This course will explore the central paradox in early modern political theory and practice created by regnant female monarchs in Great Britain. In the sixteenth centuries, it was an almost universally held belief that women should never rule over men. However, the existence of three regnant queens (Mary Tudor, Mary Stuart, and Elizabeth I) inescapably belied this central principle of social order. We will look at literary texts and various non-literary contextualizing materials to explore such issues as: How did men and women of the period reconcile themselves to female rule, or did they? How did queens construct their public personae in order to maintain their power? What portrayals of ruling women were employed by the queens' opponents? What were the images and fates of non-royal women who defied their traditional roles of silence and obedience? How do political ideologies, conflicting religious beliefs, and the pressures of dynastic struggle impact on the question of female rule?