Tudor Women, the Minority of Power?

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Tudor Women, the minority of power ?

INTRODUCTION

On Monday 24th March 1603, in the Royal palace in Richmond, the Virgin Queen passed away. The last monarch of the Tudor died after her reign of forty-four years. She was one of the most popular monarchs that England has ever seen. On that particular day, the Tudor dynasty, founded by her grandfather, King Henry VII, ended with her since she was childless. She was to be remembered as a powerful woman who fought during all her life to bypass the handicap brought by her feminine condition to rule England like a man. She presumably said in her speech to her troops at Tilbury in 1588: “I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman”. So she must have been aware of the weakness attributed to women at that time. But still, she was a monarch; therefore she was the Head of State and of the Church of England. Then why did the English put this amount of power in the hands of such a weak creature? Could she really have both status, the weak one carried by every women and the strong one attributed to a monarch. Apparently she did and she knew it as the quotation above carries on with: “but I have the heart and the stomach of a king, and of a king of England too”. And she might not have been the only one to believe that she was that powerful as this remark made by Elizabethan Secretary of State Robert Cecil shows that she “was more than a man and, in troth, sometimes less than a woman”. Therefore does it mean that she had to abandon her feminine status in order to be respected by her subjects? Lord Robert Cecil’s statement proves that she had to behave like a man to be a good monarch. During the Renaissance and until now, women have seen their condition being reduced to an inferior level compared to the status of men in society. But could we say that England was different from other monarchies? In England as in many other monarchies, the succession to the throne would pass directly to the closest male heir, therefore even if the elder child was a girl, it would go to her brother, her uncle or any other male relative. What King Henry VIII did is to give his daughters a chance to be able to succeed their younger brother Edward VI. He reorganised several times the order of succession through four Acts of Parliament between 1533 and 1544. It probably means that he did not look down on his daughters regarding the succession (even though he had banned them then included them again). Yet, we could wonder whether their case was an exception as they were princesses. Were the other women of that time treated with this kind of respect and trust? Or were they considered as the weaker sex? How much power did they actually have? And what sort of power did they really have? When dealing with this era many names come to our minds: Lady Margaret Beaufort, Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Mary I, Elisabeth I and many others. But what do they have in common? Obviously, they are all remembered and mentioned in history books nowadays. Why? Because they all marked their time with some accomplishments. For example, Lady Margaret Beaufort was Henry Tudor’s mother. According to Alison Plowden, she helped her son to access the throne of England and without her help he would probably have never become king. As for Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, their lives influenced the history of England even if it wasn’t deliberately. Of course, as we know, the English Reformation occurred because Henry VIII wanted to get rid of his infertile wife, Catherine of Aragon, but the Pope was opposed to the annulment of their marriage. Many people said that he wanted to get rid of her because he was planning to marry Anne Boleyn who was supposedly his mistress. All these women were to be remembered by their connections to an influential man, even the Virgin Queen, i.e. Elisabeth I who never married, was to be remembered through her filial connection to Henry VIII. So Margaret Beaufort was Henry VII’s mother whereas...
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