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1. Introduction "I may have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach ofa king," Elizabeth I is said to have proclaimed in a moment ofnational crisis in 1588, as she faced the possibility ofa Spanish invasion.1 Whether or not this is an accurate transcription ofwhat she said at Tilbury, it is hardly surprising that it has passed into tradition as one of the most famous of her speeches, since it so neatly encapsulates the struggles and contradictions for a woman in a position of power. Elizabeth had from her earliest memories known the difficulties and dangers for women when their lives were caught in the intersection ofsexuality and politics, ofgender and power. Not only must she have early learned her mother's fate, she also saw the progression of stepmothers at her father's court. At fifteen she had to listen to rumors that she had become pregnant by Thomas Seymour, widower of her last stepmother Katherine Parr, as he awaited his execution in the Tower. Only her quick wits and self-possession saved her own reputation and allowed her to protect her servants Katherine Ashley and Thomas Parry. During her sister Mary's reign she herself was in the Tower, afraid she would follow her cousin Jane Grey to the block. Few would have believed in November 1558 that her reign would last for forty-five years. To rule successfully Elizabeth may well have believed she must have "the heart and stomach ofa king." Traditionally, western society has viewed women as weak and incapable of a public role; to be successful a woman must move away from the expectations of her gender and "act like a man." But to do so makes her unwomanly, possibly even monstrous. Moreover, the way a society views a woman in a position of power not only impinges on her use of that power, but may reflect wider societal expectations about women's roles.2 Elizabeth I was very skillful in how she represented herself and her authority as monarch. She was able to capitalize on the expectations of her behavior as a woman and use them to her advantage; she also at times placed herself beyond traditional gender expectations by calling herself king. Elizabeth was able to overcome the powerful resistance to her 2 Chapter 1 rule, and she did so by making her evident weaknesses as an unmarried woman ruler into sources ofstrength. Elizabeth's own motto was "Semper Eadem"-"Always the same." But her success came from how fluid and multi-faceted her representations of self were. As we shall see, Elizabeth was also fortunate and her success as monarch combined competence with good luck. Examining Elizabeth I's actions, means of self-representation, and contemporary responses to the queen, can yield some answers to some important questions about the connections between gender, politics, and culture. Tudor England witnessed the rule of Mary I and Elizabeth I for fifty years. Their Scottish cousin Mary Stuart ruled until her forced abdication in 1568. From Mary Stuart's arrival in England until her execution in 1587 she plotted to usurp Elizabeth's throne. Discounting Matilda's disputed reign in the twelfth century, this was the first time in England since the Conquest that women ruled in their own right; and such rule brought about a number of social, political, and psychological repercussions. Attitudes toward women and their status changed dramatically. This pattern was mirrored in much of the rest of Europe as well. There was not only Mary Stuart, whose attempts to rule Scotland in the 1560s were so spectacularly unsuccessful,3 but her mother, Mary of Guise, who until her death ruled as regent for her daughter while the latter was in France. Mary Stuart, who had been sent to France as a child of five, did not return to Scotland until 1561 after the death of her young first husband, Francis II, the year before. Francis's death changed the lives of his widow and his mother. The next king ofFrance, Charles IX, was a child, and for close to thirty years Catherine de Medici dominated French politics as the Queen Mother. Protestants hated Catherine as the architect of the St. Bartholomew 's Day massacre of 1572, and at the time of her death in 1589 France was being torn apart by religious wars that would soon claim the life of her last son, Henry III, through an assassin's knife. Queenship...


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