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Cathedrals of Knowledge - Library of the Château d’Anet

What was the secret of the seduction powers of Diane de Poitiers, for whom King Henry II of France restored the Château d’Anet? She was a woman of noble descent and she occupied several important offices in the court of Francis I. As beautiful as she was clever, Diane, the widow of Jean de Brézé, became the future king’s mistress when he was 15 years old and she 34. She kept that position for 25 years until King Henry was killed in a tournament. He died wearing on his armor the colors of Diane—black and white—not those of his wife, Catherine de Medici.

Diane de Poitiers

Diane, it is said, understood hygiene in a time when the concept was very remote. Every day she took a bath of rain water and brushed her teeth. But she also had some bad habits: whatever she drank she strained through a gold filter to preserve her youth, and, according to research done on her corpse in modern times, that is what might have killed her at age 66.

The Château d’Anet was built on the estate that Diane had inherited from her late husband Jean de Brézé. The architect, Philibert de l’Orme, was one of the star architects of his time. He studied in Rome where he was close to the circle of the French ambassador Jean du Bellay. Returning to France he was named architect of the king. With his artistic and scholarly nature, de l’Orme was the incarnation of the Renaissance man. He created, among many other buildings, the Château de Fontainebleau.

The union of love and power was symbolically celebrated throughout the chateau in a logo of intertwining monograms: the H for King Henry ll and a lunar crescent symbolizing Diane. Elegant carved raised wood paneling covers all the surfaces of the intimate library, including the ceiling with its magnificent flat rendition of implied coffers. The inlays in black Belgian marble have different versions of the couple’s logo incised in them and were gilded. Above the fireplace is a sensuous nude portrait of Diane at her dressing table (School of Fontainebleau) flanked by hunting bows carved in the wood paneling alluding to Diane as the Huntress.

King Henry II of France

After the “Dame d’Anet” passed away, her son-in-law Claude de Lorraine, the Duc d’Aumâle built a memorial chapel in her name at the château where her body was placed in 1576, seven years after her death.


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