Gender and treason laws in Early Modern England : an analysis of elite and noble women’s agency and changing perceptions of treason in the reign of Henry VIII : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in History at Massey University, Manawatū, New Zealand

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In later medieval and early modern England, women of the nobility were able to exercise forms of gendered agency through their participation in political, legal, economic, and social activities. When elite women exercised such agency, it was imperative that it was done with patriarchal support, either from their husband, male family members, their sons, or the king. During the reign of Henry VIII, it became increasingly dangerous for women to employ certain forms of political agency against the king. This thesis analyses four elite women who were tried and executed under King Henry VIII because they were perceived to have exercised political agency in ways that transgressed conventional gendered norms: Anne Boleyn (b.1500-1507? -1536), Katherine Howard (1519-1525? – 1542), Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford (1505-1542), and Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury (1473 – 1541). These women, two queens, one woman of the nobility, and one peeress were all found guilty of high treason and their downfalls effectively widened the scope of treason, with significant consequences for successive noble and elite women. This thesis adds further to the scholarship on gender and queenship studies, but also adds to English legal history which until recently, has centred on men as the main perpetrators of treason.