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Women And Politics In The 17th Century

1637 words - 7 pages

In the seventeenth century, there was no authorized political place for women in the social hierarchy scale. Women had entered into a modern age and created their own form of politics in the 1660s where they were able to enforce political power, gain popularity, and become independently wealthy by being a part of the royal court. When King Charles II arrived back in England after ten years in exile, he had formed relationships with various women until the end of his life. Royal mistresses were not only able to have a relationship with King Charles, but also have political influence upon the court and its king. But we can ask ourselves; was this a new form of empowerment or a new form of exploitation of women?
The seventeenth century marked the beginning of modernity in social hierarchy. King Charles II had come back from the continent after ten years in exile with a new thought on how to treat women. “These women were intimately connected with the king. They would experience the most immediate and profound effects of the restoration. In order to see these effects, be a major member of the royal court, and gain a higher social standing, women became royal mistresses. The women of Charles’ court had gained celebrity, independent wealth, and influence, and this was unrecognizably modern for this age and time.” Charles had learned about how to have a successful marriage and many relationships with his mistresses from the aristocratic women of France. Women in France were not only playing a prominent role in French court but they were gaining respect for it. French aristocratic women were debating and writing about what they wanted from their relationships. These novels of allegorical love were guidebooks to help men get well on their way to having a healthy relationship with their mistress. King Charles was most likely followed this French model, it was a highly codified relationship and not the wild party most people thought it was. Because of these novels, men weren’t the only ones influenced to take on a mistress and taught how to treat her, but women were able to begin to ask for certain things and expect certain things from their relationship. It gave the women control and the ability to use this method to their advantage in politics. “These women were known as the restoration mistresses, they weren’t just ‘fly by night party girls,’ they would achieve independent wealth, dictate fashion and win celebrity; they even changed the way of contemporary politics and how the masses fought about their monarch.” Before the 1660s, it was custom for men to have a wife, but also a mistress on the side for pleasure, but by the time King Charles came back to England, it was socially acceptable to be a mistress and in most cases it was a positive career choice. Women were beginning to become royal mistresses in order to gain fame, wealth, and political influence instead of marrying; they were known as career mistresses and notorious for being exploiters of...

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