The Stuart consorts, 1603–1714: Representation, agency and anxiety

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Abstract / Description of output

The accession of James VI, King of Scots, to the English throne in 1603, signified a restoration of the patriarchal order. The long rule of Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen, was followed by that of a king, who was both a married man and a father. James’s wife and family were central to his representation – his spousal and paternal authority reflected his sovereign right. James had also recognised that ‘friendship by allie [sic]’ was one of the political benefits of a royal union. His own marriage to Anna of Denmark supported valuable diplomatic networks between the Stuart court and Europe. His successors took heed. Every monarch of the cosmopolitan Stuart dynasty was married to a foreign consort. Matches were contracted with the princely houses of Denmark (twice), France, Portugal and Italy. Although the political influence of each spouse varied, through both the marital and birthing bed, they served as important sites of international dynastic connection. Accordingly, with the exception of Queen Anne’s husband, Prince George of Denmark, official representations of the Stuart consorts tended to locate their capital in their roles of wife, mother and foreign mediator. The spousal and maternal influence of foreign brides, however, could also prove a source of anxiety, while, as Catholic consorts in a Protestant nation, suspicions simmered over their loyalties. At times of crisis, images and texts produced beyond royal control might play on these concerns, figuring queens as alien other or even as the enemy within. With reference to visual, material and textual portrayals, this essay will explore the imagery of Stuart consorts in both court and popular culture. Tracing tensions between representation, reception and counter-representation, it will argue that compliment and criticism were closely connected.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTudor and Stuart Consorts
Subtitle of host publicationPower, Influence, and Dynasty
EditorsAidan Norrie, Carolyn Harris, J. L. Laynesmith, Danna R. Messer, Elena Woodacre
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages24
ISBN (Print)9783030951962
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jul 2022

Publication series

NameQueenship and Power
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISSN (Print)2730-938X


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