Tuesday, August 19, 2008

More on François's Funeral

In the comment trail to the previous post, a reader asked for some further clarifications on François I's death and the use of the effigy. I'm posting these excellent questions and their answers here so everyone is sure to see them.

Dawn Firelight asked:

a) When you say: "François was not buried until May 22, as his successor, Henri II, wanted to combine his father's funeral with those of the king's two sons who had predeceased him and whose bodies had to be transported to Paris." Sorry, I'm a bit confused. Whose sons were those? Henri's or Francois'? What did they die of?

The two sons in question were François's, the dauphin François (1518-36) and Charles d'Orléeans (1522-45). Henri (1519-59), who succeeded François I as king in 1547, was the second of François's three sons. The dauphin (crown prince) François, named after his father and groomed to be king, died suddenly and under rather suspicious circumstances on August 10, 1536 at the age of eighteen. After playing several rounds of jeu de paume, he asked for a drink of water. His secretary, an Italian named Sebastiano de Montecuculli, brought it to him; after drinking it, the dauphin fell ill and died several days later. Montecuculli, accused of being a spy for Emperor Charles V, was convicted of poisoning the dauphin and executed in Lyon. It is now thought that the dauphin died of natural causes, probably tuberculosis; he was buried in the city where he died, Tournon, 500 kilometers from Paris. François I's third son, Charles, died of a mysterious illness in 1545, just before he was to marry the Emperor's niece as part of a peace treaty between France and the Empire. His body had to be moved from Beauvais for the triple funeral.

b) You mentioned that Francois' body was taken to Saint-Cloud. The effigy, you say, was laid out in the great hall. Where was the body laid?

The king's heart and entrails were removed, placed in two caskets and buried at the priory of Haute-Bruyère, a few miles from Rambouillet, where he had died. The embalmed body, placed in a casket, was transported to Saint-Cloud, to the palace of the archbishop of Paris. A contemporary book describing François's funeral, which can be read in the original French here at the British Museum website, tells us that the body was "placed on a bed of scarlet satin covered with rich embroidery in a richly tapestried chamber of the said palace and continously accompanied by his said servants and officials and by 48 religious of four orders...who said incessant masses, vigils, rosaries and other prayers. It stayed in this state until the hall next to the chamber was prepared and honorably decorated to receive it." That hall is the one I described in my last post, where the effigy was displayed and meals held in great ceremony for eleven days. Interestingly, the book emphasizes that the king's body remained in the adjoining room the entire time the meals were held, reminding the reader that the effigy was an extension of the king's royal person and presence. When the eleven days were up, the effigy was removed, the hall redecorated in black, and the casket and biere moved from the chamber into the hall for aspersion with holy water by visitors. The effigy of the king, joined by effigies of his two sons, was carried in solemn procession on a litter through Paris to Notre Dame. The next day the litters were taken to Saint Denis, where the effigies were removed and the coffins placed in a vault.

c) What was the effigy made of? Was it common practice to make effigies of the dead?

It was common practice to make effigies of royalty, I believe. As soon as François died, the court artist, François Clouet, was called to his bedside to make a cast of the king's face and hands. The casts were made of plaster and painted; the body of the effigy was stuffed with straw and richly clothed. The festival book assures us that the face was "faict apres le vif & naturel," made from life; it goes into great detail describing the clothing that adorned it: a scarlet satin undershirt, a tunic of azure satin embroidered with fleur de lys, a great royal coat of purple satin line with ermine, the collar of the Order of Saint Michael, and a red bonnet topped with a jeweled imperial crown. Clouet made two sets of hands for the effigy. The first set, clasped in prayer, were used on the effigy that lay in state in the hall at Saint-Cloud; these hands were removed and replaced with a hand holding the scepter and one holding the main de justice, a scepter topped with a hand opened in benediction, when the effigy was paraded through Paris.

If you read French, be sure to visit the British museum webite to read the source text in all its fascinating detail. If you don't, Robert Knecht incorporates many of the details in his description of the funeral ceremony (The French Renaissance Court, pages 120-23).

Many thanks to Dawn Firelight for her questions and another reader for reminding me of the festival book website.


Catherine Delors said...

Thank you for all this amazing detail, Julianne. A bit gory, and somewhat reminiscent of Ancient Egypt. A reminder of the sacred nature of the French monarchy.

Chad Aaron Sayban said...

The detail of your answers was fantastic. Thank you so much.

Tess said...

Thanks for adding more details :) All very fascinating!! When I have a chance, I'll go to the Brit museum site and read the original docs!

Anonymous said...

Wow. That said, I have to have Chels read this! Not sure if she learned about this in ap euro, but either way, I bet she'd love to learn more! Thanks for the fun-facts about our favorite french! Renee

Dawn Firelight said...

Thanks for your answers, Julianne! This is the first time I've read about funeral rites in the Renaissance. As Catherine above said, it reminds me of Ancient Egypt. I didn't know Europeans had such elaborate rituals too. I also didn't know they made effigies. Very interesting stuff indeed.

Thanks for clearing up the bit with the king's sons. Reading about them just reminded me how glad I am to be a non-royal living in the age of antibiotics! :)

Julianne Douglas said...

I'm glad everyone enjoyed these posts. I found the subject fascinating, myself. I need to find out more about the main de justice. My husband can't get over how odd it looks!

And speaking of ancient Egypt, I should soon be receiving an advanced copy of Michelle Moran's new book, The Heretic Queen, scheduled for release in September. I'll be doing a review and an interview with Michelle here on the blog.