What do Countess Louise, Astrology, and January 1 have in common? Readers of the Journal de Louise de Savoye, duchesse d’Angoulesme, d’Anjou et de Valois will know the answer. For the rest of you, let me explain.
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Three crucial events
In the 20 years between 1496 to 1515, three crucial events in Countess Louise’s life occurred on 1 January. She records them in her short (approximately 20 pages) Journal.
If you read the Journal, you will discover that the journal is organized by date and covers the period from 1508 to 1522 primarily. For births, and sometimes deaths, she also records the hour and minute. Countess Louise dictated the contents over a short period after the events that she included. Although we don’t know exactly when she wrote it, it was obviously after 1522. When and why did she write it?
By examining its contents, I, like most people, believe she wanted to have an astrologer build an astrological chart. Whose chart? We do not know for sure. Perhaps her own. But most probably that of her adored son, François the king. From the moment of Francois’s birth, Countess Louise had one goal for him: that he should be king.
And that brings us to the crucial events of January 1. The first occurred on 12 January 1496. François’s father, Count Charles d’Angoulême, on his way to the court of King Charles VIII and Queen Anne to attend the funeral of their son the dauphin, caught a cold and died, probably of pneumonia. In her Journal, Louise reported it this way: ‘On the first day of January of the year 1496, I lost my husband.’
With the death of the dauphin, Charles had become second in line to the throne of France, after his cousin Louis d’Orléans. His death left François second in line.
In 1498, to the surprise of most of Europe, Louis d’Orléans became king as King Louis XII. François took one step closer to the throne and became dauphin. Despite the queen’s many pregnancies, Anne and Louis had no sons. So, twenty years later, Countess Louise announced in her Journal, ‘The first day of January 1515, about one o’clock in the night, in Paris, at the Tournelles, the king Louis XII died.
A few lines later, she recorded the truly important event in her mind. Then she noted, ‘On the first day of January 1515, my son was king of France.’ Although you would not guess it from this dry diary entry, she was exultant. She had been scheming her whole life for this result. And with her son’s accension, she became the power behind the throne for the next 20+ years.
And each of these events had occurred on 1 January. The stars had finally aligned for Countess Louise, Astrology, & January 1.
PS. You will meet all four of these people—Louise, her husband Charles, Louis d’Orléans, and François—in The Importance of Sons, coming this summer.
For Further Reading
*Quotes from Journal de Louise de Savoye, duchesse d’Angoulesme, d’Anjou et de Valois, (1786) p. viii, xiv, (available for free download in French) https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=bQRbAAAAQAAJ&pg=GBS.PA399&hl=en (accessed 27 December 2020)
Francis I: The Maker of Modern France, Leonie Frieda, 2019, Harper Perennial (available in many formats)* A fast-paced biography by the best-selling author about this larger-than-life king whose name is still synonymous with the French Renaissance yet who, as a husband and ruler, was flawed.