Elizabeth I:  The Conference Papers





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Charles Beem “Elizabeth I:  An Archetypal Queen?”

I Delivered this paper at the annual meeting of the Queen Elizabeth I
Society, April 2014, in Tucson AZ

It is hard to image a queen in all of history more famous than Elizabeth I of England.  She is
instantly recognizable, in images and in films, as a vivacious, flirtatious, beautifully dressed,
bejeweled, and bewigged queen, charging her way through the second half of sixteenth
century with regal poise and confidence.  We also tend to think of her as the most successful
queen in history as well, a proto-feminist icon who defied the odds against her to provide
leadership and wield power within the confines of a well-entrenched patriarchal political
culture.  Based upon such assumptions that remain pervasive in our popular imagination,
when we imagine a queen, we usually think of Elizabeth.  
 But does Elizabeth deserve to be an archetypal model for queenly achievement?  As a number
of her biographers have noted, Elizabeth was a very singular type of queen, whose
achievements seem extraordinary for her gender as she charted an historical path that deviated
from the broader patterns of queenship in a variety of ways.  So what kind of Queen was
Elizabeth, an archetype or an anomaly of the highest order?  This essay begins the process of
examining Elizabeth’s career against a much broader context of early modern European
queenship as it seeks to draw some general conclusions concerning the exercise of queenly
power during this period of European history.  I will examine a number of facets of her career
as queen, her education, religiosity, political influence, ability to identify with her country,
and her sense of royal deportment, to come to some determination concerning Elizabeth’s place
in the pantheon of early modern European queenship.  
 To do this, I will compare Elizabeth to a smattering of recognizable early modern European
queens, both consorts and regnants, such as Isabel of Castile, Mary Queen of Scots, Anne of
Austria, the consort of Louis XIII of France, Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa, and
Catherine the Great of Russia.  
 At this point it might be useful to provide a brief synopsis of Elizabeth’s life and reign, just
in case anyone present here today is not totally familiar with the outlines of her career as
queen.  She was born September 7, 1533, the daughter of Henry VIII of England and his
second wife Anne Boleyn.  Her birth was a disappointment; Henry had moved heaven and
earth to get out of his first marriage, to Catherine of Aragon, the mother of his elder daughter,
the future Mary I, so that he could obtain a male heir.  This Anne Boleyn failed to do.  Before
Elizabeth reached her third birthday, Anne was convicted of a number of heinous crimes and
beheaded, while parliament removed her from the succession as they had previously done to
her elder half-sister.  Following the 1537 birth of her half-brother, the future Edward VI,
Elizabeth endured the anomalous position of a statutorily bastardized daughter of a king,
although Parliament later restored both of Henry VIII’s daughters to the succession, with
stipulations concerning their marriages.
By all accounts Elizabeth was astonishingly intelligent, receiving the kind of first class
Renaissance humanist education lavished upon her brother, rendering her fluent in several
languages and conversant in history and philosophy  Because of her place in the succession
she was also an enticing marriage prospect; before she had achieved her fifteenth birthday her
guardian Thomas Seymour, who had married Henry VIII’s widow Catherine Parr, had cast
aspersions upon her virtue with his scandalous behavior.  This episode, as well as the
execution of Henry’s fifth wife Catherine Howard, is often cited as evidence for Elizabeth’s
allegedly early indifference to the prospect of marriage.  But following her father’s death in
1547, the Protestant  minority governments of Edward VI declined to find Elizabeth a
husband, leaving her an unmarried heiress presumptive when her sister Mary I ascended the
throne in July 1553.  Unlike her predecessor, the rabidly Protestant Edward, Mary was
dogmatically Catholic, and suspected Elizabeth of harboring heretical religious views.  
Following Wyatt’s revolt at the end of January 1554, which sought to prevent Mary from
marrying a foreign price as well as depose her, Elizabeth was suspected of complicity in the
revolt, and was briefly imprisoned in the Tower of London before being kept in protective
custody for a year in Woodstock.  Elizabeth spent the remainder of Mary’s reign in the
background of affairs, despite her place in the succession, continuing to resist her sister’s effort
to marry her to a continental Catholic prince.  
 Thus it was an Elizabeth tested by adversity who mounted her throne at the age of twenty
five in November 1558.  She had big problems to deal with, most importantly creating a
religious settlement that would be acceptable to the majority of her subjects, resulting in the
creation of a Protestant Anglican Church, Elizabeth’s most durable achievement.  But some of
her problems were of her own making.  For the remainder of her reign she resolutely refused to
marry or name an heir, despite numerous offers and courtships with various continental
Catholic princes and a rather scandalous one with her master of the Horse, Robert Dudley,
later created Earl of Leicester, who may have been the great love of her life.  Because of this,
her closest heir was her Catholic cousin Mary Queen of Scots, who fled to England in 1568
after her deposition, rendering her Elizabeth’s not so welcome guest for nearly twenty years,
until she was beheaded in 1587 for conspiring to have Elizabeth deposed and killed.
 Mary Queen of Scots tenure in England symbolized Europe’s religious polarization between
Catholic states such as France and Spain and Protestant ones such as Scotland and the
Netherlands, which launched a rebellion against their Catholic feudal overlord, Philip II of
Spain.  Despite the pleas of a series of hawks from Leicester to Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex,
Elizabeth remained a reluctant and indecisive warrior queen, who only agreed to aid the
Dutch when it became clear that England’s national interest depended upon it.  These actions,
along with the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, resulted in the 1588 invasion of the Spanish
Armada, which was stymied by a combination of adverse weather conditions and superior
English seamanship.  
 But the notion that the armada victory ushered in a golden age is not substantiated by the
reality of late Elizabethan England, which was plagued by runaway inflation, political
corruption, a series of bad harvests, and the growing impatience with an aging queen without
a clear-cut successor.  Some of the dismay of the ruling classes with Elizabeth was the result of
her fiscally conservative approach to government; England’s tax structure was still essentially
feudal in nature, which meant that crown income remained static in the face of rapidly
escalating costs for just about everything.  So, if Elizabeth wished to augment her income, she
needed to call parliaments, which she was reluctant to do, because parliaments wanted her to
marry, name a successor, and make further changes to her religious settlement, all of which she
was reluctant to do.  So Elizabeth avoided wars like the plague as he circled her fiscal wagons,
refusing to engage in an expansive foreign policy, invest in new world colonization, or take
any steps to modernize the tax structure, which might have augmented her income.  Instead,
she went to her grave as a penny-pinching old woman, leaving a myriad of problems for her
seventeenth century Stuart successors to grapple with.  Nevertheless, she had played the role
of Queen quite well given her limited resources, she was a superb diplomat, and she
successfully conveyed the impression that she sincerely loved her subjects and was concerned
about their welfare.  Finally, a plethora of contemporary commentators tell us that her subjects
dearly loved her back.
 So when comparing Elizabeth to other early modern queens one must remember she was a
regnant queen, which puts her in a rather small grouping that includes Isabel and Juana of
Castile, Mary Queen of Scots, Mary I, Mary II, and Anne of England, Christina and Ulrika
Eleonora of Sweden, the Hapsburg Empress Maria Theresa, and an entire parade of eighteenth
century Russian tsarinas, or female autocrats, the last of which was Catherine the Great.  But if
can include dowager queens and regents, this creates a much larger grouping of women
wielding regal power, including Mary of Guise of Scotland, and Catherine de Medici, Marie
de Medici, and Anne of Austria, queens of France.  And, if we accept the premise, as Carole
Levin suggested in The Heart and Stomach of a King, that the unmarried Elizabeth was in fact
king and queen at the same time, then many of her queenly functions mirrored
 The first area of comparison  to consider is education.  Elizabeth and her brother Edward VI
were the best educated monarchs in the history of early modern Europe, hands down.  During
her brother’s reign, Elizabeth’s continuing education took on a life of its own, as Roger
Ascham emerged as a challenging and rigorous primary tutor, who happily described his
charge as possessing a masculine intellect.  For the rest of her life, Elizabeth remained a
dutiful scholar of letters and languages.  Her 1593 ex tempore Latin rebuttal to the Polish
ambassador remains an episode unparalleled in the diplomatic annals of early modern Europe.
Elizabeth here is clearly the exception, in the quality of the level of education she received
long before it became clear she would eventually inherit the throne.  In marked contrast,
Isabel, Maria Theresa, and Catherine the Great all received the conventional education for
royal brides to be, heavy on the arts and social graces.  But all soon recognized the need for an
erudite education, including the study of Latin, after they had ascended their thrones.  Even
Mary Queen of Scots, not quite so dedicated to statecraft as Elizabeth or Isabel, possessed a
great facility for languages.  But for queen consorts particularly, an erudite education was not
a priority in the marketing of royal heiresses; Elizabeth’s marriageability was not tied to her
scholarly attainments.  While Elizabeth had not neglected the more charm school aspects of
her tutelage, as far as queenly education goes she was in a class all by herself.  
 But was she religious?  The truth on this one Elizabeth took to her maker with her, and we
can conjecture upon her personal religiosity as we can about whether she might have ever
taken a husband.  We all know she did not like monks wielding torches, but she did like
candlesticks and crucifixes in her chapel, which suggests Elizabeth was able to
compartmentalize personal and political religious convictions, which also sets her apart from
other queens, who overwhelmingly conformed to prescribed forms of religiosity, especially
those in Catholic states.  Religious dogma and good queenship seemed to work hand in hand
during the early modern epoch.  Isabel and her husband Fernando were known as los reyes
catolicos, while Mary Queen of Scots, Anne of Austria, Maria Theresa, and Catherine the
Great all advertised themselves as orthodox religionists in both their public and private lives.
 Nevertheless, a well-advertised sense of religiosity was an integral part of early modern
queenship.  While Elizabeth was relatively free of the dogmatism that characterized her
sixteenth century contemporaries, she saw the utility in cultivating a religious and pious
persona, recognizing that religious homogeneity was the backbone of a stable society.  In this
area we see a startling consensus among queens, whether consorts or regnants, Catholics or
Protestants.  While kings could achieve renown on the battlefield, Queens earned prestige by
acts of piety and charity.  But for queens regnant, piety and charity had to be balanced with
the demands of the kingly office; Elizabeth was frequently criticized for a lack of ruthlessness,
her bark was definitely worse than her bite.  In contrast, Isabel of Castile initially was noted
more for a reputation for rigorous justice than Christian mercy, although this became tempered
during the Granada campaign, in which she kept violence to a minimum as she lavished care
and attention upon the wounded and their families in a powerful display of womanly
selflessness.
 What Isabel and Elizabeth did have in common was their skill at politics.  John Guy has
described Elizabeth as a monarch more in control of her policy than all her Tudor
predecessors.  In this she is joined by Maria Theresa, and Catherine the Great, monarchs who
also kept a firm grip on policy -making.  But only Elizabeth, Anne of England and Catherine
could get away with wielding regal authority without simultaneously deferring to a husband,
even if he was a consort.  In this, Isabel, and Maria Theresa had a lot more in common with
queen consorts in their need to be considered good wives, something Mary Queen of Scots
failed to do during her tenure as regnant queen of Scotland.  Both Mary I and II of England
played the public role of deferential wife to their husbands.  In France, Anne of Austria made
a point of deferring publicly to her husband, in marked contrast to the heavy handed power
wielded by her formidable mother-, in-law, Marie de Medicis, during her husband’s minority.  
However, following her husband’s death, she followed the path of queenly orthodoxy as she
assumed the persona of a pious mother and widow while she wielded full political power as
regent for the underage
Louis XIV, and later arranged his marriage to a Hapsburg heiress, reflecting her own Spanish
upbringing.
 The birth of her two sons, which came rather late in Anne’s marriage, gave Anne the context
for assuming regal power, as queenly political influence was usually measured in their ability
to propagate the dynasty.  This was Elizabeth’s biggest failure, one that seems more forgivable
from our perspective of today.  But Elizabeth’s inability to provide for the succession caused
her subjects a lot of anxiety; in practice all other early modern queens, consort and regnant
alike, with the notable exception of Christina of Sweden, braved the hazards of childbearing
to provide heirs of their bodies.  This was the primary reason Elizabeth’s sister Mary I married
Philip II of Spain, and even Anne of Austria and Catherine the Great bore children for
husbands they utterly despised.  Anne of England did enjoy a splendidly happy marriage,
enduring seventeen pregnancies, none of them successful in providing her with an heir, while
nearly all of Maria Theresa’s sixteen children, including Marie Antoinette, survived to
adulthood.  
 But Elizabeth made up for a lack of direct heirs of her body by casting herself as a mother to
her people, appropriating the maternal side of queenship that was integral to queens both
regnants and consorts without the complication of a husband and children.  Her Golden
Speech of 1601 was the best example of this process, when Elizabeth informed a parliamentary
delegation, “and though you have had, and may have, many princes more mighty and wise
sitting in this seat, yet you never had nor shall have, any that will be more careful and
loving.”
 Elizabeth’s Golden speech capped a career of emphasis on her innate Englishness.  Spanish
blood also was a quality Isabel could also draw upon as she hastily arranged for her
acclamation as queen in Segovia, while Maria Theresa worked overtime to be queen to all the
subjects in her polyglot empire, wowing her Hungarian nobility with a Latin oration in her
successful effort to be recognized as their regnant queen.  For Catherine the Great, becoming
more Russian than the Russians themselves was a key facet of her successful rule as a German
born consort who overthrew her husband to assume his place as Tsar.  In contrast, Mary Queen
of Scots had a hard time projecting herself as a truly Scottish queen, while Anne of Austria
suffered from her initial failure to adopt French customs or become proficient in the French
language.  In fact, following her husband’s death she steered France towards a much more pro-
Spanish foreign policy during the regency for her underage son, Louis XIV.  The ability to
create a perception of native-ness was a condition that all successful queens aspired to, as
consorts by their very nature were immigrants to the country whose king they had married.  
 The one area in which Elizabeth shares a commonality with all her queenly cohorts is in the
area of royal deportment.  Whether a queen was a consort or a regnant, looking good and
behaving regally was standard operating procedure.  Elizabeth worked hard, studied harder,
but always made time for her personal adornment for the public consumption of her royal
court, even more so as time passed and she became older, a process Elizabeth’s court did not
acknowledge.  Elizabeth was also proficient musically, and she appeared to love dancing as
well as riding, qualities shared by Mary Queen of Scots, Maria Theresa, Catherine the Great,
and Isabel.  Indeed, a big part of what makes
Elizabeth so memorable historically is how she looked.  Contemporaries noted Elizabeth’s
vanity, but the attention paid to royal deportment was equally true of Isabel of Castile,
Elizabeth’s sister and predecessor Mary I, Mary Queen of Scots, Anne of Austria, Maria
Theresa, and Catherine the Great.  None of these queens were considered great beauties, with
the notable exception of Elizabeth herself, but they all recognized the advantages of dressing
regally, wearing jewels, and maintaining their musical talents.  Anne of Austria was
sometimes painted riding sidesaddle while dressed resplendently.  But once consorts became
dowagers, especially if they served as regents for their underage children, like Catherine de
Medici and Anne of Austria, the opulent dress and adornment gave way to the widow’s
weeds, which provided a visual bolster to their claim to exercise regal power.  Maria Theresa
also underwent this transformation, after the death of her consort Francis Stephen, giving
even Victoria a run for her money in her prolonged ostentatious grief as she simultaneously co-
ruled the Hapsburg dominions with her eldest son.  
 Elizabeth, however, was the virgin queen, making it possible for her to avoid transitioning
into older age and officially remain ageless, a form of courtly cultural reference unique among
the royal courts of early modern Europe.  Within this context, Elizabeth charmed and flirted
with men her entire life.  This was also an integral facet of her mode of diplomacy, often
venturing beyond the parameters of the more matronly and austere diplomatic styles of
Catholic queens such as Isabel and Maria Theresa.  But it is unlikely that Elizabeth ever went
as far as to brazenly conceive children with her royal favorites as Catherine the Great did,
despite all those vicious rumors recounted in that historical scandal sheet, The Heart and
Stomach of a King.  No, Elizabeth was well versed in English attitudes towards succession
rights, which in the European west were bound up in the emphasis on legitimate offspring,
which kept their sexual lives in a constant state of scrutiny, in marked contrast to Catherine’s
liberated sexuality.
 Thus far, it appears that Elizabeth is emerging as more anomaly than archetype.  But I am
running out of time and there is one last area of comparison.  Despite the precariousness of her
life during her sister’s reign, Elizabeth ascended to her throne not only as a lineal heir of
Henry VIII, but also because she possessed a clear parliamentary title.  Within this context,
Elizabeth’s elevation to the throne was completely uncontested.  In varying degrees, Mary
Queen of Scots, Mary I of England, Isabel and Juana of Castile, Maria Theresa, and Catherine
the Great all had to fight for their right to be queen.  Some, like Maria Theresa, took on
multiple states and wars to achieve her objectives, while Anne of Austria endured a reputation
as an unfriendly foreign queen whose husband despised her.  In marked contrast to the
travails of these other queens, Elizabeth’s queenship was indeed charmed, as her charismatic
figure in our popular imagination continues to tell us.

William Fleetwood and The Itinerarium ad Windsor

The following paper was presented at the annual meeting of the Queen
Elizabeth I Society, which meets in conjunction with the South Central
Renaissance Conference, in New Orleans, Louisiana, March 10, 2012

Only recently have I begun to examine the life and career of William Fleetwood (1525-
1594), historian and antiquarian, lawyer, perennial member of the House of
Commons, and for over two decades city recorder of London during the reign of
Elizabeth I.  Among the most notable, as well as obscure, of his manuscript writings
was the
Itinerarium ad Windsor, a narrative account of a leisurely journey on
horseback from London to Windsor shared by Fleetwood and Robert Dudley, Earl of
Leicester and Thomas Sackville, Lord Buckhurst, during the spring of 1575.  
According to Fleetwood, the trio discussed how and why women should be able to
possess and execute the kingly office, and their dialogue included a rather startling
discussion of the events leading up to Mary I’s second parliamentary session, which
enacted a curious statute known as the Act Concerning Regal Power, which offered a
constitutional description of the rights, privileges, and limitations of female rule
firmly within the parameters of English kingship.  Until recently, the work only
existed in three extant seventeenth century manuscript versions.  
I first encountered The Itinerarium ad Windsor in the summer of 1999, while in
London performing research for my doctoral dissertation and subsequent first book,
The Lioness Roared.  As I contemplated how the English kingdom comprehended the
accession of Mary I in 1553 as England’s first female king, I wanted to find some
kind of legal and constitutional justification for female rule, and all roads appeared
to lead to the
Itinerarium ad Windsor.  So, I spent several days painstakingly
transcribing BL Harley 6234, one of the three extant versions.  Whoever made this
copy had terrible handwriting, and I really did not get all of the Itinerarium down on
paper. Following my research trip, I returned home to begin a job as a part-time
adjunct at California State Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo California.  
During new faculty orientation, I became friends with a newly hired tenure track
professor in the Rhetoric department who had done her doctoral work at the
University of Iowa, where she had worked with Dennis Moore.  I was familiar with
Moore’s work on sixteenth century queenship, so I emailed him, asking him some
questions about the Itinerarium, and he was kind enough to reply, and in the course
our correspondence it came out that he was working on a critical edition of the
Itinerarium manuscript.  So I just came out and asked him if I could look at it, and he
was kind enough to say yes, and it was of immense help to me to have a draft of his
critical edition as I wrote my chapter on the first year of Mary I’s reign for my
dissertation.  
Nine years later, in the course of my scholarly pursuits, I once again had occasion to
look at the word copy of the Itinerarium that Dennis had sent me, and I wondered
what he had done with this critical edition.  So I tracked him down, and as it turned
out, he had not done anything at all with it.  So I proposed to him that he complete it,
and let me build a book of contextual essays around it.  But he was not so sure about
this, and he took a lot of wooing, but eventually “maybe” turned to “yes,” and with
the wooing process over, I began compiling a slate of contributors to write essays for
this volume, including J.D. Alsop, Sarah Duncan, and Carole Levin, while Dennis
labored to finish his critical edition.  However, I struck out with every single scholar I
approached to write a biographical essay on Fleetwood himself, so I simply decided I
would do it myself.
Fortunately for me, I already had some experience with figuring out Renaissance
figures like Fleetwood, because for the last few years I had been researching and
writing on the colorful and charismatic figure of George Ferrers, Tudor Renaissance
lawyer, courtier, historian, poet, and entertainer extraordinaire.  Within the Tudor hot
house communities of lawyers and historians that both men were a part of, Ferrers
and Fleetwood surely knew each other; both enjoyed the patronage of Robert
Dudley, earl of Leicester, although Fleetwood’s primary patron was William Cecil,
Lord Burleigh, while Fleetwood’s daughter Elizabeth married Sir Thomas Chaloner,
whose father, Thomas Chaloner the Elder, was one of Ferrers’ literary collaborators
and closest friends as well as the tutor for Leicester’s bastard son.  Yet another
connection between the two men was Thomas Sackville, Lord Buckhurst, one of the
participants in the Itinerarium discussion, who was also a contributor to later editions
of the perennially popular volume,
The Mirror For Magistrates, which featured
Ferrers as a substantial contributor.  Both Ferrers and Fleetwood had followed a
career trajectory common among the sons of the provincial gentry, studying law at
the universities before arriving in London to join one of the Inns of Court, which
functioned as finishing schools for the perennial waves of young men who came to
the capital city to find a place within Tudor political society.  For Ferrers and
Fleetwood, advancement came with the acquisition of a powerful patron- for Ferrers,
Thomas Cromwell, and for Fleetwood, Thomas Audley, both of whom had survived
the fall of their joint patron, Cardinal Wolsey.  But despite these similarities, these
two men were worlds apart in terms of career advancement.  Ferrers was charismatic,
vivacious, essentially apolitical, and lacking any overt or discernible religious
passions.  Instead, Ferrers was much more interested in being a successful courtier,
scholar, and literary artist rather than using his legal training to pursue an
administrative or judicial career.  
Like Ferrers, Fleetwood also was noted for his wit and his poetry, and he proved
successful in cultivating the patronage of the great rivals Leicester and Burleigh, as
Ferrers had earlier cultivated Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII, and Edward Seymour,
Duke of Somerset.  But in marked contrast to Ferrers, Fleetwood was a diehard
Puritan and a lifelong jurist whose religious convictions and legal training informed
both his world view and his understanding of the nature and purpose of history.  He
was born in and around 1525, or perhaps ten years later, the son of Robert Fleetwood
of Heskin in Lancashire.  The Lancashire Fleetwood’s did well in the Henrician land
grab that followed the dissolution of the monasteries, which undoubtedly provided
the resources to send Robert to Brasenose College, Oxford, for his legal training.  
Fleetwood left Oxford without taking a degree, and established himself in London
by the mid 1550s. This was a particularly tumultuous period of English history,
especially for a Protestant like himself, as the accession of Mary I, England’s first
ruling queen, whose primary goal as Queen was to reunite the English Church with
Rome, presaged a Counter-Reformation.  Nevertheless, Fleetwood rode out Mary’s
reign without incident as he aligned himself with two imposing and well entrenched
civic organizations, the Merchant Taylor’s Company, which admitted him as a
freeman in 1557, and the Middle Temple, where he was made an autumn reader in
1563.  The two positions nicely reinforced each other in Fleetwood’s professional life,
as the Merchant Taylor’s took advantage of his legal skills on a number of occasions
in the 1560s, employing him as steward for a number of the company’s manors all
over England, and retaining him as counsel in their suit against the Cloth Worker’s
Guild in 1565.  The measure of Fleetwood’s early legal success was his election to the
House of Commons for the borough of Marlborough in Mary’s final parliament in
1558.  Fleetwood subsequently served as a knight of the shire for Lancaster in
Elizabeth’s first two parliaments, and following his election as City Recorder of
London in 1972, he sat in all subsequent parliaments for the city until his retirement.  
Fleetwood also served as a justice of the peace for a number of shires spread all over
England over the course of his career.  
It was Fleetwood the magistrate that brought him the most notice from his
contemporaries.  Whether motivated primarily by religious passions or a fierce
dedication to the preservation of law and order, Fleetwood proved himself a vigorous
enforcer of the penal laws against vagrants, papists, and Jesuits.  As early as 1559,
when he served as a visiting ecclesiastical commissioner for parliament, he began to
establish a reputation for administrative thoroughness.  In 1576, in fact, he busted
into the Portuguese ambassador’s chapel to arrest supposed spies, which landed him
a short stay in the Fleet.  Nevertheless, his due diligence kept him in the good graces
of municipal government, which made him serjeant at law in 1580, while in 1588 he
prepared a report on the proceedings taken against Jesuits, and in the following year,
a treatise on the right of sanctuary for criminals in the churchyard of St. Paul’s
Cathedral, a textbook example of Fleetwood’s use of his scholarly training as a
historian and antiquarian for blatantly contemporary political purposes.  This of
course was known to his contemporaries, and Fleetwood was identified as “Leicester’
s mad recorder” in the scurrilous anti- Puritan tract,
Leicester’s Commonwealth.
But most of Fleetwood’s extant published work is hardly this exciting, consisting
mostly of dry legal commentaries, as well as the eight volume
The office of Justice of
the Peace
(1658) and a transcript of a public speech, titled “An Oration made at
Guildhall before the Mayor, concerning the late attempts of the Queen's Maiesties
evil seditious subjects,’ 15 Oct. 1571,” as well as verses added to Thomas Chaloner's
“De Republica Anglorum instauranda,” (1579), and William Lambarde's
‘Perambulation of Kent.” (1576)  But most of Fleetwood’s literary works remain in
manuscript form, such as ‘Observacons sur Littleton’ (Harl. MS. 5225), and “De Pace
Ecclesiæ,” which is no longer extant but mentioned in the preface to The office of
Justice of the Peace.  
And, of course, the
Itinerarium ad Windsor.  In this particular work, Fleetwood can be
seen to be advancing both the agenda of his patron , the Earl of Leicester, who comes
across in the Itinerarium as intellectually inquisitive, as well as the interests of his
queen, whom he considered to be enduring a particularly vulnerable period of her
reign, as an aging unmarried queen without a recognized successor.  Because
Fleetwood undoubtedly possessed compelling reasons for writing this work, it is
entirely possible that the dialogue described in the Itinerarium is a fictitious
fabrication, and we simply have to take Fleetwood at his word that this conversation
actually took place.  Some scholars, such as David Loades, have dismissed the
Itinerarium as politically motivated fantasy, while others, such as J.D. Alsop, while
allowing that the conversation may not have taken place, have nonetheless looked
for a more sophisticated explanation for Fleetwood’s motive behind its writing.  
When all these considerations are taken into account, the timing of the Itinerarium
seems highly auspicious for the message it creates.  1575 was the year of Kenilworth,
the nineteen day extravaganza thrown by Leicester for the Queen that represented
his final campaign to win Elizabeth’s hand in marriage.  In doing so, Leicester
deployed a team of A-list talents to write plays and passages, such as George
Gascoigne and George Ferrers, who wrote the lady of the lake’s oration which
greeted Elizabeth immediately upon her arrival.  But three months previous to
Kenilworth, in March, is when the Itinerarium’s conversation allegedly took place.  
Leicester comes off as grave and learned in the Itinerarium, while the historical
discussion of female rule built an argument that the Queen could hardly find fault
in, as Leicester inquired of Fleetwood and Sackville,

 why the Queene our mistris should have and execute the like
 and the same prerogative sand other regall preheminences as
 have bene given onely by Parliament unto Her Highenes’ most
  noble progenitors being kings . . . .

Fleetwood and Sackville’s dialogue can be seen as a prologue to Kenilworth,
building a rock solid legal justification for female rule as it creates an image of
Elizabeth’s queenship both autonomous and sovereign; as if to tell the Queen that
marrying Leicester would do nothing to compromise her royal authority in any way,
and allow her to become the “mother” to the heir that her kingdom so earnestly
desired from her.  Ironically, this was accomplished by a description of the events
leading up to Mary’s second parliamentary session, which met in the spring of 1554
and enacted both the queen’s marriage treaty to Philip of Spain, and the Act
Concerning Regal Power, which declared that ruling queens possessed the same
rights and privileges as their noble progenitors , the kings of England, as well as the
same limitations upon their prerogative.  This particular concern was engendered
when Mary was presented with a book that argued that because all the statutory
limitations placed upon English kingship only applied to kings, and not ruling
queens, Mary could assume the unencumbered royal prerogative of William the
Conqueror, and do ‘what she list.”  But according to Fleetwood, Mary was
unimpressed with this logic, and threw the book into the fire as her Lord Chancellor
drafted the legislation that became the Act Concerning Regal Power.  
This brings us to the matter of the individual who allegedly wrote this disingenuous
treatise and so incensed Queen Mary.  He was never identified by name, but,
according to the Itinerarium, the individual was Cromwell’s man, had done time in
the Fleet, been arrested upon Mary’s accession but was soon released, and although a
man “of no grete compass’ was nonetheless both skillful and wise.  While both James
Alsop and Dennis Moore have pondered the individual, “the chancellor of the
dukedom of Mediolum,” who delivered the treatise to the Queen, the individual
who actually wrote it remains to be identified.  I think it was George Ferrers.  This is
my case.  Ferrers first powerful patron was Cromwell, and in 1542 while sitting as MP
in the commons for Plymouth, he was arrested for debt, causing Henry VIII to make
his famous pronouncement of the theoretical relationship between king and
parliament as he affirmed the right of immunity from prosecution for sitting
members of parliament.  During Edward VI’s reign Ferrers later attached himself to
the Dukes of Somerset and Northumberland, from whom he enjoyed favor and
patronage, most notably his “reign” as Lord of Misrule over Edward’s final two
Christmas courts. . According to the online John Foxe project, Ferrers was arrested
shortly after Mary’s accession in August 1553 only to be present at her coronation two
months later.  The Following January Ferrers fought bravely for Mary during Wyatt’s
revolt.  However, Ferrers was also involved in writing essays for a volume entitled a
memorial of suche princes, the proto-type for the later Mirror For Magistrates, which
Stephen Gardiner censored prior to publication, in all likelihood because its primary
contributor was William Baldwin, a Protestant hot-head who had written a number
of anti-Catholic tracts during Edward’s reign.  The following year, Ferrers failed to
attend parliament after leveling some rather wild accusations against John Dee and
others for trying to forecast the date of the Queen’s death.  It is hard to understand
why Ferrers would have behaved like this unless it was seen as some kind of last
ditch attempt to regain favor with the Marian regime following the censorship of the
memorial and perhaps the ill advised treatise given to the Queen in the spring of
1554 that had upset her so.  Why Ferrers?  Ferrers possessed both the historical
knowledge and the legal training to write such a treatise- he had translated Magna
Carta into English back in 1534, and much later, during the 1571 parliamentary
session, Ferrers allegedly penned a tract in Latin outlining the English succession
from the Lancastrians and Yorkists down to Mary Queen of Scots, by then in
protective custody in the north of England.  It was during this session that Ferrers
and Fleetwood once again came face to face as both were appointed to the House
subsidy committee.  The reunion was probably not all that cordial, as Fleetwood was
determined to see Mary Queen of Scots brought to justice while Ferrers served as an
informant for John Leslie, Bishop of Ross, Mary’s chief agent in England.  If there
was any animosity between them, it was probably muted by the fact that both men
enjoyed Leicester’s favor, and four years later, both men were engaged in employing
their talents for Leicester’s political purposes, which is perhaps the reason why
Fleetwood chose to keep the identify of his Itinerarium mystery man a secret.

Why Elizabeth Never left England

The following paper was presented at the annual meeting of The Elizabeth I
Society, in conjunction with the South-Central Renaissance Conference, in
St. Louis Mo., in March 2011.

Like her siblings Edward VI and Mary I, Elizabeth I never left England to visit other
realms in the British Isles and the European continent during her reign.  It is
tempting to imagine what might have happened if Elizabeth had left England to visit
the larger world that lay beyond the island fortress that was her kingdom.  It is a
question akin to other, ultimately insoluble interpretive problems, such as the depth
of her religiosity or why she never married.  Similar to her unmarried state, the fact
that Elizabeth never left her realm was never a conscious, clear cut decision- it simply
worked out that way for a number of compelling reasons.
Following her accession (17 November 1558), Elizabeth was keenly aware of the
dangers she faced as queen. Like her sister Mary, the unmarried Elizabeth had no
direct heir, other than those designated in Henry VIII’s will.   While many of her
subjects celebrated her accession as a providentially sent English Deborah, to the
monarchs of Catholic Europe, Elizabeth was not a legitimate monarch.  Within
England, if her contemporaries agreed on anything, it was that an unmarried female
ruler needed much more help ruling her kingdom, and much more protection from
physical danger than any of her predecessors, the kings of England.   
Contemporaries also expressed great anxiety concerning what might happen if she
died prematurely, while there was utterly no consensus within Elizabethan political
society concerning who would wield the royal prerogative if the Queen were in any
way incapacitated or removed from the realm.   
Had Elizabeth stepped foot outside her kingdom, she would have had to appoint a
regent.  But whom could Elizabeth appoint that would have been acceptable to both
her Privy Council and her subjects at large?  Elizabeth lacked a consort as well as
adult male royal relatives.  This left either her chief nobles or her councilors.  Her
closest male relative, Thomas Howard, fourth duke of Norfolk, conservative in
religion and lacking the requisite leadership qualities, would have been a divisive
choice, while the only other preeminent noble choice, Henry Fitzalan, earl of
Arundel, was also unpalatable for similar religious predilections and political
limitations.  
This left her councilors.  Especially in the first few decades of the reign, William
Cecil, created Lord Burghley in 1571, whose social origins were from the middling
level of the gentry, would not have been acceptable to the nobility as a sole regent.  
Neither would royal favorite Robert Dudley, created Earl of Leicester in 1564, who
Elizabeth had wished to name as regent when she was stricken with and nearly died
from smallpox in 1562.  In other words, there was no one, either by birth, position, or
achievement, who towered even slightly above Elizabethan political society to serve
as a sole viceroy should there be an occasion for the queen to leave the realm.  This
situation actually suited Elizabeth nicely, as the queen had no desire for any
individual to play the role of either rising sun or her own winding sheet.   But while
the lack of a clear cut regent may have satisfied the queen’s taste in power dynamics,
it precluded her from quitting the realm.  
Elizabeth’s councilors considered even traveling to York to be risky venture,
considering the conservative religious climate in the northern shires, and Elizabeth
never ventured that far north.  When Elizabeth had expressed interest in a face to
face meeting with Mary Queen of Scots soon after her arrival in Scotland in 1562, her
council strongly opposed the measure.  Mary’s subsequent forced abdication in 1567
and flight to England the following year ended any chance of Elizabeth even visiting
her northernmost shires.  As a Catholic heir on English soil, Mary was in exactly the
same position as Elizabeth during her sister’s reign, a viable religious alternative to
the current occupant of the throne.  From this point on, Elizabeth never considered a
face to face meeting with Mary.  The Catholic threat to Elizabeth that Mary
represented was compounded by the Revolt of the Northern Earls in 1569 and the
issuance of the papal bull Regnans in Excelsis in 1570, which declared Elizabeth
deposed and absolved her Catholic subjects from their allegiance to her.  
One of the ways that Elizabeth could have neutralized Mary’s threat was by taking a
husband and bearing her own heirs, something her councilors, parliaments, and
subjects continuously urged upon her the first twenty five years of her reign.  
However, potential suitors needed to come to her, as she clearly stated that she would
not dream of marrying a man she had not seen, and it was hardly befitting a woman
to initiate courtship, even if she were a queen.   King Eric of Sweden begged to be
allowed to come to England in the early years of her reign, but Elizabeth refused.  
But Elizabeth did suggest that the Austrian Hapsburg Archduke Charles and the
French Duke Henri of Anjou come to England for her to meet, which both of these
potential suitors ultimately declined to do, though it is highly doubtful that
Elizabeth actually wanted them to make the visit.  When Spanish ambassador
Guzman de Silva teased Elizabeth that Charles might actually be in England as part
of the imperial entourage, Elizabeth nearly fainted.   Anjou’s younger brother,
however, Francis duke of Alencon and later Anjou, did come to England in 1579 and
1581 to pay court to a queen old enough to be his mother in a series of negotiations
that may have been the closest that Elizabeth ever came to actually marrying.    
So Elizabeth remained in England, exploiting her position as an entirely English
queen in both her domestic and her foreign policies.  Unlike her sister Mary, the
daughter of a foreign consort who married outside of the realm, Elizabeth
emphasized her position as entirely, or “mere” English as the daughter of both an
English father and mother.  As she informed her parliament of 1566,
Was I not borne of this realm?  Were my parents born in any
foreign country?  Is there any cause I should alienate myself
from being careful over this country?  Is not my kingdom here?
Unlike her sister or her cousin Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth could not count on
the support of powerful foreign relatives to bolster her position in England- she
literally had no choice but to court the popularity of her own subjects.  This process
began with her coronation procession of January 1559, in which Elizabeth’s active
engagement of the people of London who lined the streets to see their new queen set
in motion the creation of a widespread perception that she loved her people.   Her
stance as a “mere” English monarch, coupled with her seemingly lack of desire to
leave her realm, were policies fully consistent with the desires of her increasingly
xenophobic subjects at large, feelings exasperated by the religious polarizations of
the later sixteenth century.  Ten years into her reign, Spanish ambassador, Guerau de
Spes betrayed his frustrations with Elizabeth’s subjects as he observed that “the
English hate the very name of foreigner.”   In contrast, Elizabeth made sure foreign
correspondents, who often accompanied her on her summer progresses, were able to
see how much Elizabeth’s subjects esteemed her, which they could pass on to their
royal patrons back in Europe, a form of psychological weapon during the first
quarter century of Elizabeth’s rule, when England could not have successfully
rebuffed the efforts of European Catholicism to remove her from her throne.    By
1585, the Protestant king Henri of Navarre (later Henri IV of France) acknowledged
Elizabeth’s signal domestic advantages, “seeing that she is in a sure port, while
others are tossed at sea . . . “
Although she never left her kingdom’s shores, Elizabeth enjoyed her annual summer
progresses.  While she never traveled to certain areas in England, such as Yorkshire,
Cornwall, Devon, or to any place in Wales; she did visit twenty-five of the fifty-three
counties of her realm, in trips that averaged between forty-eight and fifty-two days.  
Elizabeth’s summer progresses were important forms of queenly multi-tasking,
placing part of the burden of maintaining her court on her well heeled subjects, who
vied for the opportunity to earn the prestige that came only with a successful and
satisfying royal visit and entertainment.   But as she travelled from town to town, she
showed herself liberally, accepting gifts, listening to orations, and speaking ex
tempore, inspiring loyalty in her subjects and allowing her to perform the kind of
political theatre that clearly brought her immense pleasure.  In 1568, the Spanish
ambassador reported,

She was received everywhere with great acclamations and great joy

as is customary in this country; whereat she was extremely pleased

and told me so, giving me to understand how beloved she was by

her subjects and how highly she esteemed this, together with the fact

that they were peaceful and contented, whilst all her neighbors on all

sides are in such trouble.   

Three years later, after the Ridolfi plot was uncovered, which planned to assassinate
Elizabeth and replace her with Mary Queens of Scots, Elizabeth refused to cancel her
summer progress, indicative of not only how important it was to her to both see and
be seen by her subjects, but for foreign observers to know this also.  
Elizabeth, in fact, received an overwhelmingly positive press from the foreign
ambassadors resident in her court.  As Nate Probasco has demonstrated, the drama
inherent in Elizabeth’s funeral like reception for the French ambassador, Bertrand de
Salignac de la Motte-Fénélon, following the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in 1572
was primarily meant to convey the queen’s attitude back to a royal audience back in
France, with predictable results on a rattled Charles IX, hardly Elizabeth’s equal in
the complexities of diplomacy.   Nearly twenty years later, Elizabeth staged an
impromptu performance for her court, occasioned by the ill-advised oration by a
Polish ambassador, who received a sound drubbing in ex tempore Latin that was
reported all over Europe, reminding her contemporaries of her princely majesty, even
in the last decade of her reign.   As Ilona Bell has noted, Elizabeth well knew that her
words to ambassadors were scrutinized in foreign courts- as the ambassadors recalled
their memories of their audiences with Elizabeth, the drama, spectacle, clothing, and
personality that surrounded Elizabeth’s words undoubtedly colored their responses
to their royal patrons.   
Given the relative novelty of female rule and England’s relative weakness against its
more powerful European neighbors, Elizabeth believed that some of her power and
safety for her kingdom came from the mystique that she created as a domestic icon
who never left her realm.  Within England that meant allowing more of her subjects
to see her and develop their loyalty.  Conversely, in her relations with other nations,
Elizabeth’s mystique came from not being seen.  Barely half a decade into her reign
Elizabeth’s fame as an autonomous ruling queen was such that she was visited by
the Swedish princess Cecilia, sister of Elizabeth’s spurned suitor King Eric, who
travelled land and sea while pregnant in order to meet the already legendary virgin
queen in person. Representations of Elizabeth as Solomon visited by Cecilia as the
Queen of Sheba seeking wisdom, underscored Elizabeth’s identification as a wise
and learned queen.   Henry VIII had also been represented as an English Solomon in
written texts and iconography, visited by the Queen of Sheba.   While Henry was the
Solomon who left his realm to consort with his fellow monarchs, Elizabeth was the
more authentic Solomon who remained in her kingdom for others to travel to and
partake of her wisdom.  As Linda Shenk has explained, Elizabeth’s developing
international persona as a learned queen encompassed an imperial image for
European consumption of a female Solomon superior in knowledge and virtue as
well as a champion for European Protestants.    
Images of Elizabeth were also exported to the European continent, in the form of
portraits as well as coins.  These forms of representation were perhaps the most far
reaching and influential.  Far more people saw the queen’s image than ever saw her
in person.  One result was that those abroad who had not seen Elizabeth very much
wanted to know if the portraits they saw were genuine likenesses of the queen.  Both
Thomas Radcliffe, earl of Sussex, and Frances, lady Cobham, assured the French
royal family that the images they saw were truly Elizabeth.  As Anna Riehl Bertolet
points out, Sussex and Cobham became “the ambassadors in whose power lies not
only the truthfulness of the image, but also the very formation of the concept of
Elizabeth’s real face in the viewer’s minds.”   
Elizabeth and her governments did their best to exercise control over how her image
was represented to the rest of the world, a not altogether successful task.    In 1598, a
German traveler, Paul Hentzner described the aged Elizabeth, “wrinkled . . . her teeth
black,“ wearing “false hair, and that red,” as an old woman.   In her court, however,
residents, including ambassadors, never officially recognized that the Queen was
subject to the aging process.  As the ageless icon of courtly love, Elizabeth’s portraits,
which circulated in the courts of Europe, also served to keep the image of Elizabeth
as eternally youthful.  Louis Montrose has described how Elizabeth’s image was
exported to chieftains in Ireland, while a Dutch representation from the 1580s
displays Elizabeth as Diana slaying Pope Gregory VII.   As Brandie Siegfried has
explained, the cleanup of the base elements of English and Irish coinage broadcast to
Europe and beyond not just the queen’s image, but the solvency of her finances, and,
by analogy, the vigor of her rule, without having to step foot out of her realm.   
Elizabeth’s contemporary image even made it to the new world, as Walter Raleigh
distributed coins stamped with Elizabeth’s image to the indigenous peoples of
Guiana in return for their “obeisance” to the Queen.   
Yet late in Elizabeth’s reign there was at least a whisper of a suggestion that Elizabeth
was willing to leave her realm if necessary.  In 1595 the English were greatly
concerned that Henri IV was considering a truce with Spain.  Diplomat Henry Unton
felt rather desperate at the cold reception the French king gave him, and “let him
know her majesty can be contented to come to a Conference with him . . . . or give
him any other convenient satisfaction.”   If Elizabeth had ever dreamed of visiting
the European continent, this occasion could have provided her with the opportunity
to do so.  But of course Elizabeth did not come to France to meet with Henri.  Like her
many offers to marry when the time was right earlier in her reign, at the end of it
Elizabeth stayed in England, her realm.


Elizabeth:  The Gender Queen

I wrote this paper for presentation at the annual meeting of the Elizabeth I
Society, which met in conjunction with the South Central Renaissance
Conference in Corpus Christi Texas, in March 2010.  Because I was unable to
attend, this paper was read for me by my friend and colleague, Catherine
"Cat" Howey Stearn.

How many of you consider gender to be a useful category of historical analysis?

Nearly a quarter of a century ago, feminist historian Joan Wallach Scott posed this question in
a groundbreaking article in the
American Historical Review.  As the interpretive wheel
continues to spin, increasing numbers of scholars are saying “no” to Scott.  This is quite a
change from my salad days as a graduate student, in the previous century, when gender
emerged as the methodological portal for feminist reinterpretations of the life and career of
Elizabeth I.  As this century unfolds, there has been an inevitable backlash.  In the works of
your friend and mine, Susan Doran, and, more recently, in Jeri McIntosh’s work on the pre-
accession households of Mary and Elizabeth Tudor, and a forthcoming edited volume on
Elizabeth and Mary by Anna Whitelock and Alice Hunt, the importance of gender as an
analytical tool for understanding Elizabeth has been subject to scholarly scrutiny concerning
its utility as an analytical category.

Like the rest of you, I am only interested in locating the objective truth wherever it may be
found.  However, I freely admit that I have invested heavily in the concept of gender as an
analytical quality, which I deployed with undisguised relish in my doctoral dissertation, and
revised, my first book,
The Lioness Roared:  The Problems of Female Rule in English History
(2006).  I was an enthusiastic convert t
o gender analysis, which I applied to studies on
the twelfth century Empress Matilda, Queen Mary I, the Stuarts queens Mary II and
Anne, Queen Victoria’s Bedchamber Crisis of 1839, and her current majesty, Queen
Elizabeth II.   It is in the introduction to
The Lioness Roared that I discuss the
relationship between gender and Elizabeth, where I make the rather bold claim that
explanations for Elizabeth’s successes and failures through time have reflected
changing perceptions of socially constructed gender roles for men and women in the
public spaces of civil and political societies.  The main difference I noticed between
Elizabethan histories and those of England’s other female rulers was that describing
the historical Elizabeth usually involves explaining, or arguing against, what is
usually considered a success story.  Yet whether toasting or trashing her
achievements, political historians in general have had difficulty squaring Elizabeth’s
success as Queen with the fact that she was a woman, subject to pressures to reconcile
acceptable female behavior with the office of king.  In fact, a number of eminent
scholars of Tudor history have identified this fundamental problem, but lacked a
methodology with which to pursue it.

Long before feminist scholars invented the term gender analysis, historians from the
Victorian era to the present day have been groping for a mode of analysis that
explains Elizabeth's success as a female ruler within the context of a male dominant
society.  Elizabeth, of course, ranks among England’s greatest monarchs.  However,
the most successful of the male kings of England; Henry II, Edward I, Henry V, or
Elizabeth’s own father and grandfather, do not have their successes explained as
unusual for the male gender.  Instead, it is implicit in historical studies that
successful male kings embodied male gendered virtues and abilities; only when less
successful male kings lost their thrones was there a discussion of their deficiency of
masculine kingly power.  In contrast, historians throughout the twentieth century
have moved towards the conclusion that Elizabeth’s mastery, or lack of it, had to be
explained within the context of her gender, that is, of how a woman was able to
confront, manipulate, and transcend the structures of male dominated politics.  This
process has been under a constant state of refinement among historians since the
Victorian era.

We will start with the Victorians.  Agnes Strickland, whose
Lives of the Queens of
England
was published over the course of the 1850s, lumped queens consorts and
queens regnants together.  So, Elizabeth was examined in the same historical context
as England’s queen consorts, and suffered in the comparison.  To Strickland’s
disapproving Victorian eye, Elizabeth displayed blatant masculine characteristics,
such as intellect, cunning, and energy, in effect transgressing acceptable female
behavior.   Strickland’s contemporary James Anthony Froude, in his five volume
The
Reign of Elizabeth,
also used contemporary notions of gender to knock Elizabeth off
the pedestal of historical greatness, minimizing her success by his emphasis on her
natural female failings; her indecisiveness, her distaste for military glory, as well as
her legendary temper.     

But if the Victorians disdained Elizabeth, twentieth century scholars, by and large,
fell in love with her, even when they had a hard time understanding her.  The noted
twentieth century Tudor scholar G.R. Elton considered the first truly modern
biography of Elizabeth to be Mandell Creighton’s,
Queen Elizabeth, published in
1899.  Unlike Strickland and Froude, Creighton set out to write a success story.  
However, in doing so, Creighton detached Elizabeth from any identification with
sixteenth century womanhood, contrasting Elizabeth’s abilities with those of her
siblings who preceded her on the throne; the underage Edward VI, “the prey of self-
seeking and unscrupulous adventurers,”  and the pathetic Mary I, “an appendage of
Spanish power.”(p. 29) Yet after negotiating the treacherous waters of her sibling’s
reigns, Elizabeth simply bursts on the scene in his narrative, as a Renaissance
Athena, “exceptionally fitted to occupy the post of ruler.” (p. 29)  Nevertheless,
Creighton’s Elizabeth is schizophrenic; references to her being a “Queen and a
woman” appear routinely throughout the text, without a clue to what the term “a
Queen and a woman” actually means. .  Has anyone ever heard a historian use the
term, “he was a king and he was a man?” Part of the problem was that Creighton was
unable to see one woman as queen moving through a variety of public and private
spaces, but a split personality constantly shifting between performing what he
perceived to be the contradictory roles of ruling queen and woman.   Thirty years
later, J. E. Neale, in his still influential
Elizabeth I (1934), also wrestled with the genie
of Elizabeth’s gender.  Neale's Elizabeth was also a success story, whose political
successes are explained by her ability to rise above her supposedly biological
imperfections as a woman.  Conversely, Elizabeth’s shortcomings as a monarch are
explained by other, unmistakably ‘natural’ feminine traits.  This model created
heightened dramatic contrast and complexity for Neale’s narrative, as he notes, “the
country had already made its first experiment of a woman ruler; it was anything but a
happy augury for the second.” (p. 63)  Neale delighted in contrasting Elizabeth’s
abilities with those conventionally assigned to women in post-Victorian social mores,
citing her superlative humanist education as the primary means by which she
overcame the natural limitations of her gender.  So far so good, but Neale could not
resist documenting initial disbelief, by chief minister William Cecil and Philip II of
Spain, that Elizabeth could rule effectively unaided, noting that “However they
disguised their belief, statesmen held government to be a mystery revealed only to
men.” (p. 67)  So bolstered by her rigorous education and keen mind, which was
capable of harnessing her feminine emotions, Neale’s Elizabeth emerged as the dark
horse who won the race between herself and the male politicians who wished to
dominate her.

Mid twentieth century political historians accepted Neale’s rather embryonic
gendered premises, but saw no need to expand upon them any further.   The earlier
noted G.R. Elton in his book
England Under the Tudors (1965) also had some
thoughts concerning Elizabeth’s greatness and its relationship to her gender, writing,
“Elizabeth’s character was of steel, her courage utterly beyond question, her will and
understanding of men quite as great as her grandfather’s and her father’s.  She was a
natural-born queen as her sister had never been- the most masculine of all the female
sovereigns of history.  At the same time she nourished several supposedly feminine
characteristics.” (p. 262)  Elton went on to note that “Her parsimony has already been
explained as the careful housekeeping of a poor queen”, a gendered reference to a
woman’s ‘natural’ abilities at housekeeping.   Yet Elton, noting the very same
qualities in Elizabeth’s grandfather Henry VII, saw no need to apply any gendered
quality to his assessment of the parsimonious first Tudor.  But to any problems that
Elizabeth faced because of her gender, Elton is nearly silent, making one more
reference to the gendered qualities of her rule:

Tudor rule depended in the first place on a full, even fulsome,
recognition of the prince as the visible embodiment of the state.  
Elizabeth maintained this tradition by carefully cultivating her
own appeal as a queen and a woman. (p. 382)

Like Crieghton’s, Elton’s Elizabeth was a split personality, torn between queen and
woman; as he concluded his brief discussion of the topic:  “What really matters, of
course, is Elizabeth’s ability in politics- her standing as a Queen rather than her
pretty obvious failings as a woman.”  (p. 262)  

But in the final two decades of the twentieth century, an interpretive shift began to
develop.  In his 1988 work,
Elizabeth I, Christopher Haigh concocted a form of
historical affirmative action, and considered the particular problems Elizabeth faced
as a female ruler:

The reign of Elizabeth saw a constant testing of the political power
and the political skills of the Tudor monarch.  Her task could hardly
have been more difficult.  And she had to achieve all this despite an
appalling political handicap; she was a woman in a man’s world. (p. 171)

Haigh’s Elizabeth is much less the success story, his interpretation suggests it was her
gender that held her back from total success, portraying Elizabeth as a conservative,
suspicious, high wire act, whose very survival was the rational end in itself.  As
Haigh injected a thoughtful consideration of gender into Elizabethan political
studies, feminist historians had already begun to reassess Elizabeth’s performance
within the context of gender analysis.  This analytic shift also questioned the
Elizabeth as success story model; in a ground breaking 1980 article in
Feminist
Review
, historian Alison Heich lambasted Elizabeth for her nonfeminist
accommodation to male dominant political structures.   In response, Susan Bassnet,
in her work,
Elizabeth I:  A Feminist Perspective (1988) argued that understanding
contemporary notions of gender present in Tudor society were crucial to interpreting
Elizabeth’s responses to the encroachments of a male dominant political society to
her prerogative.   In doing so, Bassnet implicitly accused historians from Strickland
to Neale of presentizing their own contemporary notions of gender and imposing
them upon their assessments of Elizabeth’s performance.  

Two works of the early 1990s, Susan Frye’s
Elizabeth I:  The Competition for
Representation
(1993), and Carole Levin’s The Heart and Stomach of a King (1994),
aptly represent the marriage of social and political history that Bassnet advocated.   
Discarding the dichotomy between success and failure that had long dominated
Elizabethan historiography, Frye and Levin’s lines of inquiry explored topically the
various significant gendered aspects of Elizabeth and her rule.  In Frye’s work, the
symbolism inherent in public spectacles and literary allegories is deconstructed to
illustrate the complicated gendered pressures Elizabeth faced over the course of her
reign.  While political historians identified Elizabeth’s chief problems as marriage
and succession, the Protestant religious settlement, Mary, Queen of Scots, and the
continental religious polarizations that led to war with Spain, Frye uncovered a
constant battle, over the course of her entire reign, between Elizabeth and her
ministers, parliaments, and politically concerned male subjects to construct an
effective representation of female kingship.  Carole Levin also uncovered potent
evidence to demonstrate how Elizabeth’s efforts to maintain her authority as a female
king were an ongoing, career-spanning process.  Levin attempted to deliver on what
was only hinted at in Creighton or Neale, and ignored in Elton, namely how
Elizabeth was able to reconcile being a queen and a woman.  In Levin’s analysis,
Elizabeth erected a formidable arsenal of tactics to ward off the numerous competing
pressures present in sixteenth century English society that were antagonistic to
female rule, as she detailed Elizabeth’s efforts to counter the enormous pressure to
marry by constructing herself as king and queen simultaneously.  In reaching this
theoretical threshold, Levin reassembled the Elizabeth of Creighton, Neale, and
Elton, torn between being a queen and a woman.  But this process was complicated
and contradictory.  As Levin noted, taking on visual and symbolic aspects of
kingship and queenship tended to confuse a society unused to such gender-bending
tactics.

In the works of both Levin and Frye, a facet of Elizabeth’s reign which previous
scholars only hinted at emerges, of an Elizabeth keenly aware of paternalistic
attempts to undermine her authority, and her own ability to adapt socially
constructed gender roles, male and female, to bolster the unstable authority of a
female king.  Indeed, Frye’s and Levin’s most potent contribution to Elizabethan
historiography is the notion that Elizabeth had to work much harder than her male
predecessors; to mitigate deeply embedded social antagonisms to female rule, and to
construct sometimes contradictory representations of appropriate modes of female
rule for public consumption.  This process preoccupied Elizabeth's entire reign, and
overlay all of the major problems identified in conventional political histories