My dissertation, “The Matrix of Queenship: Legitimacy, Authority, and Queenly Text in England, 1460-1603,” focuses on English queens and the communities they formed using material texts. The connections between content, form, and location are central to my discussion of the queens and their texts, though that relationship is constantly in flux. What these connections cumulate in, however, is a literary community centered in Tudor queenship that builds from Elizabeth of York to her granddaughter, Elizabeth I. The timeline spans approximately 1460-1603 and examines the literary interventions surrounding four English queens: Elizabeth of York, Anne Boleyn, Katherine Parr, and Elizabeth I. I argue that these queens represent one instance of a larger practice of communities built between women and literacy.
Chapter one argues that we can rethink women’s authorship in broader terms by examining the literary practice and representation of Elizabeth of York. Using her annotations and signatures in books, I trace a community of literate queens that begin with her position as the first Tudor queen. My second chapter is where the shift from use of books to production of texts occurs: where Anne Boleyn wrote in her books to enact change, Katherine Parr expanded the community she inherited from Henry VIII’s previous five wives to include a wider reading base by publishing her own work in English. The community traced in my dissertation thus develop between Elizabeth of York and Anne Boleyn’s annotations and Katherine Parr’s publications and culminates in Elizabeth I, whose literary legacy, I argue in my third chapter, is the successful product of the authority generated by the community of women who came before her.
The material use of books by the queens of my dissertation shows a movement from dictation about where women belonged and what they did to a reaction of how women exist.That move to reaction, the effects of the literary community of Tudor queenship, ultimately allows a reconsideration of the diversification of early modern authorship and commercial writing by women.