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‘A Stable of Whores’? The ‘Flying Squadron’ of Catherine de Medici

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Chapter Summary

Although historians such as Denis Crouzet have recently begun to rehabilitate Catherine de Medici's reputation, it is important that we understand how the myth of the 'flying squadron' came to exist and persist in the popular imagination. This chapter examines the construction of the myth through the literature of the sixteenth century, in particular, the defamatory pamphlets and verse libels that portrayed the queen's household as a site of debauchery and prostitution. Revealing the authors of this satirical literature and their motives, it then traces how their satirical representations came to be treated as genuine descriptions of life at court by later historians; in other words, how satirical literature became historical 'fact'. The chapter shows that Catherine took steps to ensure a household of experienced, respected and politically moderate members. The women of her household also functioned as a marker of prestige for the Queen Mother.

Keywords: Catherine de Medici; defamatory pamphlets; flying squadron; political involvement; queen's household



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