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Women and the Politics of Access at the Court of Brussels: The Infanta Isabella’s Camareras Mayores (1598–1633)

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Chapter Summary

This chapter argues that the political power-brokering of ladies-in-waiting should not be underestimated and, at least in terms of efficiency, equalled that of their male counterparts in the princely household. It focuses on the role of the consecutive camareras mayores in the household of the Archdukes Albert and Infanta Isabella in Brussels. As the eldest and chief ladies-in-waiting, the camarera mayor and the dueñas de honor were in a position to exercise the greatest influence over Isabella. Isabella's most intimate companions, the dueñas de honor Mlle de Montmorency and the Countess of Villerval. Indeed they shaped the priorities and dissemination of the governess-general's patronage so significantly that they came to be known as les petites infantes. The role of Isabella's ladies-in-waiting shows that politics often took place outside the official government institutions and councils.

Keywords: Archdukes Albert; camareras mayores; court of Brussels; dueñas de honor; Infanta Isabella; ladies-in-waiting



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