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background

THE LEVISTE FAMILY

he Le Vistes in the novel did exist, though we know little about them. The Le Viste family was originally from Lyons, France’s second largest city. The Jean Le Viste in the novel is actually the fourth Jean in the family. The first Jean (died 1383) was a doctor of law and the richest man in Lyons. His son Barthélemy (d.1442) was the first Le Viste to move to Paris, where he was a lawyer in Parliament.

His other son, Jean II, had a penchant for displaying the family coat of arms – a characteristic later inherited by his grandson Jean IV. In the mid-15th century the family came into possession of the Château d’Arcy, on the Loire River not far from Lyons. The coat of arms can be found on the main door, on the window frames, on two chimneys, on tiles in the floors, in ornamentation on the ceiling, on the keystone of the vault in the chateau’s chapel, and in its stained glass.

Jean IV trained in law at Avignon, and moved to Paris in 1464 to become a lay counsellor in the Court of Louis XI – a king who demanded complete obedience. Jean IV must have been obedient, for he rose in status from counsellor to the King and Parliament as well as serving as a kind of diplomat for Louis XI. After Louis XI’s death in 1483, Jean IV remained close to the new King, Charles VIII. In 1489 he became the President of the Court of Aids – a fancy title for the head of one of the Royal Courts of Justice. Normally such positions went to a member of the clergy.

Jean IV married Geneviève de Nanterre c. 1475 at the relatively old age of about 43. Geneviève was from an old established noble family; her father was the President of the Paris Parliament. Such a marriage would have been very good for Jean IV’s status. He was from a wealthy Lyonnais family, but that is not the same as having noble blood. Geneviève provided such blood.

Jean IV and Geneviève lived first at Notre Dame des Champs and then on the Rue du Four near St. Germain des Prés . They had three daughters – Claude, Jeanne, and Geneviève – but no sons, which was unfortunate for a man so concerned with the family coat of arms. Jean IV died in 1500. His inheritance would have gone primarily to Claude – we know she inherited the Château d’Arcy. It’s not known what happened to Geneviève de Nanterre.

Claude married Geoffroy de Balzac. He died in 1510, and in 1513 she married Jean de Chabannes (d. 1524). Claude never had children, and died before 1544. The property she inherited from her father was probably split between the Chabannes and another branch of the Le Vistes – e.g. Jean IV’s uncle Jean III and his descendents.

Jeanne Le Viste married Thibault Baillet and had two sons, but she and her sons all died young. We don’t know what happened to Jean Le Viste’s daughter Geneviève.