Saturday 31 December 2011

Diane was Born on the Feast Day of St. Sylvester.

On this date in 1499, Diane de Poitiers was born.

December 31 was the feast day of St. Sylvester. During the Renaissance, festivities and gift-giving were centered around New Year’s Eve. The celebration was known as Réveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre.

Sylvester I was the Pope of Rome between 314 and 335. Very little is known of him, not even the year of his birth, although it was during his time as Pope that St. Peter’s Basilica was built. Pope Sylvester died on December 31, 335, and was one of the first persons who was not a martyr to be canonized.

Happy New Year!

Thursday 29 December 2011

Christmas at Chenonceau

As we wind down our Christmas celebrations and begin to put away our decorations, I'd like to share with you a couple of the Christmas trees that are on display at Chenonceau.

During the time Diane owned the chateau, Christmas was a strictly religious observance. The celebrations were reserved for a week later, the feast day of Saint Sylvester on New Year's Eve. Although some greenery may have been added to floral displays, the Christmas tree was no where to be seen.

It has been said that the practice of Christmas trees in 16th century Europe began with Martin Luther, who was in strict opposition to Diane. According to the legend, he was walking through snow-covered woods and was struck by the beauty of the evergreens. He cut down a small tree and took it home, where he decorated it with candles to share the story of the birth of Christ with his young children.

Today, Chenonceau is beautifully decorated to welcome tourists at this time of year.

Sunday 25 December 2011

Eating Gold?

Merry Christmas!

Since 2009, we have been aware of the practice of drinking gold in Henri's court, and how it ultimately cost Diane her life. That is why I was surprised to see this article on the most expensive desserts in the world, which have "edible gold" as a decoration.

It's called "culinary gold" and it can be bought at gourmet food shops quite reasonably, since it is extremely thin 22 karat gold leaf. Mixing it with silver makes it edible. According to one manufacturer, it passes from the body within 24 hours with no ill effects. This same manufacturer offers gold flakes to put into drinks.

Shades of Diane?

Friday 23 December 2011

On this date in 1523, Diane's Father was Transferred from the Prison at Loches to the Conciergerie in Paris

What a dismal Christmas it must have been for Diane and her family! A couple of months earlier, on September 19, Jean de Poitiers managed to send letters to Diane and to her husband, Louis.


Madame la Grant' Sénéchalle,

Since I wrote you last, am arrived at the
Château de Loches, as evil-entreated as poor prisoner could be,
and if God aids me not, thence I shall not budge for a long
time, and inasmuch as all my hope is in your husband and in you,
I beg him to kindly come and talk with me, if this is not
possible for him, I beg you to kindly come, you could not do me
greater pleasure, to come and see me, and together you
and I will decide what you ought to say to Madame, and when you are
in her presence, you will be able to ask leave from her to
come and see me. I require of you, having so much pity of your
father, as to kindly come to see him, and if it is possible to
you, bring M. de Lisieux to whom I commend me, and to his good
grace. My heart breaks that I can send you nought else save that
I pray God he give you your desire.

At Loches this nineteenth of September [1523].
Your good father


Monsieur my son,

I think that you are sufficiently acknown of my estate,
that the King hath had me taken for no cause, I swear it upon my
soul's damnation, wherea the Constable that gone, and hath had me
brough hither to the Château de Loches, as a false traitor,
which to me is so very horrible grief that I die of it. I pray
God that he will grant me good patience, and to the King
knowledge of the shame he does me. Since he so pleaseth, reason
will have me take patience; and since you are the person in
the world that I love the most, and in whom I have confidence,
I have desired to let you know of my wretched state, to the end
that you may have pity of me, and may desire to bring me from
the plight in which I am, and if it were possible, to be able
to come and speak with me, that you and I might contrive what
should be done. I am afeared that you may not be able to come
hither, and if you cannot, I require of you, for God's honour,
that you send your wife, she will be able to go to Blois and
ask Madame for leave to come and see me, without telling her aught,
and she and I will devise what she shall say to Madame, on
my affair, as you well know how, and I require of you to make
M. de Lisieux come. My heart is so wrung that it kills me,
for that I know that I must ask you. I beseech you have pity on
me. They tell me that the confiscation of my goods to the
king is demanded; you shall take thought for this, for it touches
you, they are our good friends. I beseech you, make haste to let
me hear of you. I pray God, monsieur my son,
to give you your desire.

At Loches this nineteenth of September [1523].

Thursday 22 December 2011

Diane's Tapestries at Anet

This morning I received an email from a woman in England who wanted to know if the tapestries I wrote about in A Portrait in Black and White actually exist. They do, and are the subject of an article by Gail Patricia Lloyd: 

All of Diane's homes had magnificent tapestries, yet it the ones of Anet which capture our imaginations!

Whatever happened to them after Diane's time? In the 1700s, the tapestries were bought by Genoa's Grillo family. 

  • In 1860, Ferdinand Moreau purchased four of them for his restoration of Anet.
  •  Jupiter Changing the Inhabitants of Lycia into Frogs, The Death of Orion, The Death of Meleager, and Diana Saves Iphigenia are the property of the French government and hang at Anet.

  • Diana Imploring Jupiter for the Gift of Chastity has been at the Musée des Antiquitiés in Rouen since 1898.
  • The Drowning of Britomaris and The Blasphemy of Niobe were part of the Whitney collection, and were donated to New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1942. 
  • The Triumph of Diana is in a private collection.

Wednesday 21 December 2011

From YouTube: the return of Diane's remains to be reinterred at Anet

By Popular Demand!

This blog will allow me to share information with those who are fascinated, as I am, with my 12th great grandmother, Diane de Poitiers (1499-1566). Diane was the mistress of King Henri II of France, despite the fact that she was nineteen years his senior.