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History's Diane de Poitiers

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Historical Figure
Diane de Poitiers
History's Diane de Poitiers
Biographical Information
Real Name: Diane de Poitiers
Title: The Grand Senechal of Normandy

Countess of Saint-Vallier
Duchess of Étampes
Duchess of Valentinois

Born: 3 September 1499
Death: 25 April 1566
Age: 66
Religion: Roman Catholic
House: House of de Poitiers
Gender: Female Female
Originally From: Saint-Vallier, Framce
Parents: Jean de Poitiers (Father)

Jeanne de Batarnay (Mother)

Husband: Louis de Brézés

King Henry II (Lover)

Family: Catherine de' Medici (Cousin)

Claude de Guise
(Son-in-Law)

Children: Françoise de Brézé

Louise de Brézé

Affiliations: House of Medici
TV Character Information
First appearance: Pilot
Portrays: Diane de Poitiers
Portrayed by: Anna Walton


Diane de Poitiers who was most famous for being King Henry II's favourite mistress. She was also cousins with his wife, the much younger, Catherine de' Medici.

Early LifeEdit

Diane was educated according to the principles of Renaissance humanism which was popular at the time, music, hunting, manners, languages, the art of conversation, and dancing. She learned how to read Latin and Greek, and became a keen hunter and sportswoman, remaining in good physical condition well into middle age.

At the age of 15, she married Louis de Brézé who was 39 years her senior. He was a grandson of King Charles VII who served as a courtier of King Francis I. She bore him two daughters, Françoise de Brézé and Louise de Brézé.

In 1524, her father was accused of treason as an accomplice of the rebellious Charles III. His head was already on the execution block when his life was spared by King Francis I.

When her husband died in 1531, Diane adopted the habit of wearing the colours of black and white, her personal trademark for the rest of her life. These were among the permitted colours of mourning, which as a widow she was required to wear, but they were also the symbolic colours of the bright and dark sides of the moon. They played on her name, Diane from Diana, Roman goddess of the moon.

When still the wife of Louis de Brézé, she became lady-in-waiting to Queen Claude of France. After the queen died, she served in the same capacity to two more noble woman.

Life as King Henry's MistressEdit

After the capture of King Francis I by Charles V's troops during the Battle of Pavia,, his two eldest sons, Prince Francis and Prince Henry, were retained as hostages in Spain in exchange for their father. Because the ransom was not paid in time, the two boys (at eight and seven years old) had to spend nearly four years isolated in a bleak castle, facing an uncertain future. Prince Henry found solace by reading the knight-errantry tale Amadis de Gaula. The experience may account for the strong impression that Diane made on him, as the very embodiment of the ideal gentlewomen he read about. As his mother was already dead, Diane gave him the farewell kiss when he was sent to Spain. When he was returned to France at the age of 10, she was ordered by Francis I to act as a mentor to him and teach him courtly manners and more.

In 1533 the future King Henry II married Catherine de' Medici. Diane approved of this choice of bride. Diane and Catherine were actually related to one another, being both descendants of the La Tour d'Auvergne family. Indeed, to Catherine, Diane was an intrusive elder cousin as well as a rival. As the future royal couple remained childless. Diane made sure that Henry's visits to his wife's bedroom would be frequent. In another act of preservation of the royal family, Diane helped nurse Catherine back to health when she contracted scarlet fever. Diane was in charge of the education of her and Henry's children until 1551; her daughter Françoise managed the queen's servants. While Henry and Catherine would eventually produce 10 children together, and despite the occasional affair, Diane de Poitiers would remain Henry's lifelong companion. For the next 25 years she would be the most powerful influence in his life and the most powerful woman in France. She became his mistress in 1534 when she was 35 years old and Henry was 16 years old.

Remembered as a beautiful woman, she maintained her good looks well into her 50s, and her appearance was immortalized in sculpture and paintings. She sat for many paintings of the time, often topless or nude, other times in traditional poses. There is even a statue of her titled "Diana with a Stag," and is displayed in the Louvre.

When Francis I was still alive, Diane had to compete at the court with Anne de Pisseleu, the king's favourite. She had her exiled on her lands upon Francis I's death in 1547.

Diane possessed a sharp intellect and was so politically astute that King Henry II trusted her to write many of his official letters, and even to sign them jointly with the one name HenriDiane. Her confident maturity and loyalty to Henry II made her his most dependable ally in the court. Her position in the Court of the King was such that when Pope Paul III sent the new Queen Catherine the "Golden Rose", he did not forget to present the royal mistress Diane with a pearl necklace. Within a very short stretch of time she wielded considerable power within the realm. The king's adoration for Diane caused a great deal of jealousy on the part of Queen Catherine, particularly when Henry entrusted Diane with the Crown Jewels of France, or gave her the Château de Chenonceau, a piece of royal property that Catherine had wanted for herself.

DeathEdit

Despite wielding such power over the king, Diane's status depended on the king's welfare, and his remaining in power. In 1559, when Henry was critically wounded in a jousting tournament, Catherine de' Medici assumed control, restricting access to him. Although the king was alleged to have called out repeatedly for Diane, she was never summoned nor admitted, and on his death, she was also not invited to the funeral. Immediately thereafter, Catherine banished Diane from court. She lived out her remaining years in her chateau, where she lived in comfortable obscurity.

She died at the age of 66. In accordance with her wishes, and to provide a resting place for her, her daughter completed the funeral chapel built near the castle. During the French Revolution, her tomb was opened and her remains thrown into a mass grave, along with Catherine de' Medici and Catherine's son King Henry III

When French experts dug up her remains in 2009, they found high levels of gold in her hair. It is suggested that the "drinkable gold" she regularly took—believed to preserve youth—may have ultimately killed her.

NotesEdit

  • In 1557, Diane de Poitiers would have actually been 58 years old.
  • Diane de Poitiers and King Henry II knew each other before the latter married Catherine de' Medici. They'd began their relationship when Henry was 16.
  • Diane de Poitiers had two daughters, but neither were fathered by King Henry II.
  • Catherine de' Medici and Diane were cousins. Diane encouraged Henry to share Catherine's bed more often to produce children.
  • Diane stayed with Catherine when she was sick with Scarlett Fever and nursed her back to health.
  • Catherine does take Château de Chenonceau from Diane, but not until after King Henry's death in 1559.
  • Her daughter, Louise de Brézé. married Claude de Guise, who was Mary, Queen of Scots' uncle and they had 11 children.

Family TreeEdit

   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Jean de Poitiers
   
   
Jeanne de Batarnay
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Louis de Brézé
   
   
Diane de Poitiers
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Françoise de Brézé
   
   
Louise de Brézé
   
   
Claude de Guise

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