Sterility and Sovereignty: The Succession Crisis of the Late Valois Monarchy

  • Penny RobertsEmail author


Bodily metaphors of disease and mutilation were used extensively during the French religious wars of the late sixteenth century, while the physical reality of successive monarchs’ failure to produce legitimate heirs seemed to confirm the sterility of the times. This chapter explores debates on the infertility of the last Valois monarchs of France and the lengths to which they and their wives were prepared to go to deflect criticism and to resolve the issue. It will discuss how their inability to provide legitimate heirs at a time of civil strife not only caused a succession crisis, but also undermined their authority and the stability of the kingdom. Sterility was all too easily interpreted as a sign of divine displeasure and punishment for individual and collective sin. Thus, it ultimately contributed to the justification for rebellion and regicide.


Bodily metaphors Body politic French Wars of Religion Valois monarchy 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of WarwickCoventryUK

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