The Preservation of Masculinity: Private Honor in Conduct Manuals, Funeral Sermons and Child-rearing.

Erika D'Souza


This article delves into the relationship between masculine honor in Renaissance England and the all-important business of child-rearing.  It begins with a glimpse into how the concept of privacy was understood by early moderners, and how that affected the expression of masculinity.  Under Queen Elizabeth’s reign, we begin to see a merging of private and public, which led to the emergence of new depictions of masculine honor, across different media.

Using Robert Sidney, the Earl of Leicester, as an exemplar of English masculine nobility, my study explores the pervasiveness of “feminine virtues” in male-oriented discourse, such as conduct literature for husbands and courtiers, and funeral sermons.  Additionally, I follow the correspondence between Robert Sidney and his wife, Barbara, as they dispute over the raising of their children, particularly that of William Sidney, their eldest son and heir.

Such a study reveals that conventional notions of masculine honour need to be revised to include how noblemen acted within the private circles.  In a time when masculine honour was intertwined with militaristic qualities (such as courage, strength and fortitude), my investigation shows that in the domestic sphere, a gentler version of masculinity, encouraging humility, constancy and modesty, was fostered amongst the nobility.


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