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Title: Considering the 'Cabal of Cuckoldry' : scandal and reputation at the court of Catherine de Medici
Author: McIlvenna, Una
ISNI:       0000 0004 2693 9374
Awarding Body: Queen Mary, University of London
Current Institution: Queen Mary, University of London
Date of Award: 2010
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The sixteenth-century French court has acquired a reputation for scandal, based in large part on the legendary ladies-in-waiting, or 'flying squadron,' of the queen mother, Catherine de Medici. She allegedly ordered these women to seduce and spy on influential noblemen, and some would become involved in scandals involving clandestine marriage, illegitimate births and honour killings. This thesis examines the myth of the _flying squadron' and shows how it helped to discredit Catherine's abilities as both a negotiator and a leader, and to depict the Valois court as a hotbed of debauchery. It locates the myth's origins in the literary fraternity of the legal profession, an all-male intellectual elite who manifested their disapproval of the increasingly public role of the women surrounding the powerful queen mother through a misogynistic satirical literature that increased in polemic towards the end of the century. This thesis thus investigates court scandal through the contemporary literature, in particular, the pamphlets and defamatory verse libels that criticised courtiers through allegations of sexual and political corruption. It maps out both the written and oral dissemination of information about the court, recreating both the geography and the soundscape of early modern Paris. Particular focus is given to contemporary modes of news transmission, such as manuscript circulation and street theatre, and to specific forms, such as poetry and song, that were used to satirise women. This general overview is illuminated by three detailed studies which explore the accusations employed to discredit elite women, such as poisoning and incest. The case studies reveal what agency women had, both legally and socially, to defend themselves and to recover their reputation and status, and they highlight the importance of oral communication, often in the role of rumour and gossip, in the creation and publicisation of court scandal.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: English Literature