A day in the French countryside
The private chapel of Chateau d’Anet seen from the second floor. Photo: JH.

On Sunday afternoon, everyone reviving from the Grand Bal at the Orangerie at Versailles, the group traveled by cars and buses about forty-five minutes west of Paris to a Fete Champetre, called for 6 PM at the residence of M. et Mme. Jean de Yturbe, the Chateau d’Anet. The chateau, which began construction in 1547 and completed five years later was built by Henri II of France for his mistress Diane de Poitiers.

The gatehouse of Chateau d’Anet

Diane, who was eighteen years older than the king, was a beautiful woman who maintained her beauty well into her fifties. She was so trusted by the king that she wrote many of his official letters for him and even signed them jointly with one name: HenriDiane. Considered the brains behind the throne, she was even put in charge of the royal children’s education. Henri adored her so that she was entrusted with the Crown Jewels of France, and given the chateau at Chenonceaux as well.

None of this appealed to his wife, the Queen, née Catherine de Medici. Although she could do nothing about it, when the king died unexpectedly after a jousting accident, she exacted her revenge. Diane, deprived of visiting the king on his deathbed (despite his calling out for her) was not allowed to attend his funeral and banished from Chenonceaux. She went to live at Chateau d’Anet. Worst things have happened to banished mistresses.

The gatehouse, the triumphal arch, is crowned with a stag and four hounds, with a bronze nymph (said to be Diane) on the tympan, by Benvenuto Cellini.

Diane spent the rest of her days at the famous chateau with its private chapel said to be the greatest Renaissance chapel in France. She died there in 1566 at the age of 66, where she was entombed in a special chapel built for her. During the 17th and 18th Century, the chateau passed into the hands of the Dukes of Vendome, the Duchess du Maine and Duke de Penthievre, some members of the royal family, children of Madame de Maintenon and legitimized by Bourbon kings. It had many famous visitors including Mary, Queen of Scots and Louis XV.

Interiors of what some consider the greatest Renaissance private chapel in France
In the late 18th Century it was occupied by the Prince and Princess de Lamballe. The princess was a close friend of Marie-Antoinette. In 1792, the princess took an ill-advised and fatal trip to Paris to visit her friend and was captured and imprisoned by the terrorists. On her way to the guillotine (in what is now the Place de la Concorde) she was pulled by the mob from her cart, hacked to death, with her head stuck on a pike to be paraded before the window of the queen.

A portrait of Diane
During the Revolution, like so many chateau in France, d’Anet was mostly destroyed by the plundering mobs. In 1823, Louis-Philippe, the restored king, sold the chateau. In 1860, almost a ruin, it was sold again to a wealthy industrialist Ferdinand Moreau who eventually restored a third of it which is now the remaining chateau. M. Yturbe, its present owner, is the great-grandson of Moreau.

The house, built by Philibert de L’Orme, is considered his masterpiece. Tall, wide windows fill it with light. A good part of it is open to visitors between April and October from 2 to 6:30 PM.

The American Friends of Versailles' guests were all guests of the Yturbes on this day. Also visiting and staying there were Prince and Princess Michael of Kent. Princess Michael, as readers of NYSD have read here, has completed her biography of the triangular marriage and affair of Henri, Catherine and Diane, The Serpent and the Moon, to be published by Simon & Schuster in September.

It was another beautiful day when we arrived
at the chateau. It was a sightseeing trip but private so that one felt free to look and touch although the history permeating the place gave everything a reverential and even awesome quality. The French who are affluent live with a grand style that is not apparent anywhere (at least to these eyes) in America. It is not just a question of size but a style that is distinctly old world, rich in history, and in texture.

Sandy de Yturbe
At the top of the staircase, through a large reception room is Diane’s bedroom with an oak headboard carved with the emblems of Diane de Poitiers, the three intertwined crescents, with a figure of Diane as Juno attended by a peacock. There is a tapestry on the wall which is signed “Duchesse de Valentinois” which shows that it is the work of Diane herself. There are two pictures on the wall – Diana asleep and Diana hunting. It was said that when the king rendezvoused with Diane at Anet, they retired to this room and remained there for eight days.

After the tour and the champagne and wine on the terrace everyone moved across the lawn to the big white tent set up by the lake for a three-course buffet followed by a cabaret act of Alex Donner (same cabaret he performs at the Café Carlyle), and after the sun finally went down, fireworks. Another extraordinary day on the program for the American Friends of Versailles.
Francine LeFrak
Daisy and Paul Soros
Barbara Main
Mr. and Mrs. Josh Berman
L. to r.: Pierre-Andre Lablaude and Jean de Yturbe; The grand staircase and the foyer.
L. to r.: The chapel seen through a window in the house; The main reception room.
L. to r.: The sitting room; The library.
L. to r.: The chateau seen through a window from the third story. The red brick building on the right is the tomb of Diane de Poitiers; Joan Tobin arrives to share the view.
Parker Ladd and Kay Krehbiel
Liz Stiffel
Christian Duvernois and Arnold Scaasi
L. to r.: The dressing room; The bed Diane shared with Henri II.
L. to r.: A look in the attic; The scene back down in the dining room.
L. to r.: The tympan by Benvenuto Cellini of Diane and the stag; The tomb of Diane de Poitiers.
Howdy Holmes with his grandmother and mother
Elizabeth Segerstrom
Maria Manetti Farrow, Christian Odasso, Catharine Hamilton, and Becca Thrash
Flowers all around at Chateau d’Anet
L. to r.: Charles-Louis and Helene, the Comte and Comtesse de Mortemart; The host Jean de Yturbe with the celebrated Les Trompes de France.
The guests making their way to dinner
L. to r.: Jean Bond Rafferty and Kiaran Rafferty; Eric de Villeneuve; Juan Edwardo Aranguiz.
Elizabeth Stribling and Dorothy Cherry
DPC and R. Couri Hay
Donna de Varona, Patty Hearst, and Kimberly Rockefeller
The lake in the park
The dinner tent
Anne-Marie and Edouard de Ganay with Sharon Hoge
Exiting the chateau at 10:45 PM.

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June 18, 2004, Volume IV, Number 99
Photographs by Jeff Hirsch and DPC/NYSD.com


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© 2006 David Patrick Columbia & Jeffrey Hirsch/NewYorkSocialDiary.com