Selling the Tudor Monarchy: Authority and Image in Sixteenth-Century England

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The management of image in the service of power is a familiar tool of twenty-first- century politics. Yet as long ago as the sixteenth century, British monarchs deployed what we might now describe as “spin.” In this book a leading historian reveals how Tudor kings and queens sought to enhance their authority by presenting themselves to best advantage. Kevin Sharpe offers the first full analysis of the verbal and visual representations of Tudor power, embracing disciplines as diverse as art history, literary studies, and the history of consumption and material culture.

The author finds that those rulers who maintained the delicate balance between mystification and popularization in the art of royal representation—notably Henry VIII and Elizabeth I—enjoyed the longest reigns and often the widest support. But by the end of the sixteenth century, the perception of royalty shifted, becoming less sacred and more familiar and leaving Stuart successors to the crown to deal with a difficult legacy.

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Editorial Reviews

Reviews in History - Lucy Wooding
“This is a bold undertaking, but this first volume suggests that it is one very much suited to Kevin Sharpe’s strengths. The prose is fluent and accessible, the ideas striking, the argument assertive and wide-ranging, based on a vast array of different sources . . . this book is immensely valuable. . . . a huge achievement. . . an important, thought-provoking and richly rewarding book which should be required reading for every early modern scholar.”--Lucy Wooding, Reviews in History

History Today - Janet Dickinson

“Sharpe captures the multi-layered magnificence of Tudor monarchy and its audiences….Written by a scholar who has worked at the forefront of historical enquiry for almost three decades, the book establishes an agenda for the next generation. . .with a contagious enthusiasm that will engage general and specialist readers alike.”--Janet Dickinson, History Today

Philological Quarterly

“Convincing and important.”--Philological Quarterly

Journal of British Studies - Ethan Shagan

“Significant and powerful . . . an important book . . . a truly original study.”--Ethan Shagan, Journal of British Studies

Huntington Library Quarterly - Stephen Alford

“A big and serious book . . . Sharpe shows with great fluency and skill that the Tudor monarchs understood the effectiveness of image.”--Stephen Alford, Huntington Library Quarterly

Writers Read blog - Derek Wilson

"A wonderful book about the 'media folk' of Tudor England--artists and writers employed by a succession of monarchs to propagate an image of the sovereign. Breathtaking in its scope and a real revelation about Tudor 'spin.'"--Derek Wilson, "Writers Read" blog
Literature & History - Dale Hoak

"Sharpe's reading of select contemporary texts is often fresh and often brilliantly insightful. Methodologically, he has written a ground-breaking study of the Tudor monarchy, one likely to be consulted for many years to come."--Dale Hoak, Literature & History
American Historical Review - Kristen Post Walton

"Sharpe's new volume is a masterful work . . . [and] an ideal book for teachers and researchers to reference in and out of the classroom."—Kristen Post Walton, American Historical Review
Journal of Modern History - Karl Gunther

“A compelling and wide-ranging account of the importance of image and representation to the Tudor monarchs . . . [this book] will be of value to scholars across the disciplines who are interested in the political culture of early modern England.”—Karl Gunther, Journal of Modern History
Milton Quarterly - Thomas N. Curns

"This trilogy is a cornucopia of contexts, details, and sharply debated correctives to easy assumption about high-culture England in the early modern period. Historically informed criticism is only as good as the historiography on which it depends, and here, most surely, there is wealth of scholarship on which we should freely draw."—Thomas N. Corns, Milton Quarterly
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300140989
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 5/26/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 588
  • Sales rank: 1,326,857
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 2.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Kevin Sharpe is professor of Renaissance studies and director of the Centre for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies, Queen Mary, University of London. He is author of The Personal Rule of Charles I and Reading Revolutions, both published by Yale University Press.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations


I Concepts and Methods 1

1 Representing Rule: Terms, Premises, Approaches 3

II Tudor Foundations 59

2 Founding a Dynasty, Forging an Image 61

III Representations and Reformations 79

3 Writing Reformation 81

4 Images of Royal Supremacy 129

5 Performing Supremacy 157

6 Contesting Supremacy 177

IV Representing Godly Kingship 187

7 Representations of Edward VI 189

V Representations and Reactions 243

8 Images of Mary Tudor 245

VI Representing Gloriana 317

Prologue 319

9 The Words of a Queen 324

10 'The Portrait and Picture of the Queen's Majesty' 358

11 'Viewed and Beheld of all Men': Queen Elizabeth and the Performance of Majesty 417

12 Contesting and Appropriating Elizabeth 451

Epilogue 474

Notes 482

Index 573

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