JoAnn Spears returns to let her nursing prowess diagnose mental illness among long lost monarchs. This series focuses on Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. Her popular previous series on Henry VIII’s illnesses can be found here:
Part I was Monday.
There are four types of Cluster B personality disorders. Two of them, the Antisocial and Borderline Personality types, tend toward, but are not absolutely divided between, gender lines.
Antisocial personality is a diagnosis most often associated with law-breaking males. Disregard for the feelings or rights of others are hallmarks of this disorder, as are scorn for rules and social norms in general.
Elizabeth I’s father, Henry VIII, went from Defender of the Catholic Faith to excommunicated renegade over non-consummation of his sexual relationship with Elizabeth’s mother, the enigmatic Ann Boleyn. He could easily be touted as a prime example of this disorder. Mary Queen of Scots’ father, James V of Scotland, likewise had antisocial tendencies. His acknowledged illegitimate offspring outnumbered his legitimate children 3:1.
Borderline Personality has, in what is perhaps a gross oversimplification, been interpreted as the female side of the antisocial disorder. Fragmentation of personality, ‘bleeding into’ significant others, and detachment from reality, often for manipulative or self-serving purposes, are associated with this disorder; when it comes to the latter, one is tempted to invite Ann Boleyn to take a bow.
Both Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I could behave in remarkably self-serving and unrealistic ways. However, each maintained, despite ups and downs, a solid and defined self from which each might venture at times, but to which stronghold each always returned, Mary on the Catholic side, and Elizabeth on the Protestant.
Where, then, do these two legendary queens fall on the personality disorder continuum?
There are two remaining personality disorders in Cluster B. Drama is central to both. The narcissistic personality could be said to generate drama within the self and inflict it on others. The histrionic personality, on the other hand, often drags drama from others, or somehow incites it from them. Those ‘others’ can be a varied lot; charmed volunteers, partners in crime, unwitting victims, or opportunists with an eye on the main chance.
Narcissistic personalities are preoccupied with issues of personal adequacy, power, prestige and vanity. These are ego-building structures in most people, but can become ego- challenges when underpinned by extremes of parenting in vulnerable individuals. Elizabeth I never knew her mother. Her father, Henry VIII, vacillated between tolerating Elizabeth, neglecting her, and avoiding her. A trusted stepmother, Katharine Parr, exposed her to exploitation by an irresponsible would-be stepfather. A fond surrogate mother, Kat Ashley, probably spoiled Elizabeth rotten, and ultimately set the stage for the conflicted personality that was inherent in Elizabeth, but yet to emerge. The likes of Walter Raleigh, Francis Drake, Shakespeare, the Lord Essex, and many more knew what it was like to live in the glare of that drama, directly or indirectly. For some, like Drake, it led to glory; for the likes of Essex, it led to an early death; for Sir Walter Raleigh, it brought both defeat and victory.
And so we are left to consider Mary, Queen of Scots, and the diagnosis of histrionic personality disorder.
JoAnn will conclude her series on Friday.
JoAnn Spears is a registered nurse with Master’s Degrees in Nursing and Public Administration. Her first novel, Six of One, JoAnn brings a nurse’s gallows sense of humor to an unlikely place: the story of the six wives of Henry VIII.
Six of One was begun in JoAnn’s native New Jersey. It was wrapped up in the Smoky Mountains of Northeast Tennessee, where she is pursuing a second career as a writer. She has, however, obtained a Tennessee nursing license because a) you never stop being a nurse and b) her son Bill says “don’t quit your day job”.