Diane Salviati

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Entry by Gilbert Schrenck, 2005

Diane, the eldest daughter of Jean Salviati and Jaquette Le Malon de Bercy, belonged to the rich and influential Florentine family, the Salviati, famous for their diplomats, cardinals and bankers. Their kinship to Catherine de Medici enhanced their power. Diane was born in the 1550s, most probably near Beaugency in the Talcy castle, the beautiful medieval edifice that her grandfather, Bernard Salviati acquired in 1517 and furnished in the pure Italian style that Agrippa d'Aubigné praised in Le Printemps. This domain was the idyllic place for the romance that developed between the beautiful chatelaine and Agrippa d'Aubigné, the king of Navarre's riding master, who came from Landes-Guinemer to pay neighbourly calls. These regular visits allowed d'Aubigné to meet Ronsard, whom he said he knew "privately, having dared at the age of twenty to give him some plays, that he deigned to acknowledge. Our acquaintance was reinforced by the fact that my first love was Diane de Talci, the niece of Mademoiselle de Pre, his Cassandra" ("Lettres sur diverses sciences", in Oeuvres d'Agrippa d'Aubigné, ed. H. Weber, J. Bailbé and M. Soulié, Gallimard, "La Pléiade",1969, p.860). This passion, which appears to have been shared, quickly turned into a nightmare. During the Saint-Barthelemy massacre (August 1572) d'Aubigné, severely wounded during an attack on a village in the Beauce, decided to "go die in the arms of his mistress. The hardship of travelling the twenty two leagues caused an inflammation in the blood that left him without feeling, sight or pulse" for two days (Sa vie à ses enfants, ed. Gilbert Schrenck, Paris, STFM, 1986, p.79-80); during this agony the invalid supposedly had a vision of the Tragiques, seeing in his delirium "the beautiful, secret images" of the future French Huguenot epic. Meanwhile, the idea of marriage that Diane's father had briefly considered was finally abandoned because of the couple's religious differences and the very strong opposition of Diane's haughty uncle, Francois Salviati, a Knight of the Order of Malta. Without possessions, d'Aubigné also came up against the difference in wealth that placed the rich heiress out of his reach. It might also be possible that Diane's feelings for her overly excessive lover had cooled.

Following this failure, d'Aubigné went through a deep moral crisis and fell severely ill. Profoundly marked by this youthful adventure, he always carried as a talisman during combat a lock of his mistress's hair, the mention of whom, even many years late, provoked fits of jealousy from his wife, Suzanne de Lezay. He took small revenge on his fate when several years later at the Court (around 1575) he saw Diane, by then married to Forèse de Limeuil: "When this Lady learned, and saw through the esteem of the Court the differences between what she had lost and what she possessed, she was overcome by melancholy, which caused her to sicken and to never recover her health prior to her death" (Sa vie à ses enfants, op. cit, p.88). She died after 1575 and it is not known whether she had any children from her marriage.

Diane de Talcy had a decisive influence on A. d'Aubigné: "This love, he wrote in Sa vie à ses enfants, put French poetry into his head, and then he wrote what is known as his Printemps: in which there are several less refined elements [than in his other poems], but a passion that will please many" (op. cit, p.75-76). It is thanks to her that he met Ronsard, the yardstick he measures himself against in his canzonieri, when he evokes creatively the story of his fatal passion. The figurer of Diane, initiator into love and fertile Muse, both temptress and inaccessible lover, can be found throughout this collection written with bitter lyricism. In a familiar setting that is also punctuated by moments of great intimacy, the poet renders a hallucinating vision of his loves, mixing starkest realism with the most refined Petrarchian idealism. Under a flood of hyperboles, antitheses and bloody metaphors, d'Aubigné praises his baroque Eros and raises the image of unrequited love to the level of the myth of Diana the Huntress.

As for the real Diane, for the time being, no specific research has focused on her.

(translated by Michelle Sommers)

Selected bibliography =

- Aubigné, Agrippa d', Le Printemps, in OEuvres, éd. H. Weber, J. Bailbé et M. Soulié, Paris, Gallimard «La Pléiade», 1969.
- Lazard, Madeleine, Agrippa d'Aubigné, Paris, Fayard, 1998, chapitre II.
- Mathieu-Castellani, Gisèle, «La figure mythique de Diane dans l'Hécatombe d'Aubigné», Revue d'Histoire Littéraire de la France, 1978, p.3-18.
- Schrenck, Gilbert, Agrippa d'Aubigné. Bibliographie des écrivains français, Paris, Memini, 2001; voir sous la rubrique Le Printemps.

Diane Salviati
Spouses Forèse de Limeuil
Also known as Diane de Talcy
Birth date Around 1550
Death After 1575
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