By Instruments her Powers Appear': Gender, Intimacy, and Power: The political uses of Music and Miniature Portraits at the court of Queen Elizabetyh I by Elodie Noel
Queen Elizabeth I had a strong reputation for musicality. She played the lute and the virginals, sang and even claimed to have composed dance music. Her court musicians, Thomas Tallis and William Byrd, even suggested that music was ‘indispensable to the state’. While the Queen’s gender and her representations have been extensively examined by historians seeking to determine their respective roles in policy-making and in Elizabeth’s inclination towards marriage, the impact of music on the formation of her royal image remains an overlooked area of study. Through the analysis of a miniature portrait by Nicholas Hilliard in which the Queen is uniquely depicted in the act of playing the lute, this article invites us to discuss the ways in which the creation of the Queen’s image as a musical monarch enabled her to rise beyond gender stereotypes and assert her authority in courtly and diplomatic affairs.