- Fellowship year:2018-2019
- University: University of California- Berkeley
- Dissertation Topic/Category: Early Modern Europe
- Dissertation Title: Forging Royal Bonds: Dynastic Logic, Reason of State, and Marriage Diplomacy under the Spanish Hapsburgs, 1553-1660
This dissertation traces the gradual transformation of the Spanish monarchy's approach to marriage diplomacy in the sixteenth and seventheenth centuries. While the Hapsburg's political preponderance stemmed from a strategic utilization of marriages to maintain an extensive social network of family members, the process by which dynastic policy was constructed and implemented was far from straightforward. Changes in political culture, diplomatic practices, imperial administration, and Europe's confessional landscape raised concerns about the potential of marriages to underpin interstate collaboration, and precipitated the emergence of new ideas and procedures to justify continued reliance on traditional methods of alliance-making. Looking at a wide variety of sources ranging from official correspondences and government documents to scholarly opinions, art, and literary productions, I show that deliberations over the viability of proposed matches brought idealist modes of thinking rooted in dynastic interest and religious zeal into conversation with the emerging notion of reason of state. Focusing specifically on negotiations between Spain and two of its rivals, France and England, I argue that the discursive interaction between various actors had lasting consequences for Spanish conceptions of monarchical power, royal identity, and the aim of a prudent dynastic policy.
In unraveling the complex history of Spanish marriage diplomacy, this study deviates from a historiographical tendency to focus on indiviual rather than collective contributions to marital projects. The input and opinions of monarchs, diplomats, government officials, theologians, jurists, royal women, and others are all analyzed for their impact in shaping policy. Shedding light on the role played by the women at the center of these exchanges is a task I deem especially important- not least because historians have only just begun to challenge representations of women as passive agents whose status outside of the formal institutions of power prevented them from wielding independent influence. I not only demonstrate that women had access to informal strategies that allowed them to sway negotiations, but also that perceptions of female power and agency by Spaniards, who anticipated authority in the domestic sphere translating into political influence, became crucial for rationalizing controversial marriages. Through an inclusive approach that depicts the mix of factors and forces behind the pursuit of specific marriages over time, this dissertation offers valuable insight into the nature of early modern diplomatic encounters and the process by which governments overcame feelings of mistrust to finalize new agreements in a volatile international context with no basis for collective security.