The Historical Journal


The Patronage Power of Early Modern French Noblewomen*

Sharon Ketteringa1

a1 Montgomery College

It has been suggested that the political and economic power of Renaissance noblewomen declined significantlyfrom what it had been during the heyday of feudalism, and that this decline was caused by the expansion of royalpower and the growth of national monarchies, the development of centralization and the bureaucratization of government – in other words the creation of formal, male-dominated institutions to which women could not belong. Joann McNamara and Suzanne Wemple have written, ‘However, with the growth of a more structured society, where church and state aimed at centralized control, women of the high and late middle ages (1100–1500) found their rights and role increasingly curtailed and their ambitions frustrated. Women who held the most influential positions were the first to suffer from these restrictions.’


* The author would like to thank Mark Greengrass for his helpful criticism of an earlier draft.