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The Tudors: This Really Is Your Father’s Patriarchy

I like teasing out cause, effect, and consequences: this is why I watch all versions of “Law & Order” except for “Law & Order: Special Dead and Beatup Ladies Unit.” I like history, which is why my paperback copies of Shelby Foote’s The Civil War all have creases in the spine from being reread so often. And I like sexy people who aren’t wearing a lot of clothing, which is why I continue to watch “Lost” even as it builds up to a conclusion that is going to be the network TV version of being poked in the eye by an annoying seven-year old who chants “Nyaa-nyaaa-nyah.”

So it’s  little bit surprising, even given that I didn’t have Showtime until recently, that I never got around to the you-like-it-despite-yourself trashiness of “The Tudors.” Intrigue! Wars! Conniving ecclesiasticals!  Surprisingly modern French! Lovers who have clearly been reading Ye Aulde Joie of Sexe! (In an age of missionaries, that seems to be about the least common position the show’s May dance of lovers use.)

Now, “The Tudors” is revisionist history in both the good and bad ways you can do revisionism. You might know one of the bad ways, it’s playing in theaters now:

I mean, this is a Tea Partier Robin Hood. Forget rebelling against the hyper-rich and redistributing wealth to the needy! Russell Crowe is fighting for freedom from high taxes! He’s a libertarian Robin Hood! A Randian Robin Hood! A… backlash Robin Hood.

I doubt you’re surprised. It’s been a big couple of years for anything that is even lightly scented with the redolent odors of sending brown people to the fields, queers to the closet, and ladies to the kitchen.

Make no mistake, “The Tudors” is Backlash Entertainment as well. The main character, after all, is a guy who divorced two of his wives and killed two others because they couldn’t give him a son. You don’t get much more patriarchal than that. Yet because the show is revisionist to its core–the whole point of it was to radically revise the popular perception of Henry VIII–their are some sneaky moments of… something else shining through.

Casting a handsome, young actor as the youthful Henry is far more historical than you might realize: he was the son of Elizabeth of York, widely considered one of the most beautiful women of her day, and he inherited her good looks. As a young man he was an athlete, widely read, and possessed of deeply humanist philosophical convictions. He was also a bad-tempered, spoiled lout with little compunction about shoring up his relatively weak claim to the throne with the exercise of brutal absolute power. And in a move that is either cynical, inspired, or both, he’s played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, a handsome, bad-tempered lout. Is it acting or is it Memorex? I sure can’t tell.

Henry is played like the douchebag as Renaissance Man. But that makes sense. Because the Renaissance was the time when not only the modern nation-state came into being, but the modern patriarchy. “The Tudors” is more than a modern backlash myth; it shows the foundation of what the backlash defends, and the story of the very first attempts to defend it.

After all, it was a period of tremendous change and social mobility. Distrustful (with good reason) of the old nobility, Henry’s court was filled with New Men, ambitious gentry who rose to great station despite their background. And in addition to these New Men were New Women. It was the time of St. Catherine of Genoa’s theology (she was the first woman to be given the title Doctor of the Church), and Christine de Pisan’s The City of Ladies. Joan of Arc was winning battles against the English; Margery Kempe was inventing the autobiography; Isabella of Castille was conquering a continent. Something had to be done.

“The Tudors” shows What Was Done in its sordid glory. The calculating Thomas Boleyn quite literally pimps out his daughters to catch the King; Anne of Cleves is booted like a football between her German uncle and unsatisfied English husband; Catherine Howard is (ahistorically) pulled out of a brothel to distract a depressed monarch. Women are tokens passed around, tools for the advancement of the men who own them, and ultimately, mere petri dishes for the creation of a male heir.

To its credit, though, “The Tudors” gives us ladies who aren’t such willing pawns–especially Natalie Dormer’s Anne Boleyn. She refuses to be the mere tool of her father’s calculation, but pursues her own ambitions as well. Her embrace of Protestantism is shown as more than just a method of gaining a husband, but a sincere expression of her personal belief. (Given that the most ardent Protestants in the government were either Boleyn retainers or people Anne used her influence to bring to power, she probably deserves to be called the mother of English Protestantism.) She struggles with the demands of being a ruler, and with satisfying her unstable and treacherous husband. She acts unheroically, scheming to eliminate Princess Mary and the king’s lover Jane Seymour, but her death has a dignity that the gruesomeness of the show’s graphic special effects cannot dispel.

There’s something like that in the portrayals of all of Henry’s wives so far–Catherine of Aragon’s noble resignation and burning anger at being tossed aside like a worn out shoe, Anne of Cleves’ elation at going from being a wallflower, locked away and out of view, to a trusted friend of the king (after their star-crossed marriage) and center of her own social whirl. Catherine Howard’s disastrous affair becomes much more sympathetic when you realize she was barely out of her teens, suddenly rich and powerful and married to a worn-out, ill-tempered grump with no time for her. (She alone of the people we’ve seen executed refuses to ask for forgiveness or to offer bland sanctimony from the scaffold: “I die a Queen, but I would rather have died the wife of Culpeper.”) Even Jane Seymour, depicted (as always) as sweet, pure, and too damn good to be true, might have concealed her own ambitions (bringing Princess Mary back to court was more than getting her stepdaughter back into her father’s good graces; for the anti-reformist Seymour family, it was a way to find a Catholic successor to the king) and is also constantly aware that her own survival depends upon giving birth to a son.

That of course is the crucial matter. While depicted as a lover of sex, Henry also never forgets that women are only a means to the end of his ambitions: “I am your Lord and Master!” he bellows at women several times, and he means it literally: he owns them, and while he may give them leave to enjoy their frivolous pursuits (like, I guess, the Protestant Reformation), in the end his is the only law, the only resort, the only mercy, the only judgment.

Of course, that doesn’t apply to just the women. Henry is as fickle with his male favorites as he is with his wives, and one by one his most trusted advisors find their way to disgrace–or the block: Cardinal Wolsey, Thomas More, Thomas Cromwell, the Boleyns. Every member of court is constantly aware that their very lives depend on the satisfaction of the king’s desires. And a curious thing develops. We find these men aping the current styles, slavishly agreeing with Henry’s pronouncements, in constant fear of losing at a moment’s notice all the gifts he has bestowed on them. Only custom, tradition, and obsequiousness protect them.

In short, they act a lot like women have had to act throughout most of Western history: trapped by the whims of a patriarchal tyrant, without a legal existence outside his good graces. Even at its inception, patriarchy gnawed upon itself, and the story of liberation from absolute tyranny has, until very recently, been mostly the democratization of who does the gnawing and who gets gnawed. “The Tudors” may be trashy soap opera, but it can’t escape the tragedy of its subject any more than we can escape the tragedy of our history.

27 Comments

  1. Katherine Farmar wrote:

    Great post! I love the series, though mostly I love it despite myself. Probably the best way to watch it is on DVD, fast-forwarding past the sex scenes (they all start to blend together after a while) and any scene that has too much Henry in it.

    One of the things that struck me about the first season is how strongly Catherine of Aragon came across — and this continued with the other women, who were revealed to me as having agendas and wills of their own and not merely being catalysts or tools of the men in their lives. It shouldn’t be surprising, this kind of thing, but I guess it’s an artifact of the way history is taught: the further back we go, the easier it is for teachers to default to the patriarchal narrative in which men do and women are done to.

    She alone of the people we’ve seen executed refuses to ask for forgiveness or to offer bland sanctimony from the scaffold: “I die a Queen, but I would rather have died the wife of Culpeper.”

    Fun fact: I’m in that scene! As an extra wearing a fugly black skirt and a shawl made from an ink-stained towel ripped in two diagonally, and probably not even visible in the shot. But still! I was there. I gasped and flinched on cue. It was great fun.

    Tuesday, May 18, 2010 at 1:25 pm | Permalink
  2. resurgo wrote:

    “I mean, this is a Tea Partier Robin Hood. Forget rebelling against the hyper-rich and redistributing wealth to the needy! Russell Crowe is fighting for freedom from high taxes! He’s a libertarian Robin Hood! A Randian Robin Hood! A… backlash Robin Hood.”

    Oh thank god I’m not the only one who saw that. None of the folks I was at the theater with the other night noticed that, and they all looked at me funny when I brought it up.

    Tuesday, May 18, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Permalink
  3. V. wrote:

    I love your movie/TV essays. Please write many more!

    Tuesday, May 18, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Permalink
  4. loonabee wrote:

    De-lurking, because I am so. impossibly. nerdy.

    “The main character, after all, is a guy who divorced two of his wives and killed two others because they couldn’t give him a son.”

    Not to be picayune, as I think your post is overall quite brilliant, and I too love the show despite both it and myself. But I feel a need to correct the above. Henry VIII did not have Katherine Howard executed because she could not provide him with a son. When he married his 5th wife, he already had a son and heir – though sickly, Prince Edward was expected to live and reign (which he eventually did).

    Queen Katherine Howard was executed for her adultery – a treasonous (capital) offense. She was a teenager when she married a man old enough to be (in those times and even still today) her grandfather.

    Based on her sunken familial status (in part due to the fate of her cousin, Queen Anne), Queen Katherine had no choice but to acquiesce to a political marriage when it was arranged for her via a multitude of shady political machinations and maneuvers on the part of the patriarchs of her family. (Hooray for old men deciding that it’s time for the women “in their charge” to get bedded “for the good of the family.”)

    And while all historical accounts do note her as enjoying the spoils of queendom, she was none-too-pleased with her husband as a romantic partner and took at least one lover and openly courted a multitude of admirers. In a certain light, one can argue that being a political pawn freed Katherine to pursue her sexual authenticity – as queen, she had some dominion over her household and was able to appoint a number of her male admirers to positions within her staff (keeping them close).

    However, it were these appointments that were used as evidence against her during her trial. (In particular, the appointment of her personal secretary was quite a weighty piece of evidence, given their open and obvious emotional relationship.)

    All of the above is to say that I have always found the execution of Katherine Howard to be a different sort of problematic (in that she was executed for her sexual choices and promiscuity) from the execution of Anne Boleyn (who was executed due to the still-birth of the son who would have been the heir). And those executions are an entirely different sort of problematic from Henry’s divorces (Katherine of Aragon due to a lack of a male heir and “incest” and Anne of Cleves due to lack of hotness).

    While all of the above abuses against his queens, conducted by Henry himself, the Church, their families, the court, and society at large, can be viewed through the lens of overall patriarchal abuse, I think what’s so striking about the Tudors (aside from the sets and costumes which are insanely delicious) is that it does a fairly decent job of actively separating each of those abuses for individual analysis over the course of its 4 season run.

    Tuesday, May 18, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Permalink
  5. Anna wrote:

    Having not yet seen Robin Hood: Longer, Edgier, and Uncut, I wonder if they wanted to to the Simon de Monteforte thing without the horrible lack of name recognition.

    Tuesday, May 18, 2010 at 7:17 pm | Permalink
  6. La Reine wrote:

    Nice piece! I especially liked the bit of analysis at the end: the patriarchy certainly has always been gnawing on itself as well. It reminds of that definition of patriarchy – a few men exercising power over other men exercising power over women.

    Before I go spend (waste?) money on Robin Hood in theatres, is it at least worth seeing for Cate Blanchett?

    Tuesday, May 18, 2010 at 8:16 pm | Permalink
  7. AnthroK8 wrote:

    Oooh this is great!

    Have you ever seen the Historic Royal Palaces youtube videos arguing about Who Was the Best Wife of Henry VIII? There’s one for each woman, and a historical outfit wearer represents the woman, or a curator talks about their interest in the particular quuen.

    They try and persuade people the person they advocate for was the best for whatever reason.

    They’re good.

    Here is the link to Royal Palaces channel on Youtube:

    http://www.youtube.com/user/HistoricRoyalPalaces#p/u/48/4dIyCD1e2hQ

    Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Permalink
  8. RoseG wrote:

    Poor Henry VIII–he had so much going for him, but in the end the most interesting thing about him is his women (including daughters). And I’m not ashamed to say I got a little teary during Anne’s last speech. I think part of the thrill for the history buff is knowing how things turn out–Henry goes “my son is gonna be SO awesome!” and then I yell at the TV “WRONG KID, DUDE!” and it’s very satisfying.

    But I don’t buy that Robin “Gladiator” Hood is a teabagger, at least not from that trailer. I mean, “liberty by law” is the Magna Carta FTW, the basis of English law and the direct ancestor of our own Constitution. Since the teabaggers’ “rationale” is basically “whoever has the most money/ yells the loudest gets to set the rules at their whim and ALSO dosn’t have to follow any rules if they totes don’t feel like it” I’m not really feeling a connection there.

    Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 7:54 pm | Permalink
  9. Lee Brimmicombe-Wood wrote:

    Yes, an interesting take on a show I largely avoided due to its rather fast-and-loose take on history.

    Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 1:07 pm | Permalink
  10. C.L. Minou wrote:

    @Loonabee: your points are valid and interesting–certainly Catherine Howard’s execution was much more about screwing around behind the King’s back (the kind of thing that patriarchy was designed to put a stop to in the first place–no wonder it was high treason.) BUT: she was never crowned queen because the king wanted her to be pregnant before he made that kind of commitment, and I have to believe that bearing Henry a Duke of York would have bought her some more space. Of course, it wasn’t really her fault–Henry was probably impotent at this point anyway.

    @RoseG: Really? You don’t get a “we’re taking our country back” vibe from it? No sense of “if they outlaw longbows then only outlaws will have longbows”? I see a Robin Hood movie that is about the restoration of property rights to be a fair departure from the original and really in tune with today’s backlashy clime.

    Because after all, the whole Robin Hood myth is about not respecting property rights–he stole stuff. To erase the “steal from the rich, give to the poor” part of the Robin story is to uproot the entire story from its folk origins.

    (I know that the whole “we’re waiting for Richard Coeur de Leon to return and set things aright” has been a big part of the myth for a while now–but this movie wipes that away by having Richard killed right at the start.)

    Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 1:10 pm | Permalink
  11. Katherine wrote:

    Wondering if my comment got eaten, or was objectionable? Is a mini review of the new Robin Hood in response to a previous posters comment objectionable?

    Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Permalink
  12. madaha wrote:

    so in the new Robin Hood he’s **NOT** giving the tax money he steals to the poor? That’s how the story normally goes. So is he keeping all the tax $$ for himself in this one? That’s crappy!

    Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 9:58 pm | Permalink
  13. Sady wrote:

    @Katherine: We’re moderating all comments by hand due to some tricky spammers. I’m ending that today, just because it’s a huge pain. BUT, because of the high volume of spam we get, sometimes I do a mass-delete and don’t notice that there’s an actual comment in the pile I’ve deleted. That probably happened to yours.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 6:56 am | Permalink
  14. Ouyang Dan wrote:

    Thank you for writing a review, C.L., that makes me hate myself a little less for wanting to own all of this series on DVD! This is one of those shows that I excuse myself to people by shouting “B-b-but it’s like history!”. But only the ones who actually catch me.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 8:11 am | Permalink
  15. Slaney wrote:

    Great article, but Margery Kempe died in 1438, so you’re about a hundred years late on that one.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 9:41 am | Permalink
  16. RoseG wrote:

    Sady-I’ll admit, I was predisposed to like the movie based on this post by Genevieve Valentine noting that Cate’s costume looks like the Moy gown:

    http://glvalentine.livejournal.com/241578.html

    And also, I really loved Gladiator, not the least because I like to see a revenge play told *right* (i.e. with the hero dead at the end) so I have some affection for Ridley Scott.

    I agree that setting the story so firmly in an historical context is a departure from the original tale, but one that’s been coming since at least Costner’s dismal 1991 attempt at historical realism, and arguably much longer than that–you could say since the 16th C, when RH was first made a Richard partisan. (Which is interesting, come to think of it; it might explain why the story is so historically inaccurate, given the Tudor penchant for changing history to suit their own political ends [see also: Richard III].)

    Hmm. In a country bankrupted by a long series of disastrous foreign wars, an unlikely prince–popular, with a history of community organization (er, sort of)–comes to the throne; a small group of French hysterics think he isn’t the true ruler, forcing civil conflict; a raise of the taxes that allow rich men to opt out of the draft causes great outcry and … Robin Hood! Ok, ok, I see your point.

    Still, I am such a rule-of-law fangirl, I can give up robbing from the rich to give to the poor, if it means I get the curtailment of the monarchy and habeus corpus. Illicit tax refunds might have helped my 12th C english peasant ancestors, but I get a lot more benefit from the Constitution today.

    (Meanwhile, the teabaggers demand to sell their rights for thirty pieces of silver and a Snuggie…)

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Permalink
  17. Bruce wrote:

    Poor Henry VIII–he had so much going for him, but in the end the most interesting thing about him is his women (including daughters). And I’m not ashamed to say I got a little teary during Anne’s last speech. I think part of the thrill for the history buff is knowing how things turn out–Henry goes “my son is gonna be SO awesome!” and then I yell at the TV “WRONG KID, DUDE!” and it’s very satisfying.

    But I don’t buy that Robin “Gladiator” Hood is a teabagger, at least not from that trailer. I mean, “liberty by law” is the Magna Carta FTW, the basis of English law and the direct ancestor of our own Constitution. Since the teabaggers’ “rationale” is basically “whoever has the most money/ yells the loudest gets to set the rules at their whim and ALSO dosn’t have to follow any rules if they totes don’t feel like it” I’m not really feeling a connection there.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Permalink
  18. C.L. Minou wrote:

    Well, to be totally respectful to the movie–I can’t believe I just wrote that?–it’s probably more accurate to say that it is being marketed in a way that makes it appealing to the backlash. So the taking back our country, our rights are being stolen vibe of the commercials may not have all that much to do with the actual movie or the rule of law. And you know, you still have this thing about an outlaw fighting for the restoration of the rule of law, and getting rid of the whole steals from the rich, gives to the poor thing. Which I know is revisionist, but so is the “fight the power” Robin Hood tradition; if they were trying to go back to the “historical” Robin, then you’re in the 14th century, in all likelihood, and talking about a clever thief, not a social justice crusader.

    So anyway, YMMV. But the first couple of commercials I saw for the new movie…the idea that they were being designed to appeal to the “taking back” vibe of American politics struck me very hard. And whatever the merits of the historical position the film takes, I think it’s important that it’s being marketed that way.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 8:48 pm | Permalink
  19. C.L. Minou wrote:

    @Slaney: um, consider her an early outlier? Or possibly that I can’t do math?

    I promise that when Tiger Beatdown does “Civilwarapalooza” my historical accuracy will be much closer to pinpoint.

    Friday, May 21, 2010 at 8:49 pm | Permalink
  20. Slaney wrote:

    @ C.L. Minou: I’m definitely on board with her being an early outlier! And I can’t do math either, but I do look forward to Civilwarapalooza!

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 5:27 pm | Permalink
  21. RoseG wrote:

    C.L.Minou-I see what you mean, hollywood marketing depts being the essentially conservative creatures that they are.

    Also, sorry for calling you Sady earlier, I swear, sometimes my brain doesn’t bother to check in with my eyes. :)

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 9:49 pm | Permalink
  22. C.L. Minou wrote:

    @Roseg: Hey, as far as I’m concerned, that’s a compliment.

    If I were you, I’d worry more about how Sady feels about it :P

    Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 10:12 pm | Permalink
  23. Rodrigo! wrote:

    Thought it might interest you, if you haven’t already read it: Kate Beaton’s interpretation of The Tudors (the series AND the actual Tudors) is one of the funniest things on the internet:

    http://harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=230

    Thursday, May 27, 2010 at 5:13 am | Permalink
  24. MarinaS wrote:

    C.L., I’ve not seen any of the series so I can’t comment on how historically accurate or revisionist it is, but I don’t think I can agree with your positioning of the modern patriarchy as being born during that era.

    Though Henry positioned himself as a Renaissance Prince, his court was essentially medieval, as was the administration of the country under all of the Tudor monarchs. The reason men in Henry’s court cringed and cowered was because they existed in the old world of absolute dependance on patronage and favour, not so much because of an early manifestation of patriarchy hurting men too. In medieval times and up until the Enlightenment in England you could make a case that men and women existed in similar, though stratified, conditions of subjugation.

    The women you call out as swallows of emnacipation are actually part of a much more medieval tradition of female education and erudition – witness how exceptionally well educated three of Henry’s wives were (Aragon, Boleyn and Parr), as well as his daughters and many of their contemporaries (Lady Brilliana Harley, Lady Jane Grey etc). During the Civil War aristocratic women were expected to – and did – defend and manage their estates while the men were away.

    It’s during the Republic that a great break in female education and empowerment came. The extreme religious concentration on original sin as well as a fear of anarchic and subvesive Seers, Prophetesses and essayists gave Cromwell and the Puritans an impetus to stamp down on women’s economic and civil rights, leading to a great increase in destitution among women. One example was a law that assumed any woman not under a man’s protection was a prostitute, something that made it impossible for widows and orphans to travel in order to make a living after the upheavals of the war – nursing, apparently, was a profession that suffered especially hard, because of the concentration of women around soldiers’ camps and ports that were instantly criminalised. The modern day myth of camp followers as mostly prostitutes comes from this time.

    It’s really during the Enlightenment that modern patriarchy came into being, because after the Restoration men in England made this huge leap into individualism, self actualisation and ideas about liverty, leaving women squarely behind. It’s not until the late 18th and early 19th century, with the Bluestockings, that you again begin to see women intellectuals, and then they are very stigmatised and discouraged in a way that women during Tudor times were not (in fact medieval upper class women were expected to be the literate one sin the family, wit the men being assumed to be geared towards action and not letters; the dissolution of convents dealt a great blow to this, but the effects were not immediately visible).

    Compare Queenn Elizabeth – urbane, multilingual, sophiticated – with Queen Anne, who was barely literate, and you’ll see that women, or at least powerful aristocratic womne, were on a much more level footing with their male peers, economically and intellectually, for all the rhetoric about being “the weaker vessel”, than in the ostensibly more rational and liberated post-Enlightenment years.

    Thursday, May 27, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Permalink
  25. C.L. Minou wrote:

    @Marinas: You raise some good points. HOWEVER, I’d contend that the rise of the modern patriarchy correlates strongly with the rise of the modern nation-state, and there’s no question that the Tudor dynasty laid the groundwork for that state to come into being. Beneath the glitz and glam of Henry’s sexual Tilt-o-Whirl and Queen Bess’s Renaissance red carpet gang, the Tudors also operated an efficient and ruthless domestic spying operation; swept away a lot of the remaining feudal privileges by codifying the power of the state in the monarch (to be fair, since the Conquest the English monarchy had been one of the strongest in Europe, but the Tudors made it stronger) and all in all cultivated an Englishness as part of the apparatus of state that wasn’t part of Europe’s dialect before–people were French or Germans the way USians are Southerners or Midwesterners–bound by culture, origin, and shared language, but hardly political units.

    While I agree with you that the truly modern nation-state is an Enlightenment invention, I’m not sure that my original point doesn’t still hold: the Enlightenment took up the “woman question” in a way that would have been unthinkable in Medieval times. And don’t be too parochial with your examples: sure, Anne was a major step back from Elizabeth, but you’re ignoring one of the most powerful of the Enlightenment monarchs–Catherine II of Russia, urbane, multilingual, sexually liberated, a correspondent of Voltaire, and ruthless enough to kill her husband and evade the machinations of her son throughout her long reign. Hell, Bess could have learned a thing or two from her. Especially about sex :)

    Thursday, May 27, 2010 at 8:21 pm | Permalink
  26. MarinaS wrote:

    C.L., I think I’m missing a step in the reasoning there; how did the modern nationa state create patriarchy? My argument is that during the Enlightenment, men in England, France & the US took this massive step forward out of medieval, feudal subjugation of the self (which has been coming on for a whole, and does have its roots in the Renaissance for sure as you say), and simply left women behind, and that’s the mechanism by which our modern situation came into being. I’m not clear how the nation state interacts with the relative self actualisation of men and women in your proposed structure…

    Also, yes I was being England-centric, but only because we were talking about, you know, English monarchy… :) Russia is a whole other – and fascinating – kettle of fish. Women in Russia at the time of Catherine the Great (and up until the revolution) existed in a state of subjugation so complete as to be incomparable with most of the rest of Europe. You’d have to go to the Muslim world or China to find good parallels. The monarchy after Peter I was very much a transplant and was profoundly disconnected form cultural Russian-ness (right down to living in a synthetic Renaissance city built on an ahistorical site), so I’m not sure Catherine can be seen as emblematic of her subjects’ lives in the way English queens could, since as you say one of the accomplishments of the Tudors was to tie the monarchy so securely to notions of identity and in-group loyalty.

    Friday, May 28, 2010 at 9:57 am | Permalink
  27. MarinaS wrote:

    Just to add, I’m really genuinely interested in your nation state hypothesis. I wasn’t being like “hah, your argument is weak, mere mortal”. Um. So if you have the energy to elaborate on it or point me to some sources, that would be awesome.

    Friday, May 28, 2010 at 10:34 am | Permalink