Currently reading : “Why, Agnes, my hair is growing grey, while yours is getting darker every hour?”*
The story of Agnès Sorel would make a good plot for a soap opera. Known by the sobriquet Dame de beauté, she was the first mistress of a French king to be officially recognized as such. It is said that she was an extremely beautiful woman, as well as very intelligent. She wielded considerable influence over the king and his policies, which earned her a number of powerful enemies at court. She gave birth to three daughters and, while pregnant with her fourth child, she joined Charles VII on a campaign against the English in 1450 in Jumièges, Normandy. Shortly afterwards, she fell ill and died of “flux of the stomach” according to the official account of events. Nevertheless, a lot of people believed she had been poisoned because of her sudden death and because of her numerous enemies…
Lately, the ESRF has gone back in time to study the reason behind her sudden death. Thanks to synchrotron light, pieces of Agnès Sorel’s hair and skin have been studied. (I just love that picture)
The evidence obtained makes it possible to suggest plausible causes of death. The way she died is not known yet, however, incredibly high levels of mercury have been found in her remains. This finding opens the door to numerous hypotheses. The results of this study were presented last year in Loches (France), where the corpse has been buried again following its exhumation last September for this research, and can also be found on ESRF’s website.