Saturday, 4 February 2012

A Big Wedding


The bride, Marguerite de Lorraine-Vaudemont, was the sister of the queen consort of France; the groom was the 21 year old boyfriend of the king.....
The Wedding Ball. Photo source: Wikipedia
The festivities, organized by the indomitable queen mother, Catherine de Medici, in a pause during the Wars of Religion, went on for over 14 days of spectacular theatrical events, feasting, dances, music, poetry, tournaments and masquerades, indoors and outdoors, enhanced by romantic scenery of arches, grottoes and summer gardens, and ingenious machines disguised as clouds and chariots, ships moving on the sea and the planets in the heavens.

Out of these ephemeral diversions emerged two lasting cultural phenomena: the first was ballet de cour, the second was the macaroon. Queen Louise, the king's wife, stepped out of a vast fountain chariot, attended by her ladies and musicians, to dance in an exquisitely staged allegory, choreographed by the first great ballet director, Balthasar de Beaujoyeulx. Queen Catherine, the king's mother, imported the recipe of small round pastries made of ground almonds from her native Italy for the occasion, which the groom, Anne [sic - a male version of the name shared by a contemporary 16th century general of France], duc de Joyeuse, found so delicious he ordered production to begin at his estates.

The Fountain Chariot
The Joyeuses magnificences, the ballet and the biscuits, in honour of the wedding were a fantasy of earthly delights before cataclysm.

Civil wars, religious bigotry, political intrigues and bloodlust swallowed up king, favourite and the whole fractured Valois regime which had created such fabulous illusions of power. Six years after his wedding, Joyeuses over-reached himself and fell out of Henri III's favour after ordering the massacre of 800 Huguenots at Saint-Eloi. 

For the king who had been complicit in the Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Day, the atrocity may have been no worse than a disastrous public relations move, but it was quickly avenged by the military defeat and execution of Joyeuses by the Huguenot army. The King himself, after allying with the Huguenot leader Henry of Navarre against the Catholic Guise faction, was assassinated in 1589.