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Women of the Rennaissance

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What If She Didn't Die??


Young Princess Joan of England, daughter of Edward III and sister of Edward the Black Prince was on her way to Spain to marry the heir to the Castilian throne. Had the marriage taken place, the probable outcome would have been the uniting of the kingdoms of England, Wales, most of Spain and much of France under the Plantagenet banner.

Alas, poor Joan had the misfortune to stop off at the royal château in Bordeaux in 1548, a shipping dock crawling with weak and dying rats. As their fleas forsook the dead for the succor of the living, the 15-year-old princess watched in horror as one by one her entourage sickened and died from a bacterium identified centuries later as Yersinia pestis. Finally, it was young Joan’s turn. With the port area fired in an attempt to contain the plague, her body was never recovered. The same could be said of her father’s aspirations.

 Spain remained outside the Plantagenet camp, while repeated efforts to take the country by force sapped England’s strength to battle the French. Moreover, the plague-caused death of Henry of Grosmont would eventually lead to the rise of the House of Lancaster and the War of the Roses. Given the pattern of interlocking royal marriages, had Princess Joan and Henry of Grosmont lived, the map of Europe (as well as that of North and South America) would clearly be vastly different today.

Could England Have Colonized The World Without This Woman?

"I may not be a lion, but I am a lion's cub, 
and I have a lion's heart"
Elizabeth I

Elizabeth I


Elizabeth was dedicated to her country in a way few monarchs had been or have been since. Elizabeth had the mind of a political genius and nurtured her country through careful leadership and by choosing capable men to assist her, such as Sir William Cecil and Sir Francis Walsingham. Elizabeth was a determined woman, but she was not obstinate. She listened to the advice of those around her, and would change a policy if it was unpopular. In appearance she was extravagant, in behavior sometimes flippant and frivolous, but her approach to politics was serious, conservative, and cautious. When she ascended the throne in 1558, England was an impoverished country torn apart by religious squabbles. When she died at Richmond Palace on the 24th March 1603, England was one of the most powerful and prosperous countries in the world

Elizabeth I

Elizabeth I, 1533-1603, queen of England 1558-1603. Daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, she was declared illegitimate after her mother's execution. Parliament reestablished her in succession in 1544. Imprisoned as rallying point for discontented Protestants, she regained freedom by outward conformity to Catholicism. On her succession England's low fortunes included religious strife, a huge government debt, and failure in wars with France. Her reign took England through one of its greatest periods. It produced such men as Shakespeare, Spenser, Francis Bacon, and Walter Raleigh. It saw the country united to become a first-rate European power with a great navy. It saw commerce and industry propser and colonization begin. Her Tudor concept of strong rule and need for popular support helped her select excellent counsellors. She reestablished Anglicanism and measures against Catholics grew harsher. Important measures enacted included stablization of labor conditions, currency reforms, poor laws, and acts to encourage agriculture, commerce, and manufacturing. Elizabeth began a policy of peace and her series of diplomatic maneuvers eventually defeated Spain and stalemated France. Treaty of Edinburgh (1560) started policy of supporting Protestant lords against Catholics. After abdication of Mary Queen of Scots from Scottish throne, Elizabeth gave her refuge, kept her prisoner, and executed her only after plots to seat Mary on English throne [there are other points of view on this subject.] By marriage negotiations with Francis, duke of Alençon and Anjou, she secured (1572) defence alliance against Spain and, later, French aid for the Dutch against Spain, who now emerged as England's main enemy. Philip II of Spain, whose offer of marriage Elizabeth had refused in 1559, planned Spanish Armada expedition as reprisal against English raids on Spanish shipping. Defeat of Armada broke power of Sain. Vain, fickle in bestowing favors, prejudiced, vacillating, and parsimonious, she was also highly aware of responsibility of rule and immensely courageous. --
Columbia-Viking desk encyclopedia, 1953

Would The Persecution of Protestant's Have Weakened France So Drastically Without This Woman?

Madame Snake: Catherine de Medici
On the death of Francis (December 5, 1560), Catherine became
regent during the minority of her second son, Charles IX of
France, and found before her a career worthy of the most soaring
ambition. She was then forty-one years old, but, although she
was the mother of nine children, she was still vigorous and
active. She retained her influence for more than twenty years in
the troubled period of the French Wars of Religion. At first she
listened to the moderate counsels of l'Hôpital to avoid siding
definitely with either party, but her character and the habits
of policy to which she had been accustomed tended to be at odds
with this stance. She was zealous in the interests of her
children, especially of her favourite third son, the duke of
Like many of that time, she looked upon statesmanship in
particular as a career in which finesse, lying, and
assassination by poisoning were also one of her most famous if
not admirable, traits. Rumors of a hidden or trap door to
dispose the bodies of her victims does bring to light a more
sinister side of the renaissance queen. By habit a Catholic, but
above all fond of power, she was determined to prevent the
Protestants from getting the upper hand and almost equally
resolved not to allow them to be utterly crushed, in order to
use them as a counterpoise to the Guises. This trimming policy
met with little success, and one civil war followed another
toward the end of her life. In 1567, after the Enterprise of
Meaux, she dismissed l'Hôpital and joined the Catholic party.
Having failed to crush the Protestant rebellion by arms, she
resumed, in 1570, the policy of peace and negotiation. She
conceived the project of marrying her son, the duke of Alençon,
to Queen Elizabeth I of England, but that did not come about.
She was successful in marrying her eldest daughter, Elisabeth
(b. April 2, 1545), to Philip II of Spain and then her third
daughter, Marguerite (b. May 14, 1553), to Henry of Navarre. To
this end she temporarily reconciled with the Protestants and
allowed Coligny to return to court and to re-enter the council.
Of this step she quickly repented: Charles IX conceived a great
affection for the admiral and showed signs of taking up an
independent attitude. Catherine, thinking her influence menaced,
sought to regain it, first by the murder of Coligny, and, after
that failed, by the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre. After the
death of Charles in 1574 and the succession of her son, Henri
III, Catherine pursued her old policy of compromise and
concessions, but as her influence was nothing compared to her
son's. She died on January 5, 1589, a short time before the
assassination of Henry and the end of the House of Valois.
As queen dowager she would be known as Madame Snake, with secret
hideaways for poison rings and daggers. She would gain infamy in
her role in the Saint Bartholomew Massacre and praise for her
role in bringing ballet to France in 1581 with her sponsored
production of Ballet Comique de la Reine.

Sophie Brahe
Sophie Brahe
was a Danish astronomer who lived from 1556 to
1643. Her parents ranked high in society and, therefore, Sophie
received the best education growing up. As a self-taught
astrologer and alchemist, she was devoted to the studies of
horticulture, genealogy, chemistry, botany, and medicine. Most
of her specific contributions are not known since she assisted
her brother, Tycho, at his observatory. Sophie married Erik
Lange, who used up all of her money after they had moved to
Germany to escape creditors. Lange died in 1613 and Sophie spent
the rest of her life palm reading and helping the poor.

Could nationalism have caught on without this woman?


Joan of Arc,  (141230 May 1431),[2] is a national heroine of France and a saint of the Catholic Church. She stated that she had visions, which she believed came from God, and she used these to inspire Charles VII's troops to retake most of his dynasty's former territories which had been under English and Burgundian dominance during the Hundred Years' War.

She had been sent to the siege of Orléans by the then-uncrowned King Charles VII as part of a relief mission. She gained prominence when she overcame the disregard of veteran commanders and ended the siege in only nine days. Several more swift victories led to Charles VII's coronation at Reims and settled the disputed succession to the throne.

The renewed confidence of Charles VII's forces outlasted Joan of Arc's own brief career. She refused to leave the field when she was wounded during an attempt to recapture Paris that autumn. Hampered by court intrigues, she led only minor companies from then on, and fell prisoner during a skirmish near Compiègne the following spring. A politically motivated trial by the English convicted her of heresy. The English regent, John, Duke of Bedford, had her burnt at the stake in Rouen. She had become the heroine of her faction at the age of seventeen, but died at the age of nineteen. Some twenty-four years later, Joan's aged mother, Isabelle, convinced the Inquisitor-General and Pope Callixtus III to reopen Joan's case, resulting in an appeal which overturned the original conviction by the English.[3] Pope Benedict XV canonized her on 16 May 1920.

Would The Reformation Have Transformed England Without This Woman?


Catherine of Aragon

The youngest surviving child of the 'Catholic Kings' of Spain, Katharine was born on 16 December 1485, the same year that Henry VII established the Tudor dynasty.  At the age of three, she was betrothed to his infant son, Prince Arthur.  In 1501, shortly before her sixteenth birthday, Katharine sailed to England.  But her marriage to Arthur lasted less than six months and was supposedly never consummated.  Katharine was then betrothed to Arthur's younger brother, Prince Henry.  When he became king in 1509, at the age of eighteen, he promptly married Katharine and they lived together happily for many years.  But their marriage produced just one living child, a daughter called Mary, and Henry was desperate for a male heir.  He also fell deeply in love with another woman.  Cast aside, Katharine fought against great odds to deny Henry an annulment.  But the king would not be denied and when the Catholic church would not grant the annulment, he declared himself head of a new English church.  Katharine was banished from court and died on 7 January 1536, broken-hearted but still defiant.

Would The Perception of Women As Objects Ever Have Begun To Be Chipped Away Without This Woman?

Elisabetta Sirani
(born 1638, died at the age of 27 in 1665)
Women artists in this period began to change the means in which women were depicted in art. Many of the women working as artists in the Baroque era were not able to train from nude artists' models, who were always male. However, they were very familiar with the female body. Women such as Elisabetta Sirani created images of women as conscious beings rather than detached muses.
She was an Italian painter whose father was the painter Giovanni Andrea Sirani of the School of Bologna, and the principal assistant of Guido Reni. She painted an Assumption at the Parish Church of Borgo Panigale. Also a Sain Eustache, and Judith with the Head of Holofernes (Burghley House, Stamford, England); Baptism of Christ (1658); and Madonna with child and Infant Saint John (Museo Civico, Pesaro); Saint Jerome (Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna), and Portrait of Anna Maria Ranuzzi.

Would Great Britian Ever Have Unified Without This Woman?

Mary Queen of Scots

Mary Queen of Scots (Mary Stuart), 1542–87, only child of James V of Scotland and Mary of Guise. Through her grandmother Margaret Tudor, Mary had the strongest claim to the throne of England after the children of Henry VIII. This claim (and her Roman Catholicism) made Mary a threat to Elizabeth I of England, who finally had her executed. However, Mary's son, James VI of Scotland, succeeded Elizabeth to the English throne as James I. Mary's reported beauty and charm and her undoubted courage have made her a particularly romantic figure in history.

"the wisest fool in Christendom" (so called by Henry the Fourth of France.)


At Stirling Castle, between the hours of 9 o'clock and 10 o'clock in the morning of June 19, 1566, Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to her son James.

With James in her arms she presented him to Darnley with these words: "My Lord, here I protest to God, and as I shall answer to Him at the great day of judgment, this is your son, and no other man's son; and I am desirous that all here, both ladies and others, bear witness, for he is so much your own son that I fear it may be the worse for him hereafter."

To William Standon, one of her soldiers, she said "this is the prince whom I hope shall first unite the two kingdoms of England and Scotland." A wish that came true.

With this speech she had obviously given up her hope to succeed to the throne of her great grandfather, Henry VII.
In June of 1567, the Protestant lords that had become increasingly unhappy with Mary (James mother) after her marriage to Bothwell rebelled. They arrested and imprisoned Mary in Lochleven Castle where she was forced to abdicate the throne of Scotland. James, was only a year old when he became King of Scotland.
On 25 July, 1603, in Westminster Abbey, James and Anne of Denmark were crowned. The two kingdoms were now united under one crown. However, they were in fact, two separate kingdoms each with their own legislatures and own administrative bodies. Being under one crown, they could not go to war with each other, they could not take opposing sides in foreign wars. Nor could they make any hostile agreements.

James misunderstood the differing powers of the two parliaments and conflicts arose especially in the areas of taxation and religion. There were also diametrically opposite opinions on Spain. England adamantly believed Spain to be its enemy and, therefore, a country to be defeated. On the other hand, James believed in resolving differences with Spain.

A list of troubles for James included:

The anger of Roman Catholics, resulting in plots to remove the King. One such plot was the Gunpowder Plot another was the Bye Plot.

A Catholic uprising in 1588, and a conspiracy in 1600 led by John Ruthven, Earl of Gowrie.

His plan for free trade between Scotland and England was denied.

His selling of honors and titles to shore up the debt-ridden treasury.

His dissolution of the second Parliament called the Addled Parliament whose purpose was to obtain new taxes. Ultimately, this Parliament failed to pass any legislation and failed to impose taxes. After the dissolution he ruled for seven years without a parliament.

Arranging the marriage of his eldest son to the daughter of the King of Spain hoping for an alliance with Spain. The marriage greatly angered the populace.

His execution of the well-liked, and admired Sir Walter Raleigh further hurt his popularity.

The Five Articles of Perth did not endear him either as they were interpreted as being too Catholic and Anglican-like therefore a threat to Scottish Presbyterians. (The Five Articles of Perth: (1) kneeling during communion, (2) private baptism, (3) private communion for the sick or infirm, (4) confirmation by a Bishop and (5) the observance of Holy Days.)
James ruled Scotland as James VI from 24th July 1567 James ruled in England and Ireland as James 1st from 24th March, 1603 He died 27th March, 1625 at Theobalds House, and his remains lie in the Henry VII Lady Chapel in Westminster Abbey.

Would Latin and Greek Thinking Been Understood And Accepted As Well Without This Woman's Translations?


 Woodcut from the first-known edition of Erasmus' Precatio Dominica translated by Margaret Roper (1525). Printed with permission from the British Library.

Margaret More Roper

(1505 -1544)

Margaret More Roper, the oldest daughter of Sir thomas More, was born in England in 1505.

Margaret was well-educated, trained in the classics, philosophy, and science.[1]   "She wrote excellent prose and verse both in Greek and Latin 'in a style elegant and graceful, while in treatment they hardly yielded to her father's compositions.'[2]"[3]   Margaret More Roper is credited with the amending of a latin text of St. Cyprian to recapture the original meaning.[4]

"One of Margaret's works was a translation into English by Erasmus on the Lord's Prayer.   An introduction to her translation was written by Richard Hyrde, 'a young man learned in physic, Greek and Latin."[5]   The introduction, described as 'the first Renascance document in English on the education of women', is a vindication of the study by women of the classics and humanities.[6]

Would American Be Colonized Without This Woman?


Isabella is known to generations of schoolchildren as the queen who financed Columbus's voyages to the New World. Her marriage to Ferdinand of Aragon helped unite Spain. Isabella also presided over the notorious Inquisition, led by her confessor Tomas de Torquemada.
Isabella and Ferdinand, known as the Catholic kings, ruled Castile and Aragón jointly. Although the union of their crowns was personal rather than institutional, their reign in effect marked the beginning of the unified Spanish kingdom. Isabella's principal aim was to assert royal authority over the lawless Castilian nobility. To this end she revived the medieval hermandad and confiscated the lands of many magnates. She also took over the administration of the holdings of the powerful religious military orders (by making Ferdinand their grand master) and established the Inquisition under royal control. She was a prime mover in the expulsion (1492) of the Jews from Spain, the conquest (1492) of Granada, and the forced conversion of the Moors. She showed foresight in her patronage of Christopher Columbus. The Catholic kings furthered learning and the arts and promoted great building activity. The style of the period is called isabelino after the queen; it combines Gothic, Mudejar, and Renaissance features.


Mary Tudor

Mary Tudor, Mary I, or Bloody Mary as she was known to 17th Century Protestants,* was the eldest child of Henry VIII. The only surviving child of his first marriage, to Katherine of Aragon

The story of her life is one of the most fascinating in English history. From her pampered childhood, her isolated and fearful teenage years to her unhappy adulthood as Queen of England, her life was a product of her circumstances and beliefs.

'Bloody Mary' was the Mary of the last four years of her life. A staunch Catholic Queen in a religiously divided country she had 283 heretics burned at the stake in a misguided effort to bring England back to the religion that had been her only constant comfort in a life filled with uncertainties.

Inscribed beneath a Portrait of Lady Jane Grey

Young, beautiful, and learned Jane, intent
On knowledge, found it peace; her vast acquirement
Of goodness was her fall; she was content
With dulcet pleasures, such as calm retirement
Yields to the wise alone;--her only vice
Was virtue: in obedience to her sire
And lord she died, with them a sacrifice
To their ambition: her own mild desire
Was rather to be happy than be great;
For though at their request she claimed the crown,
That they through her might rise to rule the state,
Yet the bright diadem and gorgeous throne
She viewed as cares, dimming the dignity
Of her unsullied mind and pure benignity.

Would Generations of Women Ever Work Towards Equality Without Knowing It Had Been Done Before?


Christine de Pizan
(1364 -1430) was a remarkable medieval writer, rhetorician and critic, who strongly challenged misogynist thinking by successfully establishing her authority - even in the midst of the male-dominated realm of arts - as a female writer. De Pizan’s prolific writings, forty-one known pieces, written over her career of at least thirty years (1399-1429), earned her fame as Europe’s first professional woman writer (Redfern 74). In particular, her success stems from a wide range of innovative writing techniques that critically challenged renowned male writers who, to Pizan’s dismay, incorporated misogynist scrutiny within their literary works. Overall, de Pizan and her writings have been celebrated and embraced; she is seen as a feminist foremother who effectively utilized language to demonstrate that women, with distinctive abilities, could play an integral role within society.


II. 30. 1 "My lady, I see the endless benefits which have accrued to the world through women and nevertheless these mer, claim that there is no evil which has not come into the world because of them." "Fair friend," she answered, "you can see from what I have already said to you that the contrary of what they say is true. For there is no man who could sum up the enormous benefits which have come about through women and which come about every day, and I proved this for you with the examples of the noble ladies who gave the sciences and arts to the world. But, if what I have sal 'd about the earthly benefits accruing thanks to women is not enough for you, I will tell you about the spiritual ones. Oh, how could any man be so heartless to forget that the door of Paradise was opened to him by a woman? As I told you before, it was opened by the Virgin Mary, and is there anything greater one could ask for than that God was made man? And who can forget the great benefits which mothers bring to their sons and which wives bring to their husbands? I implore them at the very least not to forget the advantages which touch upon spiritual good. Let us consider the Law of the Jews. If you recall the story of Moses, to whom God gave the written Law of the Jews, you will find that this holy prophet, through whom so much good has come about, was saved from death by a woman, just as I will tell you.

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