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Valentina Visconti, Charles VI, and the Politics of Witchcraft

From: Parergon
Volume 30, Number 2, 2013
pp. 11-32 | 10.1353/pgn.2013.0097



Just as modern politicians invoke science to support agendas, medieval political actors politicised magic. The 1396 expulsion from the French royal court of Valentina Visconti, sister-in-law of mad King Charles VI, for casting spells on the hapless monarch, offers insight into one such case. Faction leaders, discrediting each other through accusations of witchcraft, used Valentina as their scapegoat, even as her dealings on behalf of her family brought her into conflict with Queen Isabeau of Bavaria. And yet, political as the accusations were, many genuinely believed the King's mysterious affliction to be caused by sorcery. The story thus shows how complex such situations were.