Glorious, creative, contentious and optimistic are all words that have been used to describe England in the second half of the Sixteenth-century. The Tudor age was one of great literature, military victory, religious tension, and, it was the age of queens. However, beneath the atmosphere of optimism that surrounded Mary I’s, and then Elizabeth I’s, ascension to the English throne lay a controversy that dug to the core of a man’s beliefs about society, challenged the foundations of traditional political thought, and forced men to decide what loyalty truly was. With Edward VI’s death in 1553, for the first time since the twelfth-century, there were no male heirs to the English throne. Not only was the immediate heir to the throne of England female, but all of the possible legal contenders for the thrones of England and Scotland were female as well. Mary’s succession fostered a debate among men as to whether a woman was not only legally allowed to rule England, but if she was spiritually and physically capable of doing so. Pamphlets and books discussing female rule were published throughout Mary’s reign, and with Elizabeth’s succession in 1558, the debate continued.
This thesis seeks to discuss the Sixteenth century gynecocracy debate and Lord Henry Howard’s unpublished defense of female rule, “The Dutifull Defence of the Lawfull Regiment of Weomen,” which was presented to Queen Elizabeth in 1590. Howard’s beliefs and interpretation of Scripture, Philosophy and Law differ in many respects from contemporary authors who were writing both against, and in favor of women in general and female monarchy. Howard’s theories presented in “Dutifull Defence” will be compared to other contemporary works written on the subject, especially John Knox’s First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women. After discussing Howard’s life and motives for writing “Dutifull Defense,” an analysis of his manuscript will be made by looking at the physical manuscripts themselves, comparing Howard’s use of theology, philosophy and law to other contemporary writers, and revealing what Howard believed about women in an age when they were still seen as physically inferior, and mentally incapable, of administering any form of government.
In order to achieve a thorough view of Howard, I have consulted his personal letters, letters from Howard’s contemporaries, documents concerning Howard in the State Papers, and secondary sources discussing Howard, his life, and his written work. Additionally, works on early modern political thought, ancient and medieval philosophy and law, women and gender in the early modern period, and early modern English history have been consulted to provide contextual and content analysis. Combined, they will provide a view of a man who was remarkable in his time, and a work that was groundbreaking in his world.