Royal Mistresses part 3 of 3

If you have not read Part 1, please scroll down and read it first.


Gabrielle d'Estrées (1571-1599)

Gabrielle d'Estrées was royal mistress to Henri IV of France, a monarch often at war during the start of their relationship. Gabrielle, even when pregnant, insisted on living with him in his army camp. She washed his clothes, pounding them with rocks when the soap ran out as well as wrote official dispatches for him. At one point, Henri wrote: "Last evening I found three bullet holes burned into the fabric of my mistresses tent, and begged her to go to her house in Paris, where her life would not be endangered, but she laughed as was deaf to my pleas. . . . She replied that only in my presence is she pleased. I entertain no fears for myself, but daily tremble for her" (43)." When Austrian troops advanced within 500 paces of Gabrielle, she yelled and exhorted Henri's troops to bravery until Henri "ordered her to be slung over a horse and taken to the rear of the camp" (43).

When the news of Spain's surprise attack first broke, Gabrielle left the Paris ball she was at, and went and fetched 50,000 personal gold pieces which she gave to Henri to support his troops. From there, she personally canvased 250,000 euros in donations and pawned her best jewelry.

Off the battlefront in 1509, Gabrielle managed a household with "eighty-three ladies and gentlemen, seventeen crown officials, and more than two hundred servants" (145). She also had great political power, such as joining the council and making laws. Henri declared Gabrielle "Titulary Mistress of His Majesty, the King of France," ordering all dignitaries to visit her after visiting him, and allowing her to communicate on his behalf directly to the Pope.

Henri IV had 56 mistresses throughout his life, but was only ever faithful to Gabrielle. Henri wanted to marry her. Indeed, he pressured her husband, Nicholas d'Amerval to declare impotence as grounds for divorce. (Nicholas had fourteen children with his first wife.)

However, Gabrielle died in childbirth one day before Henri was to wed her, make her queen and make her son his heir. Henri, traveling, was unable to make it to Gabrielle in time. Servants stole rings off her body and her father carted off her royal furniture.

Gabrielle had died with a grimace on her face so that "her mouth twisted around toward the back of her head and, at her death, stuck there as if in concrete" (214). Henri placed her wax effigy in his apartments, visiting it often and having it daily dressed in a new gown.

After Gabrielle's death and his marriage to the Spanish infanta, his carriage overturned in 1606 in a river. Ignoring the Queen, Henri saved César, his son by Gabrielle, and left the Queen to be pulled by her hair to safety by a courtier. Henri raised his six legitimate and eight illegitimate children together, keeping a list in his pocket to help tell them apart.


Henriette-Catherine de Balzac d'Entragues (1579-1663)

After Garbrielle's death, Henri's next mistress, Henriette-Catherine de Balzac d'Entragues, whom he fell in love with during marriage negations with the Spanish infanta, demanded 100,000 crowns before she slept with him. Henri's minister, the duc de Sully, spread the silver equivalent on the floor of the cabinet room in protest. Henriette took the money and also asked for written proof of marriage before she slept with him.

Seven months pregnant, she threatened to stop Henri's Spanish marriage negotiations causing him to giver her titles and a castle as appeasement. When Henriette gave birth to a still-born son (a healthy son would have made her Queen), Henri and Henriette made up.

When Henri's new Queen, Marie de Medici arrived from Spain, she arrived to empty apartments as the king had made no provisions for furniture for her. When introducing Henriette to Marie, Henri said, "This is my mistress who now wishes to be your servant" (78). Marie and Henriette soon became enemies. Henriette mocked the queen while the Queen resented her. When the Queen showed Henri letters from Henriette that mocked him, Henriette convinced Henri they were forgeries designed by the queen. Henriette forgave Henri for 6,000 pounds.

Henri commented on his relationship with his wife: "I receive from my wife neither companionship nor gaiety nor consolation, she either cannot or will not show me any kindness or pleasant conversation, neither will she accommodate herself to my moods and disposition" (80).

Henriette fell out of power in 1608 for "traitorous dealing with the Spanish" (80), and in 1610, after Henri's assassination, Marie exiled Henriette from court until Henriette died unmourned.

Source: "Sex With Kings" by Eleanor Herman (a very interesting book).

1 comment:

Sandy Kessler said...

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