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'Pity And Also Horror': Public Mourning, Breast Cancer, And A French Queen

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Chapter Summary

In 1666, breast cancer claimed a high profile victim. Anne of Austria, Queen Mother of France, died in the royal palace of the Louvre, in Paris. The primary sources which relate Anne of Austria's death give us access to the dark world of the seventeenth-century cancer patient. They describe some indications of the presence of cancer both in people's bodies and minds. The funeral sermons explains Anne of Austria's terminal illness. They inform the meaning of her death, and illustrates their points with anecdotes about Anne's exemplary responses to her illness. The illnesses of women were often explained as a punishment for narcissism and conceit. Anne was willing to blame herself for these faults,and Mme de Motteville, records that Anne used to sigh and point to her bed and say 'satin sheets!', as a rueful comment on the years of self-indulgence which preceded her illness.

Keywords: Anne; Austria; breast cancer; France



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