Skip to main content

The Subject of Elizabeth

Authority, Gender, and Representation

As a woman wielding public authority, Elizabeth I embodied a paradox at the very center of sixteenth-century patriarchal English society. Louis Montrose’s long-awaited book, The Subject of Elizabeth, illuminates the ways in which the Queen and her subjects variously exploited or obfuscated this contradiction.

Montrose offers a masterful account of the texts, pictures, and performances in which the Queen was represented to her people, to her court, to foreign powers, and to Elizabeth herself. Retrieving this “Elizabethan imaginary” in all its richness and fascination, Montrose presents a sweeping new account of Elizabethan political culture.  Along the way, he explores the representation of Elizabeth within the traditions of Tudor dynastic portraiture; explains the symbolic manipulation of Elizabeth’s body by both supporters and enemies of her regime; and considers how Elizabeth’s advancing age provided new occasions for misogynistic subversions of her royal charisma.  

This book, the remarkable product of two decades of study by one of our most respected Renaissance scholars, will be welcomed by all historians, literary scholars, and art historians of the period.

336 pages | 51 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2006

Art: British Art

Gender and Sexuality

History: British and Irish History

Literature and Literary Criticism: British and Irish Literature

Women's Studies


"Twenty-five years ago Louis Montrose’s pioneering essay ’Eliza Queen of Shepherdes and the Pastoral of Power’ cracked one of the crucial codes of Elizabethan celebratory rhetoric. His new book, addressing the complex and contradictory nature of Elizabeth as performer and spectacle, finally fulfills a very old promise. This is an important and fascinating book, and it is wonderful to have it at last."

Stephen Orgel, author of The Authentic Shakespeare

"A fascinating acount of [Elizabeth’s] representation as a woman ruler in a patriarchal society and of her councilor’s attempts to take political advantage of her gender while simultaneously working to contain its perceived frailties. . . . This important interdisciplinary work offers valuable insights into her culture and will be of interest to all Elizabethan scholars."

Retha M. Warnicke | Renaissance Quarterly

"McKee has done an admirable job bringing this extraordinary woman to life. The selections are well chosen, and include samples from an entire lifetime of work. . . . I heartily recommend this book and applaud McKee’s decision to issue these important texts."

Tryntje Helfferich | H-Net Review

"In this finely woven tapestry of a book, Louis Montrose draws on and reorients his substantial writings on the world of Elizabethan imagery as he explores the competing and diverse representations of the queen. . . . The Subject of Elizabeth offers easy and rewarding access into the challenging world of the Elizabethan court."

Mary Hill Cole | Literature and History

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
A Note on Quotations from Early Modern Texts
Introduction: Foundations and Trajectories 
Part 1 - Dynasty and Difference
1. Contested Legitimacies
2. Filial Emulation
3. The Tudor Sisterhood
4. The Protestant Succession 
Part 2 - Idolatries
5. Imagery, Policy, and Belief
6. Iconomachy
7. Instrumental Adoration
8. A Cult of Elizabeth? 
Part 3 - Queen and Country
9. The Geopolitical Imaginary
10. Policy in Pictures
11. Purity and Danger
Part 4 - Resistances
12. Vox Populi
13. Defacing the Queen
14. Secrets of the Heart
Part 5 - Time’s Subject
15. A Queen of Shadows
16. Mysteries of State
17. Through the Looking Glass
Epilogue: The Jacobean Phoenix


Renaissance Society of America: Phyllis Goodhart Gordan Book Prize
Honorable Mention

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press