Anne de France and Louise de Savoie, who both served as regents of France in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, have received a certain amount of attention in recent years, through articles, edited collections, and exhibitions, often focused on their patronage as integral to their power. This work by Aubrée David-Chapy specifically considers the ways in which these women came to rule France — Anne for her young brother, Charles VIII, and Louise during the absence of her son, François Ier — and how the power that they wielded was justified, constructed, and articulated. It is thus split into three parts: ‘Prendre le pouvoir’, ‘Construire le pouvoir’, and ‘Pratiquer le pouvoir’. Rather than dealing with each woman separately and with the regencies in chronological order, the author discusses them in parallel. This successfully allows her to draw out points of comparison and difference between the two duchesses and makes for an interesting and discursive read. For instance, although both women faced resistance to their roles on account of their gender, there were further issues as stake: while Anne could at least exploit her status as a fille de France — daughter and sister of a king — Louise’s situation was more ambiguous since, until it became apparent that her son would be the likely successor to Louis XII, she and her family were on the relative peripheries of the court. Not a queen herself, but the mother of a (future) king, her legitimacy was constructed, in part, on this basis. For instance, her motherhood was evoked by Étienne Le Blanc in his Gestes de Blanche de Castille, which he dedicated to her and in which he drew a parallel with the mother — and regent — of Louis IX and also emphasized the idea that it was only natural for a mother to look after her son’s affairs. Throughout the study, reference is made to books and works of art related to Anne and Louise. The role of Anne’s Enseignements, written for her daughter Suzanne, and its relationship to her construction and management of power is brought out, as is the underlying importance of the writings of Christine de Pizan. Christine’s writings were well known to aristocratic women in this period and the relevance of her advice on good government — especially to women — is frequently evoked, especially in the section ‘Royaume de fémynie’. Scholars of women at the French court in this period will be familiar with many of the ideas and arguments presented here, but the book’s strengths lie in its bringing together of a vast amount of historical and political information, including references to primary sources, that complements the existing focus on the artistic patronage of these women. It is a shame that no images were included and the study itself could have been somewhat shorter (the prose is at times rather over-emphatic), but overall it steers clear of a homogeneous idea of ‘female regency’ and provides a thorough exploration of the specific — and different — roles played by Anne and Louise. © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for French Studies. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
French Studies – Oxford University Press
Published: Jan 1, 2018
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