2012 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226

The Establishment of Gynecocracy in Sixteenth-Century England: The Queens’ Own Activities

May-Shine Lin

Department of History, National Chengchi University

This is a study about the establishment of female rule during the reigns of the first two English queens, Mary I (r. 1553-1558) and Elizabeth I (r. 1558-1603). It focuses on the queens’ own efforts in institution-building, rituals, and political language, and attempts to compare the two queens’ performances. Both Mary and Elizabeth confronted two difficulties in their female rule: first, disputes over their right to the English throne; second, popular distrust of female rule in a traditional patriarchal society. However, these two queens developed different ways to build their legitimacy and political image. Queen Mary paid most attention to confirming her hereditary right as a legitimate heir to the English throne, and to establishing the form of ‘joint rule’ through her marriage with the Prince of Spain. In contrast, Queen Elizabeth took her hereditary right for granted and displayed less and less concern about it as her reign progressed. She tactfully defined her power through two other sources: God’s favor and her subjects’ love. She thus justified and sustained her royal authority with a more profound and pervasive argument than Mary could, appealing to both divine and popular approval.


Keywords: sixteenth-century England, gynecocracy, Mary I, Elizabeth I, royal entry, image-making