Friday, August 01, 2014

Question from Lizelle - Illegitimate son of Francis I of France

Hello,

Hope you can help me. I am trying to find sources that can verify if my ancestor Henry De La Rieux (born 1502) is in fact an illegitimate son of Francis I, King of France? Henry's mother is just known as "Daughter De La Rieux" and was apparently a mistress of the King.

Thanks so much!

2 comments:

kb said...

Well Francis the I of France was born in 1494. He would have been 8 in 1502. So I doubt he was fathering anyone.

Foose said...

Francis was sexually precocious, but 1502 does seem a bit ambitious.

I couldn't find any specific record of a Henry de la Rieux. The king was reputed to have one illegitimate son, Nicholas d'Estouteville, but even his paternity is dubious.

There is a famous Breton family called Rieux, which directly or indirectly furnished mistresses to French kings - Francis' mistress Madame de Chateaubriand was married to a man whose mother was a de Rieux (not de la Rieux), and Francis' grandson Henri III established another Rieux lady, known as Renee de Chateauneuf, as his mistress.

I did find an old French book about the court of Francis, which discussed his allegedly numerous mistresses, and the name Mademoiselle de Rieux turned up.

In Barthelemy Haureau's 1853 Francois Ier et sa cour, the author, after citing the major mistresses - Chateaubriand and d'Heilly - states "one must yet mention several ladies of a lesser eminence ... of whom some were their rivals, but their rivals for a day." (This is my rough translation.)

His evidence is a number of rhymed "Estrenes" (gifts?) or little poems by Clement Marot to various ladies, some of whom have definitely been identified as casual mistresses of Francis, like Madame de Canaples, but others that we know nothing about. I'm not sure this is conclusive evidence that every lady Marot wrote a poem to was the king's amie. In England, the poet Skelton wrote poems to various ladies at court during the 1510s, like Jane Seymour's mother, and there's no evidence that each of his subjects was Henry VIII's mistress.

A footnote in an old edition of Marot's poems identifies her as "possibly Claude de Rieux," who married Francois d'Andelot de Coligny, brother of the future Admiral Coligny, in 1547. More grubbing around discovered that this lady was also known as Claudine de Rieux and the marriage took place in 1548.

However, Marot's little "estrenes" to various court ladies date from earlier in Francis' reign (he died in 1547), so I think this identification is incorrect and that his poem was possibly dedicated to an earlier de Rieux.

The poem is hardly a smoking gun, and frankly fairly cryptic:

Damoiselle de Rieux
En maints lieux
L'embonpoint se perd et gate:
Je suis d'avis qu'on se hate
Pour le mieux!


It appears to be a gibe at Mlle de Rieux's weight, but I think you had to be there to understand the reference.