Royal Women

Royal Women

Royal Women - Time Special

As Elizabeth II prepares to become Britain’s longest ever reigning monarch, we explore the lives of some of the country’s most fascinating queens, princesses and consorts. Through a compilation of the best articles from BBC History Magazine, plus several new pieces, we offer you a fresh perspective on female royals from the Roman era until the present day. Inside you will find: ◆ Biographies of famous queens ◆ The inside story of Henry VIII’s wives ◆ A new appraisal of Elizabeth II ◆ The remarkable stories of Princess Diana and Kate Middleton

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United Kingdom
Immediate Media Company London Limited
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4 min.
from warrior queens to quiet radicals

“I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman,” Elizabeth I told her troops at Tilbury Docks as they awaited a fresh onslaught from the Spanish Armada in August 1588, “but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too.” This famous line, and the apparent regret with which she uttered it, suggests that she shared the views of most of her contemporaries about the natural ‘womanly weakness’ to which it was believed her sex was subject. Throughout her reign, she referred to herself time and again in masculine terms in order to assert her authority. That she felt compelled to do so says a great deal about the perception of royal women – even those who, like Elizabeth, reigned…

10 min.
queen boudica scourge of the roman empire

A freedom fighter, the woman who almost drove the Romans out of the country, Boudica is one of the most iconic queens of Britain. Despite being one of the first ‘British’ women mentioned in history, there is no direct evidence that she even existed. Instead, we have to rely on the accounts of two classical authors, Tacitus and Cassius Dio, both writing decades after the alleged battles between Boudica’s rebel army and their new Roman overlords. Their accounts were constructed with a specific political agenda, and a Roman audience, in mind but they are the only references we have. We don’t even know her real name: Boudica derives from bouda, the ancient British word for victory. Any biography of the warrior queen is therefore a marriage of the classical histories with…

10 min.
mary queen against the odds

Bloody Mary was a Catholic bigot, a half-Spanish tyrant who burned nearly 300 Protestant men, women and children in one of the most ferocious periods of persecution in Reformation Europe. At least, that’s how subsequent (Protestant) writers painted her. John Foxe’s classic martyrology, Actes and Monuments (popularly known as the Book of Martyrs), first published in 1563, graphically depicted “the horrible and bloudy time of Queene Mary” and dominated accounts of Mary’s reign for nearly 500 years. In his First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, written on the eve of Mary’s death, Scottish Protestant reformer John Knox condemned Mary both as a female ruler and a Catholic: she was a “horrible monster Jezebel” who “compelled [Englishmen] to bow their necks under the yoke of Satan”. Traditionally…

11 min.
elizabeth i : the monarch behind the mask

In 1586, Queen Elizabeth I declared: “We princes, I tell you, are set on stages in the sight and view of all the world duly observed; the eyes of many behold our actions, a spot is soon spied in our garments; a blemish noted quickly in our doings.” Elizabeth’s “doings” – the state of her health, her actions and behaviour – were the subject of international speculation. Her private life was of public concern. Her body was held to be one and the same as England. The stability of the state depended on the queen’s wellbeing, chastity and fertility. Elizabeth’s “doings” – the state of her health, her actions and behaviour – were the subject of international speculation. Her private life was of public concern. Her body was held to be one…

7 min.
anne daughter and heir

The fact that Queen Anne was the last monarch of the Stuart dynasty was due to an extraordinary, tragic, quirk of fate. By the time of her accession, she had been pregnant 17 times, but only five children were born alive, all of whom died in infancy. Her son William lived the longest, dying in 1700 aged 11. The same reproductive misfortune had befallen Anne’s sister, Mary, who had also failed to produce an heir. If she had, then Anne would not have come to the throne upon William III’s death on 8 March 1702. The two women were daughters of James II (James VII in Scotland) by his first wife, Anne Hyde. The future Queen Anne’s birth had taken place on 6 February 1665 during the reign of her uncle,…

10 min.
how do you solve a problem like victoria ?

“A woman on the throne of England – how ridiculous!” These words were uttered by Prince George of Cambridge, after he’d been pushed far from the succession by his plump little cousin, Princess Victoria. And many at the time agreed with his assessment. Even worse, as the queen herself put it: “I was the first person ever to bear the name Victoria.” Astonishingly to us for whom the word ‘Victorian’ seems so categorically English, it was at the time regarded as an absurd, invented name. Still worse, it had a French origin; France had been, until only a few years before, the country’s great enemy. The little princess was further hampered by other matters: an unprepossessing appearance, shyness, a wilful temper and, most of all, a greedy mother who wished to use…