Beauty, Wit, and Friendship: The Recipe for Female Influence in Seventeenth Century France
Dr. Janis Gibbs, History
The life and reign of Louis XIV is a thoroughly studied period of history. However, it was not until the about 1970s that the lives and contributions of elite women in Louis XIV’s France began to be studied in greater depth. Many women of the court and Parisian nobility left behind diaries, collections of letters, or novels that detailed their lives. At a glance these accounts do not seem to tell more than the mundane goings-on. However on a closer look they recount the struggles of these elite women to influence the highly patriarchal society. Women’s contributions were ignored because they functioned outside of the official government power structure. Instead they held a more informal, but nonetheless formidable power as wives, mistresses, or family of powerful men. The research studies the accounts left behind by six women, three from Parisian high society - Madame de Sévigné, Ninon Lenclos, and Mademoiselle de Scudéry - and three from the court of Louis XIV - Madame de Maintenon, Madame de Montespan, and Madame duchess of Orléans. These six women’s perspectives uncover the three common ways highly placed women achieved influence and power in Louis XIV’s court.
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