Response to Julie Crawford

Maureen Quilligan

 

     1. I am grateful for Julie Crawford's questioning of my assumptions of agency and authorship in the essay on Elizabeth I and Catherine de Médicis, for her objections allow me to clarify the kind of authorship I am promulgating. It also allows me to insist upon the very crucial differences between 16th and 17th century understandings of kingship, so that, indeed, to talk about the two together tends to elide the historical impasse wrought by the interregnum.

     2. To take the second point first: As Jodi Mikalachki has so suggestively argued, the English political nation/realm in the 16th century was more easily gendered female than it was in the 17th, if only because of the huge efforts made by Thomas Hobbes to eradicate the femaleness of Britannia by his construct of the "artifical man" in the Leviathan.1 While I do use Gatherine Gallagher in my book on the anthropological force of hierarchical, dynastic societies to empower women, I don't see a continuous and unchanging theory of sovereignty in all instances of kingship. Indeed, political theory changed radically from one decade to the next within Elizabeth's reign itself. Anne McClaren and Patrick Collinson have argued that the theory of female rule underwent distinct changes throughout the reign, with a highpoiont of republican theorizing attending upon the 1584 Bond of Association, whereby, as Collinson puts it (too emphatically, I think), "The extreme irregularity of the bond was soon remedied in a parliamentary Act for the Surety of the Queen's Most Royal Person . . . But . . . [both appeared by not discussing the succession] to condone an irregular, acephalous, quasi-republican state of emergency."2 The bond was drawn up when Elizabeth first refused to execute Mary Queen of Scots and so caused terror among the protestant male nation that they might well have to suffer another Roman Catholic queen. Such an event pinpoints, I think, the prescient sense Ronsard had of the important intertwining of the fates of the two queens in the British Isles in his 1564 volume. In 1564, twenty years earlier, before Elizabeth had been excommunicated by the Pope, and when, indeed, there were many movements afoot to convene a conference to heal the doctrinal breach in Christendom, Ronsard was not so opposed to reformers as he later became. One might think of the excommunication as something like 9/11/2001 for the United States. Doctrinal lines became infinitely more hardened. 1564 was 8 years before the St. Bartholemew's Massacre in Paris as well.

     3. As to my too simple insistence on Catherine's "authorship" of Ronsard's volume. First, Catherine was Ronsard's patron, not Charles (who was only 13 at the time; Catherine had him named king one year before the normal term of majority for French royalty). "La Reine Mere" had an immense amount of power, clearly more than she had as Queen Regent. It is also true that later Ronsard wrote the Franciad, dedicating it to Charles, and enjoining him to throw off the rule of his mother. But in 1564 Ronsard's address to the king understands Carlin's actual minority. Second, in making Catherine one of the people whose agency is accessible to us through the Bergerie, I do not mean to erase Ronsard's authorship, but to complicate it. Indeed, the Ronsard volume, and the forty days' worth of masking and entertainments at Fountainebleau which it records, have multiple agencies and audiences. My hope was to suggest that the print version of the texts presented at Fountainebleau, sent to Elizabeth at the behest of Catherine, should enter into our understanding of the very large conversation that was taking place about female rule within three realms -- Scotland, England, and France, a conversation to which I think Ronsard directly alludes. Both Mary and Elizabeth were each anointed queens in their own right; Catherine had been a mere Queen Consort of France (when she in fact exercized very little power), then Queen Regent, and finally (an office she hurried upon herself), Queen Mother. By making Elizabeth and Catherine equally queens, insisting on their shared gender, Ronsard's address to Elizabeth elevates Catherine's status. Louis Montrose's new book on The Subject of Elizabeth (University of Chicago Press, forthcoming) argues that the most important site for understanding Elizabeth is within what he calls the "Elizabethan Imaginary" a repository of shared cultural understandings to which any member of the body politic can (and did) contribute. Catherine de Médicis was only one of the agents contributing to what we might want to call a Valois imaginary in France, but she understood that she had to do it as energetically as possible, with all of the ideological tools to which she had access. Ronsard was one of them. I would also like to suggest that the Elizabethan imaginary was inflected by both Valois fictions and realities, just as the fact of Mary Queen of Scots' existence as another anointed queen on the island, had immense impact on Elizabeth's regime. Ronsard's exquisite poems to her, including the one in the Bergerie, also helped to shaped the culture's fantasies of her.

     4. Sometimes, as with the recent New York Times scandal of Judith Miller's reporting on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, a putatively independent agent can be a mere mouthpiece for an administration. Ronsard's Bergerie may have gotten a lot of things wrong (Elizabeth never married; the wars of religion were not over in France); but that does not mean that at one point that the desire for doctrinal compromise and peace was not real.

 

 

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Notes

1 Jodi Mikalachki, The Legend of Boadicea Gender and nation in early modern England (London: Routledge, 1998).

2 Patrick Collinson, "The Monarchical Republic of Queen Elizabeth I," in Elizabethan Essays (London: Hambledon Press, l994), p. 51; see also A. N. McLaren, Political Culture in the Reign of Elizabeth I (Cambrtdige University Press, l999).

 

Form copyright © 2006 Early Modern Culture.

Content copyright © 2006 Maureen Quilligan.