The Representation Of Female Rule In PRE-Modern Europe: Elizabeth I Of England Essay Sample

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: England, Women, Rule, History, English, Europe, Elizabeth I, Religion

Pages: 7

Words: 1925

Published: 2021/01/11

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1362 – 1654 became the period of the female rule in the pre-modern European history. Many of the queens played a significant role in the further history in Europe and in the whole world. One of the most important female rulers became Queen of England Elizabeth I. As the last representative of the Tudor family, it was expected that she would give a life to a heir. But the history knew her as a ‘Virgin Queen’. She did not have children and became in fact the last of Tudors. People called the time of her rule as the Elizabethan era in the English history . She made the Church of England a strong player in the world’s stage. Elizabeth brought stability for the English monarchy and nation, helped to build a sense of national identity among people. Elizabeth ruled for 44 years over the English crown. It is interesting to understand what did people of pre-modern Europe think about a Queen from the point of view of having a female ruler? What critical and skeptical ideas did she face during her reign? Was she a successful ruler in the conditions of pre-modern era? The paper answers the following questions by discussing historical conditions of the Elizabethan Era, her actions and decisions as a Queen of England. This paper considers primary and contemporary sources that reflect on successful Elizabeth’s representation as a strong female monarch. 

The Pre-modern Era and Elizabeth’s Path to the Crown

Before Golden Age, England lived difficult times of changes. During the rule of the Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, English Crown terminated the relations with the Pope, began the Reformation of the English church, and gave the birth to Elizabeth, the future Queen of England, who ruled over England for almost a half of a century and changed the perception of a female monarch in history. Prior to analyze Elizabeth’s rule, it is important to understand the historical background of the pre-modern era from the historical point of view. It is important to understand people’s approach towards the concept of the female rule, their social life conditions and expectations. Secondly, the high importance represent Elizabeth’s origin and her family’s name as well as early years of childhood.

The Concept of Monarchy

In average, a medieval European monarch in the negotiation with the citizens possessed himself as a deity and so was accepted by his nation. And indeed, according to the right to decide the fate of the people and the country, he was like a God. It was considered that only in relationship with God his humanity was manifested. Majorly, the monarchy belonged to a king, who was considered strong enough to lead the nation. Historically, it was caused by the necessity to conduct wars. During the pre-modern era, Coronation, in a sense of the throne acceptance, was accompanied by a procedure of anointment. This tradition was an important characteristic of the Orthodox, Catholic and Anglican Churches. Coming to the throne the monarch received the gifts of the Holy Spirit: the power and the wisdom needed to govern the country. As during the Medieval Ages people were very religious and devout to the monarch, the rite of Coronation had a deep mystical meaning, and was accompanied by rituals and religious symbols. The Crown meant greatness, Scepter signified wisdom and mercy, Orb symbolized dominion on Earth, Scarlet Mantle meant protection of all citizens, while the Throne symbolized the rise over the rest of God’s servants. According to the same reasons, everyday life of a King was also accompanied by rituals, because to assist as a servant to the consecrate of God was a high honor.
There are memoirs of François de Scepeaux, sieur de Vielleville, who was the French Marshal. He witnessed the ritual accompanying the Royal dinners in the English Court before the Elizabethan times . They were republished millions of times. In our time, people can read how the Knights of the Garter brought trays with food and, approaching the table, drop to their knees. This reflected also Paul Hentzner. In 1598, in his notes, he described how during the era of Elizabeth’s rule, the servants got down on their knees throughout the meal of the Queen. Over time, as in other countries, kneeling became curtsey, and later, during the Enlightenment, it became a men's bow and graceful ladies' kniksen. It is important to understand from all mentioned traditions that in pre-modern era people were religious and needed a strong leader.

The Last of the Tudors

The future Queen of England was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. After the death of her mother, Henry VIII declared Elizabeth an illegitimate offspring and isolated her from the court . She was kept in the Manor of Hatfield. Her disgrace from the monarch life saved her from the intrigues of the Royal Court. She devoted her time to education. Elizabeth became the first English Princess, educated in the spirit of the Renaissance. She was great in the Sciences, had brilliant abilities and excellent memory and succeeded in languages. The future queen knew French, Italian, Latin and Greek as Weatherly noted . It helped her later during her rule to establish good relations with other kingdoms. She adored reading. It was reflected in her portrait at Windsor Castle, where she kept a book in her hands.
Elizabeth had very contradictory character. As a woman she inherited some of the moral failings of her mother. She had greed, vanity, a passion for outfits and decorations, but did not have any of her attractive qualities. But she loved compliments to her beauty and retained this weakness even in her old age. Elizabeth was able to remain calm even in the most difficult years of her life. Her conversations were full of humor, had elegance and spiciness, that testified her knowledge and fine insights. However, she was selfish. But the desire to rule had never obscured the clarity of thought of the Queen. She was stubborn in decisions and did everything with a strong calculation. In all important affairs Elizabeth showed hardness, energy and mind.
Some historians believe because of the sharp aggravations in the health of Elizabeth, she was unable to bear children and therefore refused to marry. Others see the cause of this decision in a subconscious fear of marriage, caused by experience of failed marriages of her father . Most of scientists remember her famous words that she did not want to marry a man because she was married to all of England. Perhaps, Queen actually wanted to rule itself, reasonably believing that better than male monarchs.

All listed facts represented crucial preconditions of Elizabeth’s identity that together with the historical sentiments determined her rule.

The Representation of Elizabeth’s I Rule in Pre-modern Europe
Elizabeth I at Throne
The first thing the new Queen did, she stopped executions and persecution of Protestants. Then Elizabeth had to borrow from the London bankers money for paying debts, because the Royal Treasury was empty. Moreover, the country, in the beginning of the Elizabeth’s rule was split into two religious camps: Catholics and Protestants. The Queen possessed the Protestant faith, but, unlike a Catholic Mary, did not prosecute those who did not share her beliefs. It saved the country from the civil war. In 1559, the Anglican national church was formed. The English monarch was declared the head of it. Along with the Catholic opposition, Elizabeth faced the growing resistance of the Puritans, who considered that the reformed English church had too much remnants of Catholicism. In 1583, the judicial Commission was established, which raised a firm condition to live the country to all dissentings with the supreme power of the Queen. The Elizabeth’s actions were motivated by the purely political motives.
Marine trade and industry achieved notable success during her rule. In general, during Elizabeth I England transferred to trade and colonial expansion across the globe. It systematically launched expeditions to Ireland. Relations with Spain deteriorated in England at the end of 1560's, because of attempts by British merchants to enter Spanish colonies in the new world. English merchants and sailors did not disdain robbery. However, Elizabeth was able to please William and John Houkins, Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh. The Queen first announced an amnesty, and then ignored the actions of British pirates if they robbed Spanish ships and raided the Spanish colonies. Drake was sponsored by the Queen and received a support to hold an expedition to the coast of America to open new lands. Another pirate Walter Raleigh, founded the first English colony in America and named her Virginia in honor of his Virgin Queen. Later, supported by the Queen, pirates along with the Royal Navy defeated the Spanish Armada. Elizabeth personally inspected the coastal forts with the inspiring and passionate speeches.
Elizabeth I greatly strengthened the Royal administration, organized the financial Office. The Anglican Church, as a moderate form of Protestantism, was established as the State religion. She was completely subordinated to the State and became an important pillar of absolutism. Elizabeth encouraged the development of new industries, attracted skilled craftsmen in the country. With their help new colonies were founded in America, West India and Africa. The Queen's political wisdom was evident in the successful selection of ministers, statesmen, faithfully serving to the Crown and England.
At the same time, Elizabeth I enacted new cruel laws against vagabonds and beggars. Replenishing military budget Elizabeth made private monopolies on production and trade, which, like taxes, by the end of the 16th century caused discontent in the Chamber of Commerce and the business community. Demonstrating its readiness to consult with Parliament and using it to publicize official policy, Elizabeth, at the same time, prohibited the deputies around the issue of Church financial policies. She considered them the exclusive prerogative of the Crown. This approach, in the 1590's, originated the conflict of Royal power and Parliament, which raised the requirements of deepening Reformation, abolition of monopolies and reducing taxes. By the end of the reign of Elizabeth I the English absolutism had become an obstacle for the further development of the country.

A Female Ruler in a Male Dominated Era

It was essential to establish her role as a female ruler in a male dominated era. Elizabeth extensively used speeches and direct contacts with the people during her trips around the country, in parliamentary sessions, ceremonial processions and celebrations. She wanted to show her love and concern for all citizens. She repeated several times: that England might have a more illustrious sovereign, but there would never be more loving ruler. Deliberately giving up marriage, Elizabeth declared that the betrothed to her nation. By the end of the 1580's, a cult of the Empress was formed in popular consciousness. The Virgin Queen became similar to the Virgin Mary and was considered as the patroness of Protestant England. Judith Richards in her work discussed the issues of the Queen’s desire to avoid marriage. She suggested that women in power are restricted by the expectations of their citizens and would only gain authoritative power from their husband or their fathers. However, Elizabeth had a strong desire to consolidate power and rule the country by herself. From the history we knew that she had a relation with her friend from childhood, but in the condition when the nation asked to make a choice between him and country, Elizabeth made her choice prominently.
William Monter raised the issue of women’s right to gain a sovereign power through the family. In the list of female rulers under the research made of the period 100-1800, it is evident that in pre-modern history the conditions gave the women of a Crown such power. Moreover, there were queens who in the presence of a king had factual power in their hands. In The Rise of Female Kings in Europe, Monter suggested that gender did not have influence on the ruling model. He presented Elizabeth as a successful ruler who challenged society and brought development and glory to the country.
The primary source examined during the research for the paper is Elizabeth’s Speech at Tilbury, in 1588 represented in a book “Reasons for a War against Spain in a Letter from a Merchant of London Trading to America, to a Member of the House of Commons: With a Plan of Operations, and a True Copy of Queen Elizabeth's Heroic Speech, at the Head of Her Army, against the Spaniards” printed by Wilford in 1738. This was a monumental event during her reign. It was a point that many historians called the proof of her successful and powerful supremacy in Europe. Her speech inspired the English troops to fight courageously against the enemies. Many believed that her speech helped them to win the battle. She emphasized that despite being a woman, she was powerful, mighty and worthy as any king.
Alice Hunt and Anna Whitelock in their research investigated the role of a woman in the early pre-modern European society and found it quite difficult for Elizabeth to gain faith and power. They determined her strong masculine features which helped her to be at a Court for 44 years. While Sharon Jansen provided the Elizabeth I responce to Knox’s views on female rulers. It was calm and wise, full of irony and humor. Jansen then underlined the education and talents of the queen. Francis Bacon wrote that Elizabeth was an awesome personality among women, and sovereigns. The writer underlined that the rule of a queen is a rarity, but the successful rule of a queen is an exclusive thing .
The reign, which started with the peace and justice, completed in an atmosphere of war and lawlessness. More and more people wanted a country to be ruled by a young monarch, not by the old Queen. Results of her reign were summed up in the last speech to Parliament delivered at Whitehall in October 1601. Then she said that the place she occupied would never belong to more devoted monarch. Even her death was profitable for England. To the throne ascended the Scottish House of Stuarts, which led to the unification of the two States. The legends could be far from the truth. Elizabeth could have been brutal and unjust. But the one thing is true: Elizabeth cared about the greatness of her country and was a Great Queen.


Elizabeth I of England is one of the most significant women. Perhaps, she is the most important woman in English history. There were the Spanish Armada, Mary Stuart, Francis Drake, and a lot of memorable marks in an amazing biography of the English monarch. The reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England is considered a Golden Age in the history of English monarchy. This name has contributed to a number of reasons. First, the Queen began to reign after his sister, who earned the name Bloody Mary among people. Secondly, at that time the England consolidated its position in the world. During Elizabeth’s rule, England improved its fleet, defeated the Spanish Armada, founded the first colonies. Thirdly, Elizabeth favored Sciences and Arts, which contributed to the flourishing of culture in the country. She was a great monarch and did a lot for her country. Elizabeth changed the perception of a womn in the pre-modern Europe.


Cruz, Anne and Mihiko Suzuki. The Rule of Women in Early Modern Europe. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009.
Jansen, Sharon L. Debating Women, Politics, and Power in Early Modern Europe. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.
Hentzner, Paul, and R. Bentley. Paul Hentzner's Travels in England, during the Reign of Queen Elizabeth. London: Printed for E. Jeffery, 1797.
Hibbert, Christopher. Elizabeth I: A Personal History of the Virgin Queen. Reprint ed. London: Penguin, 2001.
Hunt, Alice, and Anna Whitelock, eds. Tudor Queenship: The Reigns of Mary and Elizabeth. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.
Monter, William. “Gendered Sovereignty: Numismatics and Female Rule, 1300–1800.” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 41. 2011
Monter, William. The Rise of Female Kings in Europe, 1300–1800. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012.
Pryor, Felix. Elizabeth I: Her Life in Letters. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.
Reasons for a War against Spain in a Letter from a Merchant of London Trading to America, to a Member of the House of Commons : With a Plan of Operations, and a True Copy of Queen Elizabeth's Heroic Speech, at the Head of Her A rmy, against the Spaniards. 2nd ed. London: Printed for J. Wilford, 1738.
Richards, Judith M. To Promote a Woman to Beare Rule": Talking of Queens in Mid-Tudor England Vol. 28, No. 1 (Spring, 1997), The Sixteenth Century Journal.
Vieilleville, Franc. Mémoires De La Vie De François De Scepeaux, Sire De Vieilleville Et Comte De Duretal, Maréchal De France : Contenants Plusieurs Anecdotes Des Regnes De François I, Henri II, François II, & Charles IX. Paris: Guerin, 1757.
Weatherly, Myra. Elizabeth I: Queen of Tudor England. Minneapolis, Minn.: Compass Point Books, 2006.

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