Renaissance Hairpin Found In Communal Toilet

Hairpin Belonging to Catherine de MediciA hairpin that belonged to 16th century French queen Catherine de Medici (1519-1589) has been found at Fontainebleau Palace, one of the favorite royal chateaus of French monarchy outside Paris.

The find is notable for two reasons.  Although Catherine de Medici was famous for her lavish collection of jewelry, little of it remains today. And, second, the hairpin was found in a communal toilet, providing grist for headline writers around the world.

Catherine was an Italian noblewoman of fourteen when her uncle, Pope Clement VII, arranged her marriage to the second son of Francis I, King of France.  According to descriptions she was thin, plain and short, so short in fact that when she married, she wore Catherine de Mediciwhat many historians say were the first high heels.  According to some blogs, she consulted a Florentine craftsman who made the shoes so that she would make what she considered an appropriate impact when she first appeared in the French court. She also acquainted France with the fork, underwear, the side-saddle, fortune tellers, the folding fan, ice cream and artichokes.

Catherine was destined to have ten children, three of whom became kings of France.  She involved herself in the murky, deadly politics of the day, maneuvering between French Catholic and Huguenot forces. The Catholic Encyclopedia calls her “dictatorial, unscrupulous, calculating and crafty…and sadly wanting in strong religious faith.”

That encyclopedia goes on to note that Catherine enriched the Bibliotheque Royale, erected the Tuileries and built the Hotel de Soissons and concludes “In a word, she was a woman of the Renaissance and a disciple of Machiavelli.”

The recently discovered pin was easily identified by its interlocking “C’s” for Catherine and by its white and green finish which were Catherine’s colors.

And as every newspaper story I’ve seen says, the find in a communal toilet is a “mystery.”


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