Tracy Adams has published a review of a collective volume on Femmes à la cour de France, edited by Caroline zum Kolk and Kathleen Wilson.
I was pleased to write an essay for this collective volume on noblewomen from the Montmorency family during the French Wars of Religion.
The full citation for the book is:
Caroline zum Kolk and Kathleen Wilson, eds., Femmes à la cour de France: Charges et fonctions (XVe – XIXe siècle). Lille: Presses Universitaires du Septentrion, 2018. 406 pp. Illustrations. € 32.00 (pb). ISBN 9782757423615.
Tracy Adams’s review may be found on the H-France website at https://h-france.net/vol22reviews/vol22no6Adams.pdf H-France Review Vol. 22 (January 2022), No. 6.
Tracy Adams describes the historical context of women at the early modern French court: “During the last decades of the fifteenth century, the number of women at the French royal court began to increase, and female roles became more specialized and prestigious, with new opportunities for upward mobility. Entourages of richly appareled attendants came to form an essential component of the queen’s, and, therefore, the king’s, grandeur. The phenomena were not lost on contemporary observers, who expressed awe at the privileged positions and liberty of word and movement that female members of the court enjoyed.”
Adams also discusses the historical scholarship on royal and noblewomen at the French court: “As the editors of this volume note, a long and diverse historiography attests to a steady fascination for the queens, regents, and princesses who inhabited the great cours des dames, and a number of these familiar figures—Catherine de Médicis, Anne of Austria, Marie-Antoinette—make brief appearances here. However, they are not the main characters in the work under review. Instead, this study foregrounds the dames and demoiselles d’honneur (as several of the essays make clear, the names refer to very specific positions, so I leave them in the original), chambermaids, spouses of ministers, and relatives of the royal family who served them. In addition, rather than biographical narratives of these women, the essays offer analyses of their official tasks and duties, the better to understand how they fit into the larger court system. The volume therefore contributes to a still budding scholarship that takes the careers of female courtiers and the positions they occupied seriously, studies like Jan Hirschbiegel and Werner Paravicini’s 2007 collection, Das Frauenzimmer, and Nadine Akkerman and Birgit Houben’s The Politics of the Female Households from 2013. Moreover, as the editors also note, in contrast with their Anglo and German counterparts, French historians did not begin to produce court studies until the first decade of this century. The sixteen essays collected in this volume, focusing on female courtiers at the French royal court, fill a significant gap.”