And now, having passed in rapid review the intellectual conditions surrounding women during these three centuries, what, we must inquire, were some of the social and moral conditions? If the learning and attainments acquired by the fair sex in the sixteenth century had been more general than they were, still they would scarcely have proved sufficient to protect female virtue against the new dangers and charms of a life at court and all that it entailed.
During the reign of Louis XII. the life and character of that ruler and his wife kept the ladies and gentlemen of the court within proper bounds. Under Francis I., on the contrary, the virtue of few of the women attendant on the court was proof against its incessant dissipations and amusements, the continual artifices of bold and cunning seducers, and the influence of illustrious examples. It even became a prevailing opinion, that the loss of female honor was a thing of no kind of consequence, but that it was credible when it was compensated by wealth, honors, and the favor of the great.
Unfortunately, it was not the ladies of the court alone in whom the sense of virtue and decency was extinguished. The court infected the capital, and the capital communicated the contagion to the other cities of the kingdom.
Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.