I did not intend to write more than six posts on La Princesse de Clèves and wrote at the end of post 5 that post 6 would be my final post on a very complex novel. I have erased that brief sentence. When my posts are long, they are cropped.
We are therefore looking at the predictions episode (Part Two). It was included in a post that was shortened.
Henri II told courtiers that an astrologer predicted he would be killed in a duel. Kings do not engage in duels, so this prophecy was dismissed. However, given that Nostradamus was at the court of Henri II in 1555 when his book of prophecies was published, the astrologer is Nostradamus and the prophecy relevant. Henri II did not die in a duel, but he was fatally injured jousting. His opponent Gabriel de Lorges, the 1st Earl of Montgomery (Montgommery in French), the captain of the King’s Scots Guard, threw a lance that penetrated the King’s right eye. A splinter entered the King’s brain. Nothing could be done to save his life. However, Ambroise Paré, Henri II’s doctor is featured in Alexandre Dumas père‘s Les Deux Diane, The Two Dianas, one of whom is Diane de Poitiers, Henri II’s mistress.
Henri II was in a festive mood, so grandeur and magnificence would characterize his celebration of the forthcoming marriages. Both were marriages of state negotiated when the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis was signed, on 3 April 1559, or ensuring the end of a 65-year conflict. Élisabeth de France was to marry Philip II of Spain, and Marguerite, Duchesse de Berry, Elisabeth’s aunt, was to wed Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy. Earlier in her life, Marguerite nearly married Philip II.
The King of France could not be saved, but he was conscious for several days after sustaining his fatal injury. So, fearing that Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy would renege on marrying his sister, Marguerite de Valois, Duchesse de Berry, the dying King ordered that the wedding take place as soon as possible. Marguerite married Emmanuel Philibert on 9 July 1559 and the venue was Saint-Paul Church, not Notre-Dame de Paris. Henri II died the following day, on 10 July 1559, and his death was a terrible loss.
Henri II was forty years old when he died. The new king, however, was fifteen-year-old François II who had recently married Marie Stuart, the Queen-Dauphine. Marie Stuart was raised at the court of France because her marriage was arranged during early chilhood. François II died of a middle-ear infection and an abscess in the brain on 5 December 1560, having reigned since 10 July 1559. Ambroise Paré could not cure him. Marie was disconsolate. She and François had been friends from the moment they met.
Predictions tend to confirm predestination. They suggest that one has no power over one’s destiny. Madame de La Fayette’s novel has been associated with Jansenism. The Princess of Clèves tries to control l’amour fatal by staying away from court. As for the Prince, he is so jealous that he hires a gentleman to follow the Duc de Nemours to a house they had recently built at Coulommiers. (Part Four) The gentleman sees the Duc enter the garden two evenings in a row. He sees the Princess in a pavilion. She is looking at a portrait of a battle in which he fought. She caresses a cane, which so moves him that he sheds a few tears. Was eroticism ever this subtle? Sensing a presence, she enters the house. He visits the following night, but all is dark.
The Prince de Clèves will not listen to the gentleman’s full report, but he believes the Princesse. The Duc de Nemours went to the garden, paradise, at Coulommiers. She sensed a presence and left the Pavilion where she stood, but the Duc de Nemours did not enter the house. She did not spend two nights with the Duc de Nemours. The Prince de Clèves believes his wife, which comforts him. But he lets himself die. Jealousy kills him.
The Prince may feel jealousy. As for Madame the Clèves, the letter (Part Three) made her believe she was betrayed, and she grieved, but was it jealousy? She did not know with whom the Duke had “galanteries” and during the aveu episode (her confession), she refuses to reveal the name of the person she loves. The Duc de Nemours could be harmed by her jealous husband and harming the Duc de Nemours would confirm jealousy, as we know it, and may be otherwise catastrophic. In the letter episode, Madame de Clèves feels betrayed. Her mother was right:
Si vous jugez sur les apparences en ce lieu−ci, répondit madame de Chartres, vous serez souvent trompée : ce qui paraît n’est presque jamais la vérité.
(eBooksgratuits, p. 15)
[If you judge from appearances in a court, replied madam de Chartres, you will often be deceived; truth and appearances seldom go together.]
(Wikisource ) (Part One)
Moreover, the Princess loves a man in whose eyes une galanterie is not illicit. The Princess was not brought up as an aristocrat. The discrepancy between their Weltanschauung, or world view, differs tragically. Would that she had met him before marrying the Prince of Cleves:
Pourquoi faut−il, s’écria−t−elle, que je vous puisse accuser de la mort de monsieur de Clèves ? Que n’ai−je commencé à vous connaître depuis que je suis libre, ou pourquoi ne vous ai−je pas connu devant que d’être engagée ? Pourquoi la destinée nous sépare−t−elle par un obstacle si invincible ?
(eBooksgratuits, p. 79)
[Why was it, cries she, that I can charge you with monsieur de Cleves’s death? Why did not my first acquaintance with you begin since I have been at liberty? or why did not I know you before I was engaged? Why does Fate separate us by such invincible obstacles?]
(Wikisource ) (Part Four)
There is so much more to tell, but I believe I must end this post. When Charles IX ascended the throne, he was ten-years old. So Catherine de’ Medici and the very Catholic Guise were at the helm. The St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre took place in 1572. Marguerite and the King of Navarre had just married. Marguerite, la reine Margot, protected her husband, the future Henri IV, King of Navarre and France.
Henri II forgave the Earl of Montgomery, but Catherine didn’t. He was executed on another charge on 26 June 1574.
- La Princesse de Clèves, 6 (15 January 2021)
Love to everyone 💕
© Micheline Walker
19 January 2021