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Diane de Poitiers

Diane de PoitiersBorn: 3-Sep-1499
Birthplace: Saint-Vallier, Drôme, France
Died: 22-Apr-1566
Location of death: Anet, France
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Anet Castle, Anet, France

Gender: Female
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Aristocrat

Nationality: France
Executive summary: Mistress of Henri II

Diane de Poitiers, Duchess of Valentinois, and mistress of Henri II of France, was the daughter of Jean de Poitiers, seigneur de St. Vallier, who came of an old family of Dauphiné. In 1515 she married Louis de Brézé, grand seneschal of Normandy, by whom she had two daughters. She became a widow in 1533, but soon replaced her husband by a more illustrious lover, the king's second son, Henri, who became dauphin in 1536. Although he was ten years younger than Diane, she inspired the young prince with a profound passion, which lasted until his death. The accession of Henri II in 1547 was also the accession of Diane: she was virtual queen, while Henri's lawful wife, Catherine de Medici, lived in comparative obscurity. The part Diane played, however, must not be exaggerated. More rapacious than ambitious, she concerned herself little with government, but devoted her energies chiefly to augmenting her income, and providing for her family and friends. Henri was the most prodigal of lovers, and gave her all rights over the Duchy of Valentinois. Although she showed great tact in her dealings with the queen, Catherine drove her from the court after Henri's death, and forced her to restore the crown jewels and to accept Chaumont in exchange for Chenonceaux. Diane retired to her château at Anet, where she died in 1566.

Several historians relate that she had been the mistress of Francis I before she became the dauphin's mistress, and that she gave herself to the king in order to obtain the pardon of her father, who had been condemned to death as an accomplice of the constable de Bourbon. This rumor, however, has no serious foundation. Men vied with each other in celebrating Diane's beauty, which, if we may judge from her portraits, has been slightly exaggerated. She was a healthy, vigorous woman, and, by dint of great pains, succeeded in retaining her beauty late into life. It is said that even on the coldest mornings she would wash her face with well water. Diane was a patroness of the arts. She entrusted to Philibert de l'Orme the building of her château at Anet, and it was for her that Jean Goujon executed his masterpiece, the statue of Diana, now in the Louvre.

Father: Jean de Poitiers
Husband: Louis de Brézé (m. 1515, d. 1533, two daughters)

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