42 thoughts on “Medieval Women Who Should Have Movies Made About Them

  1. Katherine Swynford has been one of my favorite medieval women since reading Anya Seton’s “Katherine” as a teenager. The novel is rather dated, but it still reigns as one of my favorite historical novels of all time. I was pleased when it was reprinted a few years ago, and I could stop hoarding my decrepit used copies gleaned from garage sales – it’s difficult to read a book when half the pages are falling out.

    Christine de Pisan and Empress Matilda/Maud are also two women I have admired (though I tend to prefer Eleanor to Matilda/Maud, mainly through simply knowing more about her)

  2. How about Isabella of France (queen of Edward II of England), or Isabella of Angouleme. Slightly more obscure, Nicolaa de la Haye or Eleanor de Montford.

    1. I completely agree! I would love to see a movie made about Isabella (Edward II’s Wife) talk about a facinating woman. You see her portrayed in Braveheart and in World Without End (sequel to Pillars of the Earth). Both portrayals are dramatically different in how they show her personality. World Without End is exact how I imagine she was…strong, determined and amazing! If you haven’t seen it Toni youus check it out!

  3. I second Isabella of France. She’s a great example that interesting historical women can get just as down and morally dubious as the bros.

    1. Oh, hell yes…then again, having your husband not only totally ignore you for his boyfriends, but give them a large portion of your jewelry as well wouldn’t sit well with most women, although most women wouldn’t have their husbands dispatched the way Edward allegedly was…

      1. Just to note- I did some work on Isabella while I was in school. As far as I could find (even after digging through stacks of chronicles), the ‘She-Wolf’ title wasn’t given to her until Kit Marlowe used it, well after she was dead. Marguerite d’Anjou was called a She-Wolf in her lifetime though.

    2. In addition to her dealings in England, Isabella was also supposedly the driving force behind the Tour de Nesle scandal, here the wives of all three of her brothers were accused of adultery. Supposedly they were caught when Isabella noticed that a couple of courtiers were wearing items she had given to her sisters in law as gifts. One theory I’ve read is that Isabella disliked her sisters in law and set the whole thing up. Very medieval soap opera-ish

  4. The Anarchy definitely deserves its own mini-series, or at least a good TV movie (given that television does a much better job w/this kind of thing these days than cinema does)–there was one episode where Matilda and several of her supporters escaped from a castle where they were trapped and, wearing white robes, fought their way through the snow to safety. It’s also been suggested by some historians that Matilda and Stephen may have had a fling at one point and that Henry may have been Stephen’s son rather than Geoffrey Plantagenet’s, which would put quite a different spin on history if the Plantagenet kings, well…weren’t. (I’m descended from Matilda, Henry and Eleanor on one branch of my mother’s family, and Robert of Gloucester–who would have made an excellent king had he not been so loyal to his half-sister–on another, which always helps make history even more fascinating. No wonder The Lion in Winter seemed like just another family fight…)

    1. Oh god, I read a terrible historical fiction book about a supposed romance between Matilda and Stephen — it was ludicrously implausible!

      1. I know exactly the one you’re talking about it and I still can’t believe I read that garbage.

    2. Agreed. It would make a great mini series. I too am descended from Matilda and also from the list Katherine de Swynford.

  5. Inês de Castro, María de Padilla, Heloise, Urraca I of León, Berenguela of Castilla and Blanche of Castile, Queen of France, would totally be my top 6

    Granted, Heloise’s story with Abelard already appeared in “Stealing Heaven” and Urraca is a supporting character of “El Cid” which is based on the Lay of the Cid. BUT GIMME THEIR STORIES FROM THEIR POVS.

    Berenguela and Blanche were sisters (granddaughters of Eleanor of Aquitaine through her daughter Eleanor, who married Alfonso VIII of Castile), mothers of sons who were Saints (Fernando III of Castile and Louis IX of France) and all around badass af ladies.

    And well, Inês’ love story with Pedro I of Portugal is epic (and rather gory, so not for the faint of heart), and so is María de Padilla’s story with Pedro I of Castile *(there’s a really good series made by RTVE in the 1980s “Pedro I el Cruel”, which they recently uploaded to their site. It’s a bit dated production and costume wise -think BBC in the 70s but with even less money- but the whole cast is pretty amazing and I remember it to be pretty accurate. But then I want something from her POV too)

    *(Constance of Castile was one of their daughters btw)

    1. Oh, oh and Hildegarde von Bingen, and Kassia of Constantinople, my badass composer ladies that defied the establishment.

      1. Thank you! Hildegarde was top of my list. Also Hatshepsut. And Mary Walker, who was a doctor and dressed as a man to treat soldiers during the Civil War.

        1. I wholeheartedly second the Hatshepsut one! (As for Mary Walker, I didn’t know about her, but I am really interested in learning more!)

          1. Also, Poppa de Bayeux, the wife/concubine of Rollo the Ranger (we kinda get a composite of her and Gisela of France in the figure of Gisla in Vikings but I would like something a bit more accurate tbqh)

  6. My choices are yours listed above but with the addition of Melisend Queen of Jerusalem (subject of Judith Tarr’s novel Queen of Swords). She was daughter of Baldwin of Jerusalem, knew Eleanor of Aquitaine, mother of King Baldwin & Almeric of Jerusalem. She was regent to son Baldwin and styled herself Queen.
    Another is Julian of Norwich, mystic. Finally Margrethe I of Denmark. She did what Elizabeth I did but in 1387. Amazing woman.

    1. I came here to say Julian of Norwich! When I was younger I wanted to write a stage play of her visions but never figured out how to do it . . .

    1. Susan, if you can, check the Spanish tv series “Isabel”. It’s really good (for Spanish standards, considering the budget per episode was circa 700000 € (804799$) which is waaaay less than what British or American shows get), and the three seasons cover from her arrival to her brother’s court to her death.

      1. Clara, I’ve tried watching it on YouTube, but my Spanish is minimal. I’m hoping for DVD to be released in US and English or French subtitles.

  7. I notice Eleanor of Aquitaine was not mentioned. Although she has figured in many films, I don’t think she’s had one devoted to her alone. How can we ignore the richest woman in Europe, wife and mother of kings? I’d also offer St Walburga, or Walpurga, notoriously associated with dark magic, which actually had nothing to do with her, just happened to fall on her day. On the other hand, she is also associated with the Codex Walpurga, still the oldest known manual of swordsmanship, in which a woman, presumably she, practising sword and buckler fencing with a priest.

  8. St Balthild: she was, in sequence, noblewoman, slave, Queen of the Franks, queen regnant for her son, nun, and then saint. She probably slept her way to the top, despite her biographer’s claims to the contrary, and she held onto political power until forced into a convent after murdering an archbishop. The script writes itself.

    Or else Margery Kempe.

  9. For a good fictional overview of Stephen and Matilda, I recommend Graham Shelby’s, The Villains of the Piece (1972) (published in the US as The Oath and the Sword). I’ve had a copy for a long time and still love it.

    I’d choose Margaret of Anjou, wife of Henry VI of England. English monarchs who married French wives never fared well..

  10. Margaret of Anjou probably cuckold Henry about their son with Margaret Beaufort father or uncle but cannot remember which. I feel and most things I’ve read intuit that Henry wasn’t interested in sex. It would be interesting to see how she coped with him and how ferociously she defended her sons rights.

    What about Joanna of Naples, Queen of Sicily?

  11. Matilda and Theodora without a doubt, and I, too, have always loved the novel Katherine. That, possibly because of when it was written, has the affair start not only after Duchess Blanche dies, but also after Hugh Swynford, Katherine’s husband, does as well (don’t scoff–I read a Jean Plaidy novel about Charles II in which she apologized for the bawdiness, that it was the time in which the story was set).

    Margaret of Anjou could be interesting and so could the love story of Katherine d’Valois and Owen Tudor (but that could be easily mangled). Actually one on the civil war between Matilda and Stephen, focusing on the women–Stephen’s wife, Matilda of Boulogne, was a powerful force on her husband’s side, and I think Henry I’s widow, Adeliza of Louvain, may have had some influence. What about William the Conqueror’s wife Matilda? She refused his suit initially–and very insultingly, too–and the story goes that he rode to Flanders and assaulted her in the streets. But they did apparently make a good marriage in the end.

    How was the White Queen on screen? The book has its questionable moments, but it’s the only one I can think of about Elizabeth Woodville.

    Eleanor of Aquitaine’s grandmother Dangereuse (Dangerose, Dangerossa). She left her husband and became the mistress of Eleanor’s grandfather, William IX. Her daughter by that husband married William’s son by his own wife, and they were Eleanor’s parents. Dangereuse was apparently quite wild and free-spirited!

  12. Loved this! I would add Hildegarde of Bingen – the executive and leadership capabilities required to run a large abbey must have made her an extraordinary woman. And Julian of Norwich, a mystic whose writing still fascinates.

    1. Julie, there’s a movie about Hildegarde von Bingen directed by a well-known German director who just happens to be a woman. I saw it yoinks ago, but it still impressed me as to how the director worked with her cast. She also covered the matter with grace, flair and love.
      But still an English film or miniseries would be great.

  13. Anne de Bretagne, she lived more during the Renaissance than during the Middle Ages but she’s a very interesting woman. It was during her reign that Brittany entered the Kingdom of France. She was Queen of France twice. She is Britanny’s most famous historical figure.

  14. Just thought of another one. Margaret Plantagenet, Duchess of Burgundy. Sister to both Edward IV, Richard III and stepmother and regent for her stepdaughter Mary of Burgundy, who was Philip the Beautiful grandmother (Juanna I of Castile’s husband) and Mary was great-grandmotherto Charles V.
    Juanna of Castile also would make an intriguing subject, too.

  15. How about a film about Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians, daughter of King Alfred the Great. She sure kicked the arses of those Danes.

  16. How about Fredegund(a) whose feud with Brunhilda of Austrasia may have inspired the Nibelungslied?
    She’s a villainess if ever there was one; supposedly also the inspiration for the Evil Stepmother in Cinderella.

  17. Margret Beufort so long as it’s not a version based on the Phillipa Gregory novel. I starts historically very inaccurate and just goes downhill from there. She has a very biased view of the very early Tudors and tends to invent things to make them look bad.

  18. If the shows/films are based off novels written by Elizabeth Chadwick or Sharon Kay Penman, I’m in. These books are not only well written, but well researched. And they are about many of the people mentioned above.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: