The Lord's First Night: The Myth of the Droit de Cuissage

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University of Chicago Press, Sep 1, 1998 - History - 300 pages
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From the late Middle Ages to The Marriage of Figaro to Mel Gibson's Braveheart, the ultimate symbol of feudal barbarism has been the droit de cuissage, or right of a feudal lord to sleep with the bride of a vassal on her wedding night. The droit de cuissage even resurfaced in the debate over the French Penal Code of 1992 as a synonym for sexual harassment.

But, as Alain Boureau elegantly demonstrates in this book, the droit de cuissage is a myth. Under contextual examination, nearly all the supposed evidence for this custom melts away—yet belief in it has survived for seven hundred years. Boureau shows how each era turned the mythical custom to its own ends. For instance, in the late Middle Ages, monarchists raised the specter of the droit de cuissage to rally public opinion against local lords, and partisans of the French Revolution pointed to it as proof of the corruption of the Ancien Régime.

A fascinating case study of the folklore of sexuality, The Lord's First Night also offers evocative insights into popular (mis)conceptions of the Middle Ages.

On the French edition: "A richly informative study of attitudes to the past and the manipulation of history down the ages."—Peter Linehan, Times Literary Supplement
  

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Contents

III
7
IV
40
V
67
VI
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VII
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VIII
155
IX
192
X
225
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XII
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XIII
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Copyright

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Page 284 - Études sur la condition de la classe agricole et l'état de l'agriculture en Normandie, au moyen âge.
Page 285 - Rapport fait à l'Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres, au nom de la commission des antiquités de la France; par M. Lenormant. Lu dans la séance publique annuelle du 16 août 1850. Imp. de F. Didot, à Paris. 1850. In-4° de 4 f.
Page 283 - Recherches sur l'origine et la nature des droits connus anciennement sous les noms de Droits des premières nuits, de Markette, d'Afforage, Marcheta, Maritagium et Bumede.
Page 281 - Dissertation sur l'établissement de l'abbaye de Saint-Claude, ses chroniques, ses légendes, ses chartes, ses usurpations et sur les droits des habitants de cette terre.
Page 285 - Réponse d'un campagnard à un Parisien, ou Réfutation du livre de M. Veuillot sur le droit du seigneur; par Jules Delpit.

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About the author (1998)

Alain Boureau is the director of studies at the Acole des hautes A(c)tudes en sciences sociales in Paris. He is the author of many previous books, including The Lord's First Night, Alter Histoire, L'AvA(c)nement sans fin, and La Papesse Jeanne.

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