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"She governs the Queen": Jane Dudley, Mary Dudley Sidney, and Katherine Dudley Hastings' political actions, agency, and networks in Tudor England

Catherine Medici-Thiemann, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This dissertation examines the ways Jane Dudley, Duchess of Northumberland, and her daughters Mary Dudley Sidney and Katherine Dudley Hastings, Countess of Huntington, participated in personal politics through their communication and patronage networks, involvement in religion, and presence at court and government postings in Tudor England. It illuminates the ways in which women could gain political power in sixteenth century England and argues for a broader definition of political action. My work draws from feminist historiography, which recognizes the political significance of the personal and private and challenges traditional views of politics as formal and structural. When personal nature of patronage is emphasized, and the separation between public and private is challenged, the centrality of women’s networks of marital alliances, kinship, and social contacts in early modern politics becomes clear. Tudor England saw the emergence of more formal institutions of political power, but the importance of the personal politics remained. The intersection of personal politics and a female monarch allowed the women of her court an avenue to power. This work is part of an emerging field, studying early modern women’s political actions. Focusing on three women in one family over nine decades, “She Governs the Queen” moves towards a more complete understanding of women’s political agency. It shows how actions and avenues to power like patronage and information sharing, interacted and developed and how changing political contexts, including shifts from male to female rule, affected the political significance of women’s actions. Using a variety of sources including letters; deeds, wills, and legal documents; early modern books; and family papers like receipts, bills, and inventories, I demonstrate the Dudley women’s centrality to the politics of Tudor England. Jane, Mary, and Katherine participated in politics through their involvement in patronage and information sharing and used their religious beliefs and presence at court and their husbands’ government postings to influence and shape Tudor politics. The study of their lives and family networks, as well as erasure from history recovers the Dudley women’s stories and provides clues to contexts where women’s political agency may be rediscovered.

Subject Area

European history|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Medici-Thiemann, Catherine, ""She governs the Queen": Jane Dudley, Mary Dudley Sidney, and Katherine Dudley Hastings' political actions, agency, and networks in Tudor England" (2016). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI10102332.