Diane de Poitiers was the official mistress of King Henry II and the rival and best enemy of Catherine de Medici.
Henri II’s preceptor
Her name is Diane de Poitiers. Henri knew her very young, probably from a very young age. He was barely 11 years old when this 31-year-old lady-in-waiting was assigned to him as preceptor. She is going to educate her. Very quickly, she becomes his closest adviser and his best friend. And even more. When he took part in a royal tournament in 1530, it was in front of Diana that the little boy bowed his spear and his colors to dedicate his fight to her in the chivalrous tradition. Over the years, the ties uniting Diane to Henri continue to strengthen. Diane marries at the age of fifteen, Louis de Brézé, grandson of Charles VII. He is nearly forty years her senior. From this marriage were born two daughters.
She was 20 years older than the king
On the death of her husband, in 1531, Diane de Poitiers adopted clothes in the color of widows, black and white edged in gold and would never leave them, but she would take over from her husband and prove to be a formidable businesswoman. It was at this time that King Henry made her his titular mistress, although she was 20 years older than him. She exerts a great influence on the king, who sincerely loves her. During her reign (1547-1559), she received a large number of gifts and honors as well as the title of Duchess of Valentinois. In reality they have already seen and kissed. It was she who introduced him to the pleasures of the flesh when he was only 17 years old… and she was 36 !
A castle as a gift
Neither the arrival of Catherine de Medici within this tandem nor the accession of Henri to the throne will be enough to change things. Henri and Diane love each other. She wields considerable influence over him, to the point that some consider her his informal prime minister. For her, the king is ready for anything, covering her with jewels, naming her duchess and giving her the superb Château de Chenonceau as a gift. And, in its shadow, Catherine suffers. Perhaps she suffers all the more because the king, out of delicacy, does everything to conceal his extra-marital relationship… King Henry II is a boy of barely 20 years old, tall, athletic, touchy, much loved by his young wife who ruminates in silence on the humiliation of being preferred to this mistress in the flower of her age.
The revenge of Catherine de Medici
The queen would like to hate this rival who has outwitted her since the first hour. But she can’t, because she owes him too much ! Indeed, in the first years of their marriage, Henri and Catherine were unable to have children. Failing to give her husband an heir, Catherine was on the verge of being divorced. She owed her salvation only to an unexpected support: that of Diane de Poitiers! It was she who encouraged Henry to persevere for more than ten years, until the birth of the first royal child in 1544. In short, the queen is forced to put up with the presence of her best enemy with her husband. But Catherine de Medici will have her revenge, when, on January 19, 1544, she gives birth to a first child (the future François II) and hastens to give nine others to the king, in less than twelve years!