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Two or more European cultures meet whenever a king or prince takes a bride from another country. She often speaks a different language to that of her new court, professes a different version of Christianity, and has been brought up in a different court culture. Transported as she is to her new capital city and court, rarely or never to return home, she can either integrate by changing her beliefs and learning the language and ways of her new territory or she can become a source of friction, retaining an aura of ‘foreignness’, arousing hostility and even becoming a focus for conspiracy theories. In all cases she effects a transformation by her very presence, for she is usually accompanied by ladies-in-waiting, maids and grooms, often a chaplain, sometimes artists, craftspeople, musicians and actors. She brings with her books, art objects, clothes, jewellery, and furniture, objects that are still to be found in Europe’s museums and libraries. If she is interested in opera or theatre, she is often instrumental in establishing these art forms in her new country. She may also bring with her less tangible intellectual baggage too, such as religious, political, philosophical or scientific ideas and influences. The foreign consort often maintains an extensive correspondence with her birth family, which sometimes attempts to direct her actions from afar. If her sisters have also married into foreign courts, the network of transnational communication is further extended.

This HERA-funded project investigates the role of foreign consorts as agents, instruments or catalysts of cultural and dynastic transfer in early modern Europe (1500-1800). The project team includes scholars from the UK, Germany, Poland and Sweden, each of whom is conducting research into a transnational case study. The consorts studied have been chosen because they reveal cultural synergies between northern (Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Britain), eastern (Poland-Lithuania), and southern (Italy, Spain, Portugal) Europe and that will enable them to interrogate modern notions of centre and periphery, nationhood and dynastic. The team will investigate how texts, material culture, music and architecture are interconnected manifestations of the cultural encounters brought about by dynastic marriages and will peel back the map of Europe with its discrete nation states to reveal an earlier one with different linguistic, cultural and political borders to those of today.

Working with colleagues in historic palaces, in museums and in libraries, these scholars will investigate how consorts were represented within their lifetimes and after. Doing so will allow them to assess how it is that certain consorts become embedded in national cultural memory and others do not and to understand the processes by which the legacy of Queens Consort are often under-represented in 21st century societies.


Supportive Institutions

HERA Joint Research Programme Cultural Encounters

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no. 291827 and is financially supported by the HERA Joint Research Programme ( which is co-funded by AHRC, AKA, BMBF via PT-DLR, DASTI, ETAG, FCT, FNR, FNRS, FWF, FWO, HAZU, IRC, LMT, MHEST, NWO, NCN, RANNÍS, RCN, VR and The European Community FP7 2007-2013, under the Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities programme.

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