Your RDA of Irony

Your RDA of Scandal

Let’s play Jeopardy! This is a question from last Thursday’s game.

BALLET $2000: The first ballet, “Ballet Comique de la Reine”, was commissioned by this French queen for her sister’s wedding in 1581.

Even if you don’t collect 16th century ticket stubs, you can still deduce the answer. It is a matter of logic. The answer cannot be obscure; Jeopardy is not College Bowl, so the show never attempts to amaze you with the arcane. The queen has to be someone whom the contestants and the audience would know. So who would be the most famous or infamous woman in France at that time? Who but Catherine de Medici.

That logical answer was worth $2000 to one contestant.

Unfortunately, the answer is wrong because the question is. In 1581, Catherine was not the Queen of France but rather the Queen Mother. (The reigning queen would have been her son Henri III; the very nominal queen would have his consort Louise de Lorraine.)

However, that is a minor point compared to this: Catherine de Medici never had a sister. In fact, she was an only child. (To hush up a scandal, her father did help raise the illegitimate son of his cousin–Cardinal Giuliano. Those Medici stick together.) Furthermore, in 1581 Catherine was 62; so any sibling (real or theoretical) would hardly have been nubile.

However, one facet of the question is correct. The Queen of France did commission a ballet for her sister’s wedding. But the Queen was Louise, who apparently wanted her sister to be just as miserable as she was. The groom was the Duc de Joyeuse, an actual title and just as incriminating as it sounds. The Duc was the King’s “favorite.” Tres cozy, n’est pas?

No wonder the ballet was comique. And now you know more about French history and morals than the Jeopardy research staff.

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