This is the untold story of the men who fed, dressed, protected and advised the cardinals and great nobles of Baroque Rome. Against the background of demographic crisis and a Europe gripped by plague, war and famine, the papal capital lured ambitious gentlemen and hungry commoners to work in service. Mirroring a city where men far outnumbered women, elite households provided jobs for thousands of male immigrants from all over Italy and beyond. Footmen, secretaries, stable boys, cooks and accountants composed an all-male world that fit awkwardly within the paradigm of early modern patriarchy. A gender ideology dependent on the idea that men were innately superior to women had to navigate a society without women and justify the subordination of most men to the few. Rigid domestic hierarchies imposed by employers and implemented by gentlemen servants yielded only the barest subsistence to the robust but unskilled majority. The vagaries of the patron-client relationship doomed even the gentlemen to insecurity. In this context the streets, churches and squares of Rome offered richer, if sometimes dangerous, opportunities than the palaces to enjoy masculine privilege and the experience of egalitarian fraternity. This book mobilizes census records, trials, family account books and household manuals to show both the contradictions and the tenacity of patriarchy in a city of men.
Cover illustration: Opera di M. Bartolomeo Scappi, cuoco secreto di Papa Pio V, Venice, Michele Tramezzino, 1570 (New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art). A cardinal’s steward and footmen present his meal to be inspected for hidden messages prior to transfer into the conclave during the Vacant See.