Spain; early modern Europe; gender; mistress; women; family




Mistresses of Spanish noblemen between 1360 and 1600 occupied a place within the Spanish patriarchy where concerns about gender and class intersected, revealing contradictions between the ideals of honor, the moral injunctions of Catholic doctrine, and the practical needs of noble families. Mistresses occupied a flexible space in the Spanish patriarchy where a woman’s social status, her ability to produce male heirs, and her ability to use the legal system to her advantage shaped her experience as a mistress and made her more likely to disrupt or change the inheritance processes of noble families. Concentrating on noble mistresses reveals that Spanish society had ambiguities about issues of morality, honor, status, and gender that allowed both male and female Spaniards to manipulate social attitudes as skillfully as they manipulated the law.

Original Citation

Coolidge, G. E. (2007). “A Vile and Abject Woman”: Noble Mistresses, Legal Power, and the Family in Early Modern Spain. Journal of Family History, 32(3), 195–214.

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