Portland State University. Department of History
Term of Graduation
Date of Publication
Master of Arts (M.A.) in History
1 online resource (xi, 204 pages)
The turbulent events of the Fronde des Princes (Fronde of the Princes), which saw the French nobility stage a failed rebellion against the monarchical administration of France's chief minister, Cardinal Mazarin, between 1650 and 1652, have been portrayed in the existing historiography as the swan song of a pre-absolutist nobility seeking to preserve its feudal identity as the king's partner in governance and military affairs. Indeed, as many historians of early modern France have observed, the policies pursued by Cardinal Mazarin following the monarchy's victory over the rebel princes of the Fronde, and subsequently expanded upon by Louis XIV after the commencement of his personal reign in 1661, would consolidate political authority in the hands of the crown and build a centralized administration that replaced high-ranking nobles with professional bureaucrats. Rather than inciting further acts of armed aristocratic resistance, however, the absolutist system developed under Louis XIV, according to most of the existing historiography, assured the loyalty and compliance of the nobility by rewarding obedience with special privileges and distinctions. Enduring until the French Revolution of 1789, this system of royal patronage has been cited by scholars as one of the few avenues through which French women could attain political influence, albeit in an unofficial capacity, by cultivating close, typically intimate, relationships with the sovereign. During the Fronde des Princes, a number of French women, including Anne-Marie-Louise d'Orléans, duchesse de Montpensier, had emerged as important political and military leaders, fighting on behalf of the nobility against the centralizing reforms and patriarchal authority of the monarchical state. Yet, scholars have argued that the strategies of political opposition pursued by women during the Fronde came to an abrupt end with the monarch's victory in 1652, thereafter confining women's political participation to the spaces of the salon and the royal court where women's political influence would come to depend entirely on close relationships with powerful men.
This thesis challenges this historiographical consensus by examining the strategies of monarchical opposition directed against Louis XIV, and subsequently against the regent, Philippe d'Orléans, by French aristocratic women who endeavored to carry on the political, social, and cultural legacy of the Fronde. Beginning with a thorough analysis of the anti-monarchical visual and literary culture that emerged around the frondeuses, this thesis demonstrates how this culture of monarchical opposition was continued after the rebellion through the counter-cultural practices developed by three daughters of the Fronde: Anne-Marie-Louise d'Orléans, duchesse de Montpensier (1627-1693), a direct participant in the Fronde and daughter of frondeur Gaston d'Orléans; Marie Jeanne Baptiste, Duchess of Savoy (1644-1724), also known as Madama Reale, the daughter of frondeur Charles Amadeus, duc de Nemours; and Louise Bénédicte de Bourbon, duchesse du Maine (1676-1753), the granddaughter of the leading frondeur, Louis de Bourbon, le Grand Condé. Drawing from contemporary memoirs, political pamphlets, and literature on women's capacity for political leadership, this thesis also relies on less canonical and often overlooked historical sources, including paintings, architecture, theatrical performances, and other forms of visual and ritual culture. By examining these material and literary traces of the oppositional political strategies pursued by the duchesse de Montpensier, the Duchess of Savoy, and the duchesse du Maine in the context of the patriarchal and cultural hegemony built around the absolutist image of Louis XIV, this thesis shows how the daughters of the Fronde attempted to disrupt the monologic display of sovereignty within the representational public sphere, offering a new perspective on women's political engagement within--and in opposition to--the French absolutist state.
© 2022 Jordan David Hallmark
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Hallmark, Jordan David, "The Daughters of the Fronde: French Aristocratic Women and the Subversion of Bourbon Absolutist Culture, 1661-1727" (2022). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 6063.