Sunday, July 24, 2016

Biography - Catherine de' Medici & one of her spies Charlotte de Beaune Semblançay c 1551–1617

Charlotte de Beaune Semblançay (c. 1551–1617) was a French noblewoman & a mistress of King Henry of Navarre, who became King Henry IV of France. She was a member of Queen Mother Catherine de' Medici's Flying Squadron (Escadron Volant), a group of female spies & informants recruited to seduce important men at Court to extract information for the Queen Mother, who was desperate to keep power in France.

Charlotte de Beaune Semblançay, (c 1551–1617)

Charlotte was the daughter & only child of Jacques de Beaune, Baron Semblançay, Viscount of Tours, & Gabrielle de Sade. Charlotte was sent to court, where she was educated in the household of Catherine de' Medici.  As a noblewoman, Charlotte would have specific legal & financial rights, & prerogatives, which Catherine de' Medici would use to her own advantage.

Described as having been "beautiful, intelligent, & immoral," Charlotte was married to Simon de Fizes, Baron de Sauve, secretary of state first to King Charles IX & King Henry III, in 1569, when she was 18 years old. At court, she garnered much attention, as she was being raised by Catherine de' Medici.  She was appointed maid-of-honor to Marguerite de Valois.  She is recorded as taking part in some of the pageants & ballets which Catherine de' Medici produced. She helped Catherine mount a lavish show depicting the Apotheosis of Woman in 1577, at the château of Chenonceau.

Henry III's Ball of 1580

Ten years after she married, in 1579, her husband died. Charlotte married secondly in 1584, Francois de La Tremoille, Marquis de Noirmoutier, by whom she had a son, Louis de La Tremoille, in 1586.

Catherine de' Medici in black cap and veil of widow, after 1559.

At court, she was constantly under the influence of Catherine de' Medici.  Shortly after Henry of Navarre's marriage to Catherine's daughter Marguerite de Valois, in 1572, Catherine recruited Charlotte to her side. Charlotte's task was to seduce Navarre, become his confidante & mistress, to extract information to pass on to Catherine.

French King Henry IV (1553–1610)

Charlotte quickly became Navarre's mistress & exerted a strong influence over him. His wife Marguerite recorded in her memoirs: "Mme de Sauve so completely ensnarled my husband, that we no longer slept together, not even conversed."

Charlotte de Beaune Semblançay, (c 1551–1617)

Charlotte de Sauve has been cited as a source of the information that led to the execution of Marguerite de Valois's lover Joseph Boniface de La Môle & Annibal de Coconnas for conspiracy in 1574. In 1575, Catherine de' Medici, abetted by her son Henry III, instructed Charlotte to seduce the king's brother, her youngest son, François, Duke of Alençon, with the aim of provoking hostility between the 2 young men, so that they would not conspire together in the future.

Nicolas Hilliard, Portrait of Francois de Valois, duc d'Alencon, duc d'Anjou (1576), duc de Brabant

Francois, Duke of Alencon (1554-1584), was the youngest of the 4 sons of King Henri II of France & Catherine de' Medici. In childhood, he contracted smallpox, which left him disfigured. The smallpox also left him weak & caused his growth to be stunted, exposing him to ridicule. He was under 5 feet tall. His lack of interest & proficiency in sports further opened him to derision. The Vicomte de Turenne, who was a childhood friend of Francois', would write in his memoirs, that Francois was disfigured by smallpox saying that his scars were so bad that it appeared that he had 2 noses. But he must have had some charms, as Elizabeth I of England reportedly adored him.

Charlotte subsequently became the duke's mistress, & Navarre & Alençon became rivals over Charlotte. According to Marguerite's memoirs: "Charlotte de Sauve treated both of them (Navarre & Alençon) in such a way that they became extremely jealous of each other, to such a point that they forgot their ambitions, their duties & their plans & thought of nothing but chasing after this woman."

Frans Pourbus (II) (1569–1622) Henry IV of France

Henry of Navarre wrote to a friend: "The court is the strangest I have ever known. We are nearly always ready to cut each other's throat...All the band you know wants my death on account of my love for Monsieur (Alençon) & they have forbidden for the 3rd time my mistress (Charlotte de Sauve) to speak to me. They have such a hold on her, that she does not dare look at me. I am waiting for a minor battle, for they say they will kill me, & I want to be one jump ahead of them." On one occasion, Henry III had Alençon's papers seized & searched for evidence of political plotting but turned up only a declaration of love from Madame de Sauve.

Henry I, Duke of Guise (1550–1588) Catherine de' Medici has struggled for power with the Guise family for years.

In a later intrigue, Charlotte de Sauve became the mistress of Henry I, Duke of Guise (1550–1588), with whom she spent the evening at Blois in December 1588, before his assassination by King Henry III of France the following morning.

Duc d'Épernon Jean Louis de Nogaret de La Valette granted by Henry III of France in 1581

She had other lovers, including the Jean-Louis de Nogaret de la Valette 1st duc d'Épernon (1554-1642), & the Seigneur d'Avrilly. Charlotte de Sauve died in 1617, at about 61 years of age.

Charlotte de Beaune Semblançay, (c 1551–1617)