The second half of the sixteenth century was uniquely characterised by a half-century of female rule and it was also a period when noble women were educated to an unprecedented level. So as the primary preoccupation of my Tudor trilogy is the theme of women and power, I have compiled a Tudor Women's Power List power list, featuring many of the women I have written about and some I have not.
#1. ELIZABETH I
Still considered one of England’s greatest monarchs, history has perhaps glossed over some of the failures of Elizabeth I’s 44 year reign, choosing instead to focus on the triumphs. The defeat of the Spanish Armada was one such victory, indeed because the Catholic world deemed the Protestant Elizabeth a heretic, her reign was characterised by England’s successful defence against a perpetual and very real Spanish threat.
The period saw a great flourishing of culture supported by the Queen, in particular the rise of English drama with playwrights like Shakespeare and her encouragement of the exploration of the New World by figures such as Frances Drake, all helping to establish the English cultural identity that persists to this day.
Unlike her sister Mary, Elizabeth understood the mechanics of power for a woman on the throne and that her potential for marriage allowed her to play one foreign state off against another. To commit herself in marriage, she realised, would mean a compromise of that power, so she remained single at great personal cost and without the ability to produce an heir to continue the hard-won Tudor line.
Elizabeth features prominently in all three of my Tudor novels: Queen's Gambit; Sisters of Treason and Watch the Lady.