Monday, November 30, 2015

Weekly Geek! Which One is the Witch?

Catherine was always being left at home, which is most unpleasant for a wife.” She shot me a withering glance. “Henry’s whore was named after the goddess of the hunt, like you.”
“I wouldn’t have crossed Catherine de’ Medici.” I shook my head.
“The king’s mistress, Diane de Poitiers, was the dangerous one,” Ysabeau said darkly. “She was a witch.”
“Actually or metaphorically?” I asked with interest.
“Both,” Matthew’s mother said in a tone that could strip paint.

Although Ysabeau only makes a passing reference to it in A Discovery of Witches, the love triangle of Henry II, Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Médici deserves its own Weekly Geek for several reasons.  It's a story full of court intrigue, illicit love, and rumors of witchcraft; it may possibly be connected to The Serpent's Mirror; and finally, this Daemon just thinks it's a great story and a perfect fit for the All Souls universe.

Diane de Poitiers

Ysabeau's familiarity with all involved - especially her antipathy towards Diane - is especially intriguing, given the fact that rumors of witchcraft swirled around both women.  Maybe, if we're lucky, perhaps Ysabeau will explain herself further someday?  We hope!  Until then, we're left with the history books, as well as some well known novelizations of the story.   Daemon disclaimer: I was originally introduced to this story through The Serpent and the Moon by Princess Michael of Kent  and Courtesan by Diane Haeger so I tend to favor Diane over Catherine.

It takes three sides to make a triangle.  Shall we meet them?

Henry - The Second Son

Henry II  (born March 31, 1519, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, near Paris, France—died July 10, 1559, Paris), king of France from 1547 to 1559.  The second son of Francis I and Claude of France, Henry was sent with his brother Francis (the Dauphin) as a hostage (in place of their father) to Spain in 1526 (he was seven) and did not return to France until 1530.  When the Dauphin died in 1536, Henry became heir to the throne.  Henry felt that the Spanish mistreated him during the four years he was a prisoner, and bore a lifelong grudge against both his father and Emperor Charles V (ruled from 1519 to 1556).  Henry first met Diane - a Lady of Honor to his mother Queen Claude - when he returned from Spain in 1530.  His father, King Francis I, asked the widow to instruct his son in courtly manners.  Henry and Catherine began a love affair when he was 19 years old, which lasted until Henry's death in 1559.

In October 1533 he wed Catherine de Médici (1519–1589) as part of an alliance with the Médici pope, Clement VII (reigned 1523–1534).  The Pope died soon after, ending the political value of the marriage.  The marriage also came under strain because it produced no children for the first ten years.  Henry and Catherine did eventually have seven that survived childhood.  When his older brother died in 1536, Henry became the Dauphin.  He ascended the throne 31 March 1547, after the death of his father.  Henry eventually died as a result of injuries suffered during a joust (whoops!) held as part of the celebration of the marriage of his son, Dauphin Francis and Mary, Queen of Scots.

The fatal tournament between Henry II and Montgomery (Lord of "Lorges")

Catherine - The Political Bride

Catherine Caterina de’ Médici (born April 13, 1519, died January 5, 1589), queen consort of Henry II of France (reigned 1547–59) and subsequently regent of France (1560–74).   She bore him 10 children, of whom 4 boys and 3 girls survived.  She also had a passionate interest in the tarot, consulted alchemists with philosophical questions, and astrologers for advice before taking major decisions (including Nostradamus).  Upon Henry's death, Catherine acted as regent for her teen-aged son.  Three of her sons were kings of France: Francis II, Charles IX, and Henry III.  Their reigns were dominated by civil war fueled by the conflicts between the Catholics and Huguenots.  The St. Bartholomew's Day massacre in 1572  was purportedly ordered by Catherine.

Recumbent figures of Henry II and Catherine de Medici by Germain Pilon at Basilica of St. Denis

Diane - The Other Woman

Diane de Poitiers (1499-1566) was born into a family of wealth and influence.  Diane, who was very well educated and intelligent, was one of the most eligible young ladies at court.  Ironically, she had far more noble blood than Catherine!  At the age of fifteen she was married to Louis de Brézé, Seigneur d’Anet and a grandson of Charles VII, who was thirty nine years her senior.  Her husband died in 1531, leaving her a very wealthy widow!  She returned to court after a two year mourning period, and became a friend and confidante of Henry, whom she was instructing in courtly manners (and other stuff, we imagine...).  Francis' mistress, Ann, was threatened by Diane's beauty and the esteem the King held her in.  She began circulating rumors (of course...) that Diane's enduring beauty was the result of witchcraft.  It was around that time that Diane and Henry's relationship evolved and she was eventually promoted to his official mistress (yes, there was such a thing!).  The rumors of witchcraft died down, but just like it is in present time the rumors never completely disappeared.  Once Henry became king, Diane remained his most trusted confidante - almost a co-ruler.  Many called her the brains behind the throne, and eventually she was the official governess to Henry's children by Catherine de Médici.  Many testaments to their partnership remain - from their combined monogram on the Louvre itself to painting celebrating Diane's beauty and the architectural masterpieces in which they shared their lives.

Diane at Chenonceau
de Clermont Connections?

Basically, two of the most powerful men in Christendom were involved in marital turmoil and romantic travails concurrently, and the players in these domestic dramas crossed paths.   It makes one wonder how many de Clermonts crossed their paths.  Anne and Mary Boleyn were present in the Court of Francois I at the same time as Diane was Lady of Honor to Queen Claude.  Diane and her husband also attended the Field of Cloth of Gold, where she met Henry VIII.  Did Diane meet Matthew in his guise of Sebastian St. Clair during that time?  And while it was after Henry and Diane's time - there is the St. Bartholomew's day massacre that cemented Matthew and Philip Sidney's friendship.   Hmmmm....

Field of Cloth of Gold

As always, here's a little something to feed your own personal daemons:

Henry and Diane in words and art:


Field of Cloth of Gold:

The French War of Religion:

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