Thursday, 6 December 2012

History Nerd Facts

"The history of the world is but the biography of great men." -Thomas Carlyle.

This quote is often true but there have been some important, powerful women in the position as head of a country before Angela Merkel. Often, these women had to de-feminize themselfs in order to be taken seriously. Today I want to show you two very famous examples. They are not only a symbol of the repression of women by the patriachal society, not only victims. No, they are also proof that women can succeed in this world, can prove all the prejudiced people wrong. They used the fixed role systems for themselves, turned them around in order to fit to their use. These two women are very inspirational to me.

The first one is my favourite historical person of all times and also my idol:
Queen Elizabeth I., daughter of Henry VIII., sister of "Bloody" Mary I. and the first Queen of what we'd call Great Britain today. 

Queen Elizabeth is also known as the "Virgin" Queen, not because she really was a virgin but because she created this myth around her persona. She stylized herself as almost God-like, pure, above everything that is human. She did not do that because she liked being mythical but because it gave her the possibility to stay unmarried. People back in her time did not believe a woman could reign a country, they wanted her to get married as soon as possible so she could be replaced by her husband and become a wife and mother. It was regarded as unnatural to have a woman in a powerful, leading position, women were supposed to be mothers, wives, daughters, grandmothers but never leaders. 
There was one woman though, that everybody loved and hailed: 
The Virgin Mary.

So Queen Elizabeth decided to stylize herself like the Virgin Mary, She used white face paint, big wigs and impressive dresses to appear almost God-like to her people. They didn't see her as a woman anymore, they didn't see her as weak, as  unworthy, as imperfect. They saw her as this saint-like creature that was pure and perfect.
She went so far that she sometimes, when she referred to herself, she used the term "prince" or "king". If she could not be seen as the mythical virgin (for example when war was about to come up) she took the role of a man.

 "We princes are set as it were upon stages in the sight and view of the world."
  "I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a King of England too[...]"

This second quote is from her famous speech to the troops at Tilbury before the fight against the Spanish Armada. As the Virgin Queen, the saint, the pure perfection she couldn't lead her troops, so she showed them that she was indeed a King.

Queen Elizabeth's era is today known as The Golden Age. It's the time of Shakespeare and the time where Britain became the most powerful nation in the Western world. Queen Elizabeth supported the freedom of thought, especially when it came to religion, she is known to support the arts and she even has a US state named after her: Virginia.

Queen Christina of Sweden is the second woman I want to tell you about.
Her official title was "King". People addressed her as "queen" but her real title was the male one because usually the throne belonged to a man. Her nickname as a child was the "Girl King". Christina was brought up and educted as a boy because she was the only surviving child of her parents, the King and Queen of Sweden. She was Queen regent from he age of seven until she decided never to marry, converted to catholisism and gave away the crown to her (male) cousin. from that point on she was a Queen without a country. Most of the time she lived in Rome where she was a big supporter of the arts. Many people in her time have written about her not being exactly beautiful, she was probably what some people might call today a tomboy.

These two women can be role models for us, they show that women can succeed even in the worst times and even if they have to de-feminize themself. Elizabeth and Christina can also be reminders that equality is a long path. We are way better off than they are, no doubt, but we still haven't reached the goal. We are not allowed to use the limitations society puts on us as as exuses to lay back and stop trying. We have to follow our dreams, no matter what other people tell us to do.

Have a great day,
The Countess

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