“Woman, Warrior, Queen?” Rethinking Mary and Elizabeth

  • Anna Whitelock
Part of the Queenship and Power book series (QAP)


“Early modern culture was deeply imbued with warrior values.”1 Monarchs were ordained to protect their people with strength and justice and this was seen to be dependent on military might. The great seal of England depicted these basic facets of monarchy. On the one side there was an image of the monarch enthroned as the dispenser of justice, on the other the monarch was armed and on horseback, depicted as a military leader and defender of the country2 The coronation regalia—the spurs and the sword—similarly reflected the knightly origins of monarchy and the monarch’s status as the country’s leader in war, a role premised on masculinity. Writing in the fifteenth century, John Fortescue had argued against a woman’s right to inherit the English crown as “queens could not bear the sword.”5 Fighting was believed to be immodest and unsuited to female virtue. In his De Institutione, written as a guide for Mary’s education, the Spanish humanist Juan Luis Vives opposed women bearing arms or jousting:

A young woman cannot easily be of chaste mind if her thoughts are occupied with the sword and sinewy muscles and virile strength. What place is here for defenceless, unwarlike and weak chastity? A woman who contemplates these things drinks poison into her breast.4


Fifteenth Century Military Leader English Army Divine Providence Proclamation Thear 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Anna Whitelock and Alice Hunt 2010

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  • Anna Whitelock

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