KU News Release

April 26, 2011
Contact: Jill Jess, University Relations, 785-864-8858

History student’s dissertation examines patterns of British royal marriages

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LAWRENCE — Watching the fairy tale wedding of Britain’s Prince William to commoner Kate Middleton will be icing on the cake for a graduating University of Kansas doctoral student.

Kim Schutte’s dissertation examines marriage patterns of the British aristocracy from the 16th through the 20th centuries. Although Prince William and Middleton are not part of her research, her dissertation does mention the marriage of Wllliam’s parents: Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer.

Schutte successfully defended her dissertation April 18. On Friday, April 29, she plans to be in front of her TV at 2 a.m. in her Lawrence home to watch the royal wedding — and perhaps phoning a few other KU graduate student friends with the same plans.

She was in high school when Charles and Diana were married in 1981 and didn’t find the wedding of much interest. By 1986, Schutte was an undergraduate at Missouri Western State College in St. Joseph and found herself watching some of the coverage of Prince Andrew’s marriage to Sarah Ferguson, considered a commoner. Schutte has followed coverage of Britain’s current royal family ever since.

As a history student, Schutte’s interest was largely with the Tudor family, especially King Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. When she began working on a doctorate, Schutte had thought she would research a group of aristocratic wealthy women from 16th century England who had married men below their status.

Her plans changed after she wrote a paper on the marriage patterns of elite British women in 19th century. She expanded the study to the 16th century and waded into statistics to chart marriage patterns of British nobility. She then examined how the patterns intersect with changing conceptions of rank, class and gender.

Schutte said she was surprised to find things haven’t changed much for aristocratic women.

“I was looking for a revolution in the marital behavior of aristocratic women and the self-perception of the nobility. What I found instead was more than four and a half centuries of continuity.”

With the exception of World War I, marriage within the British aristocracy remained remarkably stable.

“As it did for much of British society, World War I changed the marriage trends of aristocratic women,” Schutte wrote.

Reasons for this included losses of aristocratic men in battle and the expansion of experiences for aristocratic women (working in hospitals, for example).

“The trappings of the pre-war society did not fall away immediately. The presentations of debutantes at court continued until 1958 and though the proportion of aristocratic women who marry aristocratic men has plummeted, dropping from a rate of 29.14 percent in the decade of 1921-1930 to 11.63 percent between 1991 and 2000, it does still happen … as the marriage of Lady Diana Spencer to Charles, Prince of Wales, illustrates,” Schutte wrote.

At KU, Schutte is a graduate teaching assistant and an instructor in the Humanities and Western Civilization Program and the Department of History. Last fall, she was one of five faculty honored by Mortar Board as an Outstanding Educator and the only graduate teaching assistant to receive the honor. In the fall, she will be teaching at the State University of New York at Brookport near Rochester.

Her book “A Biography of Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox (1515-1578): Niece of Henry VIII and Mother-in-Law of Mary, Queen of Scots,” was published in 2002 in the Studies in British History series by the Edwin Mellen Press.

Before entering KU’s doctoral program in 2006, Schutte taught for 14 years at Missouri Western State College. She earned two bachelor’s degrees from Missouri Western, one in psychology (1986) and another in history (1987). She completed a master’s degree in history from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1989.

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