The first woman novelist

Some say it was Christine de Pizan, an Italian widow living in the French court when Richard II was on the throne of England.  Her most famous book, The City of Women, came out in the year Richard was murdered by his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, the usurper King Henry IV.  Meanwhile in England it was Chaucer who was stealing all the literary honours.  Were there an women writers like Christine de Pizan at the court of King Richard?  We do not know.  Given his pleasure in all things beautiful, in poetry, art, fashion and food, as opposed to his Lancastrian cousin’s desire for more and more wealth and power, Richard must be seen as our first ‘Renaissance prince.’  If he had lived would Christine have visited the English court?  Would English women have followed her example and started to write for the public instead of only for a private readership?  History is crammed with unanswered and unanswerable questions like this.  I recommend her writing if you don’t already know it.  It’s full of common sense and explodes a few myths about women’s lives in the fourteenth century.

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