Power, politics, and pillowtalk: The role of royal mistresses in British and French discourses on the legitimacy of monarchical rule, 1714–1774
Published inJYU dissertations
© The Author & University of Jyväskylä
Unlike modern mistresses of politically powerful men, early modern royal mistresses were not merely a scandal that were best concealed from audiences. The royal mistresses were a practice and a phenomenon, even an institution, of the royal courts that had their significant role in contemporary political cultures. The mistress had an established and traditional function in which she, as well as the discourses on her and her actions, served and supported the monarch and the monarchy. However, in 1760 in Britain and 1774 in France two kings acceded to the throne who interrupted the immemorial practice of keeping a royal mistress. By then, the meaning of a royal mistress both as a practice and as a vehicle of political discussion changed. This dissertation examines the role of the royal mistresses in political discourses between 1714 and 1774. Semantically and rhetorically oriented analysis demonstrates how the writers describing the royal mistresses used her semi-fictional figure as a tool to create images and imageries about the right and wrong kind of rule, participated in defining the nature and use of legitimate power, negotiated relations of power, and strived to reassert or remodel conceptions of monarchy as a political system. The figure of the royal mistress has always been a tool of power. Yet, during the eighteenth century, the expanding debates outside the royal courts offered new uses and roles for the figure of the royal mistress. By mid-century, the role of the royal mistress faced changes, and by the 1770s at the latest, the royal mistress no longer served the monarchy in its traditional supporting and protecting role. Rather, her figure formed a tool with which criticism and discontent was directed specifically at the monarchy as a political system, at its fundamentals and its prevailing practices. This was possible due to two simultaneous trajectories. On the one hand, the mistress served as a tool through which debate and criticism was aimed at those concepts, ideals, and practices upon which the legitimate monarchy was constituted. The discourse on the royal mistresses was not essentially revolutionary. Yet, the writers utilised it when challenging certain aspects, practices, or features related to it, as for example when they delegitimated personalness in political decision-making. On the other hand, the curiosity, scandalousness, and triviality related to the royal mistresses served the formation, needs, and demands of the emerging public debate. The semi-fictional and often scandalous figure of the royal mistress offered a popularisable means to simplify complex political struggles, conflicts, and ideas. The seeming trivialness of the discourse on the royal mistresses functioned in favour of distributing a political information and message. Thus, the royal mistress functioned as a nexus in which manifold contemporary concerns and debates were brought together and in which the private and the trivial gained public and political meaning when connected in discussions on legitimate power. ...
political culture monarchy sex royal mistress public debate political scandal political language conceptual history comparative history gender eighteenth century France Britain monarkia poliittinen kulttuuri rakastajattaret skandaalit julkinen keskustelu sukupuoli käsitehistoria 1700-luku Ranska Iso-Britannia
MetadataShow full item record
Showing items with similar title or keywords.
Constructing images of great power politics : a comparative study on the visual representations of British and German political institutions in political cartoons in the early 20th century Niemistö, Lauri (2017)Tutkielma selvittää Iso-Britannian ja Saksan poliittisten järjestelmien arvioimista ja mielikuvien luomista pilakuvissa 1900-luvun alun poliittisesti epävakaissa oloissa. Pilakuvien kautta piirtäjät toivat ilmi näkemyksiä ...
The emergence of intangible capital : human, social, and intellectual capital in nineteenth century British, French, and German economic thought Turunen, Olli (University of Jyväskylä, 2016)Since the late 1950s the concept of human capital, understood as the stock of knowledge, skills, and abilities that determine individual productivity, has become one of the central tools with which economists explain ...
The Royal Prerogative redefined : parliamentary debate on the role of the British Parliament in large-scale military deployments, 1982-2003 Häkkinen, Teemu (University of Jyväskylä, 2014)
Rakkauden valtapeli : Ludvig XV:n viimeiset viralliset rakastajattaret länsieurooppalaisessa julkisessa keskustelussa Kauppinen, Elina (2012)1700-luvulla julkinen keskustelu poliittisista järjestelmistä kiivastui ja kärjistyi kaikkialla Euroopassa. Ranskassa tämä keskustelu oli tarkoin säänneltyä ja rajoitettua, eikä poliittisella oppositiolla ollut mahdollisuuksia ...
"That in the opinion of this House" : the parliamentary culture of debate in the nineteenth-century Cambridge and Oxford Union Societies Haapala, Taru (University of Jyväskylä, 2012)