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Dr Helen Castor

A wonderful evening, enjoyed by all. Report below by Abi, Y12.

On Monday 24 February we were incredibly excited to welcome old girl, Dr Helen Castor. A British historian of the medieval period, and a BBC broadcaster. She was a lecturer and is a current Fellow at Cambridge University and is the author of Blood and Roses (2005) and She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth (2010).

Dr Castor’s talk treated us to rich history of British female Monarchs, and those that tried, and nearly succeeded, in becoming Queen, like Matilda. As we were led through the history, by Dr Castor, it was captivating and incredibly frustrating, to hear about the attitudes of old that so sadly are still running through today’s political society, when it come to our Female leaders. 

We heard that John Knox, proclaimed in The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monsterous Regiment of Women that it was unnatural for women to rule. As Dr Castor explained, Knox felt that a woman ruling went against the laws of God and nature and that they were incompetent to rule. He may have been trying to prevent a Catholic Monarch in Mary but only so slightly tempered his views when Elizabeth became Queen, by saying Elizabeth 1st, a Protestant Queen, was an exception.

We heard that in today’s society, females that do become leaders again, are often portrayed as the exception, like Margaret Thatcher, who was cast in her role as the Iron Lady, and not as an ordinary woman. Both Elizabeth 1st and Thatcher relied solely on male advisors, with Thatcher having a male only cabinet, making her leadership easier for those of traditional conservative values or with a mysogynistic view of women, easier to stomach, as they had only the advice of men. The ruthless attacks on female leaders, be it May or Thatcher, who have been public figures of hate, in a way no male leaders have had to endure, can be traced back to Medieval times, with the sad conclusion that society’s attitude to the She Wolves who have Ruled England has changed little over the last 800 years.

It was an incredibly powerful and insightful talk, which captivated the audience, and from those that I spoke to afterwards, who unanimously voiced their appreciation of our guest speaker, spoke of a determination, as King’s girls, to do their bit to change societies attitudes for the better.