Diane’s Final Days

Diane, now a refugee in Anet and far removed from the court, devoted herself to the administration of her vast domain. She actively took up the side of the Catholics during the Reformation. The thought of death now moved her to draw up a will, in which she made endowments to numerous religious foundations. She also requested that a chapel be built in Anet to contain her tomb. In 1565, one year before her death, Diane de Poitiers charged Claude de Foucques, architect for the princes of Lorraine, with the design of the chapel which was consecrated in 1577.

It was built of brick and stone; the lower part of the façade is formed by four Corinthian columns with a door in the center. There are two large side niches with statues representing Faith and Charity. Above the door is a rectangle and above that a round window with symbolic figures on both sides. Above the large entablature is a three-part attic crowned with a pediment placed against an architectural motif; this motif is dominated by a, sculpture of the three Renommées leaning on the tomb which carries Diane’s coat of arms.

The interior of the chapel is vaulted. Two-thirds of the way down the nave, before the choir and above the tomb itself, stands the funerary monument which bas been attributed (but without proof) to Pierre Bontemps ; it holds the kneeling figure of Diane de Poitiers mounted on a cenotaph of black marble. On the retable – which may very well be by Bontemps – are figures representing the ” Adoration of the Magi”. These were badly damaged during the Revolution. Originally there was a statue of the Virgin, patron saint of the chapel, placed here. It is interesting to note that this classically inspired and beautifully proportioned structure was the prototype of a new style in architecture to be carried on at Saint-Bruno in Bordeaux and to become widespread in the 17th century.

 

he still had sufficient strength to visit Dauphiné in the fall but, upon returning to Anet at the end of the winter, she contracted a sudden illness and died on the 25th of April, 1566. 

During the French Revolution, the populace forced the door of the funerary chapel where they then conducted their meetings. They quartered the National Guard there and installed a Justice of the Peace. On the façade were inscribed the words “Death to the Tyrants ” and ” Vigilance by the People”. On the 18th of June 1795 two commissioners of the Sûreté from Dreux, with a handful of protesters desecrated Diane’s resting place, opened the coffin and hurried her body in a hastily dug grave in the parish churchyard. 

 


Luckily, Alexandre Lenoir, art lover and founder of the Musée des Monuments Français in Paris, succeeded in rescuing numerous treasures torn from the château. He persuaded the State to buy many of the scattered pieces of Diane’s tomb: the funerary statue, the black marble sarcophagus – which was being used as a pig trough at a neighboring farm – and the altar piece by Pierre Bontemps.

History does not record the cause of Diane’s death. It remained a mystery until late in 2009, when her remains were exhumed. It was discovered that she had been slowly poisoned by the gold bouillon she drank regularly. When their experiments were completed, the scientists returned Diane’s remains to Anet. On Saturday, May 29, 2010, amid much pomp and pageantry, Diane was reburied at Anet.