Between historical fiction, cinema and real history, the story of three castles and the men and women who made the great History of France. Our story begins at the Château de Sédaiges in Marmanhac. Its owner is a certain Pierre Béral, a well-known doctor in the region around 1580’s. He is the direct ancestor of the current owner of Sédaiges, Patrice de Varax. His destiny would cross those of Queen Margot and King Henri IV, and rub shoulders with that of the Princess of Montpensier. Staying at Sédaiges for holidays is to remember these extraordinary lives brought to light in the cinema by great directors (Bertrand Tavernier and Patrice Chéreau).
Pierre Béral de Sédaiges and Queen Margot
Queen Margot arrived on 30 September 1585 at the castle of Carladès, 4 leagues from Sédaiges. Margot fled from the royal troops launched after her by her brother, King Henry III, tired of his escapades, or perhaps simply jealous of the last lovers of her very pretty younger sister.
Sick, Queen Margot was to stay there for more than a month until 20 October. At her bedside, the doctor Pierre Béral de Sédaiges will be called. The story does not tell us why, but Pierre Béral will later become the personal doctor of Margot’s husband, Henri IV, from whom Margot lives more or less separated. In 1585, Henri was still only Henri III, King of Navarre, also known under the nickname “Vert-Galant”: about sixty official mistresses were lent to him (for the others, they gave up counting…). Henri was not jealous of his wife’s conquests, so it is not impossible to think that Pierre Béral’s conscientiousness in taking care of his royal patient’s body did not remain solely professional and that she may have contributed to his royal promotion. But that would be pure slander :-).
“La princesse de Montpensier” at château de Messilhac
Our story is not over! At the neighbouring castle of Messilhac, Bertrand Tavernier came to film “The Princess of Montpensier” with Mélanie Thierry in the main role, Gaspard Ulliel (Duke of Guise), Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet (François de Bourbon, Duke of Montpensier, prince by blood), Raphael Personnaz (Duke of Anjou, younger brother of Queen Margot), Lambert Wilson (the Count of Chavagnac). All these characters, except the Count of Chavagnac, did indeed exist, and Margot knew them, some of them very closely…
The real Princess of Montpensier never came to Messilhac (and she was only a simple duchess). But in September 1585, Renée d’Anjou, Marquise de Mézières, Countess of Saint-Fargeau, had already been Duchess of Montpensier (Northern Auvergne) for a few years. That is to say, about fifteen leagues from Usson, where the king ended up putting his sister Margot under house arrest, who remained there in exile from 1586 to 1605: nothing absurd, even if history says nothing about it, to think that the (real) Duchess of Montpensier met the (real) Queen Margot.
Queen Margot between real history, historical fiction and cinema
Margot was very close to her younger brother, the Duke of Anjou (Raphael Personnaz, César of the best male hopeful in 2011 for Tavernier’s film), much to the chagrin of her older (and jealous) brother, King Henri III. But nothing compared to the passion she had as a young girl for the Duke of Guise (played by Gaspard Ulliel, César for Best Newcomer in 2005, César for Best Actor in 2017). Henri, Duke of Guise, Prince of Joinville, known as the scarred man, never set foot in Sédaiges. No regrets for us, because the historical, fundamentalist Catholic character was much less sympathetic (and handsome) than the character played by Gaspard Ulliel. But 20 years earlier, he and Margot, then aged 17, had had a passionate relationship! This love affair (Margot was dreaming of marriage) had already greatly annoyed the royal family. Her mother Catherine de Medici had taken it very badly, but even more so her older brother Henri, the future Henri III: a woman, let alone a princess, did not have to put her love before family interests. Marguerite was married a few months later, to her defending body, to Henri of Navarre (Henri IV), certainly not very handsome, but a Protestant and potential future King of France.
So when the evening comes in Sédaiges, perhaps you will have a thought for Queen Margot in these places of Carladès, Messilhac: 3 castles distant from each other, where still hovers the real or imaginary shadow of Princess Margot, a beautiful, intelligent, man-eating woman perhaps, but who lived a passionate life in this terrible period of the Wars of Religion. A woman who knew 3 kings Henri who died tragically: her father Henri II, who died with a spear stuck in his right eye while jousting near the Place des Vosges, her brother Henri III, who was murdered in Saint-Cloud, and her husband, Henri III of Navarre, who became one of our greatest kings under the name of Henri IV, who was murdered in the Marais in Paris. A woman who deserved the simply extraordinary performance that Isabelle Adjani (César for best actress) gave her in Patrice Chereau’s film, which won 5 Cesars (plus an Oscar and a Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival), including the one for best costumes.
Perhaps you will also have a thought for Pierre Béral, doctor of Margot, future doctor to King Henry IV, the grandfather of Patrice de Varax who lived here in Sédaiges in 1585: without him and the care given to his illustrious patient, wouldn’t the great History of France have been quite different?