The Politics of Female Households: Ladies-in-waiting across Early Modern Europe


Volume Editors: and
The Politics of Female Households is the first collection that seeks to integrate ladies-in-waiting into the master narrative of early modern court studies. Presenting evidence and analysis of the multifarious ways in which ‘women above stairs’ shaped the European courts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, it argues for a re-assessment of their political influence. The cultural agency of ladies-in-waiting is viewed in the reflection of portraiture, pamphlets and masques: their political dealings and patronage are revealed through analysis of letters, family networks, career patterns, gift exchange and household structures, as well as their activities in the fields of intelligence-gathering and espionage.
By concentrating on a previously neglected area of female agency, this collection demonstrates clearly that the political climate of Europe was often shaped outside the male-dominated institutions of government and administration.

Contributors include: Helen Graham-Matheson, Hannah Leah Crummé, Katrin Keller, Vanessa de Cruz, Birgit Houben, Dries Raeymaekers, Janet Ravenscroft, Una McIlvenna, Rosalind K. Marshall, Oliver Mallick, Cynthia Fry, Nadine Akkerman, Sara J. Wolfson, Fabian Persson, and Jeroen Duindam.

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Dr Nadine Akkerman is a Postdoctoral researcher and Lecturer in Early Modern English Literature at Leiden University, the Netherlands, and an Associate of the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters (CELL) in London. She is the editor of The Correspondence of Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia (Oxford University Press, 3 volumes, of which the first appeared in August 2011), for which her prize-winning Ph.D. (2008) serves as the groundwork. She has been solicited to write a biography of Elizabeth.

Dr Birgit Houben received her PhD from Ghent University in 2009 and was a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Netherlands History (The Hague) in 2010. She specializes in the politics of access at the Spanish Habsburg courts and households, and has worked closely with the Madrilenian IULCE group (Instituto Universitario de La Corte en Europa). At the University of Antwerp she is responsible for the organisation of the research assessment exercises and the corresponding bibliometry.
"This is an important work for the emergent field of gendered court politics. It is logically structured and beautifully produced, with colour images of artworks appearing within a page of their having been discussed. It would be of interest for scholars and students of early modern court culture or gender studies, or to specialists seeking fresh insights concerning the biographies of particular queens from the early modern period, or of regents or ladies who exerted power within the specified courtly households."
Elizabeth Reid, The University of Western Australia. In: Parergon 35.1 (2018), pp. 141-142.

"These chapters, valuable as they are, only begin to open up the large subject of how the activities of court ladies have been variously represented and misrepresented through cultural discourses and visual sources; and how cultural codes and social conventions constrained and shaped the roles women were able to play within courts. Much work remains to be done on these topics, but this collection unquestionably provides a valuable start."
R. Malcolm Smuts, University of Massachusetts, Boston. In: Early Modern Women, Vol. 9, No. 2 (2015).

"An excellent recent collection in the study of royal households with deep relevance for both royal and court studies"
Elena Woodacre (University of Winchester) and Cathleen Sarti (University of Mainz). In: Royal Studies Journal, Vol. 2 (2015), p. 16.
Acknowledgements, Abbreviations, List of illustrations, List of contributors

Nadine Akkerman and Birgit Houben


1.‘Petticoats and Politics: Elisabeth Parr and Female Agency at the Early Elizabethan Court’
Helen Graham-Matheson

2.‘Jane Dormer’s Recipe for Politics: A Refuge Household in Spain for Mary Tudor’s Ladies-in-waiting’
Hannah Leah Crummé



3.‘Ladies-in-waiting at the Imperial Court of Vienna from 1550 to 1700: Structures, Responsibilities and Career Patterns’
Katrin Keller

4.‘“In service to my Lady, the Empress, as I have done every other day of my life”: Margarita of Cardona, Baroness of Dietrichstein and Lady-in-waiting of Maria of Austria’
Vanessa de Cruz


5.‘Women and the Politics of Access at the Court of Brussels: The Infanta Isabella’s Camareras Mayores (1598-1633)’
Birgit Houben & Dries Raeymaekers

6.‘Dwarfs – and a Loca – as Ladies’ Maids at the Spanish Habsburg Courts’
Janet Ravenscroft


7.‘ “A Stable of Whores”?: The “Flying Squadron” of Catherine de Medici’
Una McIlvenna

8.‘In Search of the Ladies-in-Waiting and Maids of Honour of Mary, Queen of Scots: A Prosoprographical Analysis of the Female Household’
Rosalind K. Marshall

9.‘Clients and Friends: The Ladies-in-waiting at the Court of Anne of Austria (1615-66)’
Oliver Mallick


10.‘Perceptions of Influence: The Catholic Diplomacy of Queen Anna and Her Ladies, 1601-4’
Cynthia Fry

11.‘The Goddess of the Household: The Masquing Politics of Lucy Harington-Russell, Countess of Bedford’
Nadine Akkerman

12.‘The Female Bedchamber of Queen Henrietta Maria: Politics, Familial Networks and Policy, 1626-40’
Sara J. Wolfson


13.‘Living in the House of Power: Women at the Early Modern Swedish Court’
Fabian Persson


‘The Politics of Female Households: Afterthoughts’
Jeroen Duindam


Index of Names

All those interested in the history of Early Modern Europe, the early modern court and household, early modern political history, gender, aristocracy and the nobility.
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