These Renaissance Women Were Unbelievably Powerful
These Renaissance Women Were Unbelievably Powerful

These Renaissance Women Were Unbelievably Powerful

Shannon Quinn - April 25, 2023

These Renaissance Women Were Unbelievably Powerful
A fantasy portrait of Nurbana Sultan. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Nurbana Sultan

Nurbanu Sultan was a powerful woman of the Ottoman Empire who lived in the 16th century. She was the wife of Sultan Selim II, and the mother of Sultan Murad III. Nurbanu was born into a Greek Christian family. But she was taken captive and brought to the Ottoman Empire as a child. She was raised as a slave in the Ottoman court, and eventually became the wife of Sultan Selim II. As the wife of the Sultan, Nurbanu exerted a great deal of influence over the Ottoman Empire. She was widely considered to be one of the most powerful women of her time because of her accomplishments. Nurbanu was responsible for the construction of several grand palaces and public buildings, and her support of the arts helped to foster a rich cultural legacy in the Ottoman Empire.

These Renaissance Women Were Unbelievably Powerful
The Queen Amina Statue at the National Arts Theatre in Lagos State. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Anima, Queen of the Kingdom of Zazzau

A woman named Anima was the Queen of the Kingdom of Zazzau in the 16th century. (This was located in present-day Nigeria.) She is remembered as one of the most powerful women of her time. Her reign is considered to be a golden age in the history of her country. Anima led several successful military campaigns during her reign. She expanded the kingdom’s borders, bringing new lands and people under her rule. And she established several new cities and fortifications to protect her kingdom from foreign invaders. Anima was also a skilled politician and diplomat. She was known for her wisdom and fairness, and she was widely respected by her subjects and neighboring kingdoms. Anima’s reign was characterized by peace and prosperity. Her legacy as a powerful and effective ruler inspired many generations of women.

These Renaissance Women Were Unbelievably Powerful
Lithograph of Nzinga Mbande. Her name Christine name was ‘Ana de Sousa’. National Portrait Gallery in London. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Queen Anna Nzinga

Queen Anna Nzinga was a 17th-century ruler of the Ndongo and Matamba Kingdom. (This is modern-day Angola.) Her reign is considered a turning point in the history of the region. Queen Nzinga was born into a royal family, and she became queen after the death of her brother, King Kiluanji. She faced many challenges during her reign, including resistance from rival factions, invasions from the Portuguese empire, and efforts to enslave her people. Despite these challenges, Queen Nzinga proved to be a formidable leader, known for her political savvy, military tactics, and diplomatic skills. She formed alliances with other African states. And she successfully defended her kingdom against Portuguese attempts to conquer it. Her reign saw a flourishing of culture and the arts in her kingdom. She was known for her wisdom, compassion, and strong sense of justice.

These Renaissance Women Were Unbelievably Powerful
Mary Tudor was notoriously nicknamed “Bloody Mary”. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Mary Tudor

Mary Tudor, also known as Mary I or “Bloody Mary”, was the Queen of England and Ireland from 1553 until her death in 1558. She was the daughter of King Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Mary is best known for her staunchly Catholic beliefs and the persecution of Protestants during her reign, which earned her the moniker “Bloody Mary”. Despite her controversial legacy, Mary is also remembered for her efforts to restore Catholicism in England, as well as her attempts to reestablish close ties with Spain, her mother’s homeland. If you want to know more about her, check out our article titled “The Ghost in the Mirror: The Legend of Bloody Mary Revealed“.

These Renaissance Women Were Unbelievably Powerful
Isabella I of Castille was powerful because of her part in the Spanish Inquisition. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Isabella of Castile

Isabella of Castile was a 15th-century Queen of Castile and León. She ruled from 1474 to 1504. Isabella was born into a royal family. She was married to King Ferdinand II of Aragon, and together they formed a powerful alliance that helped to unify Spain and establish it as a major power in Europe. One of Isabella’s most famous accomplishments was her sponsorship of Christopher Columbus’s voyages to the New World, which led to the discovery of America. She was also instrumental in the conquest of Granada. This marked the end of the Muslim rule in Spain and the beginning of the Spanish Empire. Isabella is also known for her role in the Spanish Inquisition. While the Inquisition has been criticized for its extreme methods, it was part of a larger effort to unify Spain under a single religion and create a homogeneous society.

These Renaissance Women Were Unbelievably Powerful
Artemisia Gentileschi was powerful because of her art. Credit: Britannica

Artemisia Gentileschi

Artemisia Gentileschi was an Italian Baroque painter of the 17th century. She was one of the first female artists to achieve recognition in the male-dominated world of art. Artemisia was born in Rome in 1593 and was the daughter of a well-known painter. She painted many works that depicted powerful women from classical mythology and biblical stories. Her works were notable for their dramatic composition, vivid colors, and the depiction of women as strong and assertive characters. At the age of 17, she was sexually assaulted by a fellow artist. She was put through a brutal and public trial. Despite this trauma, she continued to paint and create works that were highly regarded by her contemporaries. Artemisia’s work was influential in the development of Baroque art. She was one of the first artists to use Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro style in her paintings. Today, she is considered a pioneer of feminist art.

These Renaissance Women Were Unbelievably Powerful
Lucerezia Borgia is remembered because she was involved in a lot of scandal. Credit: The Collector

Lucrezia Borgia

Lucrezia Borgia was an Italian noblewoman who lived in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. She was the daughter of Pope Alexander VI and was known for her political influence and beauty. Lucrezia was married several times. Her marriages were used by her father and brothers to form alliances with other powerful Italian families. She was rumored to be involved in murder and intrigue. Her name became synonymous with corruption and scandal. Despite the negative rumors and accusations, there is also evidence that Lucrezia was a cultured and refined woman. She was a patron of music, poetry, and the visual arts, and her court was renowned for its elegance and sophistication.

These Renaissance Women Were Unbelievably Powerful
Anne Boleyn is remembered as being the powerful second wife of King Henry VIII. Credit: Daily Express

Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn was a queen of England and the second wife of King Henry VIII. She was born in the early 16th century and was a member of the Tudor court. Anne was known for her charm. She quickly rose to prominence as a lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine of Aragon. Anne was instrumental in the English Reformation, a movement to break away from the Roman Catholic Church. She was a strong advocate for the Protestant cause and helped to bring about the establishment of the Church of England. However, Anne’s reign was not without controversy. She was accused of adultery, treason, and witchcraft, and was eventually put on trial and executed. Her death marked a turning point in the English Reformation, and her legacy continues to be the subject of much debate and speculation.

These Renaissance Women Were Unbelievably Powerful
Christine de Pizan was powerful because of her political writing. Credit: Britannica

Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan was a late medieval writer and poet who lived in France in the late 14th and early 15th centuries. She is considered to be one of the first female writers in the Western tradition. Her works are considered groundbreaking for their time. Christine’s most famous work, “The Book of the City of Ladies,” is a treatise on women’s rights. It critiqued misogyny and negative stereotypes prevalent in medieval society. She argued that women were equal to men in intelligence and ability, and that they deserved to be treated with respect and dignity. Christine was also known for her political writings and her support of the French monarchy. She wrote several works in defense of Queen Isabeau of Bavaria and her husband, King Charles VI. Her writings helped to shape political discourse in late medieval France.

These Renaissance Women Were Unbelievably Powerful
Catherine Sforza was powerful because of her intelligence. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Caterina Sforza

Caterina Sforza was an Italian noblewoman and political leader of the Renaissance. She was born in the late 15th century in Milan, Italy, and was a member of the powerful Sforza family. Caterina was known for her political savvy and military prowess. She played a key role in the power struggles and political maneuverings of the time. Caterina was a strong and capable ruler who was able to maintain control over her territories despite numerous challenges. There were several rebellions and invasions by foreign powers. Caterina was also known for her support of the arts and for her patronage of artists and writers. She was a patron of Leonardo da Vinci, and she surrounded herself with some of the most talented and brilliant minds of the time.

These Renaissance Women Were Unbelievably Powerful
Veronica Franco was a powerful courtesan because of her writing. Credit: AllThatsInteresting

Veronica Franco

Veronica Franco was an Italian courtesan and poet of the Renaissance in 16th century Venice. She became one of the most famous courtesans of her time. Veronica was not only renowned for her beauty, but her talents as a writer. She was a member of the Accademia degli Spiriti, a literary academy in Venice, and was known for her witty and insightful poems and letters. Despite the social stigma associated with being a courtesan, Veronica was able to use her position to achieve a degree of power and influence. Veronica Franco’s legacy continues to this day. She is remembered as one of the most influential and talented women of the Renaissance, and her writings and poetry are still studied and admired.

These Renaissance Women Were Unbelievably Powerful
Vittoria Colonna was powerful because of her poetry. Credit: New York Times

Vittoria Colonna

Vittoria Colonna was an Italian noblewoman, poet, and intellectual of the Renaissance. Born into a prominent noble family in the early 16th century, she was well-educated and became known for her writing. Vittoria was a close friend of many of the leading artists and intellectuals of her time, including Michelangelo. He was so impressed by her poetry that he painted her portrait. She was also a prominent member of the Spirituali, a group of Italian humanists who sought to reform the Catholic Church from within. Vittoria’s poetry was widely celebrated, and she was considered one of the foremost poets of her time. Her work explored themes such as love, spirituality, and the role of women in society. It continues to be widely read and admired today.

These Renaissance Women Were Unbelievably Powerful
Margherita Gonzaga was powerful because of her marriage. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Margherita Gonzaga

Margherita Gonzaga was an Italian noblewoman and Duchess of Mantua during the Renaissance. She was born in the late 15th century into the powerful Gonzaga family. Margherita was married to the Duke of Mantua, Francesco II Gonzaga. Together they ruled over the Duchy of Mantua. She was instrumental in establishing the city of Mantua as a center of culture and learning. Margherita was a patron of the arts and sciences, sponsoring artists and scholars and promoting their work. She was also a woman of strong religious conviction, and she was known for her charitable works and her support of the Catholic Church. She was a close friend of Isabella d’Este, another powerful woman of the Renaissance. Together they supported each other’s cultural and intellectual interests.

These Renaissance Women Were Unbelievably Powerful
Bianca Maria Sforza was powerful because she was a female scholar. Credit: National Gallery

Bianca Maria Sforza

Bianca Maria Sforza was a powerful Italian noblewoman of the Renaissance period. Born in the mid-15th century, she was the daughter of Galeazzo Maria Sforza, the Duke of Milan. Bianca Maria was married twice. First to the Duke of Orleans, who was the brother of King Louis XI of France. And later to the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian I. Through her marriages, she became a prominent figure in both French and Austrian courts. She wielded significant political power and influence. Bianca Maria was also known to have collected a vast library of books and manuscripts. She was also a patron of humanist scholars, and she was a major figure in the cultural life of her time.

These Renaissance Women Were Unbelievably Powerful
Joan of Arc was turned into a saint because she was a hero in France. Credit: National Catholic Registry

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc was a legendary figure from medieval France, because she is remembered as a heroine of the Hundred Years’ War. Born in the early 15th century, Joan was a peasant girl. She claimed to have received visions from God to lead the French army against the English. Joan also vowed to restore the French king, Charles VII, to his rightful throne. Her charisma quickly made her a figure of national importance. She lifted the spirits of the French people. Joan led the French army to several victories. She became a symbol of French nationalism. However, Joan’s success was short-lived. She was captured by the English in 1430 and put on trial for heresy. Found guilty, she was burned at the stake in 1431. Her death, however, only served to further solidify her as a national heroine. She was eventually turned into a saint in the early 20th century.

These Renaissance Women Were Unbelievably Powerful
Tullia d’Aragona was powerful because of her published work. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Tullia d’Aragona

Tullia d’Aragona was a 16th-century Italian poet, author, and intellectual. She was born into a noble family in Naples. Tullia was also a talented musician and singer. In addition to her artistic pursuits, Tullia was an important figure in the intellectual circles of her time. She was a member of a group of literary figures known as the “Neapolitan Academy.” Tullia wrote a number of poems and plays that explored the nature of love, desire, and human relationships. Her works were highly regarded. Tullia was also a feminist trailblazer. In her writing, she advocated for the education of women and the right of women to participate in public life. She was one of the first women in Italy to publish her works under her own name, because it was so taboo for women to write. Despite her success, Tullia d’Aragona remains relatively unknown today.

These Renaissance Women Were Unbelievably Powerful
Cassandra Fedele was powerful because of her writing. Credit: Victorian Web

Cassandra Fedele

Cassandra Fedele was a 15th-century humanist scholar and writer from Venice, Italy. She was born into a wealthy merchant family. Because of her family, she was well-educated. Cassandra was one of the first women in Italy to pursue a career as a scholar and writer. She was a talented writer, and her works covered a wide range of topics. Cassandra was also a member of the humanist movement, and her works reflected the humanist ideals of the Renaissance. These were ideas such as the belief in the dignity and worth of all people, regardless of gender. Despite her achievements, Cassandra faced significant challenges and obstacles as a woman. Nevertheless, she continued to write and publish her works, and her writings had a lasting impact on the intellectual and cultural life of the time.

These Renaissance Women Were Unbelievably Powerful
Joanna of Naples was powerful because of her high profile marriages. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Joanna of Naples

Joanna of Naples was a powerful Queen regnant who ruled the Kingdom of Naples in the late 14th and early 15th centuries. She was born into the royal House of Anjou and was the daughter of King Robert. Joanna was married to Andrew, King of Hungary. After his death, she became the sole ruler of Naples. She ruled with a firm hand and proved to be a capable monarch. Throughout her reign, Joanna faced several challenges, including political rivalries, military conflicts, and papal interference. However, she was able to maintain her power. Joanna was known for her piety and devotion to the Catholic Church. Additionally, she actively involved herself in several high-profile political marriages and alliances, which strengthened her position and influence in the Mediterranean world.

These Renaissance Women Were Unbelievably Powerful
Bona Sforza was remembered because of her contributions to agriculture. Credit: University of Melbourne

Bona Sforza

Bona Sforza was a powerful Italian noblewoman and Queen consort of Poland and Grand Duchess of Lithuania in the 16th century. She was born in Milan in 1494, and was the daughter of Duke Gian Galeazzo Sforza of Milan. Bona was married to Sigismund I the Old, King of Poland in 1518, and became Queen consort of Poland. She played an active role in politics and was known for her intelligence and diplomatic skills. Bona was also a patron of the arts and sciences, and was instrumental in promoting the Renaissance in Poland. She was also known for her efforts to reform the Polish economy and agriculture, because she introduced new crops and farming techniques.

These Renaissance Women Were Unbelievably Powerful
Marie de Medici was powerful because she was a patron of the French Baroque art style. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Marie de’ Medici

Marie de’ Medici was a powerful queen consort of France in the early 17th century. She was born in Florence, Italy in 1575 and was the daughter of Francesco I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. Marie was married to King Henry IV in 1600 and became Queen consort of France. She played a significant role in politics and was known for her diplomatic skills. Marie was a major patron of the French Baroque style. Many of the great French Baroque artists, including Peter Paul Rubens, worked for her. She played a significant role in shaping French politics, especially during the reign of her son, King Louis XIII.

These Renaissance Women Were Unbelievably Powerful
Madeleine de la Tour d’Auvergen was powerful because she was involved in the Wars of Religion. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Madeleine de La Tour d’Auvergne

Madeleine de La Tour d’Auvergne was a French noblewoman who lived in the 16th century. She was the daughter of Jean III de La Tour, Duke of Auvergne. Madeleine was a powerful woman in her own right and held significant land and titles in her own name. She was married three times, first to Charles III, Duke of Bourbon, and later to both Henry III of Navarre and Henry IV of France. Madeleine was known for her political savvy and was a major player in the political and religious issues of her time. She was a member of the Catholic League and was involved in the Wars of Religion, which were fought between Catholics and Protestants in France during the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

These Renaissance Women Were Unbelievably Powerful
Anne of Brittany is considered powerful because she ruled in a male dominated society. Credit: Getty Images

Anne of Brittany

Anne of Brittany was a 15th-century French Queen. She ruled as the Queen Consort of two successive French kings; Charles VIII and Louis XII. Anne was known for her ability to navigate the complex political landscape of her time. Despite the challenges she faced as a woman in a male-dominated society, she was able to assert her power. Anne was instrumental in securing the independence of Brittany and maintaining its autonomy within France. She was a fierce defender of the rights and privileges of her duchy, and worked to maintain the independence of the Breton nobility from the French crown. In addition to her political accomplishments, Anne was known for her piety and her support of the arts. She was a major contributor to the building of the church of St. Anne in Nantes.

These Renaissance Women Were Unbelievably Powerful
Lady Jane Grey’s reign was short lived, because she was executed. Credit: Britannica

Lady Jane Grey

Lady Jane Grey was an English noblewoman who was briefly proclaimed Queen of England after the death of Edward VI in 1553. She was raised as a Protestant and was considered a leading figure among the reforming factions within the Church of England. Lady Jane’s brief reign as Queen was marked by political conflict. Different factions fought for power after Edward VI’s death. She was kicked off the throne after only nine days, and was eventually executed by Queen Mary I in 1554. Despite her short reign, Lady Jane Grey’s story has inspired numerous plays, novels, and historical works. Her legacy continues to be a subject of interest and debate.

These Renaissance Women Were Unbelievably Powerful
Margaret of Anjou was considered powerful because of her part in the War of the Roses. Credit: Thought Co

Margaret of Anjou

Margaret of Anjou was a powerful figure in 15th-century England. Born in 1430, she was the daughter of René, Duke of Anjou. She was married to King Henry VI of England in 1445. Their marriage was seen as an attempt to solidify peace between England and France. Margaret was instrumental in securing the English crown for her husband and was considered a significant influence on his rule. However, her ambition and her French background made her unpopular with the English nobility. Her husband’s mental instability only added to the political turmoil of the time. During the Wars of the Roses, Margaret was a leading figure on the side of the House of Lancaster, because she was responsible for several key military victories. She was eventually defeated by the forces of Edward IV and was forced into exile.

These Renaissance Women Were Unbelievably Powerful
Marie de Guise was considered powerful because she helped Scotland through rough times. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Marie de Guise

Marie de Guise was a 16th-century Scottish Queen consort and regent. She was born in Bar-le-Duc, Lorraine (now France) in 1515. Marie was also the daughter of Claude de Guise, Duke of Guise. In 1538, she married King James V of Scotland. After the death of her husband, she acted as Queen regent on behalf of her daughter, Mary, Queen of Scots. During her time as regent, she played a key role in Scottish politics, because she worked to protect the interests of her daughter. Despite opposition from some Scottish nobles, she successfully navigated the country through a turbulent period.

These Renaissance Women Were Unbelievably Powerful
Joanna of Castile was called “Joanna the Mad” because of her mental illness. Credit: Medievalists

Joanna of Castile

“Joanna the Mad” was the nickname given to Joanna of Castile. She was a Spanish Queen who ruled Castile from 1504 to 1555. Born in 1479 to King Ferdinand II of Aragon, she was married to Philip the Handsome of Austria. In 1504, after her mother’s death, she became Queen of Castile. Joanna’s mental illness caused her to behave erratically, leading to her nickname “Joanna the Mad” and making her an ineffective ruler. Consequently, her siblings divided her kingdom during her reign. Despite her personal struggles, she is remembered for supporting the arts and patronizing famous artists like Michelangelo.

How did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

We Can’t Believe How Much Power These Renaissance-Era Women Were Able To Wield. Thomas West. Ranker. 2022.

The Heptameron of Margaret, Queen of Navarre. University of Pennsylvania.

Amina: Warrior queen of Zazzau. Pinado Abdu-Waba DW. 2020.

The Academy of Domenico Venier, Music’s Literary Muse in Mid-Cinquecento Venice. JSTOR. 1991.

10 Facts About Theodora: Byzantine Empress, Courtesan and Feminist. History Hit. Léonie Chao-Fong. 2023.

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