King Charles VII ruled France from 1422 until 1461, with his wife Queen Marie d’Anjou. The King, however, had a little something on the side. And that “little something” was Agnès Sorel.
Agnès was a 20 year-old “social climber,” who was known as Dame de beauté (Lady of Beauty). As was common at the time, Agnès was an intimate companion of the King. In fact, she became the first “official” Royal Mistress, though her duties included serving as “lady-in-waiting” to the Queen. But there was no waiting for Agnès or King Charles. Agnès bore the King four children during the course of his reign. Agnès also served as an advisor to King Charles on matters of state.
Agnès also fancied herself a fashion innovator and trend setter. She had dresses designed to her specifications. She popularized low-cut gowns for women, but hers were specially cut so one of her breasts was fully exposed. This was scandalous in the eyes of the King’s staff and other officials, especially Jean Juvénal des Ursins, the archbishop of Reims, who demanded that Agnès be forced to cover up. King Charles would have none of it. Agnès’s presence had brought the King out of a long depression, but her behavior made her many enemies.
Agnès died at the age of 28, the cause of which is debated. Some reports claimed she died of dysentery, a common malady of the time. Others say she was poisoned by enemies… another fairly common cause of death at the time.