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‘Impossible in theory but manageable in practice.’ How accurately does this describe Tudor queenship?

‘Impossible in theory but manageable in practice.’ How accurately does this describe Tudor queenship?

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An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards (International Programme) Competition by Fiona Howe. Originally submitted for Tudor and Stuart History at University of St. Andrews, with lecturer Dr Rose in the category of Historical Studies & Archaeology
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards (International Programme) Competition by Fiona Howe. Originally submitted for Tudor and Stuart History at University of St. Andrews, with lecturer Dr Rose in the category of Historical Studies & Archaeology

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
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05/13/2014

 
080000830: ‘
Impossible in theory but manageable in practice.
How accurately does this describeTudor queenship?1
‘Impossible in theory but manageable in practice.
 How accurately does this describe Tudor queenship?
Abstract:
 This paper discusses contemporary attitudes towards gynarchy during the reigns of Mary and Elizabeth Tudor, and thus whether or notqueenship was impossible in theory but manageable in practice. Theessay revolves around the arguments between John Knox and JohnAylmer and their fierce debate over the legitimacy of queenship. It focusesupon the disputation over whether or not queenship was ungodly, withoutprecedent, against reason, and even contradictory to law.Following validation of the various points it moves on to discuss thefunctioning of queenship in practice and how this differed from theaforementioned theory. The presence of male councillors and parliamentare shown to be material in defending the legitimacy of gynarchy despiteresistance theorists rising to prominence. Problems over marriage and warwere burgeoned by their sex, but both queens were able to steer their ownpath. The differences between the two reigns and even within them arediscussed also. It is argued that Elizabeth found practical queenship moremanageable due to comparative religious tolerance (when viewed againstthe backdrop of the Marian persecutions) and as Mary had already established the precedent for gynarchy. Thus over time, queenship wasincreasingly seen to be theoretically possible (though still a poor apology for kingship). The principal finding is that although there were substantialtheoretical barriers to the idea of queenship, both gynarchs successfully managed to keep control of their kingdom, and increasingly over timequeenship was viewed to be both possible in theory and practice duelargely to be consensual nature of Tudor sovereignty.
Queenship, defined as autonomous rule by a female monarch, was embodied by both Mary and Elizabeth Tudor.
However „autonomous rule‟ still has it
sparameters; all monarchs in the Tudor period ruled through a combination of sovereign power and counsel,
1
therefore autonomous queenly rule shall be comparedto equivalent kingly rule, rather than an absolutist or despotic state. This essay willdiscuss whether or not Tudor contemporaries viewed queenship to be theoretically impossible, and then whether it was manageable in practice, focusing upon theirability to rule independently, the problems of marriage, dynasty, war andgovernance. Both queens confronted theoretical opposition to their sovereignty onthe grounds that gynarchy was ungodly and irrational.
2
Their success at managing
1
Patrick Collinson,
Elizabethan Essays
(London, 1994), p.17.
2
 
John Knox, ‘The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women’, in
Political Writings
,ed. R. Mason.
 
080000830: ‘
Impossible in theory but manageable in practice.
How accurately does this describeTudor queenship?2
queenship in practice varied between their reigns and within them, thoughhistoriography has often overlooked the failures in Elizabet
h‟s reign.
Both Mary and
Elizabeth ruled England as Queens. However Elizabeth‟s rule appears to have been
the most manageable, significantly as she avoided marital control and was treated with more equanimity as the precedent for queenship had already been established by her sister.The theoretical possibility of queenship caused dispute amongstcontemporary writers.
3
Much of the invective against Marian gynarchy was written by Protestants in exile from the re-established Catholic regime, (whom, such as Knoxin 1559, frequently retracted their polemic once Protestant Elizabeth was crowned).
4
 Therefore it appears that many writers may have seen Ma
ry‟s rule as a Gordian Knot;
 they could not gain Catholic support for her deposition by attacking Popery,consequently they tried to usurp her on the grounds of her gender. That said,Elizabeth still faced misogynism even from fellow Protestants, and even if theseattacks did come with a hidden motive, they stillpresented an argument which had to be addressed.In the
 First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women
, Knox attackedgynae
cocracy as being, „repugnant to Nature... asubversion of the good order,‟ an offence to God, and
legally dubious.
5
The religious arguments againstqueenship focused upon the common assumption that women were created inferior, and thus cannot rule overmen.
6
 
 Women were perceived as „persona mixta‟,spiritually man‟s equal, but by divine will
subordinate.
7
Furthermore, as Elizabeth found in1559,
the idea of a woman being „caput ecclesiae‟
 was thought to contradict the Pauline Injunctions.
8
 
3
Focussing upon the argument between Knox and Aylmer as an example.
4
 
Constance Jordan, ‘Woman's rule in sixteenth
-
century British political thought,’
Renaissance Quarterly, 40
 (1987), p.437.
5
 
Jordan, ‘Woman's rule,’ p.432.
 
6
 
Knox, ‘The First Blast,’ pp.6
-7.
7
 
Jordan, ‘Woman's rule,’ p.421.
 
8
 
Ibid.,
p.425.
Figure 1: John Knox.From, http://www.marie-stuart.co.uk/Knox.htm
 
Figure 2: Bishop John Aylmer.From,http://www.luminarium.org/encyclopedia/aylmer.htm
 
080000830: ‘
Impossible in theory but manageable in practice.
How accurately does this describeTudor queenship?3
However in
 An Harborowe for Faithfull and Trewe Subiectes,
Aylmer counter-
argued, stating that Knox‟s arguments were „absurd,‟ and that when God establisheda woman‟s power inevitably she would be a good queen.
9
Aylmer argued that St Paulhad been misinterpreted when he forbade women to speak in congregation, that thisshould not imply that a woman cannot be the head of the church.
10
Leslie
11
argued
that woman too was created in God‟s likeness, and the Biblical term for c
hoosing a
leader „from Brethren,‟ did not in fact exclude women due to gender usage in
Hebrew.
12
Nonetheless ruling over a patriarchal society which believed women to beinferior by natural and biblical law was challenging.
13
In 1553 Mary gave out morealms than her brother had done in any year of his reign, enforcing the idea of godly queenship.
14
Thus contemporary theological arguments were inconclusive over thetheoretical possibility of queenship.Following from this religious argument was the notion that gynarchy was
repugnant to nature and reason. There was „no ideological foundation for femaleauthority,‟
15
in early modern England;
even Edward VI‟s minority rule was
preferable.
16
Henry VIII feared leaving no male heir, especially when male andfemale were seen as polar opposites; engendering honour/dishonour,order/disorder.
17
Thus the idea of queenship was difficult for contemporaries tocomprehend,
18
especially with the lack of precedent. There were instances of powerful women, Empress Matilda, Lady Margaret Beaufort, and women influentialin politics under Henry VIII, but no clear precedent of an autonomous queen.
19
 
Mary‟s reign set a precedent of non
-disastrous rule for Elizabeth to follow, probably increasing contemporary views of the possibility of gynarchy, but as soon as new problems reared their heads the old suspicions of queenship emerged once more.
9
John Aylmer,
 An Harborowe for Faithfull and Trewe Subiectes
(1559), images6-7.
10
 
Ibid.,
2
nd
extract.
11
A Catholic apologist for Mary Queen of Scots.
12
 
Jordan, ‘Woman's rule,’ p.442.
 
13
Natalie Mears
, ‘Courts, Courtiers, and Culture in Tudor England,’
The Historical Journal, Vol. 46,
(2003), pp.716.
14
Carole Levin
, ‘“Would I Could Give You Help and Succour": Elizabeth I and the Politics of Touch,’
 Albion: AQuarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies, Vol. 21
(1989), p. 196.
15
Christopher Haigh,
Elizabeth I
(London, 2nd ed., 1998), p.171.
16
Especially as it was only expected to be temporary.
17
Anne McLaren
, ‘Gender, Religion, and Early Modern Nationalism: Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, and the
Genesis of English Anti-
Catholicism,’
The American Historical Review, Vol. 107 
(2002), p.742.
18
 
Levin, ‘
Would I Co
uld Give You Help and Succour,’ p.195.
 
19
Mears
, ‘Courts, Courtiers, and Culture ,’ p.717.
 

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