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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.