Story 53

December 23, 2020

In today’s tale, Ennasuite introduces us to the Prince de Belhoste, a man so fine and upstanding that he tells his wife whenever he falls in love with another woman! After entering into “rather too intimate a friendship” with Madame de Neufchâtel, a widow, he becomes jealous of her attentions to the Seigneur de Chariots and confronts her. She does not reveal to him that she has agreed to marry the Seigneur de Chariots, and so the prince, catching the seigneur climbing out of Madame de Neufchâtel’s window one night, has his valet give him a good scare, sends him running for his life, and steals the wolf-skin cloak he has dropped. He tells his wife what has happened, and the two have a good laugh, then sleep “sweetly and restfully,” while Madame de Neufchâtel and the Seigneur de Chariots spend their night “in toil and turmoil.” Thus, says Ennasuite, by concealing her marriage plans from her princely admirer, Madame de Neufchâtel brought even more shame upon herself.

This story is set during François I’s stay “at a certain fine château.” During his reign, François I built or renovated eleven castles, including the those of Chambord, Fontainebleau, Amboise, Blois, and Villers-Cotterêts.

Here is a view of the Château de Villers-Cotterêts, begun around 1530 and slated to become the Cité internationale de la langue française in 2022.

One thought on “Story 53

  • What a revealing tale about the polygamy that pervaded French society in the early modern period! A tradition that this story shows worked to the advantage of men while it never worked for women. As Geburon himself states in the discussion, the widowed lady could not tell the married prince who entertained her (while his wife was fine with it all) that she had taken a lover (who wanted to marry her likely more for her fortune than out of love), because she would be disgraced. The prince uses the argument that the gentleman ought not shame a lady by carrying on an affair without being married, but the prince does that all the time! He also asks the lady if she wants to marry the gentleman, but before she answers he says he won’t have him as a friend in his circle, so the lady has no choice but tell the prince she doesn’t want to marry the gentleman (while she continues to see the gentleman secretly until the prince puts an end to it). In so doing, the prince recuperates his polygamous status quo. Now, the fact that Marguerite makes her storytellers focus on the virtue (or lack thereof) of women may not be merely out of a societal push for women to keep their virtue, but also because she may think that women are the ones who carry hope for change in virtuous relationships, which for her means within marriage.

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