maîtresse-en-titre

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Pompadour

Here we have Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, also known as Madame de Pompadour!  (1721-1764). She was the chief mistress of Louis XV from 1745 until she died at the age of 42.

Her education was well-rounded in the arts. She was taught her to sing, act, recite plays, and play instruments by private tutors. At the age of 19 she was married to her legal guardian’s nephew- Charles-Guillaume le Normant d’Etoilles. They had two children.

She quickly became a popular socialite known for her fashion sense and artsy-ish gatherings of philosophers, including Voltaire.

Here’s a quick timeline of what happened next:

February 1745: She attends a royal masked ball at the Palace of Versailles

March 1745: She is the King’s mistress

May 1745: She is officially separated from her husband.

June 1745: The king gives her en estate, Marquista of Pompadour and her own coat of arms as well as the official title of Marquise de Pompadour.

September 1745: She is formally introduced at court.

DAMN she works quickly.

Her road was not an easy one. She was not very popular, but her accomplishments to the arts in France is legendary. She was responsible for factories that produced fine porcelain- and sought out new techniques, she planned large scale building projects, supported artists, sculptors and painters, and patronized the most trend-forward shops to encourage their creativity.

She died from tuberculosis in 1764. The King was devastated by the loss.

 

 

Gold Digger

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I’ve profiled this lovely mistress before- but decided to repaint.

Diane de Poitiers (1499-1566) is one of the more powerful mistresses in France’s history. She was the courtier of not only Francis I but also his son Henry II. She is said to have been extraordinarily beautiful- well into her 50’s with golden hair and porcelain skin.

Diane’s attempts to stay young and beautiful for the young King Henry II (she was 20 years his senior) included drinkable gold. This was a common practice for women during the Renaissance as gold was thought to be the elixir of life as well as hold aphrodisiac properties.

Even more fascinating is the fact that her remains were exhumed and examined in 2009- it was determined that her bones and hair were very fragile and she had severe anemia- both signs of gold poisoning. On top of that– a lock of hair preserved at the Chateau d’Anet was tested, it contained 500 times the normal level of gold!

Staying young killed her.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go get more anti-aging cream, expensive hair conditioner, and a touch of botox for the wrinkle in my forehead.

Prints Available!

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting with some of my fellow illustrators for coffee. It’s really humbling to be considered part of this talented group. We discussed the market, techniques, current projects, etc. What I get from these meetings is: motivation, inspiration, and of course- camaraderie.

One of the ideas we talked about was to sell prints on Society 6. So I’ve set up a shop where History Witch followers can purchase artwork. If you have a favorite and it’s not in the shop- just send me a message! I’d be happy to add anything!

http://society6.com/thehistorywitch

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You can see some of my colleagues’ (friends’) work here:

Jannie Ho: http://www.chickengirldesign.com

Ed Shems: http://edfredned.com

Gary Lacoste: http://www.garylacoste.com

Lauren Scheuer: http://laurenscheuer.com

Dan Moynihan: http://www.danmoynihan.com

Scott Bakal: http://www.scottbakal.com

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Dame de Beauté

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AgnesSorel

Agnes Sorel (1422-1450) was the official mistress of Charles VII of France. And the first to be recognized as such in the french courts.

She was only 20 when first introduced to the King. She was working as a maid of honour (a junior attendant to a Queen or Royal Household) to one of Charles’ consorts- Isabella, Duchess of Lorraine. After that, she was to serve as the lady-in-waiting (a personal assistant) for Marie d’Anjou,   Charles’ wife.

She had tremendous influence over the king, and extravagant taste- these traits did not win her favor at court.

She gave birth to three of the King’s daughters: Marie de Valois, Charlotte de Valois and Jeanne de Valois. At the age of 28, a pregnant Agnes joined the King in Jumieges. It was there she became very ill and died giving birth to a son. With so many powerful enemies, many have speculated she was deliberately poisoned.

In 2005, her reamins were exhumed and they determined she died of Mercury poisoning, but there was no indication as to whether or not it was murder.

To be said in an overly DRAMATIC voice…

Heartbroken over the loss of his 28 year old beauty, he quickly replaced her with Agnes’ cousin- Antoinette Maignelais. Oh Mon Dieu!

(back of hand to forehead in distress.)

If you would like to learn more about the seedy stories of Royal Mistresses, I highly recommend this book: http://tinyurl.com/mnepj2y

Hawker of Herring.

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NellGwynn

A month of mistresses continues…

Eleanor “Nell” Gwynn (1650-1687)

Actress, comedienne, orange-seller, and Mistress to King Charles II!

Her early life is somewhat sketchy as different sources say different things about who her parents were and where she was born. There are some that say she had many jobs as a child including bawdyhouse (brothel) servant, a street vendor for herring and turnips (my stomach just turned) cinder-girl, orange-girl, etc. Needless to say, her story has a rags-to-riches/cinderella-esque plot.

When Charles II was restored to the throne, the arts flourished. Around that time, Nell attended a school for young actors. Her first performance was in a drama performed in March of 1665. However, comedy and satire was more her thing. She quickly became a star and became the mistress of several admirers.

Her affair with Charles began in 1668. It was a public relationship and because of the publicity, her performances drew larger, and very curious, crowds.

The affair lasted a lot longer than most expected and Charles made a deathbed wish for his Nelly to be well cared for after he was gone. His brother, James II, honored his brother’s wishes and gave Nell a pension, paid off her debt, and paid off her mortgage (holy awesome brother-in-law) but he also pressured Nell to convert to Roman Catholicism. She did not.

In 1687 she suffered from 2 separate strokes and died. She had two sons with the King: Charles Beauclerk, 1st Duke of St. Albans and James Beauclerk.

Aside from the story that she slipped laxatives into her rival’s tea, my favorite quip about Nell Gwynn is something that appeared in the memoirs of Comte de Gramont…

Nell Gwynn was one day passing through the streets of Oxford, in her coach, when the mob mistaking her for her rival, the Duchess of Portsmouth, commenced hooting and loading her with every opprobrious epithet. Putting her head out of the coach window, “Good people”, she said, smiling, “you are mistaken; I am the Protestant whore.”

atta girl.

Duchesse de Beaufort

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More mistresses…

Gabrielle d’Estrées (1573 – 1599) was the official mistress of Henry IV. Although he was married to Marguerite de Valois, Gabrielle and Henry had a very public relationship. She was fiercely loyal to her King and accompanied him almost everywhere.

They had five children (the last being stillborn) and were very affectionate. The King recognized and legitimized all of their children born out of wedlock. This was almost unheard of at the time. He also considered Gabrielle to be an important diplomat- even gave her a seat on his council. Again- unheard of!

French Aristocracy did not approve of the affair- and nicknamed her “la duchesse d’Ordure” (the Duchess of filth.) Despite their opinion, Henry eventually asked Pope Clement VIII for an annulment so that he could be free to marry the lovely Gabrielle. In preparation, he bestowed upon her his coronation ring- but it was only days later that she suffered from complications during pregnancy, gave birth to a stillborn son, and then died.

There is a very famous painting currently at the Louvre that depicts Gabrielle and one of her sisters. The artist has never been identified. You can read about it here:

http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/gabrielle-destrees-and-one-her-sisters

 

Beauty’s Worth

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A month of mistresses continues…

Marion Davies (1897-1961)

Marion, an accomplished actress, is unfortunately not remembered for her film career- but for being the mistress of William Randolph Hearst. If any of you have ever been to Hearst Castle in California, you’d see that she left her mark on the property. Where she threw lavish parties and hosted some fairly elite guests.

She is quoted as saying:

“God, I’d give everything I have to marry that silly old man. Not for the money and security—he’s given me more than I’ll ever need. Not because he’s such cozy company, either. Most times, when he starts jawing, he bores me stiff. And certainly not because he’s so wonderful behind the barn. Why, I could find a million better lays any Wednesday. No, you know what he gives me, sugar? He gives me the feeling I’m worth something to him. A whole lot of what we have, or don’t have, I don’t like. He’s got a wife who’ll never give him a divorce. She knows about me, but it’s still understood that when she decides to go to the ranch for a week or a weekend, I’ve got to vamoose. And he snores, and he can be petty, and has sons about as old as me. But he’s kind and he’s good to me, and I’d never walk out on him.”

The two never married, mainly because Hearst’s wife, Millicent, refused to grant him a divorce (and probably because it would cost a FORTUNE to get her to settle.) Marion did eventually marry Horace Brown about 3 months after Hearst died.

As if the very public affair wasn’t enough- Marion is also tied to two other scandals. There were claims that Patricia Lake (a socialite and actress) was the daughter of Davies and Hearst- but neither confirmed this. And then there was the Ince incident where film producer Thomas Ince died on Hearst’s yacht- Davies was on board at the time, along with Charlie Chaplin and other actors and actresses. The paperwork says he died of a heart condition, but others think that a very jealous Hearst played a hand in his demise.

You can read more about the Ince Scandal here: http://www.snopes.com/movies/other/ince.asp

To take a peek at Hearst Castle (I HIGHLY recommend a visit) go here: http://hearstcastle.org/

La Petite Reine

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So for the hot month of August (where is the summer going?!?!) I will be focusing on Mistresses!

Odette de Champdivers (1390-1425) was the mistress of Charles VI of France.

Charles was married to Queen Isabeau of Bavaria. This was a tumultuous relationship to say the least- due to Charles’ (possible) Schizophrenia, Isabeau became the victim of terrible tirades and beatings. So much so, she allowed the King to take on a mistress. Odette was only 17 when she began an approved affair with the King.

The two had a very close relationship- he nicknamed her “La Petite Reine” or “the little queen”. They had one daughter and named her Marguerite (who was eventually provided for by her half-brother Charles VII of France).

It is said that Odette was sweet and patient to the very sick King (he suffered from paranoid delusions and once believed he was made of glass) and he showered her with lavish gifts and estates. To past the time during his episodes, Odette would entertain the King by playing cards (she is actually credited for introducing playing cards in France.)

After his death, Odette and Marguerite lost their royal pension and were reduced to poverty. She earned some money as a spy, but ultimately died with nothing.

Brave Mrs. Lincoln

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Closing out this month’s focus on First Ladies…

Mary Todd Lincoln was born in Lexington, KY on Dec. 13, 1818. She was well educated, fluent in french, and came from a very large and wealthy family.

Despite her “good” upbringing- after marrying Abraham in 1842, she withstood terrible hardships, harsh criticism, and great loss.

She was said to have been very outspoken on political matters, which was unusual for the times- but even better- she was extremely vocal on her views against slavery despite her childhood in which her family owned over 200 slaves.

Never having got over the loss of 2 of her sons, the assassination of her husband about did her in. She suffered from severe depression and remained at the White House for 40 days after his death. She is quoted as saying “The last day he lived was the happiest of his life.” Due to her overwhelming grief, she did not attend the funeral procession.

Her Children:

Robert Todd Lincoln (1843-1926) became a lawyer.

Edward Baker Lincoln (1846-1850) died from tuberculosis

William “Willie” Wallace Lincoln (1850-1862) died of Typhoid Fever

Thomas Lincoln (1853-1871) died of pneumonia.

Only Robert outlived his mother- who died in 1882.

in good Grace.

IMGFirst Ladies continues…

Grace Anna Goodhue Coolidge (1879-1957) married Calvin Coolidge in 1905. She served as First Lady from August 2, 1923 through March 4, 1929.

She was born in Burlington, VT and graduated from UVM. She taught at the Clarke School for the Deaf in Northhampton, MA.

When watering flowers outside the school one day- she burst out laughing when she happened to see Calvin shaving in front of a mirror in nothing but his long underwear and a hat. They officially met shortly after and quickly fell in love.

She is described as being an outgoing, vivacious woman who shined as White House hostess. Grace was extremely popular, fashionable and generous with her time. In 1931 she was voted one of America’s twelve greatest living women by the National Institute of Social Sciences. She continued to work with the deaf throughout her life and was active with the Red Cross.

She is buried next to President Coolidge in Plymouth, Vermont.

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