Sorel, Agnes (1422–1450)

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Sorel, Agnes (1422–1450)

French beauty and mistress of King Charles VII of France. Name variations: Agnès Sorel. Born in 1422 in France; died in 1450 in France; daughter of Jean Soreau, lord of Coudun, and Catherine de Maignelais ; never married; children: (with Charles VII, king of France) Charlotte de Brézé ) (c. 1444/49–?, whose son Louis de Breze married Diane de Poitiers ); Jeanne de France (who associated with Antoine de Bueil, count of Sancerre); Marie de Valois, also seen as Marguerite de France (who associated with Olivier Coëtivy).

A powerful mistress to a French king, Agnes Sorel was born into the petty French nobility. She was lady-in-waiting to Isabelle of Lorraine , queen of Naples, when she met King Charles VII of France, soon becoming his mistress and moving to his court in Paris in 1444. Women of Agnes' birth could not reasonably hope for a legitimate place in the higher nobility or royal families; often those who were ambitious and power-hungry ended up as mistresses to kings, thereby gaining a higher status and greater wealth and power. It is not clear in Agnes' case whether she simply desired the influence that came from being the king's mistress or she was truly in love with Charles. It is clear, however, that Agnes exerted great power at the court and over Charles' actions.

She gained contradictory reputations at court and across the kingdom; some condemned her as an immoral prostitute, while others reported her to be a highly intelligent, practical, and kind woman. Eager to help her family, Agnes tried to influence Charles to raise their social status and put some of them into official positions, without too much success. King Charles did, however, grow very attached to his attractive mistress, granting her several estates which made the former lady-in-waiting a very wealthy woman in her own right. She was closely involved with the politics of the court and acted as an unofficial counselor to Charles. She held much more influence over the French court than did Charles' queen, Marie of Anjou , whose position she more or less usurped.

Agnes Sorel was only 28 when she died suddenly and suspiciously. Poison was suspected, and may be true, considering the number of enemies the powerful and influential Agnes acquired during her six years at court. Charles seems to have truly mourned Agnes, but her murderer, if there were one, was never found.

suggested reading:

D'Orliac, Jehanne. The Lady of Beauty: Agnes Sorel. Lippincott, 1931.

Laura York , M.A. in History, University of California, Riverside, California