Thursday, June 2, 2016

Biography - Agnès Sorel 1422-1450 mistress of King Charles VII 1403–1461 of France

Agnes Sorel mistress of Charles VII of France (1403-1461) by Jean (or Jehan) Fouquet (French artist, 1420–1481)

Agnès Sorel (1422-1450), the daughter of soldier Jean Soreau, & Catherine de Maignelais, entered the life of Charles VII (1403–1461) of France in 1442. At that time, she was in the household of Isabelle of Lorraine, wife of King René. When Charles saw her for the first time, he fell madly in love and brought her to his court to make her his mistress.

Jean (or Jehan) Fouquet (French artist, 1420–1481) c 1445 Portrait of Charles VII, King of France (1403–1461)

Her presence was felt immediately at the royal court in Chinon, where her presence allegedly brought the king out of a protracted depression. Her strong influence on the king plus her extravagant tastes, soon earned her powerful, jealous enemies at court.

In 1444, she became the first official "favorite" of a king of France. In Charles court, she was became interested in affairs of state. She had the most beautiful headboards, best tapestry, best linen & covers, best dishes, ring goods & jewels, best cooks & best everything. -- writes Chastelain (1405-1475).

Agnes Sorel mistress of Charles VII of France (1403-1461)  by an unknown artist

To add to the luxury the king bestowed on Agnes, in 1448, her gave her the castle of Beauty-sur-Marne. "And the beauty which held the title of "the most beautiful of the world" should be called "Demoiselle of Beauty:" Thus the king had given her for her lifetime the house of Beaulté lez Paris." (Enguerrand of Monstrelet 1390-1453)

It is in this atmosphere that Charles VII asserted his authority. He called together John Bureau, Jacques Coeur & Etienne Chevalier, all confidants of the beautiful Agnès, & all interfering in public affairs, & spoke these words, attributed to François I as a reminder: "Sweet Agnès, more honor you deserve / the cause being to recover France / than what can be rendered inside a cloister of nuns or to a devoted hermit."

Agnes Sorel on the Melun triptych portrayed as the Madonna with Child by Jean (or Jehan) Fouquet (French artist, 1420–1481)

Agnès gave birth to 3 daughters: Marie de Valois, Charlotte, & Jeanne de France. While pregnant with their 4th child, she joined Charles on the campaign of 1450 in Jumièges, wanting to be with him as moral support. There, she suddenly became ill, dying on February 9 at the age of 28. Her death came just 3 days after delivery of her child, most likely from complications of childbirth.

However, it is also speculated, that the dauphin, the future Louis XI, whose advances she repelled, poisoned her with mercury. Recent examination of her remains showed that her body contained very high levels of mercury, which was a perfect poison. However, in those days, mercury was also used for the treatment of worms. A dosage accident is considered another possibility, but her doctor reportedly was one of the most renowned of the realm.

La Dame de Beauté by Jeanne Bourin (a slightly romanticized version of Agnès Sorel, but I love the sheep)

She is buried at Loches, in Tourraine. Her tomb, initially situated in the church of Notre-Dame was desecrated during the revolution & her statue there destroyed.