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Unusual: Good King René

There has ever been a more eccentric ruler than Good King René? As learned as he was whimsical, his liking for the pleasures of life was equalled only by his fondness for the arts. René I of Anjou left a unique impression in the hearts of the counties he governed. Whether they praised or criticised him, nobody remained indifferent to this highly colourful figure.

The sovereign of Provence and the county of Anjou, who lived in the Château of Saumur, was an unusual character whose fortune comprised so much land and so many titles it is almost impossible to list them all! But it is not his territory or titles that he is best known for. In the hearts of Anjou residents, King René remains the lord of the arts and pleasures. While some kings are born warriors, others enter the world armed with an academic mind, and King René was one of the most cultivated people of his time. He studied the arts, science and theology, spoke five languages and mastered painting and music techniques.

As a generous patron, he surrounded himself with a literary and erudite Court in which Renaissance ideas abounded, and in such company the king led a life of partying, music and tournaments and developed a passion for exotic menageries and fine dwellings. He blindly spent money on the creation of châteaux and manors and the modernisation of his land, something which earned him the gratitude of local residents to the extent that when he died in Aix-en-Provence, the people of Provence and Anjou fought over his body. The residents of Anjou organised the secret removal of the corpse by hiding it in a barrel stowed aboard a small boat traveling up the Rhône. It was victory for the Anjou people, and King René’s body rests in its tomb in Angers cathedral to this day.
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