The Women of 16th-Century France: Fact and Fiction

I began this website with facts not fiction about the women of 16th Century France. It was too limiting. , I posted historical content about the women I was fictionalizing. It was too limiting. Now my site is more eclectic. I have lots about my fiction, the blog posts with historical content about the women of 16th-century France, I thought to concentrate on biographies of royalty and noblewomen. As I delved deeper, my research led me to the writers, poets and patrons. I knew of course that highly placed women had played an important political role. I realized I must also include their role in religious reform. And how could I overlook their daily lives? Or fail to include sources of information for my readers. Thus the reorganization of the website to its current form.

All About Renaissance Women: To Inform and Entertain

Suzanne de Bourbon

 My purpose is to introduce many of these fascinating yet often forgotten 16ht-century Frenchwomen. When I combed libraries, archives, bookstores and the works of experts, I discovered a disappointing reality. I could not find a book of short biographies in English about the major 16th-century French renaissance women. My original intention with this website was to gather the information here and then produce such a book. I still plan to do so. It is taking longer than I hoped because I am writing my novels as well.

Influential 16th Century Royal Women

I continue to work my way through the list. It starts with 16th-century French queens and princesses. Information about them Is easier to find . Because of their rank they, they had easier access to power especially when the men were away at war. Also during this period, noblewomen women benefited from literacy and humanist education more often than their male counterparts. Male courtiers were still expected to be warriors while women courtiers were expected to shine in the gracious arts. Many played important roles in the politics, arts, and religious change of the times.

queen louise de lorraine in the manner of françois clouet
Queen Louise de Lorraine, painted in the manner of François Clouet

Each contains a short bibliography of references I used, so researchers, writers and readers can dig deeper on their own.

Many More 16th-Century Women: Noblewomen, Courtesans, The Royal Household

Diane de Poitiers, mistress of King Henri II
Diane de Poitiers, mistress of King Henri II

Once I began, I realized I couldn’t stop with the few royals. What about their court ladies? Beginning with Anne de Beaujeu, the queen’s courts expanded rapidly. The high-born women who filled them played influential roles. they even began to occupy important roles in the royal household previously occupied only by men. The king’s mistresses, too, often came from the ranks of the queen’s ladies.

Provincial noblewomen could not be ignored either especially as the religious divide deepened. Nor could I ignore the daily lives of women from childbirth to marriages to household management, for these concerns occupied all ranks.

At this time, and for many centuries after, affinities and lineage explained many alliances and much about the politics of the time. I hope the information about these women’s family ties will clarify some of the obscure byways and make for great plot additions.

Arts and Culture, Politics and Religion and 16th Century French Women

During this period, parents sent their daughters to the royal and noble courts for advancement. They received a much broader education than previously and we see a flowering of writers, poets, linguists, translators, humanists and patrons. I shall include biographies of these women as well.  Wherever I locate rinformation other women who practised unusual professions I shall include it. Were women medical doctors, architects, merchants, vignerons, etc? 

The site will include pointers to thematic articles on trends during the century such as the change in the makeup of the court or the decreasing role of women. I welcome suggestions or names or guest posts.

1 thought on “The Women of 16th-Century France: Fact and Fiction”

  1. Kristina Tuomey

    Diane de Poitiers is my French Renaissance Heroine, not so much because of being Henri II mistress but because she championed education, a heathy lifestyle, didn’t wear 16th century makeup, and built a business empire even without her lover’s gifts. She had everything, breeding, brains, beauty, and she managed not to get killed by a Medici. What’s not to admire about that. I often wish she was as famous as my English Renaissance heroines Anne Boleyn and Catherine Parr.

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top