John Knox and Henry Howard: An Understanding of Early Modern Queens Regnant
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In 1558, Scottish Reformer John Knox published The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstruous Regiment of Women, to which English-Catholic aristocrat Henry Howard responded in 1590 with his as-of-yet-still-unpublished manuscript “A Dutifull Defence of the Lawfull Regiment of Women”. Though Knox and Howard respond to the same phenomenon – the role of women in the traditionally-male authority of the English throne – they held oppositional views of English queenship. Their vastly differing historical contexts transcended their works and resulted in their conflicting arguments. Knox’s opposition to female rule, rooted in his Presbyterianism, denied regal and spiritual authority to queens regnant because he refused to recognise the legitimacy of a woman in political and religious power. Howard, meanwhile, negotiated for mercy from Elizabeth I and hoped for tolerance from her for his Catholicism. He also legitimised female rule because, as a Catholic, Howard did not recognise the English monarch’s supremacy over the Church of England. He thus negated Knox’s concerns about female spiritual authority. Through analysis of the arguments in Knox’s The First Blast and Howard’s “A Dutifull Defence”, contextualisation of both works in early modern Catholic and Protestant resistance theories, and analysis specifically of the environment in which Howard wrote, I argue that Knox and Howard have opposing viewpoints on female monarchy not because of their opinions on sex but because of their religious beliefs. Though Knox and Howard wrote on the subject of female rule in early modern England, both are implicitly influenced by their environments which transcended their present moments and deeply affected how they each responded to queens occupying England’s regal space.