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This chapter examines the construction of the myth of the sixteenth-century French queen mother Catherine de Medici's 'flying squadron' 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’. I compare this negative representation of the court to the realities of life in the queen’s entourage, revealing that – in contrast to her alleged ‘Italian’ predisposition to manipulation – Catherine’s appointments to her household fell within distinctly French traditions. Rather than Catherine’s presiding over the ‘stable of whores’ for which satirical writers and historians gave her credit, this chapter shows that she took steps to ensure a household of experienced, respected and politically moderate members. The ‘flying squadron’ is revealed to be a reductive, misogynist fantasy that developed in response to the increasingly prominent role of women at the early modern French court.

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This page is a summary of: ‘A Stable of Whores’? The ‘Flying Squadron’ of Catherine de Medici, January 2013, Brill, DOI: 10.1163/9789004258396_009.
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