Sunday, May 30, 2010

Author's Note: A Favorite of the Queen

Jean Plaidy says:

In writing of what is undoubtedly one of history's most puzzling relationships, it is perhaps advisable to add a few remarks in order to justify the conclusions to which I have come. This is particularly the case with regard to the mysterious death of Amy Robsart.

All that happened on that Sunday morning at Cumnor Place will never be known. Was Amy's death due to accident, suicide, or murder? After studying available records my verdict cannot be anything but murder.

Consider the facts: The Queen was being pressed by her ministers to marry. She could not bear to forgo the attentions of Robert Dudley, and Robert could not give up the hope of sharing the throne. Thus Robert's wife Amy stood in the way of the two ruthless personalities. The Queen, in politics the soul of caution, had always been reckless in love. Scandal was circulating throughout the country concerning the relationship of Elizabeth and Robert Dudley. People remembered Thomas Seymour. Before Amy died there was a strong rumor that her death was being planned; and when it was said that Amy was suffering from a fatal malady, many believed that to be a false rumor set in motion to explain the death which was to follow. So persistent were the rumors, that a physician refused to attend Amy, fearing to be accused of administering poison should she die. This was the state of affairs when her minister, Cecil, returning from Edinburgh, found the Queen strained and nervous, and, to his astonishment, heard from her lips that Amy would soon be dead. Cecil, appalled, hurried from the Queen, and was so distraught that, coming face to face with the Spanish ambassador, he could not keep his suspicions to himself. "The Queen and Lord Robert Dudley are scheming to put Lord Robert's wife to death!" is what he said--according to the Spanish ambassador. And a few hours later Amy was found dead.

Why should the Spanish ambassador have written those revealing dispatched if the contents were untrue? Spain was no enemy of Robert's at that time, and Robert had won Philip's approval at St. Quentin.

An accident to Amy resulting in her death at such a time so convenient to Elizabeth and Robert is surely too incredible a coincidence to be accepted.

As for the suggestion of suicide, if Amy had wished to kill herself would she have chosen a method which, she must have known, might not result in death, but merely add acute pain and misery to her remaining years? Would any woman destroy herself in such a painful way in order to avoid being murdered?

Everything points to murder, apart from Amy's strange conduct on that Sunday morning in sending all her servants to the Fair. Why did she--in perpetual fear of murderers--clear the house of all the servants on that day which was to prove so tragic to her?

I have looked to her maid Pinto for the explanation, because from her first came the suggestion of suicide. It seemed that this suggestion came simply and unwittingly from Amy's maid; but was Pinto such a simpleton? What if the suggestion were not rung from her, but deliberately given? Might she not have known the true reason why the house was deserted on that Sunday morning? Let us consider what a woman would do when the whole country was hinting that she was about to be murdered. How would a devoted maid behave? As for my interpretation of Pinto's feelings for Robert, it must be remembered that, during his two and a half years' exile, he had lived in Norfolk and would have come into continual contact with Pinto; and if we can discover little of Pinto's character, we know much of Robert's.

It is the novelist's task to present a convincing story and, when the characters actually lived, to adhere to facts obtained by research, only diverging from them with good reason, e.g., when they are unknown, and then only making careful and responsible deductions as an aid to the completion of the story. Therefore I offer my views of what happened at Cumnor Place in the summer of 1560.

A Favorite of the Queen was also published as Gay Lord Robert and Lord Robert.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Plaidy Ladies in Louis The Well Beloved...

Here are are a few special Plaidy ladies in Louis XV’s life.  These can all be found in Louis The Well Beloved, Jean Plaidy   (see my review here).
All of these dames affected the King's life in particular ways.  I loved that Plaidy includes them all with so much detail revealing their very personal nature and relationship with the king. 
Here they are:
Duchesse de Ventadour

The very first love of Louis’ life was la Duchesse de Ventadour. This lady who gave herself completely to the upbringing, educating and raising of baby Louis, was in fact his governess.  La Duchesse de Ventadour was like his mother for the young king, since she took over his charge from the moment his whole family died (one after the other parcticallly)...The King would remember no other ‘Maman’ in his life than the adoring Duchesse de Ventadour. One can only imagine if Louis would have ever survived the disease that afflicted his whole family, had it not been for Maman Ventadour.  After seeing what little use the doctors had been to the dauphine, dauphin and older brother of the king- the governess would not let any of these men near the little guy.  She nursed him back to health herself.  What a grand lady indeed.
 Marie Victoire, Comtesse de Toulouse
 Another adoring female in Louis XV’s life was Marie Victoire, Comtesse de Toulouse, the only family member to be closest to Louis after the death of his family.  The Comtesse was married twice and both times to a descendant  of  Madame de Montespan (mistress of Louis’ great-grandfather, Louis XIV)...First to Montespan’s grandson and subsequently, to her son (sired by Louis XIV- such an intricate connection- ahh those royals!).  So, back to her relationship with Louis; The Comtesse de Toulouse lived in Versailles and ws very close to Louis- like a mother to him.  She never needed to make appointments to see the King and was allowed to attend many of his meetings.  The King also shared with her his private documents, news and private affairs. 
Infanta Mariana of Spain
 She was brought to France as Louis’ betrothed when she was just a little girl of 3 and Louis was but eleven.  Needless to say, the young king was NOT interested in this puny little child.  The Infanta however charmed everyone with her beauty and innocence.  She was infatuated by the King and hung on every moment hoping he would utter even just one word to her.  Sadly, when she was sent back to her country (the political arrangement having changed route), she was devastated (and Louis honestly could not care less).  But, life goes on and the Infanta later married Joseph I of Portugal.
 Madame de Prie ( Jeanne Agnès Berthelot de Pléneuf
The infamous Madame de Prie (read my previous post on her here), needed to find a suitable wife for Louis- one that would not jeopardize her own powers at court...The best possible choice was:
Marie Leszczyńska
 Marie Leszczyńska, was the daughter of the exiled King Stanislaw of Poland.  She was by no means pretty, nor exceptionally bright, she was older than Louis by at least 5 years; her family did not have any power politically; practically a non-candidate in the eyes of France.  So why her? Basically, Marie the Dauphine was a threat to no one(and that suited Madame de Prie just fine). But, lo and behold, Louis fell madly in love with her! For ahile they lived a life of marital bliss…until the Queen became overly religious to the point of abstaining from her marital duties on every Saint’s day on the calendar.  What lent to this diminishing and downright avoidance of ‘love’ can certainly be attributed to the almost yearly pregnancies (they had 12 children together!)- And as mentioned in a previous post; Louis’ voracious and lusty appetite was insatiable…basically, the Queen was exhausted by him.
Enter the Mistresses:
Now, the King was not at the time a filanderer of any sort.  Louis, although insatiable, was also very loyal.  There had never really been time to initiate the King in the ways of ‘Courtly Love’...but once it was made known that the King had had enough of the Queen’s refusals...the initiation quickly took place.
Louis was practically thrown into the arms of one of the Nesle sisters (from this family, there would be more than one...).  Enter the very willing; yet very shy...
Louise Julie de Mailly
Louise Julie de Mailly, Comtesse de Mailly soon became Louis’ inseparable partner.  She was sweet, gentle and never demanding.  In fact, the first time she ever met the King, she became competlely overwhelmed and could barely speak to him. Their meeting was a fiasco.  When finally they were reunited (by the powers who put this duo together), de Mailly showed less resistance, and much more willingness- this in itself paved the way for Louis to satiate his desires.  Together they enjoyed a rather peaceful time...too peaceful perhaps; for the moment de Mailly’s younger sister, Pauline Felicite, demanded that she be brought to court, everything changed. Ousted, yet by another sister-mistress, the subdued Comtesse de Mailly was expulsed from court and ended up in a convent.
Pauline Felicite de Mailly
Pauline Felicite de Mailly, Comtesse de Ventimille, soon ousted her own sister to become the King’s favourite.  She caught his attention through her wit.  Outspoken to the max, the King was in awe with her- and madly in love to boot.  Never had he encountered such a feisty lady.  She was fun, strong, smart and could hold her own against any man.  A sweetheart, though, she was not.  Ruthless in her ways, she liked to dabble in the King’s politics and this did not please the people.  Comtesse de Ventimille died when giving birth to Louis’ son.  Louis mourned her to no end.  He was inconsolable...until of course, he met yet another Nesle sister:
Marianne de Mailly, Duchesse de Charteroux

This sister was the most beautiful.  Her trick to win the King’s heart was her approach in consoling Louis in the death of her sister- his deceased mistress.  She conned him into believing that they shared a love for Ventimille. Eventually, this so-called friendly relationship, switched gears to end up in, where else but; the King’s bed.  La Duchesse de Charteroux appeased the King’s sensuality while invigorating his sense of battle.  Off to war went the King, pushed by the Duchess’s behind- the- scenes politics.  It was only when the King became suddenly ill that all his guilt broke loose.  To absolve himself of all sins, repentance was necessary – the mistress had to go.  When the people heard this, they were ecstatic! But on her way out, the Duchess was nearly mauled to death.  This is not what killed her; death became her suddenly not too long after leaving the king.  There is some speculation that the King did spend some time forgetting her by being entertained by yet another of the sisters (the last one, thankfully), but not for long.  Madame de Lauragais was but a mere note in passing for the King already had his eye on the notorious...
Jeanne Antoinette Poisson: Madame de Pompadour

What a beauty!  At the age of nine, a gypsy predicted that she would one day become the King’s Mistress.  With that foretelling, her mother made it her purpose in life to have the young Jeanne Antoinette receive the highest education and training in becoming the perfect young lady fit for a king.  That she became, and the King quickly took notice of her.  Although he had once stayed as a guest at her chateau a while back while on a hunting trip(really- that was the extent of that unexpected visit), they met again much later during a masked ball given at the Court. Louis was immediately enthralled by her.  She left her husband (after all, she only got married because it was proper formality that a King’s mistress be married-imagine!) to move in at Court.  There she was primed and propped for etiquette and the ways of the Court.  Never leaving his side, Madame de Pompadour delighted and entertained the King in every way.  Could this enchantress keep up with the King’s insatiable lust?  How long would her grasp hold onto Louis XV?
Enough of these Plaidy Ladies for now...We will see more in the sequel:  The Road to Compiegne.
Stay Tuned!