Configurations of Gender at the Early Modern Court, 1580-1650
My thesis carries the working title “Configurations of Gender at the Early Modern Court, 1580-1650”. It aims to analyse the gendering of the court in this particular time span and link these findings to the broader development of the court as a political entity. For this purpose I proceed on a number of different levels, taking into account the gendered aspects of the spatiality of the court, gender and power in (extra-)marital and parental and filial relations, as well as the gendered aspects of the representation of the ducal family. The main case study for my research is the court of Stuttgart under the dukes Friedrich I. (1557-1608) and his son Johann Friedrich (1582-1628), which provides a fertile setting for this investigation. Friedrich I. was a regent eager to reign more independently of the estates, and his bid to create a new mode of rulership extended well into his family life. He took a number of mistresses, which led to a troubled relationship with his wife Sibylla von Anhalt (1564-1614), who nevertheless bore him fifteen children, of whom ten survived into adulthood. The repercussions of Friedrich’s extramarital affairs were felt even after his death, when his son Johann Friedrich took up his reign. For the young duke Johann Friedrich immediately imprisoned a number of women, who were believed to have had affairs with his father. While most of them were let go quite soon thereafter, one among them was held by the duke for six years, and only escaped her ordeal through pleading her case with the Reichskammergericht. This complex and contested family constellation, documented by great numbers of letters and court documents, is being investigated for the gendered concepts of personhood and fledgling statehood that came to be shaped and expressed within its structures. My work aims to enhance our knowledge of how and why advancing state-building processes intensified and relied on the increasing institutionalisation of gender difference.