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‘A Stable of Whores’? The ‘Flying Squadron’ of Catherine de Medici

McIlvenna, Una (2013) ‘A Stable of Whores’? The ‘Flying Squadron’ of Catherine de Medici. In: Akkerman, Nadine and Houben, Birgit, eds. The Politics of Female Households Ladies-in-waiting across Early Modern Europe. Rulers and Elites, 4 . Brill, pp. 179-208. E-ISBN 978-90-04-25839-6. (doi:10.1163/9789004258396_009) (KAR id:54898)


This chapter examines the construction of the myth of the sixteenth-century French queen mother Catherine de Medici's 'flying squadron' through the literature of the sixteenth century, in particular, the defamatory pamphlets and verse libels that portrayed the queen’s household as a site of debauchery and prostitution. Revealing the authors of this satirical literature and their motives, it then traces how their satirical representations came to be treated as genuine descriptions of life at court by later historians; in other words, how satirical literature became historical ‘fact’. I compare this negative representation of the court to the realities of life in the queen’s entourage, revealing that – in contrast to her alleged ‘Italian’ predisposition to manipulation – Catherine’s appointments to her household fell within distinctly French traditions. Rather than Catherine’s presiding over the ‘stable of whores’ for which satirical writers and historians gave her credit, this chapter shows that she took steps to ensure a household of experienced, respected and politically moderate members. The ‘flying squadron’ is revealed to be a reductive, misogynist fantasy that developed in response to the increasingly prominent role of women at the early modern French court.

Item Type: Book section
DOI/Identification number: 10.1163/9789004258396_009
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DC France
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Women > HQ1236 Women and the state. Women's rights. Women's political activity
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Women > HQ21 Sexual behavior and attitudes
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN441 Literary History
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English
Depositing User: Una McIlvenna
Date Deposited: 12 Apr 2016 13:33 UTC
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2022 03:34 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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