Queens and Mistresses of Renaissance France


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Kathleen Wellman

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This book tells the history of the French Renaissance through the lives of its most prominent queens and mistresses, beginning with Agnès Sorel, the first officially recognized royal mistress in 1444; including Anne of Brittany, Catherine de Medici, Anne Pisseleu, Diane de Poitiers, and Marguerite de Valois, among others; and concluding with Gabrielle d’Estrées, Henry IV’s powerful mistress during the 1590s.

Wellman shows that women in both roles—queen and mistress—enjoyed great influence over French politics and culture, not to mention over the powerful men with whom they were involved. The book also addresses the enduring mythology surrounding these women, relating captivating tales that uncover much about Renaissance modes of argument, symbols, and values, as well as our own modern preoccupations.

Kathleen Wellman is Dedman Family Distinguished Professor and chair of the Clements Department of History at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX.

Download the bibliography of Queens and Mistresses of Rennaissance France.

 “Queens and Mistresses of Renaissance France is an important book. . . . The topic is timely, important, and will draw a wide audience of scholars and non-specialists with an interest in Renaissance France.”—Deborah Losse, Arizona State University

"Wellman achieves that rare mix of the scholarly and accessible while making a compelling case for queens and mistresses as crucial facets of the political and artistic development of Renaissance France."—Katherine Crawford, Vanderbilt University

"Queens and Mistresses of Renaissance France is a scholarly but accessible account of the most powerful women ever to sway the French monarchy. Thanks to Wellman’s vivid portraits, we see French royal women certainly 'had' a Renaissance."—Kathryn Norberg, University of California, Los Angeles

“This scholarly, lively and absorbing narrative restores these women to the heart of any cultural or political history of France.”—Suzannah Lipscomb, History Today

“An exceedingly complex dynastic period is made comprehensible and compelling.”Library Journal

“Wellman renders comprehensible the gender relations and emotional expectations of the nobility in early modern France in ways most narrative textbooks cannot.” —Choice

“…Wellman has succeeded in demonstrating how crucial these women were in shaping court culture, the visual arts, and politics, thus being able to argue that women did have a Renaissance.”—Isabel dos Duimaraes Sá, Universidade do Minho

“Wellman’s well-documented text is a pleasure to read. . . . It … insightfully describes the contributions of Renaissance women who … are often relegated to footnotes.”—Linda Rouillard, Sixteenth Century Journal
ISBN: 9780300178852
Publication Date: May 21, 2013
448 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
59 b/w illus.