Queens and Mistresses of Renaissance France

Caroline Weber writes:

‘A court without women,’ François I once proclaimed, ‘is like a year without springtime, like springtime without roses.’ By this measure, spring roses bloomed eternal in the châteaux of Renaissance France. From the mid-15th century, when Charles VII anointed Agnès Sorel, the country’s first maîtresse en titre, to the late 16th century, when Gabrielle d’Estrées persuaded her lover Henri de Navarre, later Henri IV, to abjure his controversial Calvinist faith, the French court was home to a series of extraordinarily influential women. As Kathleen Wellman shows in Queens and Mistresses of Renaissance France, these royal wives and favourites made much of their proximity to the crown, exerting their influence in diverse and far-reaching ways.

(LRB 23 January 2014)