The medieval rebel princesses
Medieval England’s royal women had the power to shape the world around them, and they weren’t afraid to use it, writes Kelcey Wilson-Lee
Eleanor of Woodstock, Edward II’s eldest daughter, was 24 years old when she stripped herself nearly naked before the dignitaries gathered at her husband Reginald II’s palace. The year was 1342, and the young Duchess of Guelders had been absent from Reginald’s court (in Nijmegen, the modern-day Netherlands) for months – banished to a house on the other side of the city on the pretext of suspected leprosy. Eventually, rumours spread to the English princess that Reginald was planning to divorce her on the grounds of her supposed illness. A divorce would ruin Eleanor financially, threaten her two sons’ inheritance, and rupture one of England’s most critical military partnerships in its war with France. But Eleanor knew she had the power to stop it.