Monday, 18 December 2017

Monday is Queens Day: 12 Louise de Savoie

Louise de Savoie was a woman of her time. At the end of the 15th century and throughout the 16th century we see a series of powerful, influential, cultured, clever, politically active women and Louise is one of the them. She sits at the heart of the power struggles between France and the Hapsburg Empire, and had a foot in both camps through the convoluted intermarriages common at this time.

Her mother died in 1483 when she was seven years old and she was sent by her father to live with her aunt Anne de Beaujeu, at that point Regent for the young king Charles VIII. At the age of 12 Louise was married off to the Duke of Angouleme, a man 17 years her senior and who she did not know. Fortunately for Louise he popped his clogs, leaving her a widow (and single mother of two children) at 20. 

Refusing all further marriage deals she dedicated the rest of her life to promoting the interests of the children. Marguerite became Queen of Navarre (and from there, the grandmother of Henri IV) whilst  François got to marry the daughter of Louis XII and become the next King of France.

Louise acted as François' Regent while he waged war in northern Italy in 1515, and again in 1525 when François managed to get himself captured at Pavia by riding in front of his own cannon so they had to stop shooting. He was imprisoned by Charles V in Spain and part of the deal to have him released was that François had to marry Charles's sister, his sons being sent to Spain to provide surety that François would honour the treaty. 

Louise worked all the angles to get her grandsons released. Charles's mother, Marguerite of Austria, was his regent in the Netherlands, and it counted for a lot that she and Louise had grown up together in the court of Anne de Beaujeu. Ultimately they negotiated the 'Ladies' Peace' in 1529 but the ransom for the young princes was 1 200 000 gold crowns. It took Louise a year to raise the money and a mule train of 32 heavily laden pack animals transported it to Spain.

By then worn out and suffering from gout she died in 1531, leaving her son to rule on his own. He promptly re-ignited the war against Charles V.

The Jardin du Luxembourg has statues of 20 French Queens and Illustrious women. The subjects were chosen by Louis-Philippe I in 1843. This statue was created by Auguste Clésinger in 1851. To see Louise looking rather stern you have to go here.

Eventually all 20 statues will be featured here.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Spider Ant

This spider ant Leptomyrmex sp was photographed in Ravensbourne National Park in south-east Queensland. This genus of ants is distinctive, with long legs and antennae, and a habit of carrying their gaster (abdomen) raised above their bodies. This enables them to shoot formic acid at any enemy in front of them.

Spider ants can be found in many environments, but especially in damp mountain forest like Ravensbourne.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Aussie Trip 2017: week 4

This week - views of the country and coast, a bushfire damaged scientific site, A bird fishing (most unexpectedly) and a pile of fish and chips you couldn't jump over.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Things are Grave Part II -- Do Fish Have Nipples?

This bronze fish with breasts was created by the sculptor Alex Berdal in 1990. It bears an inscription Il fait son choix d'anchois et dîne d'une sardine ('He makes his choice of anchovy and dines on a sardine'). The deceased is unnamed. The work is called Poisson Sirène ('Fish Mermaid') and is the first of eight castings in a limited edition.

On our visit to Paris in September we stayed near Montparnasse Cemetery, so naturally we paid it a thorough visit. We will be featuring some of the more interesting graves over the next few weeks.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

The Mini Chateau at Souzay Champigny

We have written about Margaret of Anjou's chateau in Souzay Champigny  before, but it's a lovely building and quite possibly larger than you would suspect.

This is obviously chateau
(and has a board to tell you so)

This shares the same cliff face and  could easily be a part of the chateau
 - you can see the end of the chateau on the right

This is one of those "I could live there" buildings. Not sure about the little hole in the rock place next door, but the staff have to live somewhere...

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

I Don't Know Why

...but this photo, taken a quite while ago now, really amuses me. Maybe it's just my puerile sense of humour...