Glass Houses:

Why the Subjects of Queen Elizabeth

Avoided the Subject of Pope Joan[1]


Hofstra University Distinguished Faculty Lecture Series


Craig M. Rustici



Section 1: Pope Joan and the Elizabethan Stage

Section 2: The Queen as Popess

Section 3: Elizabeth and the Whore of Babylon



As I began my investigation of literary representations of Pope Joan, the legendary medieval woman who allegedly cross-dressed her way to the papacy, 1 encountered a “good news/bad news” situation.  The good news was that in March 1592 actors at the Rose Theatre in London performed a play entitled “Poope Jone.”  This meant that as Shakespeare was beginning his career on the London stage, Pope Joan was appearing there as well.  The bad news was that no copy of that play now exists, because, quite simply, none was published. That appeared to be all there was to say about this tantalizingly lost drama.

However, not being one to let a little thing like the absence of a text get in the way of literary scholarship, I tried to sort out why the play might not have been published.  I quickly discovered that the simplest explanation—the play was a flop—didn’t fit the available evidence.  We know about the 1592 performance thanks to notes in the diary of the theater manager Philip Henslowe.  Those of you who saw Shakespeare in Love may remember Henslowe as the Geoffrey Rush character being harassed by creditors in one of the film’s early scenes.  A careful businessman, he recorded the dates of performances as well as the revenue that each performance generated.  Henslowe’s notes indicate that “Poope Jone” was performed more than once and garnered receipts comparable to those of better-known and subsequently published plays.[2]  Evidently, this play remained unpublished despite its commercial success.  Consequently, I sought an alternative explanation for the text’s disappearance.

If, as several scholars have recently suggested, Elizabethan authorities responsible for censorship manifested more concern for printed than for performed texts, some sensitivity to the play's content may have prevented its publication.[3] In fact, Elizabethan printers seem to have been reluctant to bring out texts devoted wholly to the popess: scholars have uncovered only two published in England during the Queen’s reign.  The title of the first, The Popes Parliament . . . Whereunto is annexed an Anatomie of Pope Joane (1591), inaccurately implies that its appendix alone concerns the popess.   The second, a 1599 translation of a German tract, rather cautiously uses only two initials to identify its author; moreover, its title, Historia de Donne Famose, or The Romane Iubile which happened in the yeare 855 (1599), stops short of mentioning Joan by name and instead alludes to her only indirectly by citing the year when her pontificate reportedly began.  In striking contrast to their predecessors, Stuart printers brought out at least six texts concerning the popess between 1610 and 1689, often assigning them frank titles such as The History of Pope Joan and the Whores of Rome (London, 1687) and in several cases publishing multiple editions. [4] To uncover an explanation for this contrast between sixteenth and seventeenth-century publishing practices, we might look to the work of the French Catholic controversialist Florimond de Raemond.

Within a 1594 monograph devoted to disproving the existence of a medieval popess, Raemond assigns two chapters to England’s Queen.  He charges that Elizabeth has seized papal authority and has called herself ruler of the English church.  Consequently, he characterizes her as “ceste nouvelle Papesse”; indeed, he contends, Elizabeth is the only popess who is not merely an empty phantasm conjured up by reformers. Writing nearly a decade later, the exiled English Catholic Robert Persons (Parsons) follows the lead of his French co-religionist and observes less elaborately that talk of female prelates “is more against the protestants, then vs [than us].  For that their Church admitteth for laufull and supreame head therof eyther man or woman: Which our Church doth not.”   Raemond’s argument, thus echoed by Persons, helps us to see how likely comparisons between Pope Joan and Queen Elizabeth might have discouraged Elizabethan printers from bringing out texts devoted to the popess.[5]  In this lecture, I propose to explore the foundation for Raemond’s analogy and to demonstrate how a further, interrelated analogy between Pope Joan and the Biblical Whore of Babylon made it perilous for Elizabethan Protestants to highlight the popess legend in their attacks on the Roman Church.  [Return to top.]



1. Pope Joan and the Elizabethan Stage


Of course, my suggestion that some form of censorship or self-censorship might have blocked the publication of the lost play assumes that the portrait of Pope Joan staged at the Rose Theatre was so unflattering that comparisons between the play's protagonist and England's Queen would have troubled Elizabeth and her adherents.  Although in recent decades, Joan has often been represented as a proto-feminist heroine, the evolution of the popess legend during the sixteenth century supports my assumption.  By 1592 written accounts of Joan's exploits had circulated in Europe for at least three hundred years, and the legend's broad outline had been formulated and disseminated in England through the works of widely read authors such as John Lydgate and John Foxe.[6] 

As the story goes, in the ninth century, Joan (named Gilberta or Agnes in some accounts) disguised herself as a man and traveled with a male lover from her home in England or Germany to Athens and then Rome.  The Romans so admired her conduct and learning that in 855 they elected her to succeed Pope Leo IV.  While pope, she indulged her lust and became pregnant, and her true gender was revealed when she unexpectedly gave birth during a solemn papal procession.  According to various accounts she died either in childbirth, at the hands of an angry Roman mob, or in prison.[7]  As playwrights have recognized for centuries, and as next semester’s New College production of Caryl Churchill’s play Top Girls will no doubt demonstrate, the story decidedly lends itself to the stage.[8]

Admittedly, by cross-dressing in order to secure greater social influence, or at least freedom of movement, Joan anticipates the actions of several appealing and resourceful heroines in Elizabethan drama.  Nonetheless, I suspect that the protagonist of the 1592 play shared more traits with Shakespeare's "high-minded strumpet" Joan of Arc in Henry VI (1H6 1.5.12) than with the virtuous Portia of The Merchant of Venice or the "heavenly" Rosallind of As You Like It (AYL 1.2.280).  Early in the sixteenth century, the ambivalent or even admiring view of Pope Joan evident in some medieval accounts had disappeared.  Before the legend became embroiled in Reformation polemics, Giovanni Boccaccio evidently felt comfortable commending the virtues that Joan manifested during at least certain phases of her career.  Similarly, the fifteenth-century playwright Dietrich Schernberg portrayed the popess as ultimately redeemable, and Martin le Franc used his dialogue Le Champion des Dames (1440-42) to articulate a defense of her actions.  However, once sectarian conflict gripped Europe, Catholic writers like Raemond and Persons simply disputed the legend's veracity; in turn, reformers such as John Huss cited Joan to exemplify Roman depravity and to deny contemporary popes' unbroken succession from St. Peter.[9]  The English Protestant John Bale adopts a tone that typifies sixteenth-century texts, as he denounces Joan as  "the whore-pope" ("Papa meretrice").[10]

One can trace the shift in attitudes toward the popess through illustrations of Boccaccio's account of the legend.  As depicted in a 1403 illuminated manuscript at the moment of her discovery, Joan appears standing, her hand raised as if to dispense a blessing, her face bearing a surprisingly serene expression.  She still seems to command the strength and audacity that enabled her extraordinary deception.  In contrast, in a woodcut from a 1600 illustration of Boccaccio's text, she appears supine, supported by attendant cardinals, her face pained--clearly defeated.  Another 1600 illustration depicting Joan hanging from a gibbet and surrounded by demon tormentors demonstrates how Boccaccio's successors set aside ambivalence and extended the popess narrative to imagine Joan's punishment in Hell.[11] 

For particular insight into the legend's reception in late sixteenth-century England, we can turn to John Mayo's The Popes Parliament, published just a year before the Rose Theatre performance.  Mayo not only expresses his own Protestant view that the popess illustrates "the loathsome corruption and pervers[e]ness of the Romane synagogues"; he also concocts a fanciful narrative that projects such a view onto the Catholic Church hierarchy.  As Mayo tells it, a statue depicting Joan's "filthinesse and abhomination" so disturbs Pope Gregory XIV that he breaks off a solemn procession, runs back to his papal palace, and rails against all English Catholics, whose homeland brought “defamation and disgrace” onto the papacy by giving birth to the vile popess.  Mayo implies, then, that anyone, Protestant or Catholic, who accepts the legend’s veracity would find the popess detestable.  Since my research has uncovered no sixteenth or seventeenth-century English text that, unlike Mayo’s and Bale’s, portrays Joan admiringly, I doubt that the lost 1592 play did so. [12]

On the other hand, a play depicting Joan as a corrupt villainess would seem at home among the others performed in March 1592 by Lord Strange's Men, the acting company that brought the popess to the stage.  According to Henslowe's notes, the play produced most frequently (six times) at the Rose that month was "harey the vj," quite possibly some portion of Shakespeare's three-part history play Henry VI, which depicts the rise and fall of another cross-dressing Catholic woman, Joan of Arc.  Although the two Joans differed in many ways, Shakespeare's Maid of Orleans resembles the popess is several respects.  As if reenacting Pope Joan's audacity and licentiousness, Shakespeare's Joan of Arc announces her determination to "exceed my sex" and later claims to have bedded several different French aristocrats (1H6 1.2.90, 5.4.59-85).[13]  She also conjures fiends (1H6 5.3) and thus establishes a further parallel between herself and the popess, who, according to several accounts, not only rose to the papacy "under the Devil's direction" but also wrote a "Booke of Necromancie," detailing "the power and strength of devils." Thus, on those three counts—impudence, lewdness, and magic—the two Joans have much in common.  Similarly, Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, another play that Lord Strange's Men performed that month, depicts an over-reaching Catholic cleric practicing sorcery; consequently, it would have nicely complemented a theatrical representation of a popess thus associated with devils and magic.[14]  Additionally, a corrupt Pope Joan counseled by demons would have had much in common with the treacherous, unprincipled Catholics portrayed in The Spanish Tragedy and The Jew of Malta, plays performed at least twice at the Rose that month.  In fact, the lecherous friars and opening allusion to Machiavellian popes in The Jew of Malta (Prologue 10-13), would have made it an apt companion piece for a scurrilous portrait of Joan.[15]  Such a portrait, then, would have accorded with both the Rose Theatre repertoire and sixteenth-century English references to the popess. [Return to top.]



2. The Queen as Popess


To understand why the staging of such a portrait would have discomfited Queen Elizabeth, we need to consider the basis for drawing parallels between Elizabeth and Pope Joan.  Both Anglican church government and certain royal practices lent credibility to Raemond’s troubling contention that Elizabeth was the true popess.  For one thing, the Frenchman’s claim that Elizabeth named herself ruler of the church alludes to a controversy that confronted the Queen as soon as she acceded to the throne.  Some radical Protestants charged that royal supremacy over the church effectively made English monarchs popes by another name. The ecclesiastical title that both Henry VIII and Edward VI adopted, “Supreme Head” of the Church of England, encouraged such comparisons since popes claimed that title for themselves.  Elizabeth recognized that her role in the Anglican Church could excite controversy.  Consequently, she set aside the title that her father and brother had employed, and instead, through the 1559 Act of Supremacy, pronounced herself “Supreme Governor.”[16]

Gender concerns reportedly did not trigger Elizabeth’s decision; nonetheless, the revised title could shield a queen regnant from certain, likely rhetorical attacks.  Elizabeth may have believed, as the Anglican bishop John Jewel reported, that the title of head of the church was “due to Christ alone, and cannot belong to any human being soever”; however, some clerics contended that the Queen’s gender rather than her humanity disqualified her.  The body politic metaphor implied in the title “head” could provide incendiary imagery for those arguing that position. Of course, political discourse had long used the body politic metaphor to suggest the naturalness and propriety of social hierarchies and divisions of labor; the monarch must function as head of the state, for example, and soldiers as its hands.  While denying that a woman could properly head a polity, the Scottish Calvinist John Knox uses this conventional metaphor to portray the abomination that might result from attempts at feminine rule.  Writing just a year before Parliament passed the Act of Supremacy, Knox asks, “For who would not judge that body to be a monster where there was no head eminent above the rest, but that the eyes were in the hands, the tongue and mouth beneath in the belly, and the ears in the feet? . . . And no less monstrous is the body of that commonwealth where a woman beareth empire . . . .” [17]  Although Elizabeth’s revised title could not quell all objections to her political sovereignty, it could help to deflect the charge that she had transformed the church into the sort of a metaphorical monster that Knox describes.

Even the cautious Elizabeth, however, sometimes engaged in practices, such as the Royal Maundy and touching to cure the King’s Evil (the tuberculous disorder scrofula), that seemed to infringe on the priestly domain.  As one historian has observed, by the sixteenth century the ceremony of the royal touch had become “a veritable liturgical service,” in which the monarch “assisted by his [or her] chaplain, almost played the part of officiant.”  Moreover, the widespread notion that the sovereign’s healing powers resulted from the anointing at coronation recalled medieval claims that the royal unction invested a monarch with an almost priestly status.[18]  During Elizabeth’s reign, the healing ceremony most often took place in St. Stephen’s Chapel in the palace at Westminster.  While the sick approached and knelt before the Queen, her chaplain read Mark 16.14-20.  As the Queen touched the diseased areas on the body of each afflicted person, the chaplain repeated the verse, “they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (Mark 14.18), suggesting that Elizabeth had taken up the wonder-working task of the earliest Christian believers.  While touching the afflicted, she made the sign of the cross over the scrofulous areas, a gesture that provoked objections from some of her Protestant subjects.  Next, the chaplain read the richly metaphoric account of the incarnation and of the ministry of John the Baptist in John 1.1-14 while the sick filed past the Queen, who presented each with a gold coin called, appropriately enough, an angel.  As a modern commentator has observed this scriptural passage “links the Queen to John the Baptist, bearing witness to the light, while the gold coin represents the ‘new light’ itself.”  To conclude, Elizabeth knelt, and she, rather than her chaplain, led the assembly in prayers, including the kyrie, a part of the Anglican Communion service. This ceremony inspired the Queen’s surgeon William Clowes to portray Elizabeth as a unique conduit of divine grace.  He reported that “our most Sacred and Renowned Prince” healed the afflicted “through the gift and power of Almightie God,” and he claimed “that (for the certaine cure of this most miserable Malady) when all Arts and Sciences doe faile, Her highness is the only Daystarre, peerless and without companion.”[19]

         Like the royal touch, the Royal Maundy seemed to cast the Queen in a clerical role.  This ceremony was rooted in Christ’s instructions to his apostles at the Last Supper.  After washing the feet of each apostle, according to John’s gospel, Christ explained, “For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13.15).  The ritual imitation of this action, the Mandatum, had become part of the Holy Thursday liturgy by the seventh century, and by the eleventh century popes had begun washing the feet of twelve archdeacons at Mass on that day.  Edward II was the first English monarch to emulate this liturgical practice.  During Elizabeth’s reign, the ceremony, conducted in a royal hall on Maundy (Holy) Thursday, began with song, prayers, and a gospel reading.  Then the Queen, evidently using holy water, washed and kissed the feet of several poor women, their number equaling the Queen’s age.  As in the ritual of the royal touch, she made the sign of the cross on the bodies of her subjects, which, according to the Spanish Ambassador Guzman de Silva, provoked “the sorrow of many persons who witnessed it and of others who would not attend the ceremony.”  Before the women departed, the Queen presented each with gifts of cloth, food, wine, and money.[20]  As if to demonstrate Elizabeth’s ecclesiastical supremacy and to intensify the liturgical character of the proceedings, a chaplain and at least one bishop (the Almoner) attended and assisted the Queen on these occasions.

As De Silva’s remark suggests, by conducting these ceremonies Elizabeth invited disapproval.  Both practices incorporated vestiges of Roman rites, most notably the signing of the cross—in fact, Elizabeth reportedly acknowledged as much.  De Silva claimed that when he praised the Queen for performing the Maundy and particularly for “the devotion with which she made the crosses on the feet of the poor women,” she answered, “Many people think we are Turks or Moors here, whereas we only differ from other Catholics in things of small importance.”  More significantly for our current discussion, the Queen’s participation in these ceremonies did not easily fit within the constraints that men such as the Archbishop of York, Nicholas Heath, sought to impose on Elizabeth’s ecclesiastical role.  “Her highness, beyinge a woman by birthe and nature, is not qualyfied by God’s worde to feed the flock of Chryst,” he contended during 1559 debates in the House of Lords.  “A woman, in the degrees of Chryst’s churche, is not called to be an apostel, or evangelist, nor to be a shepherd, neyther a doctor or preacher.”[21]  For those who agreed with Heath, a woman who performed a ritual lifted from the Holy Thursday liturgy, laid on healing hands, and led a chapel congregation in the praying of the kyrie certainly seemed to manifest an impudence reminiscent of the legendary popess.  Admittedly, Mary Tudor had conducted these ceremonies in much the same form; however, since she did not claim supreme ecclesiastical authority, she was immune from some of the attacks that could be leveled against her Protestant half-sister.  Furthermore, the nearly magical character of the royal touch intensified the potential resemblance between Elizabeth and Pope Joan, the alleged author of a book of sorcery.  Concerns over this aspect of the ceremony evidently prompted Reginald Scot to defend the royal touch in his 1584 The Discoverie of Witchcraft (Book 13, Chapter 9).  While acknowledging that some attribute the healing of the Queen's scrofulous subjects to “the efficacie of words,” Scot insists that “God will not be offended” by Elizabeth’s actions “for hir majeste onelie useth godlie and divine praier, with some almes, and refereth the cure to God and to the physician.”  Despite the piety that Scot attributes to the Queen, by presiding over ceremonies that appeared to imitate liturgy and, in the case of the royal touch, to invest the monarch with what the surgeon William Clowes termed “artificiall” powers, Elizabeth, as Supreme Governor of the English Church, clearly provided a foundation for Raemond’s troubling analogy between queen and popess.[22] [Return to top.]



3. Elizabeth and the Whore of Babylon


         Now, I would like to add a third woman into the mix.  In some sixteenth- and seventeenth-century representations, Elizabeth I resembles not only Pope Joan but also what Protestants regarded as another, feminine embodiment of Catholic corruption: the Whore of Babylon described in the scriptural Book of Revelation.[23]  In fact, due to a conventional analogy between Pope Joan and the Biblical Whore, any resemblance to the Babylonian strumpet in turn intensified Elizabeth’s resemblance to the popess.  The Whore thus functioned as a middle term connecting Elizabeth and Pope Joan.  The suggestion that the popess fulfilled John the Evangelist's prophetic visions concerning the Whore of Babylon appeared during Elizabeth’s reign in the passing references to Pope Joan that English printers published, even as they eschewed texts that focused on the popess.  No doubt, tales of Joan’s disastrous sexual indiscretion along with the papacy’s claims to supremacy, inspired writers to equate the popess with the Biblical “MOTHER OF HARLOTS . . . which reigneth over the kings of the earth” (Rev. 17. 5, 18). The polemicist and historian John Foxe, for example, bluntly introduced his account of Joan’s pontificate by projecting her into John's apocalyptic vision and declaring, “And here next comes the whore of Babylon . . . rightly in her true colors.”[24]

         Claire McEachern has identified an instance in which the Whore’s “true colors” disturbingly paralleled Elizabeth’s royal iconography.  According to McEachern, such parallels may have prompted the radical revision of an illustration of the Whore that appeared in A Concent of Scripture, a piece of Biblical scholarship that the Protestant Hugh Broughton dedicated to the Queen.  The Whore depicted in the first edition (c. 1588) of this text wears the costume and adopts the posture of a courtly lady.  The Flemish engraver Jacobus (or Jodocus) Hondius dresses her in an elaborate gown with full sleeves and bejeweled farthingale.  A square jewel and double string of pearls adorns her neck, while another jewel dangles from her waist, and a crescent-moon ornament decorates her hair.  She bears a regal scepter in her left hand—as one might expect, the cup full of the “filthiness of her fornication," described in the Bible, occupies her right hand (Rev 17.4).  As befits an elegant lady, she rides her seven-headed beast sidesaddle. 

A few years later, a different engraver produced a strikingly different illustration for the second edition (c. 1590) of Broughton’s text.[25]  Although Revelation 17 portrays the Whore as an emphatically feminine seductress, the new engraver, William Rogers, recasts her as an amazon dressed in a suit of armor and sitting astride her beast.  This refashioned harlot lacks her predecessor’s farthingale, scepter, and crescent hair ornament; moreover, no jewels hang from her neck or waist.  We, in turn, lack definitive evidence concerning the motives for Rogers’ revision.  We do know, however, that Rogers engraved the 1589 “Eliza Triumphans” portrait commemorating England's victory over the Spanish Armada and therefore was familiar enough with reproductions of the royal image to recognize that Hondius’s Whore wears regalia that befit England’s Gloriana. Like Hondius’s harlot, Rogers’s 1589 “Eliza” wears a square neck jewel and two strands of pearls; another jewel rests near the top of her full, richly ornamented, skirt.  To signify the Queen’s triumph over foreign aggression, on this occasion an olive branch replaces the scepter in her right hand.[26]  Most surprisingly, perhaps, the crescent hair ornament in Hondius’s illustration employs the moon imagery that became associated in the mid-1580s with the virginal Elizabeth.[27]  In light of such disturbing appropriations, Rogers was evidently prudent enough to depart from Hondius’s precedent and to establish an unambiguous contrast between his portraits of an Amazonian “BABYLON THE GREAT” (Rev 17.5) and of an elegant Eliza Triumphans.[28]

         The Queen’s detractors, however, behaved far less decorously.  Although admirers such as Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Edmund Spenser cultivated the image of Elizabeth as the Virgin Queen, those hostile to Gloriana created competing and sharply contrasting, whorish portraits of her.  For much of her life, reports of Elizabeth’s alleged sexual misconduct circulated among both foreigners and English subjects.  No doubt, her mother’s execution for adultery and incest along with the official declaration of Elizabeth’s illegitimacy encouraged these rumors, which first appeared while she was a teenager.  At that time, the young princess became caught up in a scandal concerning the recklessly ambitious Lord Admiral Thomas Seymour, who was ultimately arrested and executed for treason.  Witnesses reported that Seymour, brother to Henry VIII’s third wife and husband to the King’s widow Catherine Parr, hoped eventually to marry Elizabeth and treated her with unseemly familiarity within the princess’s bedchamber.  According to the testimony of Elizabeth’s steward, these improprieties prompted Catherine Parr to expel the princess from her household.  Elizabeth herself reported learning of rumours that she was pregnant with Seymour’s child. According to early modern ideas concerning kinship, sexual relations between Elizabeth and a man who was both her half-brother’s uncle and her stepmother’s husband would have been not only adulterous but also incestuous.  The accusations concerning Elizabeth and Seymour thus suggested that the princess had inherited her mother’s vices.[29]  She seemed, then, destined for iniquity.

         Ultimately, Elizabeth survived the investigation of the Seymour episode with her place in the line of succession in tact; nonetheless, rumors of fornication and secret pregnancies followed her to the throne.  Drawing upon sources such as diplomatic correspondence and court records, the historian Carole Levin has cited at least fifteen references to such rumors, which clearly surfaced during each decade of Elizabeth’s reign.  In several cases, these reports of Elizabeth's sexual misconduct fostered a particular resemblance between the Queen and the scriptural Whore of Babylon.  In 1589, for example, a parson was accused of proclaiming “openly in church . . . that the Queen’s Majesty was an arrant whore,” and ten years later a laborer declared that Elizabeth was “Antechrist” itself.  Moreover, one of the most elaborate and lurid of the surviving reports appears to echo several details from Revelation 17-18.  In 1600 William Knyght, an Englishman traveling in Germany, encountered Hugh Broughton.  A dozen years after dedicating A Concent of Scripture to the Queen and presenting her with a copy of that text, Broughton had become bitterly dissatisfied with Elizabeth and with her seeming indifference toward his labors.  He charged that “she was an atheist, and a maintainer of atheism,” and he went on to recount the experiences of an unfortunate midwife summoned to a secret chamber within a Hampstead palace where she attended a woman in childbirth (Elizabeth).  After delivering an infant girl, the midwife:


was brought to another chamber where was a very great fire of coals, into which she was commanded to cast the child, and so it was burnt.  This midwife was rewarded with a handful of gold, and at her departure, one came to her with a cup of wine, and said, Thou whore, drink before thou goest from hence, and she drank, and was sent back to her house, where within six days after she died of poison, but revealed this before her death.


The epithet “whore,” here assigned to the hapless midwife, seems more likely to befit the mother eager to conceal her pregnancy at any cost; it might even call to mind the archetypal “mother of harlots” portrayed in Revelation and in engravings that illustrated several of Broughton’s texts.  The noxious cup handed to a woman present at a bastard's birth and addressed as “whore” recalls the Babylonian strumpet’s “golden cup” from which “the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication” (Rev 17.2, 4).  Similarly, the blood money paid to the midwife parallels the rich wares with which the Biblical harlot procures the allegiance of “the merchants of the earth” (Rev. 18.11-17).  Moreover, the incineration of the innocent infant, a motif that appears in at least three of the accounts of Elizabeth's rumored pregnancies, recalls not only the Whore’s thirst for “the blood of the saints, and . . .  martyrs” (Rev 17.2, 4) but also one of the most notorious and controversial atrocities perpetrated by English Catholics, the alleged servants of Babylon, who in 1556 burned a condemned heretic's newborn son.  According to John Foxe, while suffering martyrdom at the stake, a Guernsey woman named Perotine Massey gave birth.  Although an on-looker rescued the infant from the flames, the provost ordered that the babe should be cast back into the fire where, as Foxe puts it, "baptized in his own blood" he "was both born and died a martyr."  In Foxe's Acts and Monuments a woodcut depicting the little martyr's birth amid the flames reproduces this "spectacle" of "Herodian cruelty."[30]  Drawing perhaps upon this much discussed incident as well as upon Broughton's study of apocalyptic literature, the story of the poisoned midwife transforms Elizabeth from the “naughty woman” of scandalous gossip to a participant in, if not source of, grotesque abominations including murder and infanticide.[31]

         Not surprisingly, Catholic polemicists in particular portrayed Elizabeth in ways that paralleled the Whore of Babylon.  A Latin text that appeared in England in 1609 characterized the late queen as the daughter of Antichrist (meaning Henry VIII).  Like the scriptural Whore, who draws her paramours, the “kings of the earth” (Rev. 17.2), from diverse lands, Elizabeth, according to this tract, had prostituted herself with men of different nations, “even with blackamoors.”  Decades earlier, a conspirator in the Ridolfi Plot to overthrow Elizabeth anticipated such accounts of the Queen’s depravity when he reportedly characterized her as “so vyle a Woman . . . . that desyrethe nothinge but to fede her owne lewd fantasye.”  Hoping to inspire other English subjects to strike out against the Queen, William Cardinal Allen formulated an especially elaborate portrait of Elizabethan decadence.  “She hathe abused her bodie . . . by unspeakable and incredible variety of luste,” he claims.  As if inviting analogies to the Babylonian seductress, he goes on to charge that Elizabeth has “made her Courte as a trappe, by this damnable and detestable arte, to inta[n]gle in sinne and ouerthrowe the yonger sorte of nobilitye and gentlemen of the lande.”  Allen even equates the Queen with a Biblical fornicatress, the false prophetess Jezebel of Thyatira discussed in Revelation 2.20.  This analogy, like the Pope Joan legend, quite obviously links a woman’s sexual iniquity with her usurpation of religious authority.[32] Thus, for those who questioned the Queen's ecclesiastical role and personal morality, Raemond’s charge that Elizabeth was the true popess most likely seemed quite reasonable. [Return to top.]


* * *

“I am Richard II, know ye not that?” Queen Elizabeth sorrowfully declared.  Speaking six months after the Earl of Essex and a few hundred followers had tried to incite an insurrection against her, Elizabeth thus identified herself with a deposed fourteenth-century king.[33]  In fact, Essex’s followers had encouraged that identification, since, on the eve of their failed rebellion, they had commissioned a performance of a play, possibly Shakespeare’s, about Richard II, evidently hoping that the dramatization of one monarch’s deposition would set in motion another’s.  The Pope Joan legend certainly might have troubled a woman thus justifiably wary of historical analogies.  Like the popess, Elizabeth governed a church; moreover, through the royal maundy and the ceremony of the royal touch she presided over rituals that originated in or resembled liturgy.  Also like the popess, she reportedly fornicated with favorites—according to rumor, the Queen simply succeeded in using royal progresses and other devices to conceal her pregnancies and deliveries.  As the illustrations in Broughton's A Concent of Scripture suggest, even texts intended to compliment the Queen all too readily suggested analogies between Elizabeth and the harlot of Revelation 17, the popess’s apocalyptic counterpart.  Further, like Joan, Elizabeth sometimes adopted masculine roles, if not attire, to achieve her objectives.  Of course, unlike the popess, Elizabeth never truly attempted to conceal her gender; however, such deceit was only one of the constellation of misdeeds articulated in Boccaccio’s influential retelling of the legend. “God from on high was merciful to His people,” the poet reports, “and did not allow a woman to hold so lofty a place, to govern so many people, and deceive them with such a wicked fraud, and He abandoned that unruly audacious woman to herself.”  Boccaccio’s notion that female rule is an affliction from which a merciful God might relieve His people anticipates the views of some Elizabethan subjects like an Essex laborer who resolved in 1591 to “pray for a king,” because “The Queene was but a woman,” and “We shall never have a merry world while the Queene lyveth.”  Like-minded Englishmen might infer from the precedent of Joan’s career that after indulging the ambitions of an intellectually brilliant yet unruly woman (who had refused Parliament’s pleas first to marry and then to name a successor) God might abandon Elizabeth to herself and thus to a predictable demise.  Consequently, with very few exceptions Elizabethan printers published only those accounts of Pope Joan that, like John Foxe’s, portrayed her pontificate as only one, brief episode in the long course of events that culminated triumphantly in the restoration of the True Church under the Virgin Queen.[34]  However deliciously scandalous the popess legend appeared to be, Elizabeth's Protestant supporters recognized the need to handle it with care.

Nonetheless, in light of the scarcity of other, more favorable historical analogies, such caution quite likely did not prevent Elizabeth's subjects from drawing parallels between queen and popess.  Like any member of a marginalized group who occupies a privileged or authoritative position, Elizabeth was not evaluated simply as an individual but rather as a representative of a, possibly suspect, category.  As that seditious Essex laborer put it, "The Queen is but a woman."  As such, her capacity to govern was defined in large part through comparisons to a small number of so-called "she-politicks" recognized in her culture.[35]  English history offered few precedents for a female ruler.  Since the time of Alfred the Great, only one other woman, Mary Tudor, had ruled the kingdom in her own right.  Even if a comparison between Elizabeth and her half-sister had been appealing, it was not apt, since Mary had chosen the more reassuring, conventional path of subordinating herself to a husband who might rule over her in private affairs even as she ruled the kingdom in public matters.  With respect to Elizabeth's private life, the unmarried popess provided a more apt parallel; in fact, in the century following the Queen's death, English women who eluded a husband's control and aspired to authority or influence repeatedly provoked comparisons to Pope Joan.  Then, as now, those who departed from convention faced a form of cultural shorthand made up of simplistic generalization and reductive comparisons.  For Elizabeth I, Pope Joan was a troubling part of that cultural shorthand. [Return to top.]

[1] I am indebted to several groups of people for their comments and suggestions regarding both this essay and my broader inquiry into the Pope Joan legend: Hofstra’s Distinguished Faculty Lecture Selection Committee, participants in the 2000 Shakespeare Association of America seminar on “Queenship and English Renaissance Drama,” and my Hofstra colleagues John Klause, Shari Zimmerman, Sabina Sawhney, Laura Otis, Scott Harshbarger, Simon Doubleday, and Lisa Merrill.  A fuller, illustrated version of this essay entitled "'Ceste Nouvelle Papesse': Elizabeth I and the Specter of Pope Joan" will appear in the forthcoming collection Elizabeth I: Always Her Own Free Woman, eds. Carole Levin, Debbie Barrett-Graves, and Jo Eldridge Carney (Ashgate: Burlington, Vermont and Aldershot, England).

[2] The diary entry implies that this play was performed more than once.  Although Henslowe marks another play on the same page as “ne[w],” he assigns no such designation to “poope Jone.”   The recorded performance brought in 15 shillings, comparable to the receipts generated that same month by a performance of "fryer bacon," Robert Greene's Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay (15 shillings and 6 pence) and double those generated by "“the lockinglasse," Robert Greene and Thomas Lodge’s A Looking Glass for London (7 shillings).  Alfred Harbage reports that Henslowe’s notation is our only record of “poope Jone.”  Walter W. Greg appears to agree with Harbage’s assertion, since he excludes this play from both his Bibliography of the English Printed Drama and his List of English Plays . . . Printed before 1700. Similarly, no reference to “poope Jone” appears in Alfred W. Pollard’s Short-Title Catalogue.  Philip Henslowe, The Diary, ed. J. Payne Collier (London: Shakespeare Society, 1845), p. 22; Alfred Harbage, Annals of English Drama, 975-1700, rev. S. Schoenbaum (London: Methuen, 1964); W. W. Greg, A List of English Plays Written Before 1643 and Printed before 1700. (New York: Haskell House, 1969); W. W. Greg, A Bibliography of the English Printed Drama to the Restoration, 4 vols.  (London: Oxford UP, 1939-59); Alfred W. Pollard, A Short Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, and Ireland and of English Books Printed Abroad, 1475-1640 (London: Bibliographical Society 1926).  Rosemary Pardoe and Dorroll Pardoe as well as C. A. Patrides have cited the entry in Hemslowe’s Diary.  Rosemary Pardoe and Darroll Pardoe, The Female Pope: The Mystery of Pope Joan (Wellingborough, Northamptonshire: Antiquarian P, 1988), p. 84; C. A. Patrides, Premises and Motifs in Renaissance Thought and Literature (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1982), p. 169.

[3] James Shapiro has observed that although a 1599 Bishops’ Order directed that “noe English historye be printed excepte they bee allowed by some of her majesties privie Counsell,” authorities evidently did not curb the staging of history plays, which the Lord Chamberlain’s and Lord Admiral’s Men continued to perform frequently through that year.  After investigating how royal officials responded to the performance of plays concerning Richard II and to the publication of histories addressing that king’s deposition, Leeds Barroll too has concluded that the Queen’s government saw a more serious threat in printed books than in acted plays.  In a similar vein, Annabel Patterson has cited several notable instances of theatrical noncensorship extending into the Stuart era.  James Shapiro, “The Scot’s Tragedy and the Politics of Popular Drama,” English Literary Renaissance 23.3 (Autumn 1993): 429-30; Leeds Barroll, “A New History for Shakespeare and His Time,” Shakespeare Quarterly 39:4 (1988): 444-52;  Annabel Patterson, Censorship and Interpretation: The Conditions of Writing and Reading in Early Modern England (Madison, Wisconsin: U of Wisconsin P, 1984), p. 17; Annabel Patterson, Shakespeare and the Popular Voice (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989), p. 78; Frederick Seaton Siebert, Freedom of the Press in England 1476-1777: The Rise and Decline of Government Controls (Urbana, Illinois, 1952), p. 63.

[4] John K. Mayo, The Popes Parliament (London, 1591); H. S., Historia de Donne Famose, or The Romane Iubile which happened in the yeare 855 (London, 1599); Alexander Cooke, Pope Joan (London, 1610); Alexander Cooke, A Dialogue betweene a Protestant and a Papist, Manifestly proving that a woman, called Joan, was pope of Rome (London, 1625); I. M., The Anatomie of Pope Joane (London, 1624); Humphrey Shuttleworth, A Present for a Papist; or, The life and death of Pope Joan (London, 1675); Elkanah Settle, The Female Prelate (London, 1680, 1689); The History of Pope Joan and the Whores of Rome (London, 1687); R. W. [Robert Ware], Pope Joan: or, An account collected out of the Romish authors . . . (London, 1689).

[5] Alexander Cooke addressed Persons's charge in his 1625 Dialogue betweene a Protestant and a Papist.  Without specifically citing the Pope Joan legend, Persons's fellow Catholic exile William Allen implicitly compared Elizabeth to a popess, as he rebuked those who foolishly chose "to abandon the Pope's authority and to invest a woman (which is against nature) in his supremacy and spiritual charge over all her subjects' souls." Raemond’s 1594 Erreur Populaire de la Papesse Jane was his second, fullest elaboration of arguments he first presented in an anonymous 1587 pamphlet.  My quotations and paraphrases refer to a 1595 edition. Raemond, Erreur Populaire de la Papesse Jane (Lyon, 1595), p. 101, 107; Cooke,  Pope Joan: A Dialogue between a Protestant and Papist, The Harleian Miscellany, 12 vols.  (London: Robert Dutton, 1809), p. 4: 106; William Cecil, The Execution of Justice in England and William Allen, A True, Sincere, and Modest Defense of English Catholics, ed. Richard M. Kingdon, Folger Documents of Tudor and Stuart Civilization (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1965), p. 213; Robert Persons, A Treatise of Three Conversions (Volume One) 1603 (London: Scolar P, 1976), p. 390; Barbara Sher Tinsley, “Pope Joan Polemic in Early Modern France: The Use and Disabuse of Myth,” Sixteenth Century Journal 18.3 (Fall 1987): 381.

[6] According to the Short Title Catalogue, four editions of Lydgate's Fall of Princes were printed between 1494 and 1557.  As James Fredric Morley has noted, an ecclesiastical decree ensured that a great many English subjects would have access to Foxe's text.  In 1571, the upper house of the Convocation of Canterbury ordered that, in addition to the Bishop's Bible (1568), a copy of Foxe's Acts and Monuments should be installed in each cathedral church and that every archbishop, bishop, dean, and resident canon should keep a copy in his dining-room or hall for the benefit of servants and visitors.  Moreover, Morley reports that although the 1571 order did not address parish churches, many pastors acted on their own initiative and installed a copy of Foxe's book. Morley, John Foxe and His Book (New York: Octagon, 1970), p. 147; A. W. Pollard and G. R. Redgrave, A Short Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, and Ireland and of English Books Printed Abroad, 1475-1640, (London: Bibliographical Society, 1926), p. 68.

[7] Scholars suspect that the brief references to the popess that appear in eleventh- and twelfth-century manuscripts by Marianus Scotus, Sigebert of Gembloux, and Godfrey of Viterbo were added by later scribes.  However the authorship of fuller, thirteenth-century accounts by Martinus Polonus (Martinus of Troppau), Jean de Mailly, and Stephen (Etienne) of Bourbon is not in question.  For this outline of the legend, I have drawn upon Martinus Polonus, Foxe, Lydgate, and his source, Giovanni Boccaccio; in contrast to these writers, Jean de Mailly and Stephen of Bourbon placed Joan's pontificate at the turn of the twelfth century.   Joan Morris presents both the original Latin and a translation of Martinus Polonus's account in Pope John VIII--An English Woman: Alias Pope Joan (London: Vrai, 1985), pp. 78-86, 153; John Foxe, The Acts and Monuments, ed. George Townsend, 8 vols. (New York: AMS, 1965), 2: 7, 5: 455; John Lydgate, Lydgate's Fall of Princes, ed. Henry Bergen.  4 vols.  Early English Text Society (London: Oxford UP, 1924-27), 3: 946-47; Giovanni Boccaccio, Concerning Famous Women, trans. Guido A. Guarino (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1964), pp. 231-33; Pardoe,  pp. 16-21; Patrides, pp. 158-59. 

[8]Plays depicting Pope Joan include: Dietrich Schernberg, Ein schön Spiel von Fraw Jutten (c. 1485); Elkanah Settle, The Female Prelate (1680); C. Fauconpret, La Papesse Jeanne: Opéra-Bouffon en Vaudevilles, en Trois Actes (1793); Francois Pierre Auguste Leger, La Papesse Jeanne: Comedie en Un Acte, en Vers et en Vaudevilles (1793); Caryl Churchill, Top Girls (1982); Banuta Rubess, Pope Joan: A Non-Historical Comedy (1984); Christopher Moore, Pope Joan (1996).

[9] Boccaccio, pp. 231-32; Valerie R. Hotchkiss, "Dietrich Schernberg's Ein schön Spiel von Frau Jutten: The Salvation of the Female Pope."  Canon and Canon Transgression in Medieval German Literature, ed. Albrecht Classen (Göppingen: Kümmeree Verlag, 1991), p. 200; Ebba M. Van der Helder, Pope Joan in Legend and Drama: A Case Study in German Medieval Drama (Armidale: Library of Australia, 1987), pp. 10-13; Steven M. Taylor, "Martin Le Franc's Rehabilitation of Notorious Women: The Case of Pope Joan," Fifteenth-Century Studies 19 (1992): 261-78; John Huss, The Church, trans. David S. Schaff (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood P, 1974), pp. 133-34. 

[10] Valerie R. Hotchkiss quotes and translates Bale's Scriptorum Illustrium Brytanniae (1558) in "The Legend of the Female Pope in the Reformation," Acta Conventus  Neo-Latini Hafniensis: Proceedings of the Eight International Congress of Neo-Latin Studies, ed. Rhoda Schnur (Binghamton, New York; Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 1994),  pp. 499, 501.

[11] Cesare D'Onofrio has collected these and other striking illustrations of the Pope Joan legend in La papessa Giovanna: Roma e papato tra storia e leggenda (Roma: Romana Societa Editrice, 1979), pp. 78-81, 98-99.

[12] Mayo, Dedicatory Epistle, pp. 1, 10, 17.

[13] Even if the history play cited in Henslowe's diary was not Shakespeare's, another Elizabethan playwright drawing upon the same historical materials may well have produced a similar drama.

[14] The reference to "the Devil's direction" appears in Stephen of Bourbon's thirteenth-century account of Joan's career, which Rosemary Pardoe and Darroll Pardoe translate and quote.  Herbert Thurston's translation of the same text ties Joan's accomplishments even more insistently to diabolical forces, as it reports that "by the aid of the devil, she was made cardinal and finally Pope" [my emphasis]. In turn, Dietrich Schernberg's play Frau Jutten built upon this precedent by presenting two demons who appear to Jutta (Joan) and encourage her initial plan to cross-dress.  H. S. refers to Joan's book of necromancy in his 1599 Historia de Donne Famose.  H. S., p. 18; Pardoe, pp. 16-17; Herbert Thurston, Pope Joan (London: Catholic Truth Society, 1929), p. 4; Hotchkiss, "Dietrich Schernberg's," p. 200; Holder, p. 10; William Shakespeare, The Complete Works, ed. David Bevington, 4th ed. (New York: Harper Collins, 1992).  Subsequent citations to Shakespeare's works refer to this edition.

[15] Christopher Marlowe, The Jew of Malta, in Drama of the English Renaissance I: The Tudor Period, eds. Russell A. Fraser and Norman Rabkin (New York: Macmillan, 1976); Walter W. Greg, ed. Henslowe's Diary, 2 vols. (London: A. H. Bullen, 1904-08), 2: 149-50.

[16] Claire Cross, The Royal Supremacy in the Elizabethan Church (London and New York: Allen and Unwin and Barnes and Noble, 1969), pp. 22-29, 118-19, 126-31.

[17] Jewel explains the Queen’s conviction in a 1559 letter to Heinrich Bullinger, which Claire Cross quotes in The Royal Supremacy, p. 138.  John Knox, The Political Writings, ed. Marvin a. Breslow (Washington, London, and Toronto: Folger and Associated University Presses, 1985), p. 56; John Strype, Annals of the Reformation 4 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon P, 1821), volume I, part 2, 406-7; Carole Levin, “The Heart and Stomach of a King”: Elizabeth I and the Politics of Sex and Power (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1994),  p. 14.

[18] Elizabeth I’s chaplain William Tooker claimed the sovereign received the gift of healing at coronation.  In 1462, Sir John Fortescue asserted that the royal unction was necessary to enable healing.  Concerning priestly kings, in 1430 an English canonist cited the widespread opinion “that an anointed king is not a purely lay person, but rather a person of mixed status.”  Addressing England’s Henry V, Nicolas de Clamanges of Champagne asserted more forcefully: “The Lord laid down that royalty should be priestly, for through the holy unction of chrism Christian kings must be considered holy, after the likeness of priests.”   In contrast, in a thirteenth-century letter to Henry III the Bishop of Lincoln Robert Grosseteste insisted that the royal unction’s “effect is in no wise to make the royal dignity superior, or even equal, to that of the priest, and does not confer power to perform any of the offices of priesthood.” These quotations appear in Marc Bloch, The Royal Touch: Sacred Monarchy and Scrofula In England and France, trans. J. E. Anderson (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul; Montreal: McGill-Queen’s UP, 1973), pp. 112, 122, 130, 139.  G. B. Harrison has cited a 1603 report that links James I’s doubts concerning the royal touch to his uneasiness concerning the royal unction; Harrison, A Jacobean Journal (London: Routledge, 1941), pp. 30-31. 

[19] Deborah Willis quotes (but does not cite page numbers for) William Clowes, A right fruitfull and approved treatise for the aritficiall cure of that malady called in Latin, Struma, and in English, the Evill cured by Kynges and Queenes of England (London, 1602). Willis, “The Monarch and the Sacred: Shakespeare and the Ceremony of the Healing of the King’s Evil,” True Rites and Maimed Rites; Ritual and Anti-Ritual in Shakespeare and His Age, eds. Linda Woodbridge and Edward Berry (Urbana and Chicago: U of Illinois P, 1992), pp. 148, 154; Marc Bloch, The Royal Touch, pp. 53, 191, 208; The Book of Common Prayer 1559: The Elizabethan Prayer Book, ed. John E. Booty (Washington: Folger Shakespeare Library; London and Toronto: Associated UP, 1976), p. 249; Levin, “The Heart and Stomach of a King,” p. 31.

[20] Documents concerning the ceremony clearly demonstrate the participation of bishops and imply Elizabeth's use of holy water.  Reportedly, before Elizabeth entered the hall, the Yeoman of the Laundry, Sub-Almoner, and Almoner all washed, kissed, and “crossed” the paupers’ feet.  Further, Carole Levin has cited a 1595 letter in which the Bishop of London Richard Fletcher discusses his  “execution of the Almoner’s place at the Maundy.”   An account of the 1572-73 Maundy at Greenwich describes “holy water basons . . . being brought into the Hall”; presumably, these were the same “basons of warm water and sweet flowers” that, according to this account, the Queen used when bathing the women’s feet.  Levin argues that, by matching the number of recipients to the monarch’s age rather than to the number of Christ’s apostles, the Royal Maundy “places more emphasis on the specific monarch as Christ figure rather than simply as an anonymous representative of the church.”  John Nichols, The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth, 3 vols. (New York: AMS, 1969), I: 345-47; Levin, “The Heart and Stomach of a King,” pp. 33-34.

[21] Carole Levin quotes a letter from Guzman to Philip II recorded in the Calendar of Letters and State Papers Relating to English Affairs Preserved in, or Originally Belonging to the Archives of Simancas, ed. Martin Hume (London: H. M. Stationary Office, 1899): I, 419, 426; John Strype, Annals of the Reformation (Oxford: Clarendon P, 1821), I (ii), 406-7; Levin, “The Heart and Stomach of a King,” pp. 14, 35.

[22] Elizabeth's successor James I initially challenged the royal touch by asserting that “the age of miracles” was “past.”  Stuart monarchs eventually overcame such reservations so that a Royalist addressing Charles I in 1643 could confidently characterize the miraculous practice as a “supernatural means of cure which is inherent in your sacred majesty.” G. B. Harrison, A Jacobean Journal, p. 31; Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic (New York: Scribner, 1971), p. 195; Levin, “The Heart and Stomach of a King,” p. 35; Reginald Scot, The Discoverie of Witchcraft (Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois UP, 1964), p. 255.

[23] In Revelation 17-19, angels offer John the Evangelist a prophetic vision of the "judgment of the great whore," who has shed the blood of saints and has corrupted the earth.  She has fornicated with kings, enriched merchants, and intoxicated the earth's inhabitants "with the wine of her fornication" (17.1-2).  Dressed in purple and scarlet, adorned with jewels, and carrying a golden cup, the Whore sits upon a seven-headed beast.  According to John's angelic guide, the Whore represents Babylon, "that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth," and her beast's heads, in turn, represent seven such kings  (17.10, 18).  As John's vision continues, a heavenly voice declares that death and famine shall plague the Whore and "she shall be utterly burned with fire," and the kings and merchants who have prospered with her "shall weep and mourn."  The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testament, King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1990).

[24] As Valerie Hotchkiss has noted, in his Scriptorum Illustrium Brytanniae John Bale sets the harlot-pope in apposition to the whore of Babylon: “Papa meretrice, Babylonicum scortum.”  Moreover, Hotchkiss points out, Bale and other reformers such as Matthias Illyricus Flacius suggested that by subjugating themselves to the popess, monarchs such as King Alfred of Anglia and Emperor Ludwig, fulfilled the prophecy of Revelation 17.  Georgus Nigrinus [Schwarz] even appealed to numerology to support equating the popess and the Babylonian whore.  As Claire McEachern has noted, the influential Swiss Reformer Heinrich Bullinger too equated the Whore and popess.  John Bale, Scriptorum Illustrium Brytanniae, quam nunc Angliam et Scotium vocant (Basileae: Apud Joannem Oporinum, 1558), pp. 116-17 quoted in Valerie Hotchkiss, “Legend of the Female Pope,” pp. 501-2.  Heinrich Bullinger An Hundred Sermons (Basle, 1557) quoted in Claire McEachern, The Poetics of English Nationhood, 1590-1612 (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge UP, 1996), p. 209.  Foxe, Acts and Monuments, 2: 7.  Robert W. Scribner has suggested that the Pope Joan legend may have inspired the equation between the Whore of Babylon and the papacy.  Scribner has also identified a mid-sixteenth-century German illustration that expounds that equation.  Robert W. Scribner, For the Sake of Simple Folk: Popular Propaganda for the German Reformation (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge UP, 1981), p. 171.

[25] The National Union Catalogue indicates that the dating for the two editions of A Concent of Scripture is somewhat uncertain and appears variously as 1588 or 1589 and 1590 or 1591.  The National Union Catalog, Pre-1956 Imprints, 753 vols (London: Mansell, 1968), 6: 25-24.

[26] Due to copyright concerns, I have not reproduced these three engravings here; however, they will appear in the fuller version of this essay to be published in Elizabeth I: Always Her Own Free Woman.  One could argue that Rogers’s Whore resembles the Amazonian Elizabeth wearing armor and a helmet in Thomas Cecil’s oft-reproduced engraving Truth Presents the Queen with a Lance.  However, since Cecil produced his portrait more than thirty years after Rogers’s illustration, it does not bear upon the refashioning of illustrations in Broughton’s text.  In fact, in his portrait of the Queen, Rogers rather insistently eschews the Amazonian imagery that a few writers such as James Aske employed in poems celebrating the Armada victory.  In this respect, Rogers’s engraving follows a pattern observed by Leah Marcus, who notes that “Pictures of Elizabeth as an Amazon are all of foreign origin, or date from after her death.”  Susan Frye assigns Cecil’s illustration an approximate date of 1625, as does Carole Levin.  Winfried Schleiner simply assigns it to the reign of Charles I.  Leah S. Marcus, Puzzling Shakespeare: Local Reading and Its Discontents (Berkeley: U of California P, 1988), p. 62.  Susan Frye, “The Myth of Elizabeth at Tilbury,” Sixteenth Century Journal 33.1 (1992): 111.  Carole Levin, “The Heart and Stomach of a King," p. 124.  Winfried Schleiner, “Divine Virago: Queen Elizabeth as an Amazon,” Studies in Philology 75 (1978): 168-74. 

[27] Philippa Berry traces the comparison between Elizabeth and the moon goddess Diana (or Cynthia) to Giordano Bruno’s Cena de le ceneri (1584) and De Gli Eroici Furori (1595), Walter Raleigh’s The Ocean to Cynthia, which was composed during the 1580s, and John Lyly’s Endimion, which was performed at court in 1586 and may have been written as early as 1584.  Drawing upon Roy Strong, Claire McEachern interprets the crescent moon as "a sign of imperial sovereignty." Philippa Berry, Of Chastity and Power: Elizabethan Literature and the Unmarried Queen (London and New York: Routledge, 1989), pp. 126, 183-84.  Roy Strong, Gloriana: The Portraits of Elizabeth I (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1987), pp. 125ff cited in McEachern, pp. 55, 208-209.

[28] As I argue in a longer version of this essay, Thomas Dekker’s play The Whore of Babylon (1607), which articulates perhaps the most sustained early modern comparison between Elizabeth and the Whore, further demonstrates that within imaginative portraits these two women could all too easily resemble each other.  The play’s prefatory Lectori announces Dekker’s intention to set “the incomparable Heroical vertues of our late Queene” against “the inueterate malice . . . and continual blody stratagems, of that Purple whore of Roome.”  Nonetheless, the play’s imagery and diction, which most often associate the Babylonian harlot and her forces with the threatening maternal body, comes to belie the contrast that the Lectori articulates, as Titania, the Fairie Queene who represents Elizabeth, also portrays herself in (sometimes menacing) maternal terms   Focusing not on Dekker's two antagonistic queens but rather on their subjects and attendants, Jean E. Howard has noted that the play's "implicit debate structure" as well as Dekker's use of antitheatrical rhetoric destabilizes "the binary oppositions upon which the play's whole polemical strategy rests"; Howard, The Stage and Social Struggle in Early Modern England (London and New York: Routledge, 1994), pp. 53-56.  Thomas Dekker, The Dramatic Works, ed. Fredson Bowers, 4 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1955), 2: 497.

[29] Sheila Cavanagh, 'The Bad Seed: Princess Elizabeth and the Seymour Incident,” Dissing Elizabeth: Negative Representations of Gloriana, ed. Julia M. Walker (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1998), pp. 10-14, 16-19. Carole Levin, 'The Heart and Stomach of a King,'  6-7.

[30] Foxe's account was so sensational that it prompted the Catholic polemicist Thomas Harding to respond, primarily by castigating the conduct of the infant's mother.  In turn, Foxe answered Harding in later editions of the Acts and Monuments.  Foxe, Acts and Monuments, 8: 227-41.  Carole Levin discusses this case in detail in "’Murder not then the fruit within my womb’: Shakespeare's Joan, Foxe's Guernsey Martyr, and Women Pleading Pregnancy in Early Modern English History and culture," forthcoming in the journal Quidditas.

[31] Carole Levin cites Brouhgton’s narrative but does not address his identity or career as a Protestant divine.  Although, of course, more than one man named Hugh Broughton might have been alive in 1600, details in Knyght’s report match what we know about the Biblical scholar.  Broughton the scholar left England for Germany in 1592 and evidently remained there until 1603, as if, like Knyght’s interlocutor, he had resolved “not to come into the realm” until Elizabeth’s death.  Broughton the scholar may well have felt the professional frustration that Knyght’s interlocutor expressed, since in 1595 he had unsuccessfully sought appointment to the archbishopric of Tomon (Tuam), and since during the 1590s he had failed to interest political and ecclesiastical authorities in his plan for a new translation of the Bible.  Knyght’s Broughton affirmed that “the King of Scots is the right successor to the crown” and boasted that James had promised him “the best office in the Exchequer.”  In a similar vein, the Biblical scholar wrote to King James in 1604 asserting that he had suffered “many years danger for publishing of your right and Gods truth” and requesting (in the third person) “a pension fitt for his age, studye, and travells [travails] past.”  Clearly, then, the man Knyghts met in Frankfurt in 1600 was the embittered author of A Concent of Scripture.  An engraving of the Whore appeared not only in the two editions of A Concent of Scripture but also in Broughton’s Moses’ Sights on Mt. Sinai (1592).  Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, of the Reign of Elizabeth, 11601-1603, ed. Mary Anne Everett Green (London: Stationery Office, 1870; reprint Nendeln, Liechtenstein: Kraus, 1967), pp. 23-24; "Hugh Broughton," Dictionary of National Biography; From the Earliest Times to 1900, ed. Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee,  22 vols.  (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1917), 2: 1368-69; McEachern, p. 54; Levin, “The Heart and Stomach of a King," pp. 76, 83, 84; Carole Levin, “’We shall never have a merry world while the Queene lyveth’: Gender, Monarchy, and the Power of Seditious Words,” Dissing Elizabeth, p. 90.

[32] G. B. Harrison, A Second Jacobean Journal: Being a Record of Those Things Most Talked of during the Years 1607 to 1610 (Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1958), pp. 143-44.  Levin, “The Heart and Stomach of a King," pp. 78, 85.  William Allen, An Admonition to the Nobility, 1588, English Recusant Literature 1558-1640, ed. D. M. Rogers (Menston, England: Scolar P, 1971), pp. V, XIX. 

[33] Leeds Barroll has questioned how much the performance of (presumably William Shakespeare’s) Richard II on the eve of the Essex rebellion troubled the Queen’s government.  Nonetheless, Barroll has found abundant evidence that, even before the Essex rebellion, royal officials investigated the representation of Richard II”s deposition in John Hayward’s prose history The first part of the life and raigne of King Henrie the IIII; they even imprisoned the author in the Tower.  Royal concern over this historical precedent, then, seems clear.  Leeds Barroll, pp. 444-52.

[34] In a similar vein, in 1596 and 1598 other Englishmen asserted that it “would never be a merrye worlde till her majestie was dead or killed” or wished “that Her Majesty had been cut off twenty years since, so that some noble prince might have reigned in her stead.”  Carole Levin has found these quotations among court records for Essex and Kent; Levin, “’We shall never have a merry world while the Queene lyveth’: Gender, Monarchy, and the Power of Seditious Words,” Dissing Elizabeth, pp. 78, 90.  Early English texts recounting the popess legend, such as John Lydgate’s Fall of Princes, drew upon Boccaccio; Boccaccio, p. 232; Lydgate, 3: 946.

[35] The Bible provided the ennobling precedent of the prophetess Deborah, who led the Jews at a time of crisis (Judges 4); however, the considerable differences between the political structures of ancient Israel and early modern England limited the relevance of this scriptural analogy.