‘Turn thy Tombe into a Throne’
Elizabeth I’s death rehearsal
in Goddesses and Queens
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Scholars have long debated just precisely when Queen Elizabeth I commenced her iconographical self-presentation as a Virgin Queen; recent criticism has frequently called for 'renewed discussion' of the 'popular assumption'. Her initial figuration of her virginal intentions in her first speech to Parliament merits further consideration. This speech, which ended with a coy but forceful epitaphic gesture, effectively inaugurated a pattern of subsequent manifestations as Diana, Cynthia, Gloriana, and the Virgin Mary. This chapter focuses on this gesture as a rhetorical and performative move. It explores the ways in which an epitaph might unexpectedly mark the beginning, and not only the termination, of a sovereign's reign. The chapter answers a query: by invoking the iconography of epitaphic virginity, was Elizabeth somehow allowing others to imagine the iconography of her own mortality? Such an inauguration might also entail consequences for the political theology of envisioning the death of the sovereign.

Goddesses and Queens

The iconography of Elizabeth I

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