Men, Women, and Beasts: Elizabeth I and Beastly Bridegrooms

  • Jo Eldridge Carney
Part of the Queenship and Power book series (QAP)


In 2001, in the online magazine Nerve, philosopher Peter Singer published a review of Dearest Pet, naturalist Midas Dekker’s book on the history of bestiality. In his review, “Heavy Petting,” Singer points out that the taboo against human-animal sex still prevails even though most other taboos against nonprocreative sex have given way. According to Singer, the persistence of this taboo in spite of documented evidence of interspecies sexual contact is indicative of our ambivalent relationship with animals. Human-animal interactions, Singer explains, have served a variety of purposes: labor, procurement of food, emotional fulfillment—and even sexual satisfaction. On the other hand, we have “always seen ourselves as distinct from animals and imagined that a wide, unbridgeable gulf separates us from them,” particularly in the western tradition from Genesis to the Renaissance to Kant.1 The recent proliferation of academic interest in animal studies seeks to interrogate these entrenched cultural perceptions about the human-animal divide.2


Wild Boar Fairy Tale Early Modern Period Queen Mother World Picture 
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.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 4.
    The influence of Ovid’s Metamorphoses on the animal-bridegroom tale type is an important but separate line of inquiry. The beastly transformations in Ovid largely comprise gods exercising their power over mortals within a different hierarchal construct rather than contact between humans and animals. See Page DuBois, Centaurs and Amazons: Women and the Pre-History of the Great Chain of Being (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1991). Several contemporary authors have also explored the animal-human romantic or sexual relationship in fairy tales, most notably Angela Carter in her short story collection, The Bloody Chamber (New York: Penguin, 1979).Google Scholar
  2. 7.
    Susan Bordo, The Male Body: A New Look At Men in Public and Private (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2000), 244.Google Scholar
  3. 9.
    See Anne Duggan, “Nature and Culture in the Fairy Tale of Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy,” Marvels & Tales 15, no. 2, (2000): 149–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. See also Lewis C. Seifert, “Animal-Human Hybridity in d’Aulnoy’s ‘Babiole’ and ‘Prince Wild Boar,’” Marvels & Tales 25, no. 2 (2011): 244–60. In his discussion of d’Aulnoy’s treatment of the issue of animal-human hybridity, Seifert distinguishes “The Wild Boar” from her other tales in exploring “what might be gained from a hybrid subjectivity in which human reason is conjoined with animal instinct and human vice is counterbalanced by animal virtue.”Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    See Bruno Bettleheim, The Uses of Enchantment (New York: Knopf 1976), 288;Google Scholar
  6. Marina Warner, From the Beast to the Blond: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1996), chapter 7, “Reluctant Brides,” 273–97, and Tatar, Off With Their Heads, 141.Google Scholar
  7. See also Lewis Seifert, “Pig or Prince? Murat, d’Aulnoy, and the Limits of ‘Civilized’ Masculinity,” in High Anxiety: Masculinity in Crisis in Early Modern France, ed. Kathleen Perry Long (Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press, 2002), 183–209.Google Scholar
  8. 17.
    For an account of the Grimm Brothers’ series of revisions of this tale, see Maria Tatar, The Hard Facts of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales, 2nd ed. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003), 7–8. Tatar argues, “The Grimms’ transformation of a tale replete with sexual innuendo into a prim and proper nursery story with a dutiful daughter is almost as striking as the folkloric metamorphosis of frog into prince.” Brewer also insists, “It is plain in the earlier versions that they have sexual intercourse” but even in later versions “the story is obviously about love and especially sex. The relationship with the frog symbolizes the fear of sex, slimy, monstrous, nasty,” 38.Google Scholar
  9. 18.
    Jack Zipes, “What Makes a Repulsive Frog So Appealing: Memetics and Fairy Tales,” Journal of Folklore Research 45, no. 2, (2008), 112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 19.
    See Elizabeth W. Harries, “The Violence of the Lambs,” Marvels & Tales 19, no. 1 (2005), 54–66 for a discussion of the sacrificial act of violence in fairy tales. Harries’s article focuses on d’Aulnoy’s “The White Cat,” in which a female cat’s return to animal form depends on the male, but she notes the violent action in “The Frog Prince” and comments that “the petulant princess, acting in a fit of pique (or perhaps sexual angst)” throws the frog against the wall. Harries adds that the “princess is of course a spoiled brat” Again, the princess’ behavior is seen as more blameworthy than the unreasonable demands of father and frog suitor.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 21.
    James McGlathery, Fairy Tale Romance: The Grimms, Basile, and Perrault (Urbana: University of Illinois, 1991), 64.Google Scholar
  12. 23.
    See Gail de Vos, “The Frog King or Iron Henry,” in New Tales for Old: Folktales as Literary Fictions for Young Adults (Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 1999), 771–808 for an overview of the Brothers Grimm revisions, critical interpretations, and popular adaptations of this tale.Google Scholar
  13. 24.
    See A. O. Lovejoy, The Great Chain of Being: The History of an Idea (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1936)Google Scholar
  14. and E. M. W. Tillyard’s The Elizabethan World Picture (New York: Macmillan, 1943).Google Scholar
  15. 27.
    Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfeld, Political Shakespeare: Essays in Cultural Materialism (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1985), 5.Google Scholar
  16. 29.
    Jeanne Addison Roberts, The Shakespearean Wild: Geography, Genus, and Gender (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1991), 4.Google Scholar
  17. 31.
    See chapters 7 and 8 in Maria Perry, The Sisters of Henry VIII (New York: Da Capo Press, 1998). See also Erin Sadlack’s helpful discussion of Mary’s strategy of agreeing to marry Louis on the condition that she could choose her second husband; in spite of his promise, Henry saw Mary’s second marriage as an act of defiance. The French Queen’s Letters: Mary Tudor Brandon and the Politics of Marriage in Sixteenth Century Europe (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 2–5.Google Scholar
  18. 33.
    L. J. Andrew Villalon, “Putting Don Carlos Together Again,” Sixteenth Century Journal 26, no. 2 (Summer 1995), 347–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. and Henry Kamen, Philip of Spain (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999), 120.Google Scholar
  20. 34.
    For more discussion of Catherine’s various marriage proposals for Marguerite, see R. J. Knecht, Catherine de Medici (New York: Longman, 1998), 76, 108, 134–5, 139.Google Scholar
  21. 36.
    Frederick Chamberlin, The Sayings of Queen Elizabeth (London: John Lane, 1923), 61.Google Scholar
  22. 37.
    See Debra Barrett-Graves, “‘Highly Touched in Honour’: Elizabeth I and the Alencon Controversy,” in Elizabeth I: Always Her Own Free Woman (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2003), 43–60;Google Scholar
  23. Sheila Cavanagh, “The Bad Seed: Princess Elizabeth and the Seymour Incident,” in Dissing Elizabeth: Negative Representations of Gloriana, ed. Julia M. Walker (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998), 9–29;Google Scholar
  24. Susan Doran, Monarchy and Matrimony: The Courtships of Elizabeth I (New York: Routledge, 1996) and “Why Did Elizabeth Not Marry?” in Dissing Elizabeth (London: British Library, 2009), 30–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 38.
    Carole Levin, The Heart and Stomach of a King (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994), 2.Google Scholar
  26. 39.
    Ilona Bell, Elizabeth I: The Voice of a Monarch (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 40.
    Penry Williams, Sir Walter Raleigh: In Life and Legend (London: Continuum, 2011), 28.Google Scholar
  28. 41.
    Wallace MacCaffrey, Elizabeth I (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1993), 172;Google Scholar
  29. David Loades, Elizabeth I (London: Hambledon Continnum, 2003), 331. Catherine Loomis offers one of the most extended considerations of Elizabeth’s use of nicknames, pointing out that “Elizabeth was not always kind when she chose ‘a by-name given in sport’ for her courtiers” “‘Little man, little man’: Early Modern Representations of Robert Cecil,” in Explorations in Renaissance Culture. Special Issue: “Scholarship on Elizabeth I,” Guest Editor Carole Levin, 37 no. 1 (2011): 137–56.Google Scholar
  30. 42.
    Robert Lacey, Sir Walter Ralegh (New York: Atheneum, 1974), 46. “Water” may also reflected Raleigh’s own pronunciation of his name. Lacey also describes the rivalry between Hatton and Raleigh that acknowledged their respective nicknames. Hatton, jealous that Raleigh was replacing him in the queen’s affections, sent her several symbolic tokens, including a golden bucket that “symbolized water and thus referred to Raleigh.” Water, Hatton wrote to Elizabeth, was an unstable element and would only produce confusion. The queen assured Hatton that he was ever her sheep and that “no water or floods should ever overthrow them.”Google Scholar
  31. 44.
    Pauline Croft, “Can a Bureaucrat Be a Favorite? Robert Cecil and the Strategies of Power,” in The World of the Favorite, eds. J.H. Elliott and L.W.B. Brockliss (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999), 56.Google Scholar
  32. 45.
    Algernon Cecil, A Life of Robert Cecil First Earl of Salisbury (London: John Murray, 1915), 24.Google Scholar
  33. 47.
    P. M. Handover, The Second Cecil: The Rise of Power 1563–1604 (London: Eyre and Spottiswood, 1959), 245.Google Scholar
  34. 52.
    Stephen Budiansky, Her Majesty’s Spymaster: Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Walsingham, and the Birth of Modern Espionage (New York: Viking, 2005), 39.Google Scholar
  35. 53.
    Paul Hammer, “‘Absolute and Solemn Mistress of Her Grace?’ Queen Elizabeth and Her Favorites, 1581–1592,” in The World of the Favorite, eds. J. H. Elliott and L. W. B. Brockliss (New Haven, CT: Yale University, 1999), 40.Google Scholar
  36. 54.
    Chris Skidmore, Death and the Virgin Queen: Elizabeth I and the Dark Scandal that Rocked the Throne (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2011). Gypsies “had first arrived from the continent at the beginning of the sixteenth century …. Soon they became associated in the common imagination with a wide range of every imaginable crime from selling poisons to stealing horses and kidnapping children. They were also regarded as sexually promiscuous,” 127.Google Scholar
  37. 55.
    Derek Wilson uses the nickname as the title of his biography of Robert Dudley: Sweet Robin: A Biography of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester: 1533–1588 (London: Allison and Busby, 1981).Google Scholar
  38. 56.
    Harry Morris, “Ophelia’s ‘Bonny Sweet Robin,’” Publication of the Modern Language Association of America 73, no. 5 (1958), 602. Morris claims that “the name Robin was, in the sixteenth century, one of the cant terms for the male sex organ.”CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 57.
    Elizabeth Jenkins, Elizabeth and Leicester (New York: Coward-McCann, 1962), 129.Google Scholar
  40. 58.
    Stephen Greenblatt, Sir Walter Ralegh: The Renaissance Man and His Roles (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1973), 55–56.Google Scholar
  41. 60.
    Peter C. Herman, “Authorship and the Royal I: King James VI and the Politics of Monarchic Verse,” Renaissance Quarterly 54, no. 4 (Winter 2001), 1502–03.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 64.
    Alice Gilmore Vines, Neither Fire nor Steel: Sir Christopher Hatton (Chicago, IL: Nelson-Hall, 1978), 28.Google Scholar
  43. 68.
    Walter Oakeshott, The Queen and the Poet (London: Faber and Faber, 1960), 26.Google Scholar
  44. 69.
    Wallace MacCaffrey, “Christopher Hatton,” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, vol. 20 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 817–23.Google Scholar
  45. 70.
    Andrew J. Hopper, “Thomas Arundell,” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, vol. 2 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 582–83.Google Scholar
  46. 71.
    Cited in Anne Somerset, Elizabeth I (New York: Knopf, 1992), 308.Google Scholar
  47. 74.
    Janet Arnold, Queen Elizabeth’s Wardrobe Unlockd (Leeds, UK: Maney, 1988), 75–76.Google Scholar
  48. 80.
    Paul E. J. Hammer, “Robert Devereux, Second Earl of Essex.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, vol. 15 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 945–60.Google Scholar
  49. 81.
    William Camden, The History of the Most Renowned Elizabeth (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1970), 603.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Jo Eldridge Carney 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jo Eldridge Carney

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations