chapter  2
21 Pages

“Le Signore Dame”

Vittoria della Rovere and Her Female Courtiers
WithAdelina Modesti

What value/s (moral, material, economic, spiritual or affective) did early modern female political leaders place on their court and personal attendants? What duties and responsibilities did sovereign and courtier owe one another? These questions will be addressed in this chapter through an examination of the different levels of relationships Vittoria della Rovere developed and negotiated with the ladies in her service. I will identify these ladies and the roles they served, so as to arrive at an initial consideration of the structure of Vittoria’s court, which functioned as a gendered network. These ladies-in-waiting were often engaged at a very young age, so that the Grand Duchess became responsible for their moral upbringing and education, as well as for their material needs: everything from religious and language instruction, artistic and creative development to providing dresses, accommodation and furnishings, not to speak of salaries, dowries and pensions. I will further highlight the material and emotional support Vittoria proffered her ladies-in-waiting via gifts, monies, goods, clothing, medicines and tips. I will argue that Grand Duchess took her role as a moral protector and educator of her ladies very seriously indeed.