She Wolves: England's Early Queens

In the Medieval and Tudor world there was no question in peoples' minds about the order of God's creation - men ruled and women didn't. A King was a warrior who literally fought to win power then battled to keep it. Yet despite everything that stood in their way, a handful of extraordinary women did attempt to rule medieval and Tudor England.        In this series, historian Helen Castor explores seven queens who challenged male power, the fierce reactions they provoked, and whether the term 'She Wolves' was deserved.

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  • Episode 3
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    February 25, 2013

    n this programme, Helen Castor looks at what happened when England was faced not just with inadequate kings, but no kings at all. In 1553, for the first time in English history all the contenders for the crown were female. In the lives of these three Tudor queens - Jane, Mary and Elizabeth - she explores how each woman struggled in turn with wearing a crown that was made for a male head. Elizabeth I seemed to show that not only could a woman rule, but could do so gloriously. But at what cost?

  • Episode 2
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    February 18, 2013

    In 1308 a 12-year-old girl, Isabella of France, became queen of England when she married the English king. A century later another young French girl, Margaret of Anjou, followed in her footsteps. Both these women were thrust into a violent and dysfunctional England and both felt driven to take control of the kingdom themselves. Isabella would be accused of murder and Margaret of destructive ambition - it was Margaret who Shakespeare named the She Wolf. But as historian Helen Castor reveals, their self-assertion that would have seemed natural in a man was deemed unnatural, even monstrous in a woman

  • Episode 1
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    February 11, 2013

    800 years ago, Matilda came within a hair's breadth of being the first woman to be crowned queen of England in her own right. Castor explores how Matilda reached this point and why her bid for the throne ultimately failed. Her daughter-in-law Eleanor of Aquitaine was an equally formidable woman. Despite being remembered as the queen of courtly love, in reality during her long life she divorced one king and married another, only to lead a rebellion against him. She only finally achieved the power she craved in her seventies.