Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Andrew Aisenberg

Reader 2

Lisa Cody

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2020 Abigail A Sorkin


Why did Queen Elizabeth I portray herself as the Virgin Queen? Why were both elements, virgin and queen, essential to her longevity and her success? Scholars have traditionally argued that Elizabeth’s persona as the Virgin Queen is a result of the end of her last marriage negotiation in the mid 1580s as it was now clear she would never marry and remain childless. However, considering the religious and diplomatic implications of this image, this interpretation not only seems too simplistic, it neglects the ways Elizabeth deliberately represented herself in a way that would appeal to her public. The Virgin Queen image was a result of political and religious strategy that especially manifested in the second half of her reign but had its roots in her entire life experience. First, this thesis will analyze Elizabeth’s lifelong strategic thought process regarding her reputation. The following chapter will consider her attitude and actions towards marriage once Queen. Elizabeth cultivated this image through religious ceremonies, speeches and portraiture which were widely spread throughout the kingdom. The following chapter will examine the domestic and international challenges that Elizabeth faced as she began creating the Virgin Queen image. Finally, through portraiture this thesis will show that Elizabeth successfully created an interchangeability between herself and the Virgin Queen and herself and England. By co-opting the Virgin Mary symbolism in a now Protestant England, Queen Elizabeth was able to utilize her image as the Virgin Queen to create an enduring personification of herself as England.