Thanks for resting your eyeballs here for a moment.(They are resting, right?) If you rest them a little longer, you may learn some interesting,(hopefully)entertaining, and, yes, ocassionally BIZARRE things about French Country life. (more…)
DA BG’s faithful, who’ve read PART ONE of the fantabulous Story of the French Country Travel Life Double Queen will remember that she made the wise (and possibly only decision) to marry the guy that had just conquered her country. He being Charles 8.
This union, for all it’s elaborate pomp and ceremony (and isn’t that the best kind?) was not a bed of roses for the young Queen.
Speaking of beds, she brought two with her as she was “installed” in the Kingly chateau of Langeais. Underscoring the fact that King and Queen in those days, were pretty much that era’s Rock Hudson and Doris Day.
And, as you would expect, said King was often away on noble missions of conquering, capturing and enslaving. Which meant that even if one or both Royal personages were, shall we say – “hot to trot”….it just wasn’t in the cards.
What was in the cards for Anne – as, again you might expect, was producing a male heir. A princely one, who would someday become a kingly one. Thus ensuring that conquering, capturing and enslaving could continue.
Sadly, in this Royal Duty, Anne gets a big “F” in the heir-producing sweepstakes.
Of her four children, only one lived. And only for three years. Felled by a virulent virus prevalent then. To which children were particularly susceptible. Measles.
When Charles died in 1498, Anne was 21 years old. And legally obliged, by the terms of her marriage contract with Charles, to marry the New King, Louis 12. One small roadblock. Louis was already married.
Did this leave Anne “free, white and (obviously) 21?”
The French Country Travel Life Double Queen is a unique slice of French History. Which, as you may remember from THIS POST pretty much takes the cake(with the cherry on top) in the Historical Uniqueness Sweepstakes.
The Queen in question was able to accomplish something no other lady of her day was able to do. Become Queen of France, twice. And, unusual (and unique) as that historical milestone was, she did it in the usual way. Marrying two Kings. (Seperately, bien sur.)
The lady’s name was Anne de Bretange. And our riverting drama begins when Anne, at the tender age of 14, marries King Charles 8. (can you say: “King’s have more fun?”)
As you’ll recall from “expanding your empire 101″ the quickest way to..well…expand you empire, was to have a female of your family – or your cousin’s/uncle’s family…or barring that….your gardener’s family…marry someone noble with lotsa land.
The preferences in order of star rating being a duke, a prince, and, at the top o’ da ladder – a King.
So – no flies on Anne de Bretange!
While not implying that love did not bloom in Anne’s union with Charles, the “arranged marriage” concept was pretty much the “business as usual” m.o. of (royal, and wannabe royal) matrimony back in the day.
However, Anne’s situation was somewhat, DA BG doth say,(again) “Unique.”
Anne became the Duchess of Brittany(Bretagne) following the death of her Father, Francis, who fell from his horse.
This resulted in a second war between France and Brittany. So, Job no. one for Anne was obviously to marry someone (preferably anti-French) who could help hold her Duchy(the territority of Brittany) together.
Maximillian the first of Austria was recruited. Anne’s marriage to him(by proxy…which means they probably never slept in the same bed) wasn’t received positively by the French. As you can well imagine.
More blue meanies: Anne’s presumed allies were too busy with their own wars to lend a sword or two.
The French, led by Charles 7 were banging on the gate.The turning point came when Anne, having received no aid from Hubby Max. saw her captial of Rennes fall into French Hands.
Those of Charles 8, to be precise.
Anne became engaged to Charles there. Despite the howls from the Austrians – because she was already “married” to Max. – and because Charles was supposed to hook up with Max’s Daughter, Margaret.
“tant pis” (too bad) for the Austrians.
Charles and Anne were married in the Chateau de Langais on December 6, 1491
The vineyards of Sancerre in the Loire ValleyJulian Elliott Ethereal Light
The French Country Travel Life Loire Wine Lowdownwas hinted at in my last post…or rather my last post by a guest scribbler…the beautiful, talented and ever chic Karen Schwartz.
Therein, DA BG detailed the two major wine varieties of the ab/fab Loire. That there valley where the Kings of France did seriously party down.
Now, picking up that liquid thread, that esteemed UK journal , the times…waxes poetic on the subject. And gives us some palette tingling info…
“It’s funny how one small detail can remind you of a whole holiday. It might be the smell of fish on the barbecue, a particular bird song or the sight of a tandem bicycle. For me, it’s hollyhocks; they were growing everywhere when we visited Touraine in the heart of the Loire Valley in France.
As soon as we arrived in Tours, we dropped our bags at the hotel and took a drive through the countryside. The roads between villages are lined with birch trees. Some stand alone, others are grouped in geometric grids; the sun flashes through the gaps as you whizz past. Not only is the Loire Valley an incredibly pretty region, but it also freed me from my pinot grigio wine rut.
We stopped in a bar for a simple lunch of goat’s cheese salad. My glass of Touraine Sauvignon Blanc was a perfect match; its crisp, citrussy style isn’t overtly fruity so it worked well with the food. Sauvignon Blanc was a recurring theme during our trip; it comes in so many styles in the Loire Valley, from clean and pure to more tropically fruity, but always dry and fresh, which means it goes really well with fish.
The next day we took a relaxing cruise on a small flat-bottomed wooden boat. The mighty Loire relaxes in summer, becoming languorous and shallower. The pilot gave us a glass of sparkling wine made from the chenin blanc grape. It refreshes like a crisp green apple, but has a toastiness that gives it depth and intensity. We soon figured out the best way to get around was by bicycle.
We decided a picnic would be fun, so stocked up on bread, tomatoes and charcuterie at the food market that morning and packed a bottle of Touraine gamay, a light, bright red that shares many characteristics with other Touraine wines: fresh, elegant, relatively low in alcohol and versatile with food. We cycled back slowly along quiet roads banked with hundreds of wild flowers, with a few lazy bees to attend to them all.
On our last night we treated ourselves by booking a table at a nice restaurant in a village beside the river. We started off with a Touraine rosé, a delicate redcurrant-scented wine with a little spicy kick. For dinner, we chose duck and lamb, so decided to go for some deeper reds.
We tried the local malbec, then a cabernet franc, which is like a chilled-out version of cabernet sauvignon, with blackcurrant aromas but lighter on its feet. It was still warm outside as we finished our meal, so we watched trilling swallows dance around a pastel-pink sunset.
The beauty of Touraine is that it’s a unique wine region that’s easy to get to know. If you like crisp, aromatic whites, try one of the many different Sauvignon Blancs – the signature grape variety of the region. And for reds there are light Gamays,through medium-bodied Cabernet Francs to robust Malbecs. Not to mention rosé and sparkling wines.
And it’s not just French dishes they pair with – try Sauvignon Blanc with baked white fish like cod or plaice; simple salads; or as an aperitif to whet the appetite with salted cashews and olives. For pizzas and light Thai curries choose a fruity Touraine Gamay; for more powerful flavours like chilli con carne or chargrilled steaks, try Touraine Malbec. They’re easy to find back home in off-licences and supermarkets, and they don’t cost the earth. So I guess it’s not just the hollyhocks that take me back to our holiday in Touraine; it’s drinking the wines too.
An introduction to Touraine
The wines of Touraine at the heart of the Loire Valley are some of the most attractive in France. The verdant countryside supports a wealth of different styles. In whites, the main variety is crisp, aromatic Sauvignon Blanc; but rich, honeyed Chenin Blanc also features. The classic Loire red is smooth and fruity Cabernet Franc, whilst there is also bright, berry-scented Gamay and darker, tannic Malbec.”
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