Female monarchs(30 Posts)
Hi this is my first thread in this section. I confess to not being as knowledgeable as most of you here but I read the threads with interest and they have certainly opened my eyes to a few things.
Anyway onto my thread...
I am watching the Young Victoria film tonight about Queen Victoria. It has got me thinking that in the last 200 years Britain has been ruled by a female for well over half of that time. Both Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth seem (to my knowledge) to be well respected and thought to be capable monarchs. In the case of Queen Elizabeth, well liked by the populace also. I don't get the feeling that the nation is 'bored' with a queen and champing at the bit to have a king back or that she is seen as a second rate monarch because she is female.
So my question is this; why has this not had more of an impact on how women are placed in British society?
I think that's true of our queen, trib - maybe that's why some people get so bothered by Charles's divorce.
I think there's a certain mysticism about the blood royal, and this was very prevalent in the Middle Ages, that really did mean 'even a woman of the blood royal was better than a male of dodgy descent'. Of course, a woman's main claim to the throne was the ability to transmit the blood line to the next generation - and She Wolves has a lot to say about how queens like Margaret of Anjou and Isabella were more 'acceptable' combatants when defending the rights of their sons than Matilda was defending her own right to inherit. (We have a thread running about She Wolves in the History Club at the moment).
I suspect it has helped our Queen to be acceptable to certain parts of the population that she has done the very traditional marriage-and-children thing and it is well-known that Prince P is regarded as the head of the family, I think in the style of Prince Albert.
I dunno if that's true about Roger (not Robert - I think you're thinking of Dudley?) Ascham. He wasn't her tutor for terribly long. I like to think Kat Ashley had a lot to do with it.
I know that for male monarchs, the gentlemen of the bedchamber were meant to have a lot of influence, but Elizabeth's ladies of the bedchamber never seem to be studied in that way - they're seen as 'informal advisers' but were they, really? I think everyone would have known how much influence that position had.
I do also wonder how accurate our ideas about education are. There is an awful lot of guff talked about how badly-educated most women were back then, IMO.
What about Margaret of Anjou? She was Henry VI's queen but she effectively ruled as monarch for parts of his reign because he went mad.
Yes - good point. Many of the members of her personal Household would have been women (Ladies of the Bedchamber), who were close confidantes and probably informal advisors, like Kat Ashley, Blanche Parry, Catherine Knollys and Catherine Howard (these last two were cousins from the Boleyn side).
How suitable to have a knowledgeable Queen on the thread!
And the foundation of Elizabeth's formidable education was laid by her governess Katherine Ashley who remained close to her in adulthood.
I don't think Elizabeth I had any formal women advisors, but she is thought to have been very much influenced by the example of Katherine Parr, Henry's last wife, who acted as a regent for him and was instrumental in reconciling him with his daughters. She wasn't quite as formally well-educated as Elizabeth, but she filled her court with scholars and was a leading religious reformer, and provided a model of female leadership and strategy to Elizabeth.
I think for all the women monarchs, it's not enough to simply be the direct heir, if you are a woman - you also have to be in a politically strong enough position to consolidate your power. This is why Matilda failed to hold onto the throne, but Mary and Elizabeth managed the transition - they were both powerful English landowners with enough support among the nobles and people to force their way to the throne if they had to - Mary was able to raise an army to take on Jane Grey's supporters, and Elizabeth had a shadow government that was ready to go into action the minute Mary died.
Did Eliazbeth I have any formal female advisers? I suspect not. All the councillors, lords and dukes had a lot to do with how the country was run and changing the monarch didn't really filter through.
And George I and the Hanoverians through Sophia of Hanover and her mother Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of James VI and I.
Well, Victoria and Elizabeth II were/are not executive monarchs - Victoria's reign was actually the period when the fact the monarchy was constitutional rather than executive became cemented. So her reign is to some degree about erosion of the monarchy's power, or confirmation of that erosion. So you wouldn't expect that to bolster women's position.
It doesn't look as though QV or E were/are exactly personally all that interested in women's rights and conditions - about the only thing I can think of for Victoria is that she championed the use of anaesthetic for childbirth despite opposition from the medical establishment.
Also probably partly because certainly up to Victoria's reign at least, royalty were seen as being ontologically different from ordinary people - so even if you were a woman, the fact that you were royal trumped being female. And this seems to have been true further back - the disputes over Mary and Elizabeth I's claims to the throne stemmed primarily from the legitimacy of their father's marriages, not from the fact they were female. Certainly at least two of Henry VIII's wives (Catherine of Aragon and Katherine Parr) acted as regent for him, so it wasn't the case that royal women were seen as unable, although men were preferred as leaders.
Plus think of all the claims to the throne that have been pursued through the female line - James I/VI (through Margaret Tudor and Mary Queen of Scots), Henry Tudor (through Margaret Beaufort and his marriage to Elizabeth of York), Henry II (through Maud/Matilda) ...
Good thread, OP. I don't have an answer to your question, but I do find this subject very interesting from a womens rights perspective. Like Scotland, England was not a Salic law jurisdiction, so women were not barred from inheriting the throne because of their sex. Mathilda (1141) was arguably the first queen regnant of England (post-Norman); her claim was recognized by many at the time, but because she was usurped by her cousin Stephen after a few months and before her coronation, she is sometimes left out of lists of English monarchs. Mary and Elizabeth Tudor were both recognized as heirs at their birth, but they were both later declared illegitimate and barred from succession on that account. (Mary was even referred to informally as Princess of Wales in her youth.) A law was later passed during Henry VIIIs reign to restore them to the succession. Interestingly, when Victoria came to the throne, the crowns of Great Britain and Hanover split because women were barred from succeeding in Hanover.
But of course, not one of these women would have succeeded to the throne if they had had a living brother.
Hatshepsut similarly. Though she said "Fuck you, I'm a Pharaoh, give me the beard" .
And you're right of course, as long as history is written by men, when talking of a female rule, it will be from the angle of 'because there was no man available'.
Shit, I mean the authors implying that women were 'stand ins.'...
<does the gets coat thing>
When reading histories, I have detected a sense of women monarchs being there 'because there wasn't a man' or 'instead of a man.'
If you go back to Roman Britain, the same applies to Boudicca.
But the 'Queen' Cartimandua seems different. Yet so little is known apart from that scrap of Roman text.
Good OP, though, OP.
Katherine of A wasn't just any woman though; her parents were Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon. She probably had more experience of war, and of a country surviving in war, than Henry did. Isabella was an outstanding woman, and even the privy council would have seen that Katherine was an ideal Regent.
HVIII altered the law so that his daughters could rule, though this was a 'worst case scenario'. HVIII's obsession with having a male heir came from the trauma of the Wars Of The Roses, that the country was still recovering from when he became king. He was desperate to avoid it, and terrified of the control of England, which his family had fought for, being in jeopardy. So it was a case of Mary and Elizabeth were better than the return to civil war, really.
Yet, despite all his efforts to have a male heir, Henry VIII appointed Katherine of Aragon as Queen Regent whilst he was away at war, and it was she who was key in leading the English to military victory at the battle of Flodden.
It's not just what women did: it's how they were later written about (or not).
Victoria was awful to the suffragettes though - but did a lot for pain-relief during childbirth. So she wasn't all bad.
Interesting question. I've always had an interest in historical kings & queens of England - the stories are soooo ruthless. Richard III in car park story got me thinking too. Richard was defeated by Henry VII, whose son was Henry VIII who went to the most amazing lengths to have a male heir. Including disassociating himself from Rome & the Catholic Church.
Despite this, his longed-for son had a short-lived reign, whereas his daughter Elizabeth reigned for a total of 45 years - the Elizabethan Golden Age and all that.
Got me thinking about the whole succession business, and how, bearing in mind just how misogynistic society was then, women were allowed to succeed the throne at all. Obviously royal blood, even female royal blood, was better that non-royal male blood?
I mean, women then were basically chattels of first their fathers then their husbands - yet they could (barring any brothers) succeed the throne.
So, does this mean that the 'class' system (with the hereditary claim to the throne) is stronger than the patriarchy?
Sorry, * for the suffrage movement * that should say.
Join the discussion
Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.Register now
Already registered with Mumsnet? Log in to leave your comment or alternatively, sign in with Facebook or Google.
Please login first.