Agnès Sorel – the First Official Royal Mistress

Agnes Sorel
The reconstructed 3D image of Agnes Sorel

Recently I have come across an article in a French newspaper relating the fact the face of Agnès Sorel, the first official mistress of a French monarch, was reconstructed in a 3D image.
The reconstruction, that took place in 2014, so maybe for some of you this is old news, was based on the scanned images of the lady’s remaining slivers of skull, mandible, hair and eyebrows found in her tomb in the Loches castle on the Loire valley.
But why do I write about a woman who passed most of her life in the north in a website dedicated to the… southwest of France? Well, the reason is because not only Agnès met the love of her life, King Charles VII of France, a meeting that was probably to change the French and even the European history, in Toulouse on the 19th of March 1443 but also, one can elaborate further, it was in the memory of their first encounter there that the monarch declared Toulouse the most outstanding city of the south and created here the first provincial Parliament by letter patent signed on the 11th of October 1443.
At the time of their first meeting King Charles VII, a hesitant, depressed 30 year old king was visiting Toulouse after conquering several towns of Gascony in the context of the Hundred Years’ War. His royal entourage was composed of Queen Marie d’Anjou, Charles’ apparently ugly wife(“her face only can scare the English”), her brother René d’Anjou, King of Sicily and his wife Isabelle de Lorraine.
Agnès Sorel was one of the maids of honor to the queen Isabelle, and as it happened many times throughout history, this station brought her in the view of the French king.
She was at the time of the fateful Toulouse meeting a 21 year old young woman and according to her contemporaries a remarkable beauty: Jean Chartier, a monk and medieval French chronicler was writing that “it was sure one of the most beautiful women in the world” while Pope Pie II was noting “she has one of the most beautiful faces that one can see”.
These fine looks earned her in later years the name “La Dame de Beauté” – “The Lady of the Beauty”.
Witnesses present at the future lovers’ first encounter agree that it was love at first sight on both sides: the king lost his speech on seeing this beautiful creature and Agnès confided to her friends the love she already felt for her sovereign. What helped the matter further was Queen Marie’s decision to employ Agnès among HER maids of honor (was it truly her choice???). The destiny of Agnès, of Charles and indeed of the French Kingdom is sealed: the love lifts the king from his depression and transforms him into the resolute monarch that reunites all the French territories, with the exception of Calais, until then under English rule, his victory at Castillon in 1453 officially ending the Hundred Years’ War.
From now on he is named “Charles the Victorious”.
Unfortunately Agnès does not live so see her lover’s final victory: she dies in 1450 at the age of 28 poisoned by mercury probably by the command of Charles’ legitimate son and heir, the future Louis XI.
The legend goes that “La Dame de Beauté” is the first woman to wear a diamond ring – given to her by Charles VII – in a time when diamonds were worn only men belonging to the royal families.

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