Uniform TitleBusy bodies: women, power and politics at the court of Elizabeth I, 1558-1603
NameHowey, Catherine L. (author), Bellany, Alastair (chair), Jones, Jennifer (internal member), Mack, Phyllis (internal member), Smuts, R. Malcolm (outside member), Rutgers University, Graduate School - New Brunswick,
Women in politics--England--History,
DescriptionThe purpose of this dissertation, Busy Bodies: the Role of Women at the Court of Elizabeth I, 1558-1603, is to build upon the small, but growing body of scholarship that examines how women exercised political agency at the court of Elizabeth I and how their courtly activities played a part in shaping the reign and Elizabeth's iconography. The dissertation uses an interdisciplinary approach to a diverse range of sources such as dress, portraiture, government documents, tomb monuments and letters to explore the various ways Queen Elizabeth I and her court women, especially the women who worked in the queen's privy chamber--the two to three small rooms the monarch used for private repose--mutually constructed each other's power and identity. Until recently, scholars have argued that the Elizabethan privy chamber women were apolitical--an argument based largely upon unquestioned assumptions about gender. However, as this dissertation demonstrates gender did not preclude women from politics, but rather shaped the way women could gain and wield their power. Gender as a category of historical analysis can also expand the definition of "political" and identify new arenas where politics was practiced such as the exchange of news, information, and sartorial gifts.
The women who served the queen were important because they were in close physical proximity to the queen, and because the queen often appropriated their bodies, clothes, and service to construct or extend her own monarchical image and power. Since the queen allowed these women to act as queenly surrogates who extended her authority to places outside the palace, privy chamber women acquired higher status and more privileges than they otherwise would have held by birth or marriage. However, this special status and its privileges also created tension between the queen and her uniquely empowered female courtiers. While women were more often part of the processes that connected Elizabeth to larger circles of her subjects, they also had the potential to disrupt these relationships. Therefore, understanding how the queen interacted with other women is necessary if we are to understand Elizabeth's reign as a whole.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references (p. 303-321).
CollectionGraduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.