My thesis investigates Queen Henrietta Maria's cultural activities at the Caroline court, paying particular attention to her connections with France and with French politics. In contrast to previous studies of her life, I am concerned not only with her position as a Catholic in a Protestant country, but with her status as a culturally and politically active woman. I discuss the significance of her importation of French cultural fashions on to the English stage (most notably the innovation of the female actor), and investigate notions of female identity put forward in her masques and pastoral plays. By tracing the influences of both neoplatonism and reformed Catholic theology in the Queen's theatrical productions, I. demonstrate how courtly women came to be privileged as the arbiters of taste and judgement, and show how this led to a perception of them as\ud properly political agents. I also demonstrate that the Queen's court masques promoted a 'counterpublic' space inside the court from which ideas independent of King Charles's own policies could be expressed. I investigate Henrietta Maria's involvement in international current affairs, illustrating how her political alignments could be\ud manifested in her court productions. Finally, I discuss her position as an exile at the French court during the English civil war, showing how, despite her lack of funds, she\ud managed to maintain a political, religious, and social presence in France
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