Prisoner Queens

Many queens throughout history have been held captive.    Obviously, the Tudor queens who had been executed were held prisoner first.    Anne Boleyn spent from May 2, 1536 to May 19, 1536 (when she was executed) in the tower.    Likewise, Katheryn Howard and Jane Grey spent time captive before they were executed.    Mary Stuart spent eighteen years prior to her execution as a prisoner in Noble homes in Elizabethan England!

Elizabeth I herself spent time as prisoner in the Tower of London when her sister Mary I first ascended the throne!    Eleanor of Aquitaine was held captive by her husband when she defied him.   Cleopatra is said to have committed suicide rather than be held prisoner by Rome after the Battle of Actium!   Marie Antoinette was held captive before she was beheaded, on trumped up charges of treason and incest.    Most of the women who were executed were innocent of the crimes they were accused of.   It was simply expedient to have them taken care of!

It is unsurprising that women who were powerful and ahead of their time would become threats to the men around them.    The fact that they were threats to the status quo would end up with them being held captive, often by men who feared them!   

Another example of a “queen” held captive is Erzebet Bathory, the blood countess of Hungary.   She is not technically a queen, but a powerful noblewoman.   She was imprisoned in her own castle after being convicted of murdering hundreds of women!    This horror story of her is thought by many modern historians to be actually a case of the victors writing history.    Some have theorized that she in fact was only guilty of having too much power and money over men, and refusing to remarry one of them after she was widowed!

Each of the cases I have discussed here feature women who rebelled against their country’s traditions.    These rebellions resulted in being imprisoned, and in some cases put to death.    I hope this post has made you think about the consequences faced by these women, and how far they have helped society progress!   Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is Natalie Portman as Anne Boleyn.   I found the image on

Further Reading

  • Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History-without the Fairytale Endings by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie
  • Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff
  • The Lady in the Tower by Alison Weir
  • The Life of Elizabeth I by Alison Weir
  • Lady Jane Grey: a Tudor Mystery by Eric Ives
  • Young and Damned and Fair by Gareth Russell
  • Mary Queen of Scots by Antonia Fraser
  • Marie Antoinette: the Journey by Antonia Fraser