Yesterday I posted a list with things I want to research or am busy researching, when time permits. I am not going to follow the list in numerological order. Today I start with number 9. In the end I’ll explain why I included this in the quest item list, apart from it being part of the history of the late 15th century.
Last year we visisted a number of Loire castles during our short summer holiday. After checking it looks like I’ve only posted about Blois and Amboise so far, but not about Loches. Loches is, however, quite interesting. Most of the castles tourists typically visit are large, sumptuous castles, a bit out of the centre. Loches, on the other hand, is a small town and the two places of interest are located in the centre but not next to one another. It is also a bit confusing because of the terminology. The “château” or castle is a partially ruined donjon with some annexes, and was used as a prison during the reign of Louis XI. The building which looks like the idea people have of a medieval castle is called the royal lodge (“logis” or “cité royale”) and is located about 0,5 km from the donjon.
We visited the donjon first but here I’ll start with the royal lodge. It is a small, pretty castle, quite empty inside and it was quite interesting to walk around in the same rooms where Joan of Arc and Anne of Brittany (Anne de Bretagne) once walked around. Anne de Bretagne is linked to the tournament man but that’s for later posts. Joan of Arc needs no explanation. She was in Loches in 1429 and was captured by the Burgundians later on. Charles the Bold hadn’t been born yet at that time.
Another important person who lived here was Agnes Sorel, the mistress of Charles VII, the father of Louis XI who hated her. She died of mercury poisoning and there always have been rumours that it was Louis XI who poisoned her, but I don’t want to delve into medieval conspiracy theories. Her tomb is in the nearby church of St. Ours. She is not important for my research apart from her being one of the reasons Louis XI fled to Burgundy, to his uncle Philip the Good.
The donjon, which is in another part of the town, consists of a partially demolished square tower, which is completely empty inside, and some annexes, including the cells where Ludovico was kept prisoner and where he died in 1508.
I had been here before, years ago, but that was on a sombre, rainy autumn day and the donjon seemed a lot more menacing that time.
Now, why talk about Loches and Sforza? Ludovico Sforza (1452-1508) was a Milanese duke who came into power long after Charles the Bold lost his last battle, so he is not directly linked to the quest. Long story short, he was in France doing stuff against the French and at one point tried to escape disguised as a Swiss, but was caught by the French and kept as a prisoner (I didn’t check if they tried to ransom him as was usual in those days with the VIPs). First he was kept as a prisoner in a few castles, where he had a bit of freedom, eg to go fishing and such. In 1504 he was moved to Loches, where he lived not as free but in relatively comfortable circumstances. When he tried to escape in 1508, however, his books and other amenities and privileges were taken away. He died in Loches in May 1508 at the age of 55.
There is a small exhibiton with some information boards and a helmet, not that of Ludovico but one of his enemies. One of the boards mentions a mystery surrounding his tomb but it doesn’t seem to say what it is. Maybe that was on another board I didn’t photograph. According to the French Wikipedia, the cause of his death is unclear, either illness or assassination. It is also not clear what happened with his corpse. Perhaps that is he mystery.
Trivia Alert for what follows.
There are a number of reasons why I wanted to talk about Ludovico here, even though had no direct dealings with Charles the Bold – he was about twenty years younger. Note that his brother Galeazzo who preceded him as Duke of Milan supported Louis XI against Charles the Bold.
First of all, during this lockdown I am cleaning up files on my pc and came across our Loire photographs. Loches plays a role in the life of the persons I am researching and I hadn’t written a post about it yet, so this was a good time. For the occasion I reread the information about Sforza and this time I was triggered by his nickname Il Moro, because the past couple months I have come across two other Moros. Not only did Charles the Bold apparently have a horse with that name, but I came across an ancestor with a similar nickname (it appears in the parish register so it must have been commonly used). I remembered something about having encountered an Italian in his line somewhere so I checked where the Italian man came from (with some reservation as I was not able to double-check the descendancy myself yet). It appears he was also originally from Lombardy , from a town some 80 km from where Sforza was born. Cool, but not important for the rest of the research, yet. I say yet because at one point these little facts always help progressing things.
To be continued.