Sekse en soevereiniteit. Gender in de politieke carrière van Elizabeth I


  • Marja van Tilburg


Elizabeth Tudor became monarch of England at the very moment that sovereignty became considered the prerogative of males. Throughout her reign (1558-1603) she had to address issues of authority, engendered by her sex. In this article, Elizabeth’s problems are discussed from an anthropological point of view. It addresses how patriarchy worked within European aristocratic culture and how authority became synonymous with masculinity. Her public gender politics can only be properly understood in the context of the dynamics of the dynastic policies of the early modern era and the specific role of women. To highlight Elizabeth’s political skills, her addresses to the general public are compared to her debates with Parliament. In the former she presents herself as a monarch and a woman, by referring to the mediaeval political theory of the king’s two bodies. In the latter she names herself ‘prince’. The proverbial exceptions can only be found in the debates on marriage. In these instances she does acknowledge her femininity, all the while referring to her opponents’ prejudices. In doing so Elizabeth addresses her various subjects differently – or rather, their notions on womanhood. She does so systematically and consistently. This indicates she is able to make use of her sex in a strategic way rather than being victimised.