ABSTRACT

The standard model of the development of secular aristocratic masculinity presupposes a neat transition from a warrior masculinity characteristic of most of the medieval period to a courtier masculinity of the early modern period.1 After the Norman Conquest, great noblemen held land directly from the crown in return for military service, so that in an important sense their military prowess justified reserving the primary source of wealth for themselves and power of the time.2 A turning point came with the advent of the Tudors and the end of the Wars of the Roses which instituted a period of ‘crisis’ for the greater nobility as their traditional roles and sources of power were gradually eroded.3 Aristocrats were increasingly dependent on the crown for advancement through the award of offices in the king’s gift, yet increasingly in competition with men of undistinguished birth, but who had administrative talent for these offices. Particularly under Elizabeth, aristocratic identity became contingent on a new set of signs, in the form of the ritualized behaviour of the court, self-consciously enacted in the view of a well-informed courtly audience.4