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Foreign Marriage in Early Modern Drama: The Exchange of Royal Women and the Problems of Political Friendship

By: Sandra Logan

Women in the early modern period were nomadic, so to speak, even within the sociopolitical contexts of their homelands, generally excluded from formal participation in the political sphere, and dislodged from their birth-families to enter into a relationship with another family through marriage. Among those social strata in which men enjoyed some measure of political voice and presence, women may have entered the early modern political sphere through informal means-primarily through family ties and behind-the-scenes influence rather than through legitimized participation or official roles. One exception to this occurred at the level of the political family, where queens, duchesses, and other such women participated in official and unofficial ways in the ruling of their husband’s sovereign territory, where daughters were raised to perform significant roles in the courts of other realms, and where at times, women became autonomous sovereigns. Women could also move, through marriage, upward into such positions from the aristocratic stratum. Often, female offspring of political rulers were trained in language, philosophy, and politics as well as in the more cultural and even domestic arts such as literature, music, and household management. Their upbringing was shaped by the expectation that they would link together two political territories through marriage-often territories that had been in military contention, so that the marriage comprised one term of a treaty of peace.


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