This Ashgate series, Women and Gender in the Early Modern Period, supports the current scholarly insistence on the agency of elite women in early modern cultural, political and religious life, in mutually enriching ways. Whether a nun, widow, queen, princess, queen consort, archduchess or queen mother, women with noble lineage claimed, justified and enhanced their position in a number of regards. Because these elite women usually operated outside traditionally male political spheres, recent literary historians in particular, as well as social and political historians, and to a lesser extent art historians, have recognized the manner in which they achieved their political agenda through cultural and social means. These methods included using dynastic and social networks of women, art patronage, particularly by creating suitable visual personae in portraiture, music and theatre patronage and performance. However, occasionally women even performed valorous acts and influenced official policy – actions usually associated with men.