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The Politics of Female Households: Afterthoughts

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Chapter Summary

The first generations of academic historians worked in an environment where the personal servants of the monarch, particularly in North- Western Europe, had become politically marginalised. This experience, often strengthened by liberal persuasions, predisposed them to view the early modern court in a similar perspective. All courts consisted of at least three hierarchically separated levels of women: high-ranking female office holders, young noblewomen temporarily staying at court for their education, and servants for these two more dignified layers. Offices and hierarchies among these three groups changed over time and differed from court to court. Moreover, household office, whether male or female, was no more or less formal than office in the administrative hierarchies. The ruler and his advisors, however, could choose to employ women as well as men in shady roles as intermediaries or agents in diplomacy and decision-making.

Keywords: administrative hierarchies; decision-making; early modern court; female households

10.1163/9789004258396_016
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