Visconti, Valentina (1366–1408)

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Visconti, Valentina (1366–1408)

Duchess of Orléans . Name variations: Valentina of Milan; Valentine Visconti; Valentine of Milan. Born in 1366 in Milan; died in 1408 in France; daughter of John Galeas Visconti also known as Gian Galeazzo Visconti, lord of Milan (r. 1378–1402), duke of Milan (r. 1396–1402), and Isabelle of France (1349–1372); married Louis (1372–1407), duke of Orléans, in 1388 (died 1407); children: Charles (1391–1465), duke of Orléans; Jean or John (b. 1404), count of Angoulême; Philippe, count of Vertus; Marguerite of Orleans (d. 1466).

Valentina Visconti was born in 1366 in Milan, the daughter of Princess Isabelle of France and the Milanese duke Gian Galeazzo Visconti. Raised in the best tradition of the Italian nobility, she was highly literate, and read and spoke Latin, French, and German fluently. She collected books and manuscripts throughout her life, and was in addition an accomplished harpist. In 1388, she married Louis, duke of Orléans (brother of French king Charles VI), by proxy. She could not move to France to join him, however, until two years later, when her father had finally gathered the 500,000 gold francs that served as her dowry.

Once in France, Valentina developed a great rivalry with the French queen Isabeau of Bavaria (1371–1435); Valentina's station as the wife of the popular and powerful Louis, who often acted as regent of the country, put her in an influential position almost similar to Isabeau's. Moreover, Valentina was a popular duchess, respected as a kind and beautiful woman, while Isabeau made enemies all her life and was perhaps France's most despised queen. They vied to create the most opulent court and to have the most beautiful, richest wardrobes—superficial rivalries, to be sure, but ones which disguised the political rivalries each faced in the other. These conflicts intensified when Duke Louis began an affair with Queen Isabeau, and when subsequently the insane King Charles VI showed Valentina so much kindness that rumors of an affair between them were widely believed.

Queen Isabeau fueled most of the rumors against Valentina herself, and even accused her of witchcraft. Louis did little to protect his wife, but had her moved away from Paris, ostensibly for her own safety. Louis was assassinated in 1407, and for the next year, until she herself died, Valentina Visconti tried to re-establish herself in Paris with some success, based on her previous good reputation and popularity.

sources:

Tuchman, Barbara . A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century. NY: Ballantine, 1978.

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