In his tract The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstruous Regimen of Women (see note below about the wording) John Knox appears to be extending Paul's proscription - regarding the place of women in the ecclesia, the church - to the rule of the English monarchy over England.

γυναικι δε διδασκειν ουκ επιτρεπω ουδε αυθεντειν ανδρος αλλ ειναι εν ησυχια

[I Timothy 2:12. Received Text - Beza, Stephens, Elzevir and Scrivener are all identical.]

But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

[KJV translation]

Laying aside the question of whether, or not, it was appropriate to address the matter in quite the way in which John Knox did so, I am more interested in the reaction of Elizabeth who, although a Queen in favour of the Protestant cause at the time, apparently took offence (not personally, but) at the implications to monarchy contained in John Knox's article.

Wikipedia records that Elizabeth opposed Knox but does not go into detail, nor is there a reference or a footnote to follow on the subject.

  1. Did Elizabeth state her own position on the subject of female monarchy (particularly regarding the examples of Esther and Deborah whose 'rule' was at least in conjunction with, if not in subordination to, male rulers) ?

  2. Did Elizabeth hinder John Knox in his Christian ministry ?

Note on wording :

The article's title employs certain words in spellings and senses that are now archaic. "Monstruous" (from Latin mōnstruōsus) means "unnatural"; "regiment" (Late Latin regimentum or regimen) means "rule" or "government".

Thus I have, here, used 'regimen' (cf 'regime') not 'regiment' (the military application).

My understanding of the concept is '... the unnatural rule ...'.

2 Answers 2


While in Geneva, John Knox’s work ‘The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women’ was published (anonymously) in 1558. It appears that his book was written against the female sovereigns of his day, particularly Mary of Guise, Dowager and Queen Regent of Scotland, her daughter Mary (Stuart), who became Queen of Scotland, and Queen Mary (Tudor) of England. It was published a few months before Elizabeth (Tudor) became Queen of England in 1558.

That is significant because his stance against female rulers backfired when Elizabeth Tudor succeeded her half-sister Mary (Tudor) as Queen of England. Knox wanted to return to Scotland but Elizabeth denied him permission for passage through England on the way back from Geneva to Scotland. He was obliged to take the more dangerous route to Leith.

In 1558, Mary Tudor’s half-sister, the Protestant-leaning Elizabeth Tudor, succeeded to the throne of England. Though not the intended target of Knox’s First Blast, Queen Elizabeth took great offense at the publication, and in 1559, repeatedly refused Knox passage to Scotland through England. Knox attempted to apologize to the queen, writing a series of letters to her chief advisor, Sir William Cecil, but again managed as much criticism as praise. Like Mary of Guise before her, Elizabeth Tudor became more agitated with the reformer.

Even Calvin became a guilty party in the eyes of Queen Elizabeth, who rejected his homage, made to her in a republication of his Commentaries on Isaiah, owing to a perceived connection with The First Blast. In truth, Calvin did not approve of Knox’s views and had even advised him against publishing them. In his own letter to William Cecil, Calvin expressed his extreme displeasure with Knox: “By reason of the thoughtless arrogance of one individual, the wretched crowd of exiles would have been driven away, not only from this city [of Geneva] but even from almost the whole world.”

Having endured the controversy of The First Blast, Knox went on to play a key role in Scotland’s opposition to the Catholic monarchy, solidifying Scotland as a Protestant, and Presbyterian, nation for centuries to come. As for his second and third blasts, it would seem that the "Trumpet of the Scottish Reformation" learned an important lesson. Neither was ever sounded. Source: https://www.history.pcusa.org/blog/2014/10/john-knox-and-monstrous-regiment-women

When Knox heard that Mary (Stuart) Queen of Scotland was looking for scholars to refute his anathema against women rulers he attempted to counter this by writing to Elizabeth, suggesting Mary was aiming at the English throne. Source: http://tudortimes.co.uk/people/john-knox-life-story/knox-mary-queen-of-scots

20th July 1559 - John Knox’s Declaration to Queen Elizabeth - https://biblehub.com/library/knox/the_first_blast_of_the_trumpet/20_july_1559_john_knoxs.htm

5th August 1561 - John Knox’s Second Defence to Queen Elizabeth - https://biblehub.com/library/knox/the_first_blast_of_the_trumpet/5_aug_1561_john_knoxs.htm

Although various articles suggest that Queen Elizabeth took offence at Knox’s words about female sovereigns and never forgave him, no evidence is provided to support that claim. None of the articles I found gave any clues as to what Queen Elizabeth might have written to John Knox, either in response to his “First Trumpet Blast” or to both of his subsequent letters. Although Queen Elizabeth supported the Protestant cause, her refusal to allow Knox passage through England to return to Scotland became an obstacle to Knox’s direct involvement with the Protestant cause in England. That is possibly the only evidence of what Queen Elizabeth though of John Knox’s views of female rulers. Nonetheless, both the fiery preaching of John Knox and Queen Elizabeth’s political and religious ambitions eventually resulted in a Protestant King (James VI of Scotland and I of England) being established on the united throne of Scotland and England.


Simon Schama wrote ‘A History of Britain’ (BBC 2000) and I quote from Vol. 1, page 342 as to when, back in the day, Tyndale’s 1526 English Bible first referred to women as “the weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3:7), and many Protestant manuals on proper household regimen routinely quoted it and exhorted the subservience of women to men. The kingdoms of Britain were viewed as

“a household writ large. To John Knox. The Scottish Calvinist preacher, Marian exile and author of The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women (1558), the reign of so many women – Mary Tudor, Mary of Guise in Scotland, Catherine de’ Medici in France – was a ‘monstriferous abomination’, a species of plague. It was, in fact, the obvious explanation why the times were so manifestly out of joint. Women, Knox wrote, echoing the commonplace of the day, ‘ought to be constant, stable, prudent and doing everything with discretion and reason, virtues which women cannot have in equality with men… Nature I say doth paint [women] further to be weak, frail, impatient, feeble and foolish and experience hath declared them to be inconstant, variable and cruel and lacking the spirit of counsel and regiment… in the nature of all women lurketh such vices as in good governors are not tolerable’. Learning of Elizabeth’s accession, Knox was concerned enough not to damage the chances for a Protestant government in England to write to William Cecil, the queen’s new secretary of state, and explain (though not recant) his diatribe. Like many other critics of female rule, Knox was prepared to concede that Elizabeth might be considered a special case, sent by God to fulfil his purposes of restoring the gospel. But his insistence that she must nevertheless acknowledge that womanly rule was ‘repugnant’ to the Almighty’s proper order was not calculated to endear him to the young queen.”

Knox was not the only one subjected to Elizabeth’s threat of landing on English shores at risk of death; she had earlier denied her cousin, Mary, safe conduct through England, forcing her to sail the long rout offshore to Scotland (p353).

One source for more detailed information on Elizabeth’s attitude to Knox (post-Monstrous rant) is the book John Knox by Lord Eustace Percy (Lutterworth Press reprinted it in 2013). One of his remote ancestors features marginally in the Knox story. His book was first published in 1937 but does not claim original research and there are no footnotes. Percy is apparently both a discriminating admirer and defender of Knox. Percy quotes frequently from Knox’s sermons, letters, addresses and the history of the Reformation which, according to Randolph puts ‘more life in us than five hundred trumpets continually blustering in our ears,’ (Taken from a review of Percy’s book by Donald Mackay of Edinburgh, June 2014).

However, another book of the same title, 'John Knox', but by Jane Dawson promises the academic research you seek for this matter. It was published in 2015 by New Haven and London: Yale University Press. Professor Dawson is the joint chronicler of extensive correspondence between Knox and Christopher Goodman, who was a divinity professor at Oxford before he was exiled in Frankfurt during the reign of Mary Tudor. He was Knox’s closest friend for most of his life. Professor Dawson’s PhD was on the subject of Goodman. There is significant new material on Knox’s theory of resistance to tyrannical rulers. [It may answer your point 1 question.] Dawson also delineates the catastrophic impact on Elizabeth I of England of Knox’s infamous ‘First Blast’. Dawson points out that this work of Knox’s may probably be attributed in large part to the failure of English Puritanism to become embedded more firmly in Anglican church life, certainly during her reign. After its publication, Knox was only ever to enter England in great secrecy, such was the Queen’s hostility. [In response to your point 2 question I would think Elizabeth did not so much hinder Knox in his Christian ministry as compel him to focus it far more on Scotland and Europe than on England.]

I have taken that last paragraph largely from a review of Dawson’s book written by Professor of Church History at Edinburgh Theological Seminary, John McIntosh. As I do not have either of the books I recommend, I trust this inadequate answer will at least send you on your way rejoicing, resolved to get your hands on them!

  • This morning I returned from a lecture on John Knox with Dawson's book, and another by Steven J. Lawson. The latter writes, "In December 1566, Knox obtained permission from the English government to cross the border into England... to visit his two sons, who were living under the care of Elizabeth Bowes [his mother-in-law] in Durham or Northumberland" (page 92). I doubt if he went to the very top for permission given Dawson's comment, "Queen Elizabeth, who was an expert at nursing a grudge, never forgave Knox" (page 173). Dawson gives evidence of the offence she took against Knox.
    – Anne
    Oct 10, 2018 at 14:11

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