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The University of Southampton
Humanities Graduate School

Chloë McKenzie

Having completed my undergraduate degree in History at Lancaster University, I returned to my native Hampshire in 2010 to work in Cultural Heritage.

Chloë McKenzie

In 2012-2013, I undertook my MRes in Medieval and Renaissance Studies at the University of Southampton and became a member of Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Culture. The interdisciplinary and collaborative ethos of the CMRC helped inform my decision to remain at Southampton for my doctoral studies.

Both my undergraduate and MRes dissertations explored the influence and significance of women at the court of Richard II (1377-1399), focusing primarily on the person of the king’s mother, Joan of Kent. Traditionally associated with tyranny, extravagance and excessive expenditure, Richard II maintains a reputation as one of England’s most ineffectual and ‘unmanly’ kings. I have argued that Richard II’s close relationship with and comparatively high patronage of women contributed to the formation of his ‘effeminate’ reputation and that this ‘failing’ in his masculinity had ramifications for his perceived inability to govern well.

The current working title of my PhD thesis is ‘”Ladies of the Garter”, c.1358-1461: Royal Patronage and Female Political Agency in Late Medieval England.’ Founded in c.1348, the Order of the Garter embodied Late Medieval chivalric and military virtues. However, despite the Order’s distinctly martial and masculine character, from around 1358-1509 the Garter Livery was also distributed to women, and these ‘Ladies of the Garter’ are the focus of my studies.

My research aims to provide a clearer interpretation of a much-neglected aspect of the Order’s history, enabling comprehensive assessment of the ceremonial practices and diplomatic functions of the Order. This research will also provide new insights into the role of medieval noblewomen in politics, reconsidering them as politically empowered agents in their own right and, therefore, reassessing their roles both at the royal court and in politics. Further to this, by using the Order of the Garter as a case study of late medieval English princely patronage, I hope to demonstrate how different methods of kingship facilitated female political agency. In doing this, my thesis will also explore the relationship between power and masculinity, by investigating how a king’s patronage of women impacted upon contemporary perceptions of his masculinity and his ability to govern successfully.

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