Crested v Cloven

But if the sixteenth century showed what women could do, it also showed how vulnerable they could be. Anne Boleyn executed for adultery she almost certainly did not commit; Catherine de Medici getting most of the blame for the Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Day. Be very careful in all your dealings, a manual of advice for powerful women warned, ‘because you can be blamed even for something very slight’. (The manual was written by Anne de Beaujeu, who herself governed France during the minority of her brother.) Clinton is bound to be attacked over the matter of her emails, and perhaps other dealings in the past: the question is not whether they qualify as something ‘very slight’, but whether a man could be blamed as readily, Men, and a powerful woman’s relationship to them, was a question then and is still today. As Catherine de Medici told Elizabeth I, it was always through her sexuality that a woman could best be attacked. ‘Not one on a thousand escapes without her honour being attacked or deceived, however “good” or “true” her love’, Anne de Beaujeu warned her readers. ‘Therefore, for the greatest certainty in such situations, I advise you to avoid all private meetings, no matter how pleasant they are . . . ‘. Though there have been allegations of an extra-marital affair made even against Hillary Clinton, they don’t form the spearhead of attacks against her. More pressing, perhaps, is the question of a consort. Fear of a husband’s takeover was what kept Queen Elizabeth unmarried, and there could be eyebrows raised over the likelihood of Bill Clinton’s confining himself to a backseat role as America’s first ‘First Laddie’.

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