Can the aristocratic Tudor women have been the first modern wives and lovers?
Tudor England has long been romanticized as the haven for courtly love and courtly intrigue, hand in hand as England underwent substantial political and cultural change. The women of Tudor England, many of whom meet with untimely and often tragic fates, are often listed as the price of this transformation, women who were caught up in the maelstrom of politics and upheaval. Nonetheless, these women possess a quality often overlooked or too easily categorized into dismissal - that of love in its modern sense. In many ways, the Tudor women manifested a modern, humanistic understanding of love, one that treated love as an end in and of itself, and of sufficient merit to trump questions of politics, social status, and even financial security. Through an historical investigation into the lives of these women, this analysis proceeds to tell the story of this modern love in Tudor times, and in so doing to recover the sense of agency these women possessed. Case studies begin with the stories of Mary and Margaret Tudor, then move to the "scandalous" Anne Boleyn and her sister Mary, following with the Grey sisters, Mary, Queen of Scots, and finally concluding with the tragic life of Arabella Stuart. Through it all, this analysis tells the story of love searched for, pursued, and gained as well as love yearned for, denied, and lost. These are not happy tales for the most part, but what these tales tell, when woven together, is the multi-faceted story of a unique period of English history, one that would begin with Henry's break with the Pope and conclude with the reign of the virgin Queen. It is a story of women who took chances, gained riches, and suffered the costs of that elusive quality that we moderns know today as love. It is our concept of love that we may owe in no small part to the women of Tudor England.