Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Romance

I want to tell you a story.
Yes, this blog is definitely more about stories than about writing. You see, sometimes when we write romances, we start to think they can only be found between the pages of a book. That in 'real' life the Prince never met the Princess, that the Princess never made her choice...

We've just returned from a holiday with family in Brittany. It was wonderful, just the break we needed, with good company, good food and lots of fascinating sights and - our favourite - historical places to visit.

I also found a surprising enjoyment in re-awakening my schoolgirl French and trying to understand what people were saying. To my shame, as soon as I opened my mouth, however hard I tried, everyone always replied in English. *sigh*. But I did enjoy listening in French.

My burgeoning French comprehension was really tested on one of the last days of our break, when we visited the town and Chateau of Josselin, the seat of the Dukes of Rohan. The only way to visit the Castle was with a guided tour, and the tour guide only spoke French.
We managed okay. I was able to work out what was being said about half the time, giving quick, low-voiced translations of the gist to Husband. We learned about the Castle's history, it's declines and restorations, the motto of the Rohans, and some of their characters and stories.

And then, standing in awe in the great dining room, resplendent with silk carpet, gleaming polished silver and fine porcelain, I started to hear snippets of a fascinating story.

I gleaned that in the 17th century, Margeurite was the sole heiress to the Duchy's wealth and influence. She was beautiful, rich, and powerful - a much sought after marital prize. Dukes and princes sought her hand in marriage, many visited Josselin to court her.

Margeurite refused them all.

Because Margeurite was in love with Henri Chabot.

But Marguerite was a great heiress. Henri was a gentleman of no fortune. Margeurite had the status of a foreign princess at the French court, he had none at all. Margeurite was protestant, Henri Catholic.

In my schoolgirl French, I picked up all these things, I heard of the resistance to her marriage to Henri, I knew how very unlikely it was that she would be allowed to marry him. The tour guide (the lovely Melanie) paused for dramatic effect, then revealed the end of the story in one short sentence.

And I caught none of it.


But it was clear to me what must have happened. Relatives, or the French King, or both, would have brought pressure to bear and insisted she marry someone suitable, I knew. Very sad, but women of her time and rank very rarely had their happy ever afters, even if they lived in such fairy-tale surroundings.

When I got home, still thinking about Margeurite and her Henri, I googled her. I learned that she once said, "I do not know if I shall be able to decide to marry him, but I do feel that I could not bear it if he married someone else."

I also learned.... dear reader, she married him. Yes, Margeurite, the greatest French heiress of her time, married her gentleman nobody. She demanded special royal dispensation to do so. They were married in Paris on 6th June 1645. They had six children.

I was so very glad to learn that, in any language.

What's your favourite real-life fairy story romance?
Don't forget to pop back on Thursday, when Christina will be posting.


  1. That's a very moving story, Anna, and being a great fan of HEA's I'm so glad they married in the end! As for real-life romance, the only one I can think of at the moment is a Swedish prince called Bertil who had to wait 33 years to marry the woman he loved. She was English and a divorcee, so not acceptable as long as he was heir to the throne, but once his nephew the new king had married, they were finally allowed to tie the knot. They did live together despite not being married, but it still shows their devotion to each other I think.
    On a different note, I had no idea there was a castle called Josselin - must take my oldest daughter there some time as her name is Josceline!

  2. What a beautiful story, Anna. I loved the line "I could not bear it if he married someone else" It is inspiring to discover in real life the stuff that novels are made of. You brought a happy smile to my face this morning. :)

  3. That's lovely, Christina! What a lovely day their wedding must have been for them.

    The fortress and the town were named after the founder's son. Their site is here: I don't think our photos did it justice!

    I'm glad, Sofie! It makes me smile, and I was so surprised and elated to find out it had a happy ending. I really admire their dedication and strength of mind.

  4. I'm just impressed that you managed to comprehend all of that in French!

    A beautiful story, thanks for posting it, Anna.

  5. You're welcome! And I was impressed, too! It's amazing how much you can pick up from background, and facial expressions and hand gestures. Then you add in the one in five words you recognise, and you're smokin'....

  6. Ah! What a lovely story to round off the weekend. And tres bien (or something like that) on the French.

  7. Awww. That's such a wonderful ending to their story. Thanks for sharing, Annaof

  8. You're welcome, Vanessa! Glad it had the same effect on other people as it did on me.

  9. What a wonderful story and I'm so glad she fought for her Happy Ever After with Henri. She must have been a remarkable woman.