The Political Androgyne

  • Marian Rothstein
Chapter

Abstract

Compendia of the lives of famous women include numbers of women who led active and independent lives and often did so by acting as functional males. Many of those cases involved cross-dressing, as well as other behaviors that went beyond the limits generally applicable to women. While these short biographical sketches profitably float between fact and fiction, the same kinds of gender shifts can be documented among indisputably real historical women, although the modes by which they were enacted may be subtler, as befits women who intend to wield political power effectively over time. The focus in this chapter, then, is on the application of functional gender by real women interacting in the real world. The ways in which they made claim to the plenitude of the androgyne are astonishingly diverse. Here we will focus on four examples spaced over the course of six decades or so: Anne de Bretagne, Marguerite de Navarre, Catherine de Médicis, and Jeanne d’Albret. Each sought to establish or assert her power and did so by engaging in behaviors functionally gendered male or by appealing to the plenitude implied by the marital androgyne. In either case, the exercise of power was colored by words and deeds proclaiming each woman, as it were, a complete human, exploiting the possibilities inherent in one or the other or both biblical androgynes. In all these cases, the choice of behavior carried with it the assumption that it would be properly received by a broad spectrum of the contemporary public to which it appealed. The four sections of this chapter show queens and their advisors applying the ideas explored in preceding chapters to promote and preserve their own political power. Each queen’s means and aims were quite different, so each will be examined in turn in a chapter that cumulatively outlines the flexibility, diversity, and ultimate utility of the political androgyne for women in power.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    Quoted in Carole Levin, The Heart and Stomach of a King: Elizabeth I and the Politics of Sex and Power (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994), p. 146.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Leah Marcus, “Shakespeare’s Comic Heroines, Elizabeth I, and the Political Uses of Androgynyny,” in Women in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, ed. Mary Beth Rose (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1986), p. 147.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    Ernst H. Kantorowicz, The King’s Two Bodies: A Study in Medieval Political Theology (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957).Google Scholar
  4. 11.
    My warm thanks to Cynthia J. Brown who read an earlier form of this discussion of Anne’s life. I have profited from her expertise both in private and in her published work. Any errors in what follows are entirely my own. An earlier version of Anne’s marital adventures with a different focus can be found in Marian Rothstein, “Topographie de la France, de la Bretagne: la carrière politique par le mariage d’Anne de Bretagne, orpheline, reine, duchesse souveraine,” in Illustrations inconsicients: écritures de la Renaissance; Mélanges en l’honneur de Tom Conley, ed. Bernd Renner and Phillip Usher (Paris: Garnier 2014), pp. 455–76.Google Scholar
  5. 12.
    For a discussion ofAnne’s earlier engagements and her marriage by proxy to Maximilian, see Elizabeth A. R. Brown, “Order and Disorder in the Life and Death of Anne de Bretagne,” in The Cultural and Political legacy of Anne de Bretagne: Negotiating Convention in Books and Documents, ed Cynthia J. Brown (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2010), pp. 177–92, especially p.178.Google Scholar
  6. 16.
    Yves Coativy, “La numismatique d’Anne de Bretagne,” in Pour en finir avec Anne de Bretagne, ed. Dominique Le Page (Nantes: Archives départmentales de Loire-Atlantique, 2004), p. 29.Google Scholar
  7. 22.
    Although a lapse of some years was not in itself unusual, is not clear what determined the timing of the ceremony. There was talk of her postcoronation entry with Paris officials early in 1502, but in fact they were officially notified of the impending ceremony only in October of 1504, a matter of a few weeks before it took place. See Michael Sherman, “Pomp and Circumstances: Pageantry, Politics, and Propaganda in France during the Reign of Louis XII, 1498–1515,” Sixteenth Century Journal 9, no. 4 (1978): 20–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 23.
    The ceremonies associated with the consecration and coronation of a queen were based on those for the king, in turn based on the ordo for the coronation of Charles V in 1365. By the fifteenth century, although it was understood that France always had a king and that no ceremony was required to validate him, the sacre du roi [consecration of the king] remained an important ceremonial moment, a mistere [rite]. Anne’s first coronation was a rather unostentatious event stressing her role as bringer of peace with allegorical figures of Peace next to Amour and Justice. See Pierre Gringore, Les Entrées Royales à Paris de Marie d’Angleterre (1514) et Claude de France (1517), ed. Cynthia J. Brown (Geneva: Droz, 2005), Appendix I, “Le Sacre Anne de Bretagne à Saint-Denis en 1492(n.s.)” pp. 195–214.Google Scholar
  9. 24.
    On the possible aims of the queen’s coronation see Fanny Cossendey, “La Blancheur de nos lys,” Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine, 44, no. 4 (1997): 387–403.Google Scholar
  10. 25.
    Both André de La Vigne, Anne’s secretary, and the chief clerk (greffier) of the Parlement de Paris, Jean du Tillet, offer arguments to the effect that the queen’s consecration conferred a lifelong dignity, ranking her second only to the king, whether as queen or dowager queen, although Du Tillet notes that in matters of precedence, the queen consort outranks the dowager queen. See Jean du Tillet, Recueil des rois de France, leur couronne et maison: ensemble, le rengs des grands de France; Une chronique abrégée contenant tout ce qui est advenu, tant en fait de guerre qu’autrement, entre les roys et princes, républiques et potentats estrangers (Paris: Jacques du Puys, 1580), pp. 178–79, accessed September 2, 2010, http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k53491z. La Vigne insists that widows maintained the rights they had had during their husband’s lifetime. See Elizabeth McCartney, “Ceremonies and Privileges of Office: Queenship in Late Medieval France,” in Power of the Weak: Studies on Medieval Women, ed Jennifer Carpenter, Sally-Beth MacLean (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995), p. 187.Google Scholar
  11. 31.
    Precise information for queens before Anne, as McCartney notes (p.181) is available only for Jeanne de Bourbon. The descriptions of the coronations of Queens Eleonore, Catherine, and Marie de Médicis have been digitized by Google. On coronation rituals, see Percy E Schramm, Der König von Frankreich: das Wesen der Monarchie vom 9. zum 16. Jahrhundert, ein Kapitel aus der Geschichte des abendländischen Staaten (Weimar: H. Bölaus Nachfolger, 1939).Google Scholar
  12. 46.
    Musées du Château de Nantes. Anne de Bretagne, une histoire, un mythe (Nantes: Musée du château des ducs de Bretagne, 2007), p. 26.Google Scholar
  13. 54.
    See Barbara Stephenson, The Power and Patronage of Marguerite de Navarre (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004), p. 81Google Scholar
  14. Jean-Pierre Labatut, Les Ducs et Pairs de France au 17esiècle (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1972), p.69. The precise purpose of this honorific in the sixteenth century is hard to discern. Louise de Lorraine and Marguerite de Valois, later in the century, both duchesses de Berry, were also pairs de France (Labatut, Let Ducs et Pairs, pp.66–67).Google Scholar
  15. 55.
    Roger Doucet, Les Institutions de la France au XVIesiècle (Paris: Picard, 1948), vol.2, p.461–62. Labatut, Le Ducs et Pairs, p.67, points out that female peers did not have the right to appear before the parlement and that the existence of female peers predates the sixteenth century (p.52). The official rights and privileges of a pair de France were to participate in the coronation ceremony of the king (Marguerite de Navarre was old, ill, and far from the court at the coronation of Henri II) and, should the occasion arise, to be judged by a court of their peers.Google Scholar
  16. 62.
    Jonathan A. Reid, King’s Sister—Queen of Dissent: Marguerite de Navarre (1492– 1549) and Her Evangelical Network, (Leiden: Brill, 2009), p.85. Reid credits François Dumoulin de Rochefort, tutor to François I and later his grand aulmonier (ecclesiastical head of the king’s household), with the idea for which J. Marot then provided the form (p.86).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 65.
    Jean Molinet, Chroniques, ed. J. A. Buchon, vol.1, Collection des chroniques nationales françaises 43 (Paris: Verdière, 1827), p.94. The passage in question reads: “Disoient à la pucelle Marie Tu es bien heurée entre les femmes tu es bien en gré de lempereur Frederick très auguste et tu auras son fils pour espoux et mari par lequel tu pouras avoir enfant qui sera cause de retirer le peuple des tenèbres de mort il aura grand nom entre les hommes car il sera le fils du très souverain prince” [said to the Virgin, ‘Mary, you are blessed among women, you are in the good graces of the most august Emperor Frederic and you will have as husband and spouse his son, by whom you can have a child who will take the people from the shadows of death, he will have renown among men for he will be the son of the most sovereign prince’].Google Scholar
  18. 72.
    Jean Du Pré, Le Palais des Nobles Dames, ed. Brenda Dunn-Lardeau (Paris: Champion, 2007), p. 346, l.5492Google Scholar
  19. 73.
    Jean Bouchet, Jugement poetic de l’honneur fememin, in Œuvres complètes, vol. 1. ed. Adrian Armstrong (Paris: Champion, 2006), p. 227.Google Scholar
  20. 92.
    Clément Marot, “De Ma Dame la Duchesse d’Alençon” in Œuvres poétiques Complètes, ed. Gérard Defaux, vol. 2, (Paris: Bordas, 1993), pp. 204–5.Google Scholar
  21. 120.
    Peter Stallybrass and Ann Rosalind Jones, Renaissance Clothing and the Materials of Memory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 6.Google Scholar
  22. Sheila ffolliott, “Catherine de’Medici as Artemisia: Figuring the Powerful Widow,” in Rewriting the Renaissance: The Discourses of Sexual Difference in Early Modern Europe, ed. Margaret W. Ferguson, Maureen Quilligan, and Nancy J. Vickers (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), p. 371Google Scholar
  23. 133.
    Jeanice Brooks, “Catherine de Médicis nouvelle Artémise: Women’s Laments and the Virtue of Grief,” Early Music 27, no. 3 (1999): p. 422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 134.
    Having fallen into disrepair, it was destroyed in 1718–1719. See Jean-Marie LeGall, Le mythe de Saint-Denis: entre Renaissance et Révolution (Seyssel: Champ Vallon, 2007) p. 436Google Scholar
  25. Ivan Cloulas, Catherine de Médicis (Paris: Fayard, 1979), p. 346Google Scholar
  26. Henri Zerner, L’Art de la Renaissance en France (Paris: Flammarion, 1996), pp. 349–58.Google Scholar
  27. 170.
    Jeanne d’Albret, Mémoires et poésies, ed. Alphonse de Ruble. (Paris: 1893; repr. Geneva: Slatkine Reprints, 1970), p. 30.Google Scholar
  28. 184.
    Evelyne Berriot-Salvadore, Les Femmes dans la société française de la Renaissance (Geneva: Droz, 1990), p. 410Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Marian Rothstein 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marian Rothstein

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations