Faculty Advisor

Williams, Linda

Area of Study

Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Publication Date

Summer 2014


This research project focuses on portraits of Queen Elizabeth I of England, specifically, portraits commissioned after she inherited the throne in 1558 at the age of twenty-five. Elizabeth I is one of the most remarkable women in history, she was not only a successful queen (no easy task in a patriarchal society), but she overcame a lifetime of obstacles to become one of the most powerful, beloved, and significant monarchs in world history. My project sought to understand how she was portrayed and to what extent that portrayal was self-fashioned. I argue that a great deal of Elizabeth’s portrayal was controlled by Elizabeth herself and that her need to self-fashion was driven by the fact that she was a woman acting in a strictly male role in a dominantly patriarchal society. It was not just her image and policies which were influenced by her gender; decisions and circumstances of Elizabeth I’s life were colored by the fact that she was a woman. During the Renaissance, gender roles were precise and inflexible, separating men and women both physically and psychologically. Through her self-fashioning, both visual and rhetoric, Elizabeth I executed the balancing act she was forced to maintain between woman and monarch and it was that life-long navigation which allowed her to become one of England’s most important and powerful rulers and opened the doors to the prosperous era which took her name.


University of Puget Sound