The clock has struck NOON in Paris and we meet Claire at the Tour de Nesle. She gives a Once upon a time...
The Tour de Nesle or Nesle's Tower was a guard tower of the old city wall of Paris on the left (south) bank, constructed at the beginning of the 13th century by Philip II of France.
The tower was situated on the left bank of the Seine facing the old castle of the Louvre on the opposite, right bank.
by Claire Jenkins
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The Princesses In The Tower
The story begins in 1300, in Paris. On the throne is Philip The Fair, gracious if slightly remote King of France, who rules judiciously and is popular with his subjects. Considering himself above most trivial matters of state, which he regarded as beneath a monarch, he spent his days removed reading and praying and hunting. His religious devotion was particularly strong, in contrast to that of his children.
The King had three sons, Louis X le Hutin, Philippe V The Long, and Charles IV the Fair. These fair princes, born of the handsome King, soon married. In 1305, Louis marries Marguerite of Burgundy; Philippe marries Jeanne of Burgundy in 1306, and Charles marries her sister, Blanche of Burgundy. Princesses Blanch and Jeanne were the daughters of Mahaut d’Artois, whilst Marguerite was the daughter of the Duke of Burgundy. Philip also had a daughter, Isabella, who married the English King, Edward II of England.
Unholy Goings On at the Palace
Whilst Philip was mostly absent from the Court, his daughters-in-law were making the most of their privileged position. They were young and carefree and their presence soon enlivened the rather stuff Court life. Elegant and coquettish, their behaviour began to provoke gossip, and rumours abounded about the goings on in the Tower of Nestle, and other private rooms of Court. However, there was no evidence to substantiate the rumours and their life of gay abandon continued, seemingly with the blessing of the three princes.
Things took a turn for the worse when King Edward paid a visit to Philip the Fair, bringing his princess, Isabella, from England to visit her father. Isabella was suspicious of her sisters-in-law and, during the lavish celebrations that had been laid on for her visit, she paid particular attention to two young knights, who seemed very close to the princesses. She noticed that they both wore on their belts purses identical to the ones she had given Marguerite and Blanche a few months earlier. Furious, she points the matter out to the austere King, her father. He instigated an investigation, and it was soon established, under torture in the Tower of Nestle, that one of the young knights, Philippe Aunay was the lover of Princess Marguerite, and his brother Gauthier is the lover of Princess Blanche. Jeanne was not found to have strayed, or at least could not be proved to have strayed, but she was found guilty of covering up the truth of the other princesses. Aunay and Gauthier at first deny the charges, but all parties finally confess.
This affront to the Crown could not go unpunished, and Philippe needed to stamp his authority on the calamitous scandal, in order to preserve his position. He went to extreme lengths in punishing the perpetrators of this humiliation. He ordered the two brothers to be ‘broken on the wheel’ – a ghastly fate, whereby the victim is tied to a large cartwheel and beaten to death. Not content with this, Philippe ordered the men to be removed from the wheel, flayed alive, castrated and their genitals thrown to the dogs, drawn along behind horses, burned with boiling lead and sulphur and eventually beheaded and hung from the gibbet. Philippe certainly made an example of them and the legend of their terrible fate entered into the history books.
The Fate of The Princesses
Marguerite and Blanche were shorn of their hair, dressed in sackcloth and imprisoned. After the King’s death Marguerite was locked in Chateau-Gaillard, where she died of hypothermia in the stone dungeons in the depths of winter. There were rumours that her husband actually murdered her, although this was not proved. Princess Jeanne, who was acquitted, remained under house arrest in Castle Dourdan, and although Prince Philippe planned to divorce her, he decided against it, to preserve his ‘conjugal honour’. She became Queen of France on his accession to the throne, but was gifted the Tower of Nesle by her husband and moved in becoming a permanent resident. Later, Princess Blanche’s marriage to Charles was annulled when he became King of France, whereupon she retired to live in the Abbey of Maubuisson.
Guest post created by Claire Jenkins
© 2012. All rights reserved.
Claire Jenkins is a freelance writer from England who specialises in writing for the finance field, including car hire specialists and personal finance sites. However, history and castles are her true love and she often visits the beautiful Warwick Castle to watch some medieval themed shows.
by Claire Jenkins
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* image source Tour de Nesle and Phillipe's family