February 9, 2015

February 9, 1450: Agnes Sorel Dies

Detail of Madonna Surrounded by
Seraphim and Cherubim by Jean Fouquet.
The model is believed to have been
Agnes Sorel
Agnes Sorel was a young, beautiful woman when she first met Charles VII of France, and she quickly enchanted him. So much so that she became his mistress, the first royal mistress ever to be officially recognized.

Agnes bore the King three children, and was pregnant with the fourth when she suddenly died. Her death, at the time, was attributed to dysentery, but it is now believed that she died of mercury poisoning, a death that was not unusual in a time when mercury was used for everything from cosmetics to medicine.

Some believe that she may have been deliberately poisoned -- either by Charles son, the future King Louis XI, or by the nobleman and minister Jacques Coeur. Since she had a great deal of influence with the King, and was wildly resented, it's not really such a far-fetched idea.

The king was desolated by her loss and built two tombs, one for her heart and one for her body. But life goes on, and Charles quickly replaced her with a new mistress, Antoinette Maignelais, a beautiful young cousin of Agnes's who somewhat resembled her.

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