Sovereignty, Medieval

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Summary

Sovereignty, in political theory, is a substantive term designating supreme authority over some polity. It is a basic principle underlying the dominant Westphalian model of state foundation.

Details

Classical Ulpian's statements were known in medieval Europe, but sovereignty was an important concept in medieval times. Medieval monarchs were not sovereign, at least not strongly so, because they were constrained by, and shared power with, their feudal aristocracy. Furthermore, both were strongly constrained by custom.

Sovereignty existed during the Medieval Period as the de jure rights of nobility and royalty, and in the de facto capability of individuals to make their own choices in life.

Around c. 1380–1400, the issue of feminine sovereignty was addressed in Geoffrey Chaucer's Middle English collection of Canterbury Tales, specifically in The Wife of Bath's Tale.

A later English Arthurian romance, The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell (c. 1450), uses much of the same elements of the Wife of Bath's tale, yet changes the setting to the court of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. The story revolves around the knight Sir Gawain granting to Dame Ragnell, his new bride, what is purported to be wanted most by women: sovereignty.

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