I apologize for the lag time between posts—I’m heavily into researching my next book. Thank God for interlibrary loan! I can hardly find my laptop amidst the piles of library books on my desk. I love reading old histories written in French during the 1920’s and ‘30’s—what they lack in documentation and objectivity they more than make up for in evocativeness and flair. For those of you interested in a modern history of the French court, I highly recommend Renaissance Warrior and Patron: The Reign of Francis I by R. J. Knecht (Cambridge UP, 1994), a very thorough yet readable account of the first half of the century. I’m learning all sorts of fascinating details about events and personalities of the day.
For example, François I built the immense château de Chambord, the 218-room castle reminiscent of those in the illuminations of the Très Riches Heures of the Duc de Berry, from scratch over twenty years at tremendous cost to the crown. Yet the stunning château was inhabited only a few times while the king hunted in nearby forests; the court, as a whole, resided at Chambord only about forty days during François’ entire thirty-year reign. Thanks to his ambitious architectural program, the king and his traveling court had many lodgings to choose from along the route. The château de Fontainebleau, located in prime hunting territory yet closer to Paris, ultimately became François’ preferred seat (and the setting for my new novel). Chambord, which stood in empty splendor during the Renaissance, became a favorite lodging of Louis XIV and is a must-see destination for millions of tourists today.