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Date(s) - March 6, 2023
3:30 pm - 4:30 pm

Willard O. Eddy Hall, Room 120


Visualizing the Royal Womb: Queenship and Pregnancy on the Early Modern Stage

Join us in person at the Willard O. Eddy Library in Room 120, Eddy Hall. This event is open to all interested faculty, students, and community members.

Portrait of an Unknown Lady c.1595, attributed to Marcus Gheeraerts II

This will be an informal conversation with Elizabeth Steinway about her current research on early modern gynecological texts, pregnancy portraits, and the dramatic representation of pregnant queens and royal wombs. Dr. Steinway’s examination of the spectacle of pregnancy speaks to the continued cultural fascination with the identification of pregnant bodies, particularly those on the public stage (Rihanna’s recent Super Bowl performance, anyone?). 

The performance of queenship is bound up in the spectacle of both pregnancy and maternity. In 1533, Anne Boleyn was five months pregnant at her coronation, and her reproductive status was celebrated with commendatory verses that commented on her future as “a fruitful mother of men-children.” Anne did not produce these desired male children, and her reproductive body was the subject of public discourse throughout her time as queen consort. Similar investment in the royal womb carried over to the queens that followed her; the womb, in particular, was represented as either conducive to the health of the nation or hostile to its stability. In early modern England, the desire to see and understand the womb is reflected in the proliferation of gynecological texts published in the sixteenth- and seventeenth-centuries. With contemporary reproductive discourses that increasingly focused on visualizing the womb, the body of the queen becomes a productive space to examine how early modern theories of reproduction manifest on a larger stage, both theatrically and politically.