’s dynastic heritage had to her consortship. “For Anna of Denmark,” Field concludes, “the project has made a significant contribution to our understanding of her role and value at the Stuart courts and further discredits the negative historiography that has followed her well into the 20th century.”

Keywords

Mapping Anna, Anna of Denmark, Stuart court, queen consort, transnational experiences, cultural endeavours, historiography, dynastic heritage

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