Monday 30 January 2012

Chenonceaux with an X -- the Village and the River

The French village of Chenonceaux is situated on the right bank of the Cher River, a tributary of the Loire.  This tiny community with a population of fewer than 400 sees a steady flood of tourists who have come to see Diane's beloved Chenonceau. 

According to legend, Louise Dupin, who owned Chenonceau during the French Revolution, was responsible for dropping the "x" from the chateau's name.

Chenonceau did not always span the Cher. When Diane took possession of it in 1547, it was joined to the north shore by drawbridge. Diane dreamed of building a bridge to the south shore, which she did in 1557. The familiar three-storey structure was actually Catherine's addition. Here is a picture of Chenonceau which has been altered to suggest how Diane's bridge would have looked:

The river was a part of Diane's daily ritual when she was in residence at Chenonceau. She bathed in the cold river water daily, often joined by Henri. A trap door from Diane's bedroom allowed them to enter the water seen by the servants. They must have been brave, considering this is the view from that door!

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Chateau de Saint-Vallier

Diane's birthplace, the Chateau de Saint-Vallier, still overlooks the Rhone River as it passes through this small French town south of Lyon. Originally a monastery, it had been in Diane's family since 1270 when Aymar IV de Poitiers, Comte de Valentinois married Hippolyte de Bourgogne, Dame de Saint-Vallier. Here is a view of the chateau in the 18th century:

Diane inherited the chateau upon the death of her brother, Guillaume de Poitiers. 

Directions to Saint-Vallier by car: From the north, A7, Chanas exit (#12); from the south, A7, exit Train l'Hermitage (#13). The chateau can be easily reached by Rue de Remparts, or, naturally, Rue Diane de Poitiers.

The chateau is easy to spot on Google Earth:

Tuesday 17 January 2012

The Heart of the King

During the time of Diane de Poitiers and Henri II, it was the custom to treat the body of a monarch as a relic, in the same way as a saint. After Henri's death, his heart was removed and placed in the Church of the Celestines in Paris.  The church was demolished in 1798. It was bounded by rue du Petit-Musc to the West, rue de la Cerisaie to the North, rue de l’Arsenal to the East and rue de Sully to the South.

The monument, by Germain Pilon, can be seen in the Louvre in Paris. Three figures, standing back to back. They are holding hands, as if ready to begin a dance. The urn itself was inspired by an engraved incense burner by Raphael. 

It was commissioned by Catherine de Medici in 1561, and was intended to hold her heart as well. The inscription on the base told the reader not to wonder how so small a vessel could hold a heart as large as Henri, as his real heart beat in Catherine's breast. We can only imagine how Diane had to struggle to maintain her composure!

During the French Revolution,  Henri's heart disappeared and the urn was melted down (the one in the Louvre is a replica).

Thursday 12 January 2012

"Diane," starring Lana Turner and Roger Moore

On January 12, 1956, MGM released “Diane.”

The cast included:
Lana Turner – Diane de Poitiers
Roger Moore – Henri
Pedro Armendáriz  -- François I
Marisa Pavan – Catherine de Medici
Torin Thatcher – Louis de Brézé

The film was lavish in its costumes and set design. It did, however, take certain liberties with historical accuracy. For example:

  • ·      Diane went to the king to plead for the life of her husband, when it was in fact her father
  • ·      Diane and Louis had no children. They had two daughters
  • ·      The marriage of Henri and Catherine was Diane’s idea, but in reality it was Louis who suggested it to the king
  • ·      Catherine spied of Diane Henri through a hole in the wall, but it was actually holes drilled in the floor the floor
  • ·      The king was victorious against Charles V, when in fact he was captured and taken hostage

Other aspects of the film were accurate, such as Henri’s jousting accident, although the writers contend that the missing tip of Montgomery’s lance was intentionally removed.
This was Lana Turner’s last film for MGM. VHS copies can still be found, but it is not available on DVD or Blu-ray. 

Tuesday 3 January 2012

Diane's Coronation Portrait

I have been receiving emails, asking about the portrait of Diane I used for my web site and also for the cover of "A Portrait in Black and White."

She was painted in 1547 in the gown she wore for Henri's coronation. It is made of black velvet, covered in gold and silver embroidery and studded with pearls. The neckline was wide and square, and a strand of pearls ran from one shoulder to the other. The diamond crescent moon in her hair was a symbol that she shared with Henri, and she wore pearl drop earrings.

The portrait now hangs in the Château de Chaumont.

Monday 2 January 2012

An Invitation...

To all of you who have not yet had a chance to visit my web site dedicated to Diane de Poitiers, it can be found at:

There, you can read Diane's letters and her will, explore her homes, read her life story, and discover her ancestry.

I have recently added a forum, where you can share ideas and post questions.

Sunday 1 January 2012

Diane's Hair

Artists and poets alike have been unable to agree on Diane's hair color. I had always thought that it was strawberry blonde, a color between red and blonde, because of a locket at Anet.

Diane has been in the news since 2009, when it was discovered that the cause of her death was drinking a gold elixir that was popular during the 16th century. Her hair was analyzed and found to contain extremely high levels of gold. It was also thinning, as I wrote about in A Portrait in Black and White, a symptom of gold poisoning. 

Below is a close shot of Diane's hair. Quite a remarkable color for a woman over sixty!