This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Monday, February 4, 2013

February 4 -- Feast of Saint Jeanne de Valois

Saint Jeanne de Valois: Maybe Lou had a point
It turns out there are two famous women named Jeanne de Valois.  One was beatified in 1772; that year, the other was a sixteen year old in a boarding school, soon to eschew the convent in favor of marriage.  The coincidence of their names is about all that would really link them (except nationality and gender); the rest is contrast. 

Saint Jeanne de Valois was the daughter of King Louis XI (of France, obviously) and Charlotte of Savoy.  She was married at an appropriately young age (twelve) to her second cousin (once removed), the Duke of Orleans.  He would later become Louis XII, but after Jeanne's brother Charles VIII became king and then died.  Charles had saved France from the Hapsburg Strangle by poaching Anne of Brittany -- the proxy wife of Emperor Maximilian.  By swooping in and marrying Sweet Annie, Charles set up an alliance with Brittany that prevented the Hapsburg Empire from surrounding France.  It was therefore a bit of a challenge when Chucky died at age 18 in a tragic handball accident.  [No kidding.  He was playing jeu de paulme, antecedent of both tennis and handball, when something went horribly wrong.]  Cousin Louis stepped up, but found himself a little too married to renew this alliance with Brittany. 

Sweet Annie: Twice Queen of France
Louis looked at the typical reasons for annulment of marriages: consanguinity; underage at the time; never consummated.  The first dog might have sniffed a little, but the genealogical documentation had been so poor that it wasn't sure to hunt.  Similarly, although King Louis said he was twelve at the time of the marriage, no one seemed to know for sure quite when he was born.  Thus, Louis felt compelled to announce that his beloved wife Jeanne was tragically malformed in a way that prevented sexual intercourse.  Jeanne defended her anatomy in ecclesiastical court, calling in witnesses to testify that Louis used to brag about how many times he had mounted his wife during the night.  Feeling a little desperate, Louis played the witchcraft card, saying she had rendered him impotent.  Jeanne deftly pointed out his earlier testimony in which he'd been unable to penetrate because of her malformation.  Perjury before an ecclesiastical court ought to get you something other than Sweet Annie, but Pope Alexander VI (let no more popes call themselves Al) owed a favor.  The annulment was granted, Jeanne stepped aside to pray for her cousband (i.e. cousin-husband), and Sweet Annie kept Brittany on the side of the angels. 

Jeanne got the title Duchess of Berry and retired to Bourges.  With her confessor, Blessed Father Gabriel Mary (August 27), she founded the Annonciades, a Franciscan contemplative order dedicated to the Ten Virtues of Mary.  Around these she wrote a Rule for the Order, in which she identifies the scriptural passages where each of the virtues is described.  She notes of course that Mary would have had far more than ten virtues, but focuses on these because they appear in the Gospels.  The ten virtues are Chastity, Prudence, Humility, Faith, Devotion, Obedience, Poverty, Patience, Charity, and Compassion (Sorrow). 

The Huguenots dug up her body in 1562, fifty-seven years after she died.  They were ransacking churches in order to prove that they were more holy than the Catholics (who had ransacked churches to prove they were more holy than Protestants).  Jeanne's body was burned to prevent any veneration of her relics.  You can stop reliquary association, but you can't stop veneration, as this post proves.  Come at me, Bro(testants)! 

Jeanne de Valois-Saint-Rémy, Comtesse de la Motte
The Other Jeanne de Valois came along a couple hundred years later.  She came by the royal surname honestly and in the old fashioned way: an ancestor was one of the (hundreds of) illegitimate children of the French Kings.  Jeanne's dad was a drunken ne'er-do-well and her mom was a convenient servant girl.  Jeanne and her two siblings were barefoot little beggars as children, but some well-connected folks (an abbot or maybe a bishop and a rich man or maybe a count) hooked the kids up with a fund set up to provide for the royal bastards.  It sounds like something from a Dickens novel, but it's true. 

The kids were all packed off to boarding schools.  Little Jacques was destined for a military career and eventually died in service.  Marie-Anne and Jeanne were aimed at a convent, but only Marie-Anne wound up there.  Jeanne de Valois, who shared a name with a saint dedicated to the contemplation of virtue, became one of the most notorious sinners of the pre-Revolution era. 

Prince Cardinal Louis de Rohan
Jeanne married a guy who called himself the Comte de la Motte, though his count-papers may not have exactly been in order.  Jeanne struggled to live the life of a royal (or even a Countess) on the wages of a gendarmes officer, so she took to hanging around court, looking for hand-outs from Marie Antoinette.  The Queen was warned to avoid her, but she caught the eye of Cardinal Prince Louis de Rohan.  As bishop of Strasbourg, Cardinal Louis couldn't have a wife, but that didn't stop him from having other men's wives.  She got money from her new boyfriend as well as a promotion for her husband, but none of this was ever enough.  The scam that followed did harm to everyone involved, no matter whether they were perps or victims. 

A jeweler named Charles Auguste Boehmer had staked his whole business on a diamond necklace which he could not sell.  The price was just too damn high; the only potential buyer was the Queen, but she took a pass on it.  Jeanne and the Count concocted a plan to persuade the Cardinal that the Queen really wanted it but couldn't publicly purchase it.  If he, the Cardinal, would arrange to have the necklace delivered to Jeanne (acting as the Queen's confidential agent), Marie Antoinette would find some appropriate way to express her gratitude.  They got a forger to create some letters verifying the deal and hired a hooker to play the Queen at the rendezvous. Once handed over, the necklace never made it to the Queen.  Instead, the Count de la Motte started chopping it up and selling the diamonds singly.  The Cardinal was arrested when the M. Boehmer realized he wasn't going to be paid.  He in turn blew the whistle on the others, all of whom were gaffled up except Comte de la Motte, who was conveniently and London and decided to stay there. 
The necklace in question remade: gauche, really

Although acquitted, the Cardinal was promptly exiled by King Louis XVI.  He went on tour, taking in the thermal baths of the Pyrenees and generally enjoying life.  Eventually he made it back to France in time for the Estates-General in 1789, just in time for the Revolution.  Even in this he proved lucky, since he was able to get out of France well before the guillotine started dropping.  In Ettenheim, the German part of his diocese, he spent much of his remaining wealth supporting the other clergy who had been forced to flee the Revolution. He lived quietly and died in 1803. 

Our gal Jeanne, however, was sentenced to be whipped, branded, and imprisoned.  She escaped, dressed as a boy, and made it to London where she published a self-justifying memoir.  In 1791, she was killed by a fall from her hotel window, where she was either dodging creditors or murdered by French royalist agents. 

Virtue wouldn't mean much without vice to distinguish it.  It's nice to have a pair of Jeannes to amplify the contrast. 

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