France – Rambouillet

LYING to the west of the route from Versailles to Fontainebleau, whither we are bound, is the Castle of Rambouillet, once the ancestral home of the d’Angennes family. It is chiefly interesting from the fact that Francis the First died in the Ancient Keep, now the only portion remaining of the original chateau. He was on his way to Saint-Germain, very sick, and, with a sick man’s fancy, suddenly decided that a day’s hunting in the forest of Rambouillet would restore him. They carried him in under the old doorway, and, next morning, roused by the horns and the barking of the dogs, he set out on his hunt. But he was soon borne back to his bed, and died a day or two afterwards, supported in the arms of Jacques d’Angennes, the lord of the castle.

His body was taken to Saint-Denis and there buried, while his head was given to one of the monasteries.

A story is told relating to the sermon preached at his funeral. The Bishop, carried away by his enthusiasm for the dead monarch, who indeed had many charming characteristics, declared that his soul had gone straight to heaven without under-going the cleansing fires of Purgatory. This gave rise to much scandal among those who knew something of the King’s past life, and deputies were sent to the new King to complain. They were received by the Spaniard Mendoza, who had known Francis during his captivity in Spain. ” I hear, gentlemen,” said he, ” that you are anxious as to the present whereabouts of the soul of the late King? ” They assented. ” Well,” continued the Spaniard, ” I knew his Majesty better than most. He was of a very restless disposition, never remaining more than a few days in one place. If he went to Purgatory, it is certain that he has now left, and is therefore in Heaven.” And with that the matter was settled.

But Rambouillet is even better known as the country home of the Marquise de Rambouillet, foundress of the celebrated Salon Bleu, which played. such an important part in the literary life of Paris during the seventeenth century. It owed its name to the draperies with which the young Marquise, forsaking the crimson and brown of the day, furnished her drawing-rooms in the Hotel Rambouillet, Paris. At her reunions, the most exclusive of the aristocracy mingled freely with writers, painters, dramatists, and artists of all kinds. Here we find the poet Godeau, no longer laughed at for his funny little deformed figure, but named ” Le bijou des Graces, Le nain de la Princesse Julie,” the beautiful daughter of Madame de Rambouillet, to whom he wrote some of his most lovely verses.

The Salon Bleu became so celebrated that other great and intellectual ladies opened their doors to literary and artistic persons, the reign of the French Salons began, the French Academy war, founded, the once despised Antoine Godeau being the first member.

For myself, I remember little of Rambouillet. The afternoon was closing in, a red sunset flamed in the tall windows of the Renaissance building, throwing into deep shadow the gloomy Keep, which still contains the death chamber of the Valois King. For the rest, gardens, where white roses hung from lofty pillars, and a deepening of the crimson in the west warning us it was time to go.