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Queens and Power in Medieval and Early Modern England

Carole Levin

Publication Year: 2009

In Queens and Power in Medieval and Early Modern England, Carole Levin and Robert Bucholz provide a forum for the underexamined, anomalous reigns of queens in history. These regimes, primarily regarded as interruptions to the “normal” male monarchy, have been examined largely as isolated cases. This interdisciplinary study of queens throughout history examines their connections to one another, their constituents’ perceptions of them, and the fallacies of their historical reputations. The contributors consider historical queens as well as fictional, mythic, and biblical queens and how they were represented in medieval and early modern England. They also give modern readers a glimpse into the early modern worldview, particularly regarding order, hierarchy, rulership, property, biology, and the relationship between the sexes. Considering topics as diverse as how Queen Elizabeth’s unmarried status affected the perception of her as a just and merciful queen to a reevaluation of “good Queen Anne” as more than just an obese, conventional monarch, this volume encourages readers to reexamine previously held assumptions about the role of female monarchs in early modern history.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xii

In 2003 the Newberry Library sponsored the exhibit Elizabeth I: Ruler and Legend, which had a second life as a traveling exhibit that visited forty libraries across the United States for the next three years. Carole Levin was the Senior Historical Consultant on the exhibit and was also in residence at the Newberry Library ...

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Introduction: It's Good to Be Queen

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pp. xiii-xxxiii

Queens are much in fashion these days, receiving scholarly attention as never before. Always popular with historical novelists, dramatists, filmmakers, and their audiences, queens regnant, consort, mother, and dowager have emerged in recent years as legitimate and frequent subjects of serious academic inquiry.1 ...

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1. "Greater by Marriage": The Matrimonial Career of the Empress Matilda

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pp. 1-15

The epitaph of the empress Matilda described the summit of earthly achievement to which a twelfth-century aristocratic woman could aspire, according to the dictates of a male-dominant feudal society. As the daughter of Henry I of England, the widow of Holy Roman Emperor Henry V, and the mother to the future ...

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2. Widow Princess or Neglected Queen? Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII, and English Public Opinion, 1533 --1536

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pp. 16-30

On May 23, 1533, the archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, annulled Henry VIII's marriage to Catherine of Aragon. For Henry and his new wife, Anne Boleyn, it was as if the previous twenty-four years had never happened. For Catherine, Cranmer's decision on the annulment had the unique consequence ...

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3. "Most godly heart fraight with al mercie": Queens' Mercy during the Reigns of Mary I and Elizabeth I

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pp. 31-50

During and after her reign Protestant writers criticized Mary I of England as a Jezebel, a tyrant, and a woman without mercy. Modern historians have likewise criticized England's first ruling queen for being too merciful to political opponents and not merciful enough to religious dissenters. Mary's sister Elizabeth I ...

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4. Princess Elizabeth Travels across Her Kingdom: In Life, in Text, and on Stage

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pp. 51-75

In May 1549, the fifteen-year-old Princess Elizabeth commissioned a portrait of herself for her younger half-brother, Edward VI (see frontispiece). Several months earlier in late January, she had strongly expressed her desire to come to court to physically disprove a rumor that she was with child by Thomas Seymour, ...

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5. Marriage á la Mode, 1559: Elisabeth de Valois, Elizabeth I, and the Changing Practice of Dynastic Marriage

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pp. 76-97

The 1559 peace settlement of Cateau-Cambrésis was the sixteenth century's most important treaty.1 It brought three major European dynasties into a complex dialogue about the continent's destiny: the Hapsburgs of Spain, the Valois of France, and the Tudors of England. Spain was arguably the big winner. The treaty ...

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6. Queen Solomon: An International Elizabeth I in 1569

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pp. 98-125

As the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I and the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots, reigned over their kingdoms in the 1560s, each watched the other with an ever-nervous eye. Not only were they rival monarchs (in religion and in claim to the English throne) but they were also queens who had to negotiate the deep-seated ...

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7. The Virgin and the Widow: The Political Finesse of Elizabeth I and Catherine de' Medici

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pp. 126-140

In his 1558 tract The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, the Scottish reformer John Knox raged against women rulers, decrying their authority over men. His targets were Catholics: Mary Tudor of England; Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots; and her mother, Mary of Guise, regent in Scotland. ...

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8. Crafting Queens: Early Modern Readings of Esther

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pp. 141-157

The Old Testament's Queen Esther, heroine of the biblical book that bears her name, was an extremely popular figure in early modern England. Her story appears on canvases, papers, and silks. Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Protestant ministers and those attending to female behavior considered Esther the embodiment ...

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9. "Shine like an Angel with thy starry crown": Queen Elizabeth the Angelic

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pp. 158-186

The inscription under an anonymous seventeenth-century engraving ambitiously entitled The True Woman offers to view a "horrible two-headed monster . . . an angel in Church and a devil at home." Françoise Borin comments, "The devil and the woman are perfectly symmetrical, Siamese sisters. The picture suggests no mere ...

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10. Shakespeare's Queen Cleopatra: An Act of Translation

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pp. 187-204

In Antony and Cleopatra, Cleopatra undergoes a Shakespearean translation from a contemptible whore at the beginning of the play to a noble queen at the end. This translation is, arguably, the crux of Shakespeare's vision of her. The word translation connotes the act of rendering a text from one language to another. ...

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11. "She is the man, and Raignes": Popular Representations of Henrietta Maria during the English Civil Wars

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pp. 205-223

On February 22, 1643, Charles I's French, Catholic queen consort, Henrietta Maria, evaded parliamentary forces and landed successfully at Bridlington, a small fishing port perilously situated midway between the parliamentary strongholds of Hull and Scarborough. For the past year, while civil war raged in England, she had ...

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12. Sex and the Single Queen: The Erotic Lives of Elizabeth Tudor in Seventeenth-century England

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pp. 224-241

Although she died in 1603, Elizabeth I was, culturally, very much alive in Stuart England. We can, for example, analyze seventeenth-century English political ideologies by tracing writers' attitudes toward the queen of famous memory. Thus Andrew Marvell, in a republican mood, declared in 1675, "A Tudor a Tudor! wee've ...

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13. The "Stomach of a Queen," or Size Matters: Gender, Body Image, and the Historical Reputation of Queen Anne

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pp. 242-272

The year 2002 marked the 300th anniversary of the accession of Queen Anne. Unlike 2003's extravaganza of Elizabethan necrophilia, which saw three major international exhibits and a host of commemorative publications, the accession anniversary of the first and last Stuart queen of Great Britain passed virtually ...

14. Two Poems

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pp. 273-276

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 277-310

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pp. 311-316

Charles Beem is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of North Carolina, Pembroke, the author of The Lioness Roared: The Problems of Female Rule in English History (2006), and the editor of the Royal Minorities of Medieval and Early Modern England (2008). ...


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pp. 317-326

E-ISBN-13: 9780803222786
E-ISBN-10: 0803222785

Illustrations: 12 figures
Publication Year: 2009