Dancing Queen: Marie de Medicis' Ballets at the Court of Henri IV

Dancing Queen: Marie de Medicis' Ballets at the Court of Henri IV

by Melinda Gough


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Under glittering lights in the Louvre palace, the French court ballets danced by Queen Marie de Médicis prior to Henri IV's assassination in 1610 attracted thousands of spectators ranging from pickpockets to ambassadors from across Europe. Drawing on newly discovered primary sources as well as theories and methodologies derived from literary studies, political history, musicology, dance studies, and women's and gender studies, Dancing Queen traces how Marie's ballets authorized her incipient political authority through innovative verbal and visual imagery, avant-garde musical developments, and ceremonial arrangements of objects and bodies in space. Making use of women's "semi-official" status as political agents, Marie's ballets also manipulated the subtle social and cultural codes of international courtly society in order to more deftly navigate rivalries and alliances both at home and abroad.

At times the queen's productions could challenge Henri IV's immediate interests, contesting the influence enjoyed by his mistresses or giving space to implied critiques of official foreign policy, for example. Such defenses of Marie's own position, though, took shape as part of a larger governmental program designed to promote the French consort queen's political authority not in its own right but as a means of maintaining power for the new Bourbon monarchy in the event of Henri IV's untimely death.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781487503666
Publisher: University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division
Publication date: 02/28/2019
Pages: 400
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Melinda J. Gough is an associate professor in the Department of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Principles of Transcription and Translation


1 Magnificence, Mistresses, and Marie's Dance of Maternity
2 Royal Women's Ballet and/as Royal Ceremonial
3 Alliances and Others
4 Eros and “Absolutism”
5 Dances of Diplomacy: London, Valladolid, Paris


Appendix 1: Verse Texts for the Ballet of the Sixteen Virtues (1602)
Appendix 2: Verse Texts for the Ballet of Diana and her Nymphs (1609)
Appendix 3: Verse Texts for the Ballet de Madame (1609)


What People are Saying About This

Katherine Crawford

"Marie de Médicis has long been recognized as much more adept as a patron of the arts than as a political figure. Through the careful analysis of artistic materials, Melinda J. Gough convincingly dismisses this theory by addressing her role in court entertainment as vital to consolidating her husband's reign after a long period of civil strife and a change of dynasty."

Ellen R. Welch

"Dancing Queen is a meticulous, richly textured work of scholarship that makes an important contribution to understandings of early modern queenship and court culture as well as to the history of court ballet. Melinda J. Gough's discovery and attentive synthesis of previously unknown archival documents are truly meaningful and revise the standard histories of French court ballet."

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