I presented this paper at the Princes Consort in History Conference,  Friday 16 December
2011, Chancellor's Hall, Senate House, University of London, hosted by the Institute of
Historical Studies.

2011 is the 150th anniversary of the death of Prince Albert and also the 90th birthday of Prince
Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

In collaboration with the Society for Court Studies, the Institute of Historical Studies brought
together a range of international historians to look at the peculiar yet influential institution of
the male royal consort from Ferdinand of Castile through to the famous examples of the 18th
century such as Prince George of Denmark, and onto contemporary personalities in western
Europe. Our interest lies in studying how male partners of female monarchs have had and used
power, how gender affected their perceived role, what sort of court and political influence they
were able to wield and attract, how they often defined themselves in distinctive spheres of the
arts or war, and more generally, the extent to which they contributed to the changing ideal and
reality of royal families and dynasties over the centuries.

It does not seem all that strange to us today that Prince George of Denmark served as an
unofficial male consort to his wife Queen Anne, the last of the Stuart monarchs in Britain,
during the first decade of the eighteenth century.  After all, for nearly sixty years we have
grown accustomed to Prince Philip of Greece, the Duke of Edinburgh, walking dutifully
but not quite so comfortably behind his wife Elizabeth II, a Queen who reigns serenely
without any apparent need for a king by her side, even though she has a husband whom
she clearly loves and cherishes.  The Duke’s role is singular, highly visible, and ultimately
essential to the maintenance of the monarchy, but it nonetheless remains an informal one,
something akin to an American first lady, or gentleman, should we Americans ever elect a
woman as our president.
Philip’s role as an informal consort to a regnant queen is based upon precedents derived
from the career of his and his wife’s joint ancestor, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.  
Prince Albert also served as an informal male consort for seventeen of the twenty-one years
he was married to Queen Victoria, although he was formally created Prince Consort by
letters patent in 1857, a status none of the governments of her present majesty, going all the
way back to Winston Churchill, has seen fit to bestow upon the Duke of Edinburgh.  It is a
fair assumption that both Prince Albert and Prince Philip would have been much happier
with a more formalized role, like say a king consortship, the gendered equivalent to the
status enjoyed by the wives of reigning British kings, who are anointed and crowned as
kings, and share their husband’s thrones.  In Albert’s case, it was the precedent of Prince
George of Denmark that Whig Prime Minister Viscount Melbourne gently deployed in
order to sway Victoria from her initial desire to have her husband share the royal dignity
with her.  
I know what you all are thinking right now- but if you are expecting me to reveal to you
now what the precedent was that determined that Prince George of Denmark should not be
a King of England , well, there isn’t one.  In fact, if we look back in time from Queen Anne’s
reign, and examine the precedents surrounding the husbands of previous regnant queens,
like Prince Philip, later King Philip II of Spain, and Prince William of Orange, later King
William III of England, then what happened to Prince George of Denmark emerges as a
rather striking break with precedent that, in turn, hardened into a more enduring one that
served to prevent both Prince Albert and Prince Philip from sharing their wives thrones as
king consorts.
As I have argued elsewhere, regnant queenship is in fact a form of kingship, which has
made it difficult, both in theory and in practice, to recognize the husbands of female kings
also as kings.   This problem first reared its ugly head during the reign of the mid- sixteenth
century monarch Mary I, England’s first regnant queen.  Because she had been successively
statutorily bastardized and then restored to the succession by her father, Henry VIII, Mary
came to the throne at the age of 38 as an unmarried woman.  According to the developing
political theory known as the “king’s two bodies,” Mary had unmistakably inherited the
eternal body politic of kingship in the same fashion as her noble progenitors, the kings of
England.  This resulted in a form of gender confusion, as the term queen had previously
only been used to describe consorts, the wives of kings, and not the holder of the kingly
office.  Nevertheless, Mary’s contemporaries could not figure out anything else to call her
but Queen.  For the first year of her reign, in fact, Mary was king and queen all at the same
time.  But that was her body politic; it was up to Mary’s flesh and blood body natural to
propagate the Tudor dynasty through the female line, and create a Catholic succession to
secure her endeavor to repeal the Henrician and Edwardian Reformations and reunite the
English Church with Rome.  For this she need a husband, and Philip was drafted primarily
for this reason, although the marriage also revived the old Anglo- Burgundian alliance that
dated back to the Yorkist king Edward IV, which made the marriage worth it to Philip’s
father, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.  But negotiating the marriage was difficult, for the
Queen and her negotiators were anxious not to part with a shred of the royal prerogative.  In
the final draft of the marriage contract, ratified as statute in the parliamentary session of
spring 1554, Philip was forbidden from undertaking any kind of formal role in his wife’s
government, nor was he given a farthing for the establishment of his own royal household.  
Despite these rather emasculating terms, the contract did bow to the dictates of sixteenth
century European patriarchy, as it gave Philip the courtesy title of King as well as
precedence over his wife in their official documents and pronouncements.  However, at the
same time parliament ratified another statute, an Act Concerning Regal Power, which clearly
defined a regnant queen as the same political substance as a king, rendering Philip’s
kingship a rather unstable and ill-defined public role.  When Mary died childless in 1558,
Philip’s kingship terminated, as Mary’s successor, Elizabeth I, sidestepped the issue of
figuring out what the official status and role of any of her prospective husbands might be,
leaving Philip and Mary’s marriage treaty as the sole statutory pronouncement and
precedent regarding this issue.
The issue became salient once again more than a century later during the reign of the Stuart
King Charles II.  Charles had been unable to produce legitimate heirs with his queen
Catherine of Braganza, making his younger brother James, Duke of York, his heir
presumptive.  York in turn had two daughters, Mary and Anne, with his first wife Anne
Hyde, and thus far no surviving issue from his second wife, Mary of Modena.  Despite his
private inclinations towards Catholicism, and his clandestine dealings with King Louis XIV
of France, Charles II found it expedient to find protestant husbands for his nieces.  The
elder, Mary, sobbed wildly as he marched down the aisle with her first cousin, the Dutch
Stadtholder Prince William of Orange in 1677.  Although he was not impressive physically,
William was a forceful, dynamic, and capable politician and military leader, a leading figure
in the government of the Dutch United Provinces, who spent most of his life trying to rein
in the expansionist policies of Louis XIV.  
He was, in fact, the polar opposite of his brother-in-law, Prince George of Denmark, a
younger brother of Danish King Christian V, who married Anne in 1683.  Quite unlike
William of Orange, who was obsessed with his and his wife’s prospective succession rights
in England, Prince George, who came to reside in England with Anne as Mary did for
William in Holland,  never expressed any interest in the idea of sharing his wife’s throne
should she become queen one day.  As the decade of the 1680s progressed, such a
possibility became less and less remote, as it became clear that the childless William and
Mary would not be propagating a Protestant Orangeist line of succession, which made Anne
and George the dynastic saviors who would create a Protestant Stuart succession through
the female line.  Sadly, and despite seventeen pregnancies, none of George and Anne’s
children was able to survive the rigors of childbirth, infancy, and childhood.  Nevertheless,
over the course of the 1680s, Anne’s thoughts continued to wax dynastic, but unlike her
sister, who would not consider ascending the throne without her husband, Anne never gave
any indication that she might like to share her future throne with her husband.  
Nevertheless, George had an important role to play, whether he liked it or not, in the public
and all-male spheres of war and government.  Following Charles II’s death in 1685 and the
accession of the Catholic James II, the Stuart sisters Mary and Anne stood second and third
in line to the English and Scottish thrones.  But because they were women, they could not
enjoy the kind of public roles, offices, and honors that royal male heirs had always
enjoyed.  So George played the role of proxy for his wife, becoming a garter knight,
obtaining his own military regiment, inspecting military installations with Samuel Pepys,
and relax with John Churchill, the future Duke of Marlborough, whose wife Sarah was
Anne best friend.
What was clear to everyone who knew him was that Prince George possessed serious
liabilities as a future consort to a ruling queen.  While he was personable and amiable
around those who knew him, in public he was notoriously if not pathologically shy.  He
never overcame a rather thick Danish accent, and he had no real ambitions or discernible
talents of any sort; he liked to hang out, play cards, drink wine, ale, and brandy, consume
prodigious amounts of food, and gossip.  George shared many of these same pursuits with
his wife, and the couple gave every indication of having enjoyed an affectionate and
companionate relationship over the course of their twenty five year marriage.  Quite unlike
the rest of the men in the Stuart royal family, noted philanderers all, there was never the
slightest hint of any sexual infidelities on George’s part.  
In marked contrast to her husband’s utter lack of desire for power and influence in any
form, Anne was both motivated and vigilant concerning her own dynastic prospects.  Anne,
in fact, was the dominant partner in their marriage, a situation George never tried to
challenge, which perhaps explains the secret behind their two and a half decades of
uninterrupted domestic bliss.  
In fact, it seems that the women who populated the Stuart court appreciated Prince George
much more than men did.  Anne esteemed her husband until the day he died, while Sarah
Churchill, who rarely had anything nice to say about anybody, had mostly only positive
things to say about George, especially concerning his fierce sense of loyalty to his friends
and family.  But the men in the Stuart royal family universally despised him, undoubtedly
because his utter lack of either talent or ambition.  Charles II once quipped that drunk or
sober, George had nothing inside of him, and that was about the nicest thing that any male
member of the Stuart royal family had to say about him.  James II had little use for his son-
in law, and tolerated his presence at court grudgingly.  Three years into his reign, in 1688,
James disrupted the delicate power relations that existed between himself and his daughters
and sons in law, when his wife, Mary of Modena, had the audacity to conceive and gave
birth to a male child.  This blessed event forecast a Catholic succession as it sidelined the
succession hopes of William and Mary as well as Anne, who absented herself from
witnessing the birthing so she could later allege that her step-mother had given birth to a
dead child and substituted a warming pan baby, a rather ingenuous if not cynical ploy to
deny the infant Prince of Wales his succession rights, and justify a Protestant Succession to
follow James on the throne.  After the “Immortal Seven,” a group of prominent Protestants,
invited William to come over to England with a sizeable army to “help” King James resolve
his disagreements with his subjects, Prince George was with his father-in-law in Salisbury
as the king’s army evaporated before his very eyes.  George apparently had a habit of
exclaiming “est il possible?” whenever he heard something startling; when King James was
informed that George had joined the exodus to William that was hemorrhaging his army, he
tartly replied, “what- est il possible gone too?  After all, a good trooper would have been a
greater loss.”  After James fled to France and exile, effectively vacating his throne, a
convention of estates considered what to do to resolve this unprecedented constitutional
By the time Mary arrived in England to join her husband in January 1689, the Convention
had already decided to disinherit the Prince of Wales, but they were not exactly sure who
was to succeed to James II’s vacant throne.  As we have seen, the only relevant precedent
was that of Philip and Mary, which had no appeal for the Princess of Orange, who wished
to share her throne with her husband, and William, who privately demanded the sole
exercise of the royal prerogative for the remainder of his life.  In February 1689, the
Convention invited William and Mary to take the throne as joint monarchs, after they
agreed to a number of limitations upon the royal prerogative as listed in the Declaration of
Right, which brought to a conclusion the series of events known popularly as the Glorious
One notable non-participant in these proceedings was Prince George of Denmark.  His
singular position as Anne’s political proxy certainly should have afforded him access to
those high level meetings and debates that shaped the outline of the Revolution settlement,
in which, for the second time in early modern English history, England had a regnant queen
and a king all at the same time.  But George was not there, unable or unwilling to impress
upon his contemporaries the obvious analogy between William and himself, and obtain
acceptance to ascend the throne jointly with his wife, who was now William and Mary’s
heiress presumptive.
Instead, John Churchill represented Anne’s interests during the Convention.  But Anne was
never happy with her place in the Stuart succession, and relations between Anne and
William and Mary soon soured, to the point that in 1691 Anne and Mary stopped speaking
to each other over Anne’s refusal to dismiss Sarah Churchill from her household, a situation
that remained unresolved upon Mary’s untimely death in December of 1694.  To William
and Mary, Anne was a troublesome female Clarence accompanied by a Falstaff with a thick
Danish accent.  Nevertheless, she remained their heir, and George continued to serve as
Anne’s proxy, created Duke of Cumberland, attending William’s Privy Council, and later
serving on the Council of Nine, which assisted Mary in ruling the kingdom while William
was periodically fighting the Nine Years War on the continent.  These appointments
indirectly acknowledged Anne’s position as heir, but they were also made under the
assumption that George would just sit there, keep his mouth shut, and not do anything to
embarrass himself, although William and Mary well knew that George would return home
and give a full report of the proceedings, chapter and verse, to his wife.  
Indeed, the enmity between William and Mary and Anne provided an additional
dimension to George’s role as proxy, as he served as his wife’s whipping boy.  William was
particularly brutal to George, refusing to allow him to ride in his coach during the 1690 Irish
campaign, and forbidding him to volunteer for service in the navy the following year.  
William’s antipathy was undoubtedly based upon George utter lack of talent or motivation,
and, unable to attack Anne directly, his fury fell upon George, who nevertheless did his
best to try to heal the breaches within the Stuart royal family.
But the need for George to play the role of political proxy evaporated after William died
after being thrown from his horse, in March 1702. It remains a great irony that until the
moment they ascend the throne, regnant queens were unable to perform any public roles or
hold formal offices or appointments reflective of their status as heirs.  As we have seen,
George performed such roles and enjoyed such appointments on behalf of his wife, but
when Anne’s sunshine day finally arrived, she ascended her throne alone.  It is not perfectly
clear how or why this happened, so this is what I have conjectured.  The previous year,
following the tragic death of the eleven year old Duke of Gloucester, Anne and George’s
only child to survive infancy, Parliament felt compelled to reinforce certain provisions of
the Bill of Rights in the Act of Settlement, which settled the crown on the House of
Hanover, Protestant descendants of James I, to forestall any attempt by the Catholic prince
of Wales to succeed to the English and Scottish thrones.  As the Act reiterated Anne’s
position as William’s heir, it also remained silent upon the issue of what status George of
Denmark would enjoy upon his wife’s accession.  Obviously, one of the few points that
William and Anne probably saw eye to eye on was that George should not be king, and it
had obviously been worked out before hand that George would be on the sidelines as Anne
ascended her throne alone.
But even though Anne had inherited the kingly office, she did so as a woman who was also
a wife.  As she endeavored to create the perception that she was a good queen, she was also
concerned that her subjected perceived her as a good wife.  Good wives are always generous
to their spouses, so in lieu of a shared crown, Anne heaped a number of honorific offices
upon her husband to atone for the fact George no longer shared her status, but was, as
George himself declared, merely her majesty’s subject.  The tragedy here is that the only
discernible interest George ever displayed was for military affairs, but by the time he
became Lord High Admiral and Generalissimo of all English landed forces, he was too old
and sick to play any kind of role in the War of the Spanish Succession, which had just
commenced.  But even these creations could not completely silence contemporary comment
concerning the disparity in status between Anne and her husband, which constituted an
exceptional detour from contemporary rules and expectations regarding marital status.  In
fact, during Anne’s first parliament, an anonymous pamphlet circulated urging parliament
to make George a King Consort for just these reasons, and apparently, there were some
closed door discussions between the Queen and her ministers regarding taking such a step.  
But the idea never made it to the floor of Parliament for discussion, for ultimately Anne
decided that George should not share her throne with her.  But Anne still wanted her
subjects to know how much she esteemed her husband, lobbying successfully for an
£100,00 annuity for George in case he outlived her, because, as Bishop Gilbert Burnet of
Salisbury explained,

She thought it became her, as a good wife, to have the act passed, in which
she might be the more earnest, because it was not thought advisable to move
for an act that should take Prince George into the consortship of the royal dignity.

This decision simply made a lot of sense.  Anne possessed the monarchical ability to get in
front of people and get things done, but George did not.  He would have been as effective
as the Lancastrian Henry VI, a monarch with a decided lack of kingly resolve, and it was
this factor that, in all likelihood, overrode the glaring social displacement inherent in the
spectacle of a woman enjoying a public role and status not shared by her husband.  There is
no evidence that George of Denmark objected to any of these decisions that, for most men
of his age and class, could be considered a humiliating form of emasculation.  Yet George
simply pretended that this was not the case at all, and, until his death in 1708, appeared by
the side of his sovereign wife, both cheerful and deferential.  It was in the performance of
this one public role, that of an informal consort to his wife, that Prince George of Denmark
excelled, so much so that the experience hardened into what appears to us today as a curious
yet durable precedent.  


When in late 2011 David Cameron’s government secured the assent of the various
commonwealth nations for a law legalizing gender parity in the British succession, as well as
allowing the monarch to be married to a Roman Catholic, or any other religion, it was one of
those very rare moments in British history when legislation was passed directly affecting the
monarchy.  For those of us who pay attention to such matters, this was a constitutional watershed,
involving changes to the 1689 Bill of Rights and the 1701 Act of Settlement, statutes which had
effectively subsumed the lex coronae, or the law of the crown, into the fabric of a constitution that
implicitly recognized parliament’s ability to enact legislation affecting the monarchy and its
ability to get the monarch to sign it into law.  
But these are extremely rare instances; for the past twelve or thirteen hundred years, English and
British Kings and Queens managed their estate, wielded their office, and left their thrones to their
legitimate heirs with very little help from either the common or statute law, even on those rare
occasions when the monarch was deemed unfit to rule or were tossed off their throne.  More
recently, the transition to constitutional monarchy has been accomplished with precious little
resort to statute, as effective control of the “body politic” of kingship passed from the monarch’s
body natural to that modern abstraction known as the “crown.”  In fact, many of the powers and
prerogatives outlined so famously in Bagehot’s Constitutional History, developed independently
of any legal or constitutional process.  
In the main, statutory changes to the monarchy can be divided into two main groupings,
concerning who should be king (or queen), and what powers they may wield.  The first category,
who should be king, was, for most of British history, decided by a revolving door of mechanisms,
such as election, heredity, right of conquest, and statutory title, the final victor in the modern era.  
Under the Anglo-Saxons, whose kings were primarily military leaders, lineage was important, but
ability trumped primogeniture, making royal minorities and female rulers extremely rare in the
various Anglo-Saxon heptarchy kingdoms of the early middle Ages.  By the time Wessex had
subsumed the Dane law and the rest of the heptarchy kingdoms in the tenth century, heredity
began to take hold as a serious determinant, with the result of boy kings like Edgar and
Aethelred.  But on two pivotal events of the eleventh century, conquest reigned supreme with the
successful invasions of Canute and William the Conqueror, who both displaced a native English
king with themselves.  For the Normans, the guiding principle regarding the succession was
might equals right, although Henry I tried to leave his dominions to his only legitimate heir, his
daughter Matilda, whose claims were set aside by her cousin Stephen, whose 1135 election was
essentially a repeat of Henry I’s in 1100.  
One of the strategies that both Henry I and Stephen pursued in order to secure their elections
was to issue a charter of liberties, outlining what the Church and their lay subjects could expect
from them if they were to be made king.  Both kings failed to honor the terms of their charters,
whose true legacy was to create this idea of a contractual relationship between king and church
and king and subjects.  But we will set that thought aside for a moment as we continue with our
discussion of who should be king.
According to William Fleetwood, historian, legal scholar, and city recorder of London during
the reign of Elizabeth I, the first instance when the crown met the constitution was with the
drafting of the 1153 Treaty of Westminster, concluded between the Norman King Stephen and his
young cousin, Henry Plantagenet, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine and Count of Anjou, the
eldest son and heir of the afore-mentioned Matilda, in which Stephen recognized Henry as his
heir in England.  Now Fleetwood was writing in the sixteenth century, after the triumph of statute
law had transformed England into an empire and its monarch as head of the church.  The context
in which Fleetwood was discussing this particular Treaty of Winchesterwas in the text of a
provocative rhetorical dialogue, The Itinerarium ad Windsor, in which Fleetwood, Thomas
Sackville, Lord Buckhurst, and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, discuss and debate the question
of why a woman by the title of queen should enjoy the same power and prerogatives as their
noble progenitors, kings of the realm.  Now in arguing so, Fleetwood was attempting to impose a
sixteenth century understanding upon this treaty, which, because it had been drafted in
consultation with the leading barons and bishops, he considered to possess the force of statute.  
Of course today, when we open up a dusty old copy of volume one of the Statutes of the Realm,
the first one listed is Magna Carta, not the Treaty of Winchester.  But to Fleetwood, the Treaty of
Westminster was a constitutional first, as it expounded a female inclusive rule of primogeniture
that firmly established the right of women to inherit the English crown, as well as the right of
barons and bishops to be a party to such a momentous decision.
But for the remainder of the Middle Ages, with the advent of statute law in the late thirteenth
century, parliamentary attempts to modify the succession were often hit and miss.  Admittedly,
there were few occasions where there were any disputes regarding the succession, which from
Henry II until Richard II succeeded by a system of male primogeniture.  The occurrence of five
royal minorities between 1216 and 1483 was also accomplished without resort to statute, as were
the forced abdications of Edward II in 1327 and Richard II in 1399. Richard II’s supplanter, Henry
IV of the House of Lancaster, was essentially elected king, as the superior dynastic claims of
Richard II’s designated heir, the youthful Earl of March, were swept aside.  Henry IV remained
insecure about his title, prompting the 1406 passage of a first ever Act of Succession, entailing the
crown to Henry’s lineal and collateral heirs, male and female.  Perhaps if the Lancastrians had
been able to perpetuate a line of capable kings they could have maintained this statutory title, but
the utter incapacity of Henry VI, the third and final Lancastrian king, revived the March claim, in
the person of Richard, Duke of York, who overawed a 1460 meeting of parliament that modified
the 1406 succession statute, and vested the succession in the House of York, employing the same
compromise hammered out three hundred years earlier in the Treaty of Westminster.  The House
of York in turn saw its statutory rights trampled following the traumatic deposition of twelve year
old Edward V in 1483, as his uncle and supplanter, Richard III, signed into law the Titulus
Regius, which declared the children of Richard’s brother, Edward IV, the first Yorkist king, as
illegitimate and unfit to inherit.  This would not be the last statute to make such a declaration.
In turn, when Richard fell of his horse at the Battle of Bosworth, and the crown passed to his
supplanter, Henry Tudor, another less than hereditary monarch decided that he also needed his
own Act of Succession, which his first parliament dutifully passed, after repealing Richard III’s
Titulus Regius, which had bastardized Elizabeth of York, who subsequently became Henry VII’s
queen.  But with the accession of Henry VIII in 1509, whose royal person united the claims of
Lancaster and York, there was no need for any statutory pronouncements concerning the
succession, at least until Henry summoned the Reformation Parliament in 1529, which, for the
next seven years, legislated the Break with Rome, recognized the king as Supreme Head of the
Church, and created an independent English Church that annulled his marriage to Catherine of
Aragon, who had borne him a daughter, Mary, in 1516, and married him to Anne Boleyn, who
borne him a second daughter, Elizabeth, in 1533.  
Now there may not have been a Tudor revolution in government, but there definitely was a
Tudor revolution in succession statutes.  Henry’s preference was for a male heir, nevertheless, in
early 1534, parliament passed the First Henrician Act of Succession, which disinherited Henry’s
eldest daughter Mary and vested the succession in the children, male or female, of Anne Boleyn.  
The Act also required all loyal subjects to swear an oath recognizing the invalidity of the king’s
first marriage and the right of Anne Boleyn’s children to inherit.  Henry’s quest for a male heir
continued after Anne Boleyn’s execution for a variety of trumped up charges, and parliament
remained responsive to the King’s statutory needs, enacting a second Act of Succession in 1536,
after the King had married Jane Seymour but before she had given birth to the future Edward VI,
which reiterated Mary’s bastardization as it did the same for Elizabeth while vesting the
succession in Henry and Jane’s heirs, male or female, or any other heirs Henry deigned to
designate.  As Edward was the last of Henry’s children, male or female, by 1543 Henry reluctantly
agreed to reinstate Mary and Elizabeth in the line of succession in a Third Act of Succession, even
though they remained statutory bastards.  Beyond Henry’s own children, the third act ignored the
superior dynastic claims of the Stuarts, heirs of Margaret Tudor, Henry’s elder sister as it vested
the succession in the heirs of Henry’s younger sister Mary, Duchess of Suffolk.  The Act also gave
statutory force to Henry’s last will and testament, which outlined a corporate form of a minority
government to rule for his underage successor Edward VI.  
These final Henrician succession statutes occupy an ambiguous place in English constitutional
history.  As soon as Henry was dead, the force of the will was seemingly overturned by Edward’s
letters patent, which created a powerful Lord Protectorship for his uterine uncle, Edward
Seymour, Duke of Somerset.  However, as I have argued elsewhere, the will came back into force
once again following the coup d’état that toppled Somerset, as John Dudley, later created Duke of
Northumberland, returned the minority government outwardly to the corporate format outlined
in the will even as he dominated the remainder of the reign as Lord President of the Council.
But the Third Act of Succession did not fare nearly as well.  Edward’s successor, the Catholic and
unmarried Mary I, was determined to provide her own Catholic heir to succeed her.  To do this
she needed a husband, choosing her Hapsburg cousin, Prince Philip of Spain.  The prospect of
this marriage created an ambiguous constitutional position for the Queen, concerning the status
of her future husband’s relationship to her royal prerogative.  Parliament dealt with this situation
just prior to the marriage by enacting the Act for the Queen’s Power, which stated that a ruling
queen enjoyed the same powers and prerogatives, and were subject to the same limitations, as
their noble progenitors, kings of the realm.  This statute provided a bolster to the authority of
Elizabeth I, Mary’s successor, who, over the course of her long reign, refused to marry.  Elizabeth
compounded this dynastic uncertainty by successfully evading parliamentary attempts to pass an
Elizabethan Act of Succession.  Elizabeth had no desire to gaze upon the rising sun while she
lived, but in the end she smoothed the way for James VI of Scotland, in direct defiance of the
Third Act, which Elizabeth had effectively allowed to fall into abeyance.  
While the Tudors did much to advance the scope of statute law, the seventeenth century Stuarts
were divine right kings, with little patience or understanding for the power of parliament,
especially in regards to the succession.  We see this most clearly in the attitude of Charles II,
restored to the English and Scottish thrones in 1660 following the trauma of the Civil War and the
experiment of the Republic, when, in the final years of his reign, he waged a successful attempt to
block the Whigs in Parliament from enacting a statute excluding his Catholic brother and heir,
James, Duke of York, from the succession.  But Charles II’s victory in the Exclusion crisis was the
last gasp of a truly hereditary succession.  James II duly ascended the throne, in 1685, and duly
slid off of it three years later, fleeing to France following the successful invasion of his Protestant
Dutch son-in-law Prince William of Orange, who ascended the throne alongside his wife.  Now,
because the Stuarts considered themselves divine right monarchs, they saw little utility in
succession statutes.  So, according to the normal rules of a female inclusive rule of primogeniture,
Mary Stuart, the Princess of Orange, James II’s elder daughter, was the hereditary heir, since the
son born to James II and his queen, Mary of Modena, was deemed to be an imposter, a warming
pan baby, and unfit to inherit, the legal fiction that made the Glorious Revolution settlement
possible.  Mary, however, would not dream of ascending the throne without her husband, who
would not further tarry in England unless he was made king also.  So, amid the compromises
hammered out in the Glorious Revolution settlement, William III and Mary II ascended the
throne together, a constitutional first, and last, after agreeing to the Declaration of Right, later
enacted as statute as the Bill of Rights, which imposed a number of religious, fiscal, and military
limitations upon the royal prerogative as it put into action the contract theory of government
espoused by John Locke.  While his English grandfather King Charles I had fought tooth and
nail against parliamentary attempts to encroach upon his prerogative, and lost his life in the
process, William agreed to all this monarchical emasculation because for him the bigger picture
was utilizing England’s resources to combat the Catholic leviathan, Louis XIV of France.
But the Protestant Stuarts, both William and Mary, and their heir, Mary’s younger sister Anne,
were unable to perpetuate the dynasty themselves, necessitating a further refinement of the
Glorious Revolution Settlement in the 1701 Act of Settlement, which required that the monarch
must not only be Protestant, but their spouse must be Protestant also, effectively barring Roman
Catholics from the throne, which meant that, when Queen Anne breathed her last in 1714, her
nearest Protestant heir was George, Elector of Hanover, a direct descendant of James I, reducing
heredity to just one facet of a parliamentary mandated succession.  Following the 1707 Act of
Union, the act became binding upon all the nations in the newly created United Kingdom,
including Scotland, and in 1931, with the passage of another the Treaty of Westminster, upon the
Commonwealth nations also.
This might have been the last 18th century act dealing with the crown and the succession but for
the fact that George III’s two brothers contracted morganatic marriages with commoners,
prompting the passage of the 1772 royal marriages act, which gave the crown veto power over the
marriages of anyone even remotely in the line of succession.  But this was not the first type of act
of this kind, for Henry VIII’s will stipulated that the marriages of his daughters Mary and
Elizabeth must receive the consent of their brother’s privy council, or lose their place in the
succession.  Even today, all individuals in the line of succession must ask the Queen for
permission to marry, one of the final portions of the royal prerogative that the monarch still
personally exercises.  
Much like the relationship between statute and the succession, parliamentary attempts to modify
the royal prerogative also have a chequered history.  Magna Carta is of course, the most obvious
example of this, because it wasn’t King John who signed the document enshrined as the first
English statute, whose feudal overlord, Pope Innocent III, annulled it soon after John signed it,
but his son, the minority King Henry III, who reconfirmed it twice during his youth.  But the
adult Henry III wasn’t nearly so thrilled about Magna Carta once he achieved his majority.  In
fact, he spent most of the forty-five years of his adult reign avoiding any oversight on his fiscal
high crimes and misdemeanors. Indeed, Henry’s nobility fought back, with the 1258 Provisions of
Oxford and the series of confrontations and rebellions led by Simon de Montfort, who attempted
to saddle the recalcitrant king with baronial oversight over his policies and his spending.  While
Henry III railed against these attempt to thwart his will, his successors Edward I and Edward III
conceded to parliament the right to consent to taxation, in order to finance their sustained wars of
conquest, the millstone around the necks of all subsequent monarchs until William and Mary, the
first monarchs to receive financing from the civil list, which in modern times transformed the
monarch from an estate manager to a salaried employee of the state.  This was a good thing; most
kings and queens were lousy businessmen; in fact, only the Yorkist king Edward IV and the
Tudor Henry VII died solvent, and, even though Elizabeth left £300,000 in debt, this was a miracle
considering the crushing costs her government faced.  In hindsight, the lack of sufficient income
is the most persuasive explanation for the gradual loss of royal power over the entire early
modern period into the 19th century.  
It did not have to be this way.  For instance, in the late 1530s, Henry VIII possessed a unique
opportunity to re-endow the crown with sufficient landed resources, following the dissolution of
the monasteries, and allow the English monarchy to create the fiscal structure to support a
homegrown English absolutism.  But Henry failed to heed to advice of his brilliant minister
Thomas Cromwell, and sold most of this land for a song, which in turn increased exponentially in
value for the rest of the century, an historical irony a cash starved Elizabeth I could well
appreciate.  But Elizabeth made no attempt to modernize the tax code.  While she balanced her
budgets with strict economy, her Stuart successor James I had no fiscal sense whatsoever.  What
Elizabeth might have pulled off with her excellent credit rating, James could not, as parliament
rejected the Great Contract of 1610, which proposed to put the king on a fixed income in exchange
for a number of his feudal rights, such as wardships.  So the essential feudal nature of royal
finance lumbered on for the rest of the century, surviving the Civil Wars and the Restoration to
1697, with parliament settled a fixed amount for the maintenance of William III’s “civil’ or
household expenses, as government departments, such as the royal courts, and all military
expenditures were paid for by parliamentary taxation.
The subsequent diminution of effective royal power for the next century and a half was
accomplished without the passage of any kind of positive law explicitly limiting the royal
prerogative.  While parliaments could no longer be dissolved by royal fiat, George III still
dismissed cabinets, but his immediate successors recognized that the composition of the cabinet
must reflect the dominant party in the House of Commons.  William IV was the last king to fire a
government, while the youthful Victoria exercised a notable flourish of royal power during the
Bedchamber Crisis of 1839, when she successfully thwarted Robert Peel’s attempt to purge her
bedchamber of women married to or related to Whig politicians.  But Victoria learned her lesson;
the monarchy retained its reserve of influence by not exercising prerogatives that a rapidly
expanding electorate saw properly vested in parliament.  It is in this voluntary acquiescence to the
locus of executive power that has allowed the House of Windsor to evolve into the type of service
monarchy that appears to have justified its continued existence in this year of both the Queen’s
Diamond Jubilee and the solid British showing at the London Olympic Games.  In this sense, the
monarchy has come full circle in its historical mission, as the first kings served their subjects as
military leaders and lawgivers, while its present monarch, and her would be successors in the line
of succession, have never been more popular in their efforts to serve their kingdom.

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
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 have a copy
of this, 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.  
Many years later, in the course of my scholarly pursuits, I once again had occasion to look at
the word copy of the Itinerarium that Moore 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 Moore 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 Burlegh, while Fleetwood’s daughter Elizabeth married Sir Thomas
Chaloner the younger, whose father was one of Ferrers’ literary collaborators and closest
friends, a man who also enjoyed Leicester’s patronage, while Thomas Sackville, Lord
Buckhurst, one of the participants in the Itinerarium discussion, was also a contributor to later
editions of the perennially popular volume, The Mirror For Magistrates, which also 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
those men who desired a position at court or in government.  For both 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 Burlegh, 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, to his legal training, which
he left without taking a degree, a common situation for the sons of the provincial gentry who
attended the universities to study law.  Fleetwood had established himself in London by the
mid 1550s during 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.  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 over the course of his career.  
It was Fleetwood the magistrate that brought him the most notice of 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 a blatantly contemporary political purpose.  This of course was known to his
contemporaries, and Fleetwood was later identified as “Leicester’s mad recorder” in the
scurrilous anti- Puritan tract, Leicester’s Commonwealth,
But most of Fleetwood’s extant published work was 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
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 dialogue may have been embellished, 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 earlier
described Act Concerning Regal Power.  According to Fleetwood, the origins of this particular
act arose 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 queens, Mary could
assume the unencumbered royal prerogative of William the Conqueror, and do “what she list.”  
But Fleetwood described Mary as unimpressed with this logic, and threw the book into the fire
as her Lord Chancellor, Bishop Stephen Gardiner of Winchester, 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, in early 1554 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 done 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 undoubtedly 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 as Ferrers
served as an informant for John Leslie, Bishop of Ross, Mary’s chief agent in England.  If there
was any animosity, 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.  
The question merits further investigation, but if suffices to say that the dialogue contained in
the Itinerarium ad Windsor, despite is flaws, inconsistencies, and unnamed actors, remains a
powerful and reasoned historical defense for the concept of female rule in England.
Presented at the annual meeting of the Queen Elizabeth
I Society and the  South Central Renaissance
Conference in New Orleans, La. March 2012.
I presented this paper at the annual meeting of the Queen Elizabeth I Society, March 2013, in Omaha Nebraska.  This
paper was awarded the Agnes Strickland prize for best conference paper.

The dialogue contained in William Fleetwood’s 1575 manuscript Itinerarium ad Windsor revolves around a
fascinating and illuminating historical defense of English queenship.   This defense was based upon a judicious
yet disingenuous use of historical source material that achieves the didactic objectives of its author, despite his
protestations of objectivity, to create a rock solid justification for female rule at a critical moment in time during
the reign of Elizabeth I.  
 Five hundred plus years later, it is difficult to say with precision just what Fleetwood’s agenda was for writing
the Itinerarium ad Windsor, or who his target audience might have been for the circulation of the manuscript.  
What is much more certain is that, at the moment the Itinerarium’s conversation allegedly took place, Fleetwood
was keenly aware that Elizabeth I faced a plethora of domestic and international threats.  The last of the Tudors,
Elizabeth’s life was all that held back the dynastic uncertainty of a contested succession, should she die without
heirs. By early 1575 she was over forty, and it was becoming acute for the queen to marry since no one knew how
long she might remain fertile, if indeed she was able to conceive a child at all.  Attempts to convince the Queen
to marry had been going on practically from the moment the crown was placed on her head in 1558.  Seventeen
years later, Elizabeth was not only reluctant to marry, she refused to name an heir at all.  
  In this precarious constitutional position, Elizabeth had survived smallpox, assassination attempts, and a 1569
rebellion led by Catholic Northern earls that represented the most formidable domestic threat yet to Elizabeth’s
security. The next decade brought new foreign perils; in 1570 Pope Pius V issued the papal bull regnans in
excelsis, which declared Elizabeth a heretic and her throne forfeit. The following year the Ridolfi Plot had aimed
to assassinate Elizabeth and replace her with the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots.  During the 1571 and 1572
parliaments, in his position as House of Commons floor manager for the Privy Council, Fleetwood was in the
thick of a parliamentary consensus that wished Mary tried and executed, which Elizabeth had manifestly refused
to do.  
 It is my contention that Fleetwood’s primary objective in writing the Itinerarium was to theoretically shore up
the authority of English queenship at a particularly vulnerable moment in Elizabeth’s reign.  As an avid
antiquarian, Fleetwood was aware of the power of British queenship long before the arrival of the Romans.  The
long shadow of British queen consortship hangs over the Itinerarium dialogue, which Fleetwood makes clear
with his reference to Cordelia, daughter of Lear, derived from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s twelfth century History
of the Kings of Britain, who makes the transformation from consort to regnant after restoring her deposed father
and then subsequently succeeding him.   While Cordelia may have wielded the power of a king, since the time
of her reign in the misty British past, queens were more commonly comprehended as the wives of kings.  While
Fleetwood attempted to argue in the Itinerarium that the words king and queen mirrored each other in meaning,
“and this word queene , in the same tounge is in effect of the same force, referring the same to the femall sex,”
queens consorts, while crowned, remained auxiliary to the office of king, without any other form of legitimizing
agent but the production of male heirs, something both Mary and Elizabeth had failed to do.  From the Anglo-
Saxon invasions to the accession of Mary I in 1553, English queen consorts varied in their exercise of queenly
power, but such power was always perceived as derivative from a king.  Only one rare occasions were the
succession rights of women ever discussed over the long medieval epoch that followed the Norman conquest of
 The chequered history of sixteenth century English queen consorts also failed to invest the meaning of the term
queen with the kind of power that Fleetwood was trying to conjure up in the Itinerarium.  Indeed Henry VIII
deflated the sacred nature of English queenship in terms of his consorts when he had his marriage to his first
queen, Catherine of Aragon, annulled, though she had been crowned queen alongside him at the time of his
coronation. Worse, only three years after Anne Boleyn’s coronation, he had her executed. Had Jane Seymour
survived the birth of her son he might well have had her crowned queen, but she did not, and Henry did not
bother to have any of his subsequent three consorts crowned, leaving English queenship in an ambiguous state
upon the accession of England’s first queen regnant, Mary I, in 1553. Thus the term queen, which Fleetwood and
his cohorts grappled with in the Itinerarium dialogue, came possessed with multiple meanings and considerable
historical baggage.  The question itself that Leicester poses – why Queen Elizabeth should have the same
prerogatives and pre-eminences as kings when they were not given to kings and queens – after being tipped off
by his kinsmen that he needs to come up with a good question, allows Fleetwood to invest this term with as
much legitimate power and prerogative that his self-proclaimed indifference towards his sources provided for
 In fact, Fleetwood has more than enough historical ammunition for the question at hand, and Buckhurst
literally launches him back into the dialogue with “Goe to, Master Recorder!”   Fleetwood goes through the
rhetorical motions of disclaiming his ability to make sufficient answer before he launches into an etymological
discussion that owes its internal logic to a legal understanding of the meaning of queen.  In fact, like a lawyer
trying a case, Fleetwood is performing alchemy on his source material, through his legalist interpretations, as he
makes the claim that the words king and queen were synonymous in their meaning.  For evidence, Fleetwood
trots out Henry VIIII’s second Act of Succession (23 Henry 8, cap. 7), a rather ironic and provocative form of
defense, given what the act says about Elizabeth’s claim to the throne.  
Earlier in the dialogue Buckhurst had mentioned this statute, when he stated, “by the lawe of the crowne of
England, it hath bene accustomed that the crowne ought to succeed and goe to the eldest daughter when the
femalls are heritable,’ etc.”    But this statement comes at the end of a tedious and verbose diatribe, which is
mostly concerned with justifying why both of the King’s daughters should be removed from the succession.  
Following this, the Act states that if there was a daughter by a legitimate wife “the Crowne of Englond hath ben
accustomed and ought to succeed and go in case where there is heire female inheritable to the same.”   This is a
small but highly significant portion of the act. The act also gives Henry the right, if he has no living legitimate
children, to name whom he wishes as next monarch.  While a small portion of the act squarely addresses the
critical issue that Fleetwood employs it for, the rest of the act would have been antithetical to Elizabeth in1575,
perhaps another motivation for the injunction for discretion voiced at the beginning of the dialogue.  Indeed, by
privileging the act in his legal calculations, Fleetwood may have been hoping that his gamble in deploying one
small portion of it would pay off, in case the dialogue was ever meant for Elizabeth to see, which is certainly
possible, given Leicester’s intimate relationship with the Queen.
Conversely, it is easy to see why Fleetwood found the act such a tantalizing piece of historical evidence.  Much
like the preceding  the 1534 Act of Supremacy, which recognized Henry VIII’s imperial title of head of the
church, and the 1554 Act for the Queen’s Regal Power, the Second Act of Succession pronouncements on female
succession rights were not, in theory, making new law, but recognizing and announcing that its tenets had
always been the law of the land.  But it is unclear which is the horse and which is the cart here; as Fleetwood
takes us on a grand tour of the history of female inheritance in England; was he imposing a sixteenth century
legalist understanding of female inheritance upon an unknowing middle ages, or was he suggesting that the
body of precedents recounted in the Itinerarium led the king-in-parliament to believe that a female inclusive
rule of primogeniture had always been the law of the land?
 To accomplish this end, Fleetwood takes considerable liberties with the history of the twelfth century, in his
discussion of the rivalry between Maud (or Matilda) and King Stephen.  Henry I (r. 1100-1135), the third Norman
king, had attempted to compel his barons and prelates to recognize his daughter Matilda as his heir following
the death of his only legitimate son.   This was a common enough practice for continental monarchies, but
unprecedented in Norman England, which did not operate under any recognized rule of succession.   Thus,
when Stephen usurped the throne, he was merely following the same model laid down by Henry I himself, in
what was essentially an elective process.  Matilda subsequently challenged Stephen, pursuing a civil war that
she eventually bequeathed to her eldest son Henry, who resolved the issue with Stephen with the Treaty of
Winchester, and duly succeeded him as King Henry II.
  But this long and complicated dynastic conflict is quickly disposed of in the Itinerarium.  Stephen’s eighteen
year reign is described as an “interruption” until “the judgment fell out for her part” even though when Stephen
died in 1154, Matilda did not succeed in England even though she was still very much alive.   Nevertheless,
Leicester is convinced that, “the female hath had and enjoyed the crowne of England by just and lawfull title,”
but when he asks about the grounds of Stephen’s title, Fleetwood ignores the elective principle to argue that
Stephen also claimed the throne through the female line, through his mother Adele, eldest daughter of William
the Conqueror, even though Stephen was her third son.  None of the contemporary chronicles describing these
events that would have been available to Fleetwood mentions Stephen’s supposed hereditary claim through the
female line, but instead emphasize the elective nature, as well as the claim that Henry I had a deathbed change
of mind, and had designated Stephen as his heir in place of his daughter.   But such fluid rules of succession
have no place in the Itinerarium, which operates according to the legalistic principles and theories of sixteenth
century Tudor England.  Indeed, it would not have been politic to mention such a wild card as the elective
principle, as the Itinerarium seeks to prove that Elizabeth I’s title and power rest upon solid, and timeless, legal
principles.  It is left to Buckhurst, then, to make the connection between Stephen’s hereditary claim and Henry
VIII’s second Act of Succession.  When the dialogue then returns to Fleetwood, one wonders whether he was
being facetious when he states that his arguments were “always grounded upon authorities and presidents and
not on reason I invented myself,” immediately following this rather imaginative reading of twelfth century
succession patterns, including a reading of the Treaty of Winchester that implies that a representative sampling
of nobles and prelates imposed the settlement on Stephen and Henry, in a manner that Elizabeth’s parliaments
wished they could impose upon their queen.  
 After demonstrating the twelfth century legality of female royal inheritance, Fleetwood jumps forward two
centuries to recount the House of York’s royal pedigree through the female line.
Nevertheless, female inheritance rights fall to the wayside in the very next passage as Edward IV’s heir,
Elizabeth of York, forgoes her superior claim to marry Henry VII and achieve “the most happy conjunction of the
House of Lancaster and Yorke.”  Leicester fails to see the contradiction here to conclude that,

   Yow see now by this argument what the lawe of the crowne is:
   that a woman may lawfully inheritte the regall office and dignitie
   of the crowne as may a man.

But after Buckhurst briefly describes the contradiction between the Old Testament daughters of Zelophehad and
a Roman law mentioned by St. Augustine, Leicester comes out of nowhere to offer a brief but pointed panegyric
to the Queen.

   God be thanked that of His mercy hath now raised up unto us a woman
   for our queene, who is of such wisdome, learning, and clemency, gravitie,
   judgement, goverment, and other noble and princely vertues, as have not bene
   seene in many men. God increase her daily with His most holy spirit, and
   make her an old mother. Amen.

 Fleetwood, however, quickly changes the subject to bring the dialogue to its climax, as he directly addresses
Leicester’s original question, particularly concerning the power to correct and punish, as he introduces the figure
of Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, and Mary I’s lord chancellor.  By 1575 Gardiner had been sufficiently
vilified in the pages of John Foxe’s Actes and Monuments as the scourge of Protestants, but Fleetwood is only
interested in Gardiner as a legalist, and his portrayal is remarkably benign in the Itinerarium.  Tellingly,
Fleetwood refers to him as Doctor Gardiner, rather than Bishop Gardiner, emphasizing his learning, rather than
his clerical position.  Like Leicester, Buckhurst, and Fleetwood, Gardiner did not doubt that his Queen enjoyed
the same prerogative as her kingly predecessors, and, according to the account in the Itinerarium, had drafted
The Act for the Queen’s Regal Power only to “remove some scruple out of simple heads.”  Actually, the bill had
actually originated in the Commons, not the Lords, but as he described the concerns of MP Ralph Skinner
Fleetwood makes the crucial connection between royal power and statute law.  Skinner warned that to pass the
bill in its present state would grant the Queen the prerogative of William the Conqueror, who had seized
England and made it his private fief before the advent of statute law, which to sixteenth century observers began
with Magna Carta.  Skinner suggested that the Queen wanted this unencumbered royal power she could hand it
over to her future husband, Prince Philip of Spain, whose marriage treaty with the Queen was also being
considered for ratification by parliament during this session.   After the bill was amended to make the Queen
subject to the limitations to the royal prerogative imposed by statute law, Fleetwood comes to the rescue of Mary
I’s reputation as the Queen rejected outright the argument, after reading a book, which suggested that, because
statute law only addressed kings and not queens, she could,

   take upon her the title of a conqueror over all her dominions.
   Then might she at her pleasure reforme the monasteries, advance
   her frendes, suppresse her enimies, establishe religion, and do what
   she liste.

After reading the tract several times, Mary summoned Gardiner, who confirmed her opinion that the book was a ”
lewd and devilish device,” a potent example of the queen choosing the right course after taking counsel.  Was
this the point Fleetwood wished to impress upon Queen Elizabeth I?  
 Of course, for Fleetwood to legitimize Elizabeth’s possession of the throne, he needed to do the same thing for
Mary I.  Religion is not a factor here; the argument remains legalistic, not to be sidetracked by any other
theoretical considerations.  Thus, one of the most positive historical descriptions of Mary I during Elizabeth’s
reign is contained in the Itinerarium ad Windsor, which presents England’s first ruling queen as a monarch fully
cognizant of her power under the law, “for truely she was a most noble and gratious princesse, and all her
intentions were (as she thought in her conscience) for the best.”
 But for Fleetwood, the cornerstone of the Itinerarium’s defense of queenly power is contained in the discussion
of the medieval concept of the King’s two bodies.   In brief, the theory recognized that the monarch contained
two bodies within their person, their body natural, which lives and subsequently dies, and the body politic of
kingship, which is eternal, and subsumes the body natural of the monarch upon their accession to the throne.  It
originated in the attempts of medieval common lawyers to adapt the corpus ecclesiae mysticum, which allowed
the Church and monasteries to acquire property and move through time as permanent corporations, to construct
the theory of an eternal and corporate body politic of kingship.  But the concept did not actually enter the law
books until the 1561 Duchy of Lancaster Case, first initiated during Mary’s reign, concerning whether the
underage Edward VI could alienate duchy lands, which were held to be part of the private estate of the
monarch.  But the justices upheld Edward’s grant as the gift of his body politic, which was “utterly void of
infancy and old age, and other natural defects and imbecilities . . . .”   Queen Elizabeth was none too pleased
with the verdict, not seeing the larger picture of a case that ultimately provided a significant constitutional
bolster to her authority as monarch.  But Fleetwood obviously saw the connection, citing the direct precedent for
it, decided more than two centuries earlier, when the jurists of the now adult Edward III decided that the
underage king was capable of making permanent grants during his minority.  The language in this case was used
verbatim in the Duchy of Lancaster Case, which with Fleetwood was undoubtedly familiar as he prepared the
index for the second edition of Plowden’s reports, and would not have ruffled the Queen’s feathers as a reference
to the Duchy of Lancaster Case may have done.  
 Like minor kings, England’s first female monarchs faced questions concerning their ability to wield the office
of king.  Implicit in the Itinerarium’s dialogue is the idea that possession of the body politic of kingship washes
away all former infirmities, such as being a woman. Indeed the entire discussion in this final section of the
Itinerarium is completely theoretical and abstract; as the term king is the sole one used, even though at that
moment in time when this dialogue was supposed to take place, England’s king was in fact a woman.  
 It was in the midst of the discussion of the ‘king’s two bodies” that Fleetwood and his companions arrived at
Windsor, bringing to a close a rather brief dialogue that in reality was hardly long enough to have lasted the
several hours horseback ride from London to Windsor.  As Leicester offered his thanks to Fleetwood and
Buckhurst, he left them armed with a dialogue that represented a remarkable historical exposition of both the
inheritance rights of women and their ability to wield the powers of the kingly office fully possessed of the
body politic of kingship.  If Elizabeth I ever had a chance to peruse this manuscript, it is easy to imagine the
pleasure she might have taken in most of its arguments. She might have had “the heart and stomach of a king,”
but as a queen she knew she had the right to rule, like her ‘most noble progenitors being kings.”