|June 18, 2004, Volume IV, Number 99 — 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.
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.
|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
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.
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.