The French Renaissance Court
R.J. Knecht looks at the practical considerations behind the smooth operation of the huge courts of the Valois kings of France.
Courts have long been a popular subject among a certain reading public. The love affairs of kings, queens and royal mistresses – what the French aptly sum up as histoire d’alcôve – have been the stuff of popular historiography for centuries; but a court needs also to be considered as an institution, significant politically, socially and culturally. Politically, it was the centre of decision-making; socially, it attracted all those people looking for advancement for themselves and their relatives by capturing some morsel of royal largesse; culturally, it promoted innovation and excellence, notably in the visual arts, often as a means of projecting the monarch’s image to the world at large. In recent years a number of historians have focused their attention on the court in a number of countries, notably Britain and Spain. The subject is now well-established and has prompted the creation in Britain of a Society for Court Studies with its own scholarly journal.