Royal Opportunity: Noble Marriages in the Reigns of Elizabeth I and James VI/I, 1558-1625
This thesis explores Queen Elizabeth I’s and King James VI/I’s management of and involvement in noble marriages from 1558 to 1625 by merging two methodologies: an analysis of an extensive, custom-made database of 380 noble marriages with an examination of primary sources like state papers, personal correspondence, diaries, and ambassadorial reports. This study demonstrates that “noble-marriage management” was a single but efficient method for the implementation of many facets of early modern rule—this made it an important apparatus of the monarchical office and a significant conduit of power. Illuminated within this thesis are Queen Elizabeth’s and King James’s tactics for handling noble marital alliances which included participation and support, avoidance and opposition. They applied their exclusive crown privileges like plural prerogatives of wards’ and widows’ marriages and in loco parentis rights in attempts to control marital unions and they inaugurated new monarch-noble bonds through their patronage of weddings. They communicated religious, succession, and Anglo-Scottish union policies, brought peace, and cultivated a crown-supportive aristocracy by means of their noble marriage involvement. Both monarchs employed multiple aspects of the royal prerogative to manage marriages which, at times, involved manipulating courts, bypassing Parliament, and prolonging punishments. Elizabeth and James also used the royal prerogative to forge their respective legacies of a Protestant kingdom and a unified England and Scotland. By utilising their exclusive privileges, both monarchs secured the freedom and power to intervene in noble marital alliances which preserved the hierarchical system of monarchy, achieving a pro-monarch balance of power and internal stability. In particular, it was through supportive involvement in marriages that Elizabeth and James perpetuated the patronage system and established all-important monarch-noble connections which upheld royal authority. Monarch-noble links became especially important as parliamentary debates on the legitimacy and use of crown privileges increased in the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods, exposing both monarchs’ absolutist tendencies.