Monarchial Roles by Niki Incorvia

Welcome to Niki Incorvia, who is here on my blog to tell us all about her first book, Monarchial Roles: Redefining Religion and Family under Henry VIII and Mary I!

Henry VIII and Mary I are a bit of a mystery to us in the twenty-first century, their lives and personalities are crafted together from whatever information still exists on them. From what little we do know about these two figures, it is clear that they led lives filled with drama and intrigue, and that the decisions they made during their reigns had long-lasting impacts on the societies in which they ruled – impacts which can still be felt to this day. That unique combination of impact and intrigue makes Henry VIII and Mary I popular research subjects for historians, social scientists and anthropologists to analyze through both a contemporary and modern lens. My book is based off my dissertation research which I wrote from a “conflict analysis and resolution” perspective. The field of conflict analysis and resolution is interdisciplinary by nature, and therefore borrows and adapts theories from the fields of psychology, philosophy, political science and sociology. Through my research on Henry VIII and Mary I, I used role theory, a theory in psychology, to interpret their lives through the lenses of familial conflict, political conflict and religious conflict during their lifetimes.

In my book, I present some alternative theories to explain their behaviors, using role theory as an explanation for personal and political conflicts. Mary’s case differs from Henry mainly because she was a woman functioning in a man’s role and her roles were predefined and shaped by Henry himself.  I examine Mary’s life narrative through a role-conflict lens in order to acquire a keener understanding of her early relationship with her father during those rocky years when Anne Boleyn was queen. Mary’s relationships with her family and her government, were tumultuous and complicated, and appear to have been driven by a deep internal conflict between the several societal roles which she was forced to juggle: woman, daughter, princess, Catholic, loyal subject., This dangerous juggling act later led to some trouble as Queen of England and especially with her sister, Elizabeth. I believe she also experienced a role conflict with herself as the first Queen Regnant and wife to Philip of Spain. 

Henry’s situation is a bit more complicated. Henry’s conflict with his roles is more related to his identity and how he perceives his role in each situation. Henry’s view of his own identity appeared to fluctuate throughout his reign and life (Defender of the Faith, Supreme Head of the Church of England, militant king, marrying for love, etc.). I found that Henry’s conflict with his identity helps shape his roles, including his perception of his roles, and therefore conditions the roles of those around him (his wives, his daughters, his ministers). Because of his role as King of Queen, Henry’s actions, which were based on his perceived identity at any given time, had a profound impact on the lives and perceived roles of those around him; this impact trickled down to influence his children’s reigns. This is where family, politics and religion overlap, as they often do in sixteenth century society. 

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I was fortunate enough to have a great amount of support throughout my writing process. My dissertation chair was great when it came to challenging me with unanswered questions and really looking at the story from an objective lens as sixteenth century British history was not his area of specialization. My social science background gave me a unique perspective with respect to conflict analysis and resolution. The story of Henry VIII and his family is analyzed through so many different lenses depending on the training and background of the researcher. I hope that my unique lens as a political scientist, historian and conflict resolution practitioner will add yet another intriguing theory about the complex lives of Henry VIII and Mary I.  

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