Through her marriage Diane was called to the court of France where, thanks
to her beauty and intelligence, she had access to the
finest circles. She became Lady of Honor to Queen Claude,
wife of François I. She was present at
the births of the Royal Children, and was
especially close to the third youngest, Henri.
Henri, whose childhood was marred by years of captivity in Spain, developed a
strong affection for Diane.
Early in her marriage, Diane had to go to François I to plead
for her father’s life. Jean de Poitiers, the Comte de Saint-Vallier,
had been involved in the Conspiracy of the Constable of Bourbon,
and was being held in the dungeons
at Loches awaiting execution.
One version of the story has Diane becoming the King’s mistress.
In another version, Diane used all of her charms to enourage
the king to sign his release, but once he did and she was made aware of
what the King expected in return, she graciously declined
stating that she was a married woman. Neither version is true;
Diane took her marriage vows very seriously.
On February 17, 1524, Jean de Poitiers was lead to his place of execution,
where his head was on the block for over an hour.
Finally the king’s messenger delivered the reprieve. As he
was lead from the executioner’s block, Diane’s father was supposedly
heard to thank God for his daughter’s sweet body,
which had served him well.
We will never know what he actually said,
but we can rest assured there are no truths in the rumour.
Whether or not, the King’s fondness for Diane had anything
to do with his saving his life, it has been generally
believed that he had no intention of executing Jean de Poitiers, as
he was the least guilty of those involved,
and his ties with the family and their service to the
crown went back many generations.
Diane left the Court when Louis de Breze died.
After a mourning period of two years,
in 1535 she returned to the Court always dressed in widow’s black,
though elegantly fashioned and trimmed in white,
which became her trademark.
By this time, the rumours about Diane took on
a life of their own. Adding fuel to the fire, seventeen unsigned
love letters to the King were discovered and were assumed to be written
by Diane. They were in fact written by a former mistress,
Françoise de Foix. They would eventually reach the
ears of the King’s mistress, Anne de Pisseleu…