Saturday, 6 April 2013

La Reine Margot (Marguerite de Valois) and the death of her teenage gigolo lover.

La Reine Marguerite de Valois
by Pieter Paul Rubens

"Love works in miracles every day: such as weakening the strong, and stretching the weak; making fools of the wise, and wise men of fools; favouring the passions, destroying reason, and in a word, turning everything topsy-turvy". - Marguerite de Valois.

"To see the court without Marguerite de Valois, is to see neither France nor the court". - An Italian scholar in La Reine Margot by Alexandre Dumas. 

"She was so hot you could cook an egg on her!" - Free translation from Brantôme, Agrippa d'Aubigné.

It may not be apparent from the portrait by Rubens, but in her younger days Marguerite de Valois, the first wife of King Henry IV, was famed for her beauty and for her sexual exploits, having seduced many of France's aristocrats, including, it was claimed, the Duke de Guise, assassinated in 1588.

Assassination of the Duke de Guise
by an unknown artist.

Marguerite had three passions in life - love poems, young men and sex. Some believe that her adventures were the inspiration for Shakespeare's Love's Labours Lost, and she is the heroine of Alexandre Dumas's novel La Reine Margot.

After her marriage to Henry of Navarre, later Henry IV of France, was annulled, and following a long exile, she was finally permitted to return to Paris. Here she had a succession of young lovers, in April 1606 the most recent being Gabriel Dat de Saint-Julien. Marguerite was 52 years old at the time, her lover an 18 year old teenager.

Marais-Hôtel-de-Sens, in 1606 the Paris residence
of Margaret of Valois.

One day, 5 April 1606, Marguerite was returning to her residence at Hôtel de Sens, and was about to step out of her carriage when her young lover appeared and gallantly offered his assistance. But before she could react, her previous teenage lover, the Count de Vermont, now 20 years old, rushed forward, gun in hand, and put a bullet in the head of the unfortunate Gabriel.

The count took to his heels but was quickly apprehended and confessed that he was jealous of the younger man! But Marguerite was unimpressed. "Kill him, the miserable wretch! Here, take my garters! Strangle the life out of him!" she screamed.

The count was thrown into a dungeon, and three days later was executed by having his head removed at the scene of his passionate crime, and then put on display for public view.

"Tears may be dried up, but the heart - never!" - Marguerite de Valois.

Poster of La Reine Margot film (1954).
Based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas
with Jeanne Moreau in the title role.

The novel was also adapted for film in 1910 and in 1994 with Isabella Adjani as Marguerite.

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