Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Madame De Longueville - Famous Women From The Business of Politics

A YOUNG Princess of the Blood so lovely, fascinating, and witty as Anne de Bourbon, was surely destined, it might be thought, to contract an early and altogether suitable matrimonial alliance. It was therefore somewhat surprising to find how much difficulty there was in mating her. Foremost among those who sought her hand was that hair-brained, handsome, coarse-mannered Duke de Beaufort, younger son of Caesar de Vendome, himself the bastard of the jovial Bearnois by the “Fair Gabrielle”.[1] Beaufort inherited his unfortunate grand-dame’s beauty–had a Phoebus-Apollo style of head, set off with a profusion of long, curly, golden locks; was a young, brave, and flourishing gallant, and somewhat later (during the Fronde), from his blunt speech and familiar manners with the Parisian mob, became the idol of the market-women, and was therefore dubbed “Roi des Halles”. But this scapegrace suitor withdrew his pretensions in order to gratify, it is said, the handsome though decried Duchess de Montbazon, who had enthralled him in her flowery chains as a led-captain. On entering her nineteenth year Mdlle. de Bourbon was promised in marriage to the Prince de Joinville, son of Charles of Lorraine (Duke de Guise), but that young nobleman having died prematurely in Italy, no other serious matrimonial project seems to have been entertained until the Princess had reached her twenty-third year. The fortunate suitor was one of Beaufort’s rivals–or, rather, colleagues–for that would be the more correct term when designating their mutual relations to the unscrupulous Duchess de Montbazon. The widower, Henry of Orleans (Duke de Longueville), by birth, dignity, and wealth was looked upon as the first match in France. Unfortunately, in his case, those dazzling attributes were materially abated through disparity of age, for he had reached the ripe maturity of forty-seven, whilst the bride of his choice had not yet seen half that cycle of summers. To be twenty-four years her senior was, for the husband of a youthful princess so excelling in wit and beauty, certainly a formidable inequality, and so Mdlle. de Bourbon seems to have thought. At the command, however, of her father, who intimated that his determination was inflexible in thus disposing of his daughter’s hand, Anne Genevieve meekly complied, and was espoused in June, 1642, to Henri de Bourbon, Duke de Longueville.[2]
[1] Created Duchess de Beaufort by Henry IV.
[2] The Duke was descended from the “brave Dunois,” bastard of Orleans.
The young Duchess found herself speedily surrounded by a swarm of courtiers, attracted by her sprightly and refined intelligence, her majestic beauty, her nonchalant and languishing grace. What more adorable mistress could an audacious aspirant dream of? Bold adventurers for such a lady’s love there was no lack of; and would not many be encouraged with the thought that such a prize could only be defended by a husband already verging towards the decline of life, and whose heart, moreover, was believed to be in the keeping of another? The sighs of the suitors, however, all adventurous and calculating as they might be, were wasted, their hopes altogether fallacious. For six long years there was nothing more accorded to that crowd of often-renewed adorers save the smiles of an innocent coquetry. He who, during that period of honest gallantry, coming near to La Rochefoucauld, seems to have made the liveliest impression, was Coligny; and it was only slanderers who whispered that the young Count was happier than became the adorer of a heroine of the De Rambouillet school.
Madame de Longueville, nevertheless, possessed the characteristics of her sex; she had alike its lovable qualities and its well-known imperfections. In a sphere where gallantry was the order of the day, that young and fascinating creature, married to a man already in the decline of life, and, moreover, with his affections engaged elsewhere, merely followed the universal example. Tender by nature, the senses, she herself says in her confessions–the humblest ever made–played no minor part in the affairs of the heart. But, surrounded unceasingly by homage, she found pleasure in receiving it. Very lovable, she centred her happiness in being loved. Sister of the Great Conde, she was not insensible to the idea of playing a part which should occupy public attention; but, far from pretending to domination, there was so much of the woman in her that she allowed herself to be led by him whom she loved. Whilst, around her, interest and ambition assumed so frequently the hues of love, she listened to the dictates of her heart alone, and devoted herself to the interest and ambition of another. All contemporary writers are unanimous on that point. Her enemies sharply reproach her alike for not having a fitting object in her political intrigues, and for being unmindful of her own interests. But they appear not to be aware that, in thinking to overwhelm her memory by such accusation, they rather elevate it, and they are assiduous to cover her faults and misconduct–faults which, after all, are centred in one alone. In short, some writers cast the greater part of the blame the young Duchess’s conduct merits upon her husband, who, according to them, knew not how to make amends for his own disadvantage, on the score of disparity of age, by an anxious and indulgent tenderness.
Before their marriage was solemnised it was stipulated that the Duke de Longueville should break off his “liaison” with the Duchess de Montbazon–then notorious as one of the most unrestrained among the women of fashion at the Court of the Regent. This, however, the Duke unhappily failed to do.
In declaring its adhesion to Mazarin at the commencement of the Regency, the House of Conde had drawn upon itself the hatred of the party of the “Importants”, though that enmity scarcely rebounded upon Madame de Longueville. Her amiableness in everything where her heart was not seriously concerned, her perfect indifference to politics at this period of her life, together with the graces of her mind and person, rendered her universally popular, and shielded her against the injustice of partisan malice. But outside the pale of politics she had an enemy, and a formidable one, in the Duchess de Montbazon. That bold and dangerous woman having by her fascinations enslaved Beaufort, the quondam admirer of Madame de Longueville, the young Duke through her intrigues became a favourite chief of the “Importants”. Amongst the earliest to swell the ranks of that faction were two other personages who had played a very conspicuous part during the reign of Louis XIII. The first of these, Madame de Montbazon’s step-daughter, was the witty, beautiful, and errant Duchess de Chevreuse, whom Louis had judged so dangerous that he had expressly forbidden by his will, when on the point of death, that she should ever be recalled from exile to Court. By the same prohibition was affected the former Keeper of the Seals, the Marquis de Chateauneuf, who had displayed considerable talent under Richelieu, but had ultimately made himself obnoxious to that great Minister, after having given many a sanguinary proof of his devotion to him. A glance at the antecedents of that remarkable woman, Madame de Chevreuse, the early favourite of Anne of Austria, will now be necessary in order to understand clearly her relative position to the Queen and Mazarin at the commencement of the Regency, as well as to those incipient “Frondeurs”, the “Importants”, at the moment of her dragging the Prince de Marsillac (afterwards Duke de Rochefoucauld) into that party.

Adapted From Political Women by Sutherland Menzies
I have a graduate degree in history and I love history in all it’s forms–especially women’s history. A graduate degree in women’s studies was not an option at the university where I received my MA in History so I had to make do with a more generalized degree. However, in every class I made up for the lack by researching the condition of women in each age that I studied. I have always been fascinated by women’s history, so I thought I would start sharing some of the lost treasures that I uncover. I believe that most people have curious minds and like glimpses of how the world was, and how things were perceived in the past. I firmly believe in the idea that we must remember history in order to learn from it, grow and hopefully cut down on the number of stupid mistakes that random impulse and intellectual curiosity and greed and a thousand other human motivators lead us to make.
Smiles and Good Fortune,
Teresa Thomas Bohannon

It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent.
– W. Somerset Maugham (1874 - 1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915

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