Friday, August 01, 2014

Question from Lizelle - Illegitimate son of Francis I of France


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!


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.

Unknown said...

The answer is easy

Check the LDS website at

Francis I De Valois-King of France was indeed Henry De La Rue/Rieux/Roux 's father.

Hendrik Jansen van Rensburg

Unknown said...

It's in my tree tree fascinates me

Anonymous said...

For all these things about this story to be true Bertolet La Roux has to be Henry III. If you reverse the last digits of Bertolet La Roux's birth and death dates it matches Henry III. There also is a story about Renee de La Rieux claiming to have been with child by the Prince of Conde. Which he denied loudly. However,he was first prince of the blood which may also indicate that he was known to have about the same level of royal blood as Francis I.

Unknown said...

Henri de la Rieux is my 14th great-grandfather. I wish there was some way to definitively answer the question of his parentage.
I'm going to France in December. Does anyone know if there are any resources there to look for?

Marty Watson said...

This is such an interesting branch of my tree. I hope you’re able to find some answers in France, my long lost cousin.

Sweetnurse said...

Did you find any further info? I have him in my ancestry as my 13 th Great Grandfather: illegitimate son of King Francis 1 of France and DAU ? DE LARIEUX. (Is DAU-daughter? )

William Spencer said...

In my ancestry, also, is an illegitimate son of Francis I. I have a (partial) family tree from my French grandmother. Her family name was Pomes-Barrere. If you leave an email address here, I can share a scan of that family tree. I have been unable to definitively determine the name of that illegitimate son. I do recall my mother tellimng me there were a number of illegimate children. The ones he recognized were given titles, my mum's family included.

Anonymous said...

Ancestry is far from being a primary source.

William Spencer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William Spencer said...

Anonymous, by "ancestry" I meant, my forebaers (not Thought I should clarify :)

Anonymous said...

I also show this in my family tree please let me know if there are updates

William Spencer said...

Hello Anonymous,
I'd be very interested in exchanging family tree info (I have a copy of a hand-written tree created by my French great-grandmother), if you also have one. PLs contact me on I am interested in the names of the 3-4 generations after Francis I.

Deborah Cutler Sbarra said...

Hello William Spencer, Henri is also in my family tree and would love to share information but your email address isn't working for some reason. Is it correct in your post? My current email is

Deborah Cutler Sbarra