Passing Prerogative: The Elizabethan Marriage Negotiations
Submission to the Friends of Fondren Library Research Awards, 2018. This paper was originally prepared for Course HIST 361, Fall 2017: Tudors and Stuarts, given by Professor Aysha Pollnitz, Department of History.
Queen Elizabeth I is popularly remembered as one of the most powerful monarchs in English history, especially as the Virgin Queen. While she did have some control over her marital fate, Elizabeth’s decision to remain unmarried was not solely her own. Rather, the political and religious interests of her counsel paved Elizabeth’s path to celibacy. Elizabeth’s will was subject to the volatile political and religious climate of her reign, and her gender and contentious legitimacy further empowered male Protestant counselors to assert their duty and right to counsel the monarch. Elizabeth’s marriage negotiations between 1558 and 1581 facilitated extension of political counsel from the Privy Council and private favorites, like William Cecil and Robert Dudley, to the public sphere. These negotiations serve as a case study of England’s redefinition of kingship and counsel into the beginnings of a monarchical republic.