The Patronage Power of Women in France During the 16th Century

Topics: Louis XIII of France, Henry IV of France, Marie de' Medici Pages: 10 (3765 words) Published: June 2, 2011




#During the era of feudalism it is argued that the power of Renaissance women was curtailed significantly through the development of a more centralized government rather than the decentralized socio political structure which had existed. It is often suggested that this centralized power was entirely male dominated. It is true to say that certain institutions existed such as the church and state which were obstacles for women in their quest for power and independence. Though these institutions stood in their way they still remained highly influential in political life particularly in France. This influence was usually on an informal, indirect basis.

The role of French women in politics and the patronage power of French noblewomen are highly documented. Three of the most influential women in high society were Marie de Medici, Anne of Austria and Catherine de Medici. These women used their positions to advance themselves and those around them whom were loyal to them. Henri IV was the reigning king in early sixteenth century France. In the year 1600 he married his second wife Marie de Medici, this following his annulment to Marguerite de Valois. Marguerite de Valois and Henri’s marriage was arranged to establish links between Catholics and Huguenots and create peace between them. The marriage took place in Paris in 1572 and just six days after the ceremony the massacre of st.Bartholomew’s day occurred. It was Marguerite de Valois who was credited with saving her husband’s life along with the lives of several Protestant families. Henri and Marguerite had and icy relationship and spent much time apart. In 1582 she was allowed return to his court and organized a coup d’état and gained control over her estate, Agen.The people of Agen soon revolted and she fled to the castle of Carlat. Her husband Henri of Navarre was placed as King and head of the throne of France in 1589. His presence was not initially welcomed due to his Protestant faith but he soon grew in popularity when he converted to Catholicism four years later. His new wife Marie was from Florence and daughter of the Grand Duke Francis I of Tuscany. She was related to the Popes and a very strict Catholic who was well connected both politically and religiously. Her devout Catholicism was beneficial for Henri as it reassured France of Henri’s loyalty Catholicism. Marie did not partake significantly in political life in her husband’s lifetime. Her only achievements throughout his life involved the establishment of the brothers of charity and a new Catholic reform movement. Anne did enjoy asserting her power through looking after those loyal to her. This included Concini and his wife Leonora Galigai who, “not only acquired a personal fortune of 7,300,000 to 8,400,000 livres, but also read and approved the list of royal pensions and gifts, which were not awarded without their consent.”# Throughout Henri’s lifetime she had shown little political interest or ability but on May 14th 1610 Henri IV was assassinated as he was preparing an expedition into Germany against the Spaniards. This forced Marie into the political arena and highlighted the fragility of Henri’s rule. A new regency government was put into place which was headed by Marie de Medici and she was advised by elder members of the council , these had been badly chosen as they were power hungry. Marie’s primary goal was to ensure the throne was passed on to her son Louis XIII. The main threat to the throne was Henri Prince of Conde, Prince of the blood who was closest in line besides young Louis XIII and was strongly Protestant. Marie wanted to maintain her government until Louis XIII’s 13th birthday so he could rule in his own name. She attempted to secure elections through pamphlets, propaganda and bribery. At the time of Henri IV’s death he had been following a policy which aimed to secure alliances with Protestant powers. On his death and due to Marie’s subsequent regency, alliances with...
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