Elizabeth I and Representations of the Body Politic
Thompson, Katie Marie
McCandless, Amy T.
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When Elizabeth I came to the throne in 1558, expectations of her reign were low. Her half-sister Mary bequeathed her a country financially weak, religiously divided, and politically impotent. Elizabeth's councilors and advisors saw only one path to England's recovery: the queen was to marry and produce a male heir. Elizabeth, however, refused to allow her female body to limit her ability to rule her country. The crown symbolized more that the physical body of the ruler who wore it; it stood for the people and country of England. Building on notions of the body politic reaching back to Plato, affirmed by early Christians, and revived by civic humanists in the Renaissance, Elizabeth realized the importance of the "Idea of Monarchy" and used this imagery to great success in her speeches, writings, and representations. This thesis will argue that Elizabeth used the body politic as her main form of political propaganda, and due to her successful employment of such rhetoric her reign is now seen as a golden age in English history.