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Women of Modern France By Hugo P. Thieme Characters: 45008

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05

The Seventeenth Century: Woman at Her Best

In the seventeenth century, the influence exerted by the women of France, departing from the political aspect which had characterized it in the preceding century, became of a social, literary, religious, and moral nature, the last predominating. Inasmuch as the reins of government were in the hands of the king and his ministers, political affairs were but slightly affected by the feminine element. Woman, realizing the uselessness as well as danger of plotting against the inviolate person and power of the king, contented herself with scheming against those ministers whose attitudes she considered unfavorable to her plans.

Of all social and literary movements, however, woman was the acknowledged leader; in that institution of culture and development, the seventeenth century salon, her undisputed supremacy placed her in the position of patroness and protectress of men of letters. In the general religious movement her r?le was one of secondary importance; and as mistress, she ceased with the sixteenth century to be either active politically or disastrous morally and became merely a temporary recipient of capriciously bestowed wealth and favors. In order to fully comprehend woman's position and the exact nature of her influence in this century and the following one, the position and constitution of the nobility before, during and after the ministry of Richelieu, must be studied.

The great houses of Carolingian origin were those of Alen?on, Bourgogne, Bourbon, Vend?me, Kings of Navarre, Counts of Valois, and Artois; the great gentlemen were the Dukes of Guise, Nemours, Longueville, Chevreuse, Nevers, Bouillon, Rohan, Montmorency, and, later, Luxembourg, Mortemart, Créqui, Noailles; names which are constantly met with in French history. Before the time of Louis XIV., men of such rank, when dissatisfied or discontented, might leave court at their will and were requested to return; but with Louis XIV., departure from court was considered a disgrace, and offending parties were permitted, not asked, to return.

Outside the army, there was open to the princes of the nobility no occupation in which they might expend their surplus energy; thus, being free from the burden of taxes, it was but natural that they should seek amusement in literature, society, and intrigue. The honor of their respective houses and the fear of being damned in the next world were their only sources of deep concern; other than these, they assumed no responsibilities, desiring absolute freedom from care.

Legal, judicial, and ecclesiastical offices were open to them but were little favored except as convenient means of obtaining revenues and positions otherwise not procurable. The first requisites toward advancement were bravery and skill, not learning; the majority of the members of the nobility much preferred buying a regiment to being president of a tribunal, and their primary ambition was to acquire a reputation for magnificence, heroism, and gallantry. They fought for glory, to show their skill and courage; the sentiment of patriotism was but weakly developed, and war was indulged in merely for the sake of fighting, passing the time, and being occupied. As in the preceding century, death was but little feared; in fact, the scorn of it was carried to the extreme. "The French went to death as though they were to be resuscitated on the morrow."

That man went to war was not sufficient proof of his bravery; in addition, he must, upon the smallest pretext, draw his sword, must fight constantly, and especially with adversaries better armed and larger in force; the love of woman was for such men only. Adventure was the fad: it is said of one seigneur that he took pleasure in going every night to a certain corner and, from pure malice, striking with his sword the first person who chanced that way; this unique pastime he continued until he himself was killed.

Marriage, until the eighteenth century, was not a union of affection, but merely an alliance between two families and in the interest of both; women, to preserve their identity after marriage, signed their family names. As maturity was reached at the age of twelve, marriage meant simply cohabitation. Until the Revolution, free marriages, or liaisons, were recognized as natural if not legitimate institutions, and the offspring of such unions, who were said to be more numerous than legitimate children, were legitimatized and became heirs simply through recognition by the father. (At first, princes were unwilling to accept, as wives, the natural daughters of kings; however, the Duke of Orleans and the Prince of Conti married the natural daughters of Louis XIV.) As a rule, titles could not be transmitted through females; when a woman married beneath her rank she lost her titles, but they were given to her children.

In the seventeenth century, woman's influence was of a nature vastly superior to that exerted by her in the sixteenth century, in that it rendered sacred both her and her honor; but, in spite of the refining restraint of the salon, brutality was still the main characteristic of man. To express beautiful sentiments in the midst of jealousies, rivalries, adventures, complaints, and despair, was the savoir-vivre of the Catherine de' Medici type of elegance brought from Italy in the sixteenth century. This caused the extremes of external fastidiousness and internal grossness to be embodied in the same individual; in the eighteenth century, man was, inwardly as well as outwardly, refined, mild, kind, a friend of pleasure; and therein lies the fundamental difference between the honnête homme of Louis XIV. and the homme du monde of Louis XV. The seventeenth century type of man is midway between that of the sixteenth and eighteenth-more polished and less gross than the former, yet lacking the knowledge and culture of the latter.

When in the seventeenth century the two all-powerful forces, brute force and money, of the preceding century were replaced by those of money and the pen, the decay of the impoverished and unintellectual nobility became but a question of time. The day when great gentlemen might scorn men of letters and learning was rapidly passing; with the French Academy arose a new spirit, a fresh impulse was given to intellectual attainments. Although treated as inferiors, the literary men of the seventeenth century spoke of the aristocracy in a spirit of raillery, but slightly veiled with respect; and the nobility while remaining, in its way, courageous and glorious, lost its prestige, force, and influence.

In the seventeenth century, money acquired a certain purchasing value which procured advantages and luxuries impossible in the preceding period when the brave man was worth infinitely more than the rich who, scorned and considered as a rapacious Jew, was isolated and in constant fear of being robbed or killed. As the number of government officials increased, individual fortunes grew; men became enormously wealthy through the various offices bought by them or given to them by the government. The financier was a king and many marriages of princes and dukes with daughters of men of wealth are recorded. Women of station, however, seldom married beneath their rank, because they lost their titles by so doing, and titles were still the only road to social success. As a rule, titles could not be transmitted through females; when a woman made a misalliance her titles were given to her children. Almost all rich men of the period, from the time of Louis XIII. to the Revolution, became nobles, as almost every brave man was made a knight up to the seventeenth century. It was possible for the wealthy to buy a marquisate or baronetage and give it to their children; a grand-marshal of France was no longer so powerful as a rich banker.

The complete change, under Louis XIV., of the customs of the time, caused numberless petty jealousies, scandals, and intrigues in the aristocracy, which could no longer maintain its old form and yet had to be considered by the government. The question of reform arose-how to restrict the number of nobles, which increased every year. Rank was bestowed for service and, sometimes, even for wealth; the old families, being poor, had no distinctive prestige except that given by their privileges at court; their titles no longer distinguished them from the newcomers, whom they gradually began to disdain, and the result was a general lowering of the standing, importance, and influence of nobility. Another party which gained prominence was that of the bench; the judges, as interpreters of the king's laws, became powerful, for law was absolute. A deadly rivalry sprang up between the parties of rank with no money or power and of power and money without rank.

The desire of every man of rank to be independent, to be a force in himself instead of a part of a unit which might be useful to the state as a whole, was one of the principal defects of the French aristocracy; poverty crushed it, idleness robbed it of its alertness, intriguing and gradual oppression reduced it to despair. Appointed to offices, its members failed in the performance of their duties; the latter fell to the under men who, while the aristocracy was busy at fêtes, in society, at the table, became experts in the affairs of the government-shrewd politicians and financiers. The new nobility, that of the robe, replaced that of the sword in all interests of the government except war; gradually, Parliament was made up of men who, having been elevated to the rank of nobility, retained their aversion to those who were noble by birth, recognizing only the king as their superior and refusing precedence to even the princes of the blood. Louis XIV., however, objecting to and fearing such a strong class as that of the robe, employed, wherever possible, people of lower rank. Thus it happened in the seventeenth century that the still powerful nobility of higher rank was scorned and kept down; but in the eighteenth century, when the gentlemen of the robe had become all-powerful and therefore constituted a dangerous party, it was they who became the objects of scorn and persecution, while the aristocrats of blood, the gentlemen of the court, recovered the royal favors through their political powerlessness.

French aristocracy really had no object, no raison d'être, after its disappearance from all governmental functions; it became an encumbrance to the state; having no particular part to play, it did nothing; this is one of the causes of its dissolution and of the Revolution as well. Thus France gradually passed from inequality of classes under the sanction of custom to equality of classes before the law: this change in the condition and constitution of the French nobility accounts for many intrigues and scandals and explains the social and moral actions of French women, as well as the difference in the nature of their activities in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

The seventeenth was, par excellence, the century which can boast of that incomparable society the cult of which was the highest in all things-art, religion, philosophy, poetry, politics, war, and beauty. From the convent of the Carmelites to the H?tel de Rambouillet, from the Place Royale to the various chateaux and salons, we must seek only that which is elevating and spiritual, beautiful and religious. In the famous society which kept pace with the political reputation and influence of France is found a coterie of women who combined remarkable beauty and intelligence with a high moral standard, and whose names are intimately connected with the history of France. Where again can we find such a galaxy of beauties as that formed by Charlotte de Montmorency, Mme. de Chevreuse, Mme. de Hautefort, Mme. de Montbazon, Mme. de Guémené, Mme. de Chatillon, Mme. de Longueville, Marie de Gonzague, Henriette de la Vallière, Mme. de Montespan, Mme. de Maintenon, without enumerating such great writers and leaders of salons as Mme. de Rambouillet, Mlle. de Scudéry, Mme. de Lambert, Mme. de Sévigné, and Mme. de la Fayette? The seventeenth century could tolerate no mediocrity; grandeur was in the very atmosphere; its political movements were great movements; it produced in art a Poussin, in letters a Corneille, in science and philosophy a Descartes.

The various movements of which woman was the head may be divided into two periods, and each period into two parts. The political women may well be grouped about Marie de' Medici,-whose career will not be given separate treatment, inasmuch as there was no drop of French blood in her veins,-and the social and literary women about Mme. de Rambouillet and her salon. In the latter half of the seventeenth century and at the beginning of the eighteenth, politics are represented by Mme. de Montespan-the mistress-and Mme. de Maintenon-the wife; social life and literature have their purest representative in Mme. de Lambert. The two queens of the seventeenth century, Anne of Austria and Maria Theresa, were without influence; the religious movement was represented by the galaxy of women of whom we write in a later chapter.

After the death of Henry IV., Marie de' Medici succeeded in having herself made queen-regent for Louis XIII., who was then but nine years old. A woman of no particular capacity, who had in no way adapted herself to French life and customs, she allowed herself to be governed by an adventurer, an Italian who understood and appreciated French ideals no more than did Marie; these two-the queen and Concini, her minister-immediately began to concoct plans to gain control of the state. The king was kept in virtual captivity until he reached the age of seventeen, when, having asserted his rights, Concini was killed, and Marie's dominant power and influence came to an abrupt end.

Louis XIII. reigned, with his minister, the Prince de Luynes, from 1617 to 1624, when he became reconciled to his mother and appointed her favorite, Richelieu, his minister. From 1610 to about 1640, Marie de' Medici exercised more or less influence, always of a nature disastrous to France.

After the king's death, Anne of Austria, as queen-regent, with Mazarin, directed the destinies of France. During the ministry of the two cardinals, Richelieu and Mazarin, occurred the political intrigues and astute diplomatic movements of Mme. de Chevreuse and the unwise and short-sighted aspirations of Mme. de Longueville. These intimate friends were women of the highest intelligence, most perfect beauty, and uncapitulating devotion, and were working for the same cause, though from different motives.

Mme. de Chevreuse was the daughter of M. de Rohan, Duke of Montbazon. She had married M. de Luynes, the minister of Louis XIII., who overthrew the power of Marie de' Medici, and who, by initiating his wife into his secrets, gave her the schooling and experience which she later used to such advantage. De Luynes presented her at court with instructions to ingratiate herself with the queen-Anne of Austria-and the king. In this design she succeeded so well that she was soon made superintendent of the household of the queen, and became as influential with Anne as was her husband with the king.

In 1621 M. de Luynes died; a year later his widow married Claude of Lorraine, Duke of Chevreuse; but as that was an unhappy union, she soon began her career as an intriguer. On the arrival of Lord Kensington, the English ambassador, she fell in love with him, that escapade being the first of a long series; the two proceeded to inveigle Queen Anne into a liaison with the Duke of Buckingham, which scheme, as history so well records, partly succeeded.

When Mme. de Chevreuse accompanied to England the new queen, Henriette-Marie, wife of Charles I., both Buckingham and Kensington outdid themselves in showing her attention, Richelieu, fearing her influence and intrigues at the court of England, hastened the recall of her husband, but she received through her friends, from the English monarch himself, an invitation to remain; during the time, she gave birth to a child.

Her next famous undertaking, which involved the lives of various persons of high rank, was the scheme to persuade Monsieur the Dauphin to refuse to marry Mlle. de Montpensier; Queen Anne was opposed to this union, and Mme. de Chevreuse gained to their cause a number of influential friends who were all madly in love with her. The ever vigilant Richelieu having discovered the plot, Monsieur confessed. In this conspiracy, M. de Chalais lost his head, other plotters lost their positions, and some were exiled. Mme. de Chevreuse was forced to retire to Lorraine; there she set in movement a vast plan against Richelieu and France, allying England and various princes, but, by the arrest of Montaigu, the plot was discovered, the alliance broken up, and peace restored.

In 1626, by request of England, Mme. de Chevreuse returned to France. For a time she was quiet and seemed to favor Richelieu, but she soon captivated one of his ministers, the Marquis of Chateauneuf. Richelieu discovered the latter's weakness, and, having captured his correspondence, sent him to prison, where he remained for ten years. The fair intriguer was exiled to Dampierre, the cardinal fearing to send her out of France on account of her influence with the Duke of Lorraine. She managed to steal into Paris at night and see the queen; when discovered, she was sent to Touraine where she began the dangerous task of carrying on the correspondence between the Dukes of Savoy and Lorraine and England, and between Spain and Queen Anne. Even when this correspondence was intercepted and the queen confessed all, Richelieu was afraid to banish Mme. de Chevreuse; though he believed her to be at the bottom of all the current intrigues, he knew that out of France she would stir up the rulers of England and Spain as well as the Duke of Lorraine and others hostile to the cardinal.

Violence being out of the question, because of her influence in England and of the prominence of her family, he decided to win her over by kindness; he even sent her money, but she was too shrewd to permit Richelieu to outwit her, always paying him back in his own coin. However, that kind of play was too dangerous for her and she escaped to Spain. As soon as her departure became known, Richelieu set to work every means in his power to bring her back, sending her an urgent invitation to return and promising to pardon her past. When his messages reached her, she was already in Madrid, where she was royally received as the friend of the king's sister, Anne; there, by means of her beauty and wonderful intelligence, she conquered every cavalier. When the war broke out between France and Spain, she left for England where she was welcomed like a visiting queen.

Richelieu, anxious for the support of the Duke of Lorraine in his war against Spain and Austria, needed the co?peration of Mme. de Chevreuse, and with that end in view sent ambassadors to London to arrange for her return; but an agreement was not an easy matter between two such astute politicians, and negotiations went on unsuccessfully for over a year. Her subtleness, apparent docility and invincible precautions were pitted against the artifices and dissimulation of the cardinal; both employed all the astute man?uvres of diplomacy and exhausted the resources of consummate skill in gaining the point desired by each. The cardinal failed to convince her of her safety.

Mme. de Chevreuse soon formed about her a circle of émigrés-Marie de' Medici, Duc La Vallette, Soubèse, La Vieuville, and many others. This coterie was in open correspondence with Spain, Austria, and the Duke of Lorraine. From every side, Richelieu felt the intriguing hand and influence of Mme. de Chevreuse, and decided to put forth another effort to get her to return, this time sending her husband; but not sure of the latter's sincerity and in fear of him, the duchess concluded to leave England for Flanders, and, escorted by a squad of dukes and lords, departed like a queen.

At Brussels, she entered into open relations with Spain, drawing over the Duke of Lorraine. She was accused of being in the plot of Cinq-Mars and the Duke of Bouillon with Spain; when Richelieu exposed this to Queen Anne, the latter for the first time became her enemy. Just at this time of his triumph, Richelieu died, his death being followed soon after by that of Louis XIII., who left a special order for the exile forever of Mme. de Chevreuse, whom he called Le Diable. The queen-regent, however, recalled her, and set at liberty her friend, Chateauneuf, who had been imprisoned for ten years.

When Mme. de Chevreuse returned to Paris after an absence of ten years, her beauty was still unimpaired, she possessed an experience such as no man of the day could boast, was personally acquainted with nearly every great statesman and aware of the weak points in every court of Europe. While she could now count on the support of the majority of the princes, plots were being formed about the queen-regent, the object of which was to persuade the latter to give up the friends who had served her faithfully for so many years. La Rochefoucauld was sent to meet Mme. de Chevreuse and to inform her of the change of attitude of the queen-regent; as her devoted friend, he advised her to abandon, for the present, all hopes of governing the queen and to devote herself entirely to regaining her favor and to preparing for the possible fall of Mazarin.

After securing the release of her friend Chateauneuf, Mme. de Chevreuse set to work to restore him to his former office of Guard of the Seals, but did not succeed. She then turned her attention to undermining the power of Mazarin, agitating all émigrés returning to France and starting the most outspoken denunciation of the policy of the cardinal, his injustice and tyranny against the nobility. The cries of disapproval became so general that Mazarin was kept busy warding off the blows aimed at him by his enemy; the latter succeeded in placing Chateauneuf as Chancelier des ordres du roi and in having his estates restored to him, while Alexandre de Campion she placed in the household of the queen. Mazarin, living in constant dread of her, managed to thwart two of her cherished schemes-the restoration to the Duke of Vend?me of the government of Brittany and

the placing of Chateauneuf in the ministry-upon the success of which depended her own influence and power.

Finding that ruse, flattery, insinuation, and ordinary court intrigues were of no avail, she turned to other methods. The Importants, a party made up of adventurers and a large number of the nobility, were making themselves felt more and more; they were opposed to Richelieu and Mazarin, and Mme. de Chevreuse became their chief and instigator. Failing to succeed with the cardinal's own methods, she decided to assassinate him, but the plot was discovered, the Duke of Beaufort was arrested and all the princes of the party of the Importants were ordered to leave Paris. Mme. de Chevreuse was compelled to depart from court and retire to Dampierre, and then to Touraine, where she did everything in her power to assist the friends who had compromised themselves for her. During her first exile she had had the consolation of the friendship of the queen; but now she was banished by the very friend whom she had served so well and who had up to this time been able and willing to afford her comfort and protection. Through Lord Goring, Count Craft, and the Commander de Jars, she opened up correspondence and negotiations with England, but was again surprised by the vigilant Mazarin and sent to Angoulême; determining to escape, after many hardships, she successfully reached Liège; from there, as head of all foreign intrigues against France, she continued to thwart Mazarin's foreign policy.

As soon as the first signs of the Fronde broke out, Mme. de Chevreuse became active and succeeded in attracting to her the young Marquis de Laigues with whom, later on, she contracted a mariage de conscience. As ambassador of the Fronde, she prevailed upon Spain to promise troops and subsidies to her party. After the peace of 1649, she went to Paris where she found almost all her friends ready to follow her and to pay her homage. It was she who conceived the idea of an aristocratic league which, under the auspices of the two great princes of the blood, the Duke of Orléans and the Prince of Condé, would unite the best part of the nobility.

Her plan was to marry her daughter to the Prince de Conti and the young Duc d'Enghien to one of the daughters of the Duke of Orléans. The contracts were signed and all was in readiness when Mazarin was exiled, and the following Frondists came into power: the Duke of Orléans at court, Condé and Turenne at the head of the army, Chateauneuf in the Cabinet, Molé in Parliament, while Mme. de Chevreuse and Mme. de Longueville managed to keep harmony among all. Queen Anne in a short time annulled the marriage contracts; and on the return of Mazarin, Mme. de Chevreuse took up her work with him, the cardinal being wise enough to appreciate the fact that she was a greater force with than against him.

Strange as it may seem, Mme. de Chevreuse in time became the great acting and controlling force of royalty, winning over the Duke of Lorraine and becoming a staunch friend to both the regent and the cardinal; after the death of the latter, she became all-powerful, and it may be said that she made Colbert what he was. In the fulness of her power, she gradually retired, having seen, in turn, the passing away or the fall of Richelieu, Mazarin, Louis XIII., Anne of Austria, the Queen of England, Chateauneuf, the Duke of Lorraine, her daughter, and the Marquis de Laigues. She ceased plotting, renounced politics and intrigues, and retired to the country, where she died in 1679.

Mme. de Chevreuse was undoubtedly one of the most important political characters of the seventeenth century, just as she was also one of its greatest beauties-possibly the most seductive and charming woman of her epoch. A consummate diplomat and an untiring worker, she was at the head of more intrigues and plots, had more thrilling adventures, controlled and ruined more men, than any other woman of her century, if not of all French history. Thinking little of religion, she was yet in the very midst of the Catholic party; unswerving in her friendships, she scorned danger, opinion, fortune, for those whom she loved or whose cause she espoused; an implacable foe, she was the most dreaded enemy of both Richelieu and Mazarin.

With a remarkable ability for grasping the details of an antagonist's position she combined all the other qualities of an astute politician; thus, upon the desired consummation of her plots she brought to bear a sagacity, finesse, and energy that baffled all her adversaries. With her, politics became a passion and a necessity; even while in exile, her zeal was unflagging and she intrigued over all Europe. Scorning peril as well as all petty restraints, and characterized by courage, loyalty, and devotion, she was without an equal among the members of her sex.

Mme. de Hautefort, while less powerful than Mme. de Chevreuse and of quite a different type, is associated with her in the history of the time. Pure, beautiful, and virtuous, she everywhere inspired love and respect; without political aspirations and seeking neither power nor favors, she refused to deliver her soul or betray her friends for Richelieu or Mazarin; she was their enemy, but not their rival.

Because of her desire to serve the queen, of whom she was an intimate friend, and to further her interests, she was connected with the first intrigues of Mme. de Chevreuse, but as an innocent and disinterested party. Louis XIII. conceived an ardent attachment for her, and Richelieu endeavored to win her over to his policies, but she remained faithful to her queen and refused to sacrifice her honor to the king.

The cardinal did not rest until he had prevailed upon the king to exile her, ostensibly for only fifteen days; and as her unselfishness and generosity had made an impression upon the whole court, her departure was much regretted, though no demonstration was made. When, after the king's death, Mme. de Hautefort returned to Paris, she soon re?stablished herself in the affection, admiration, and respect of her associates.

As Mazarin gained ascendency over Queen Anne, that regent changed her policy and abandoned her former friends. Mme. de Hautefort was opposed to the queen on account of her liaison with her minister and her lack of fidelity to those who, in time of trouble, had served her so well. As dame d'atours, she was forced either to close her eyes to all scenes between the cardinal and Anne or to combat the regent and resign. She was not to be tempted by the honors and favors with which the two sought to purchase her criminal connivance or her silence; preferring poverty and exile to a guilty conscience, she soon retired to the convent of the Daughters of Sainte-Marie, where she was followed by her admirers, who were willing to place themselves and their fortunes at her disposal. At the age of thirty she accepted the hand of the Duke of Schomberg, and, away from the court and its intrigues, lived in peace.

Indifferent to the powerful, but kind and compassionate to the poor and oppressed, Mme. de Hautefort is a type of those great women of the seventeenth century who stood for honor, courage, generosity, sympathy, and virtue; fervently, even austerely, religious, she was yet far removed from anything resembling bigotry. Among the ladies of the H?tel de Rambouillet, she was one of the most popular; her vivacity, modesty, and reserve, combined with a tall figure, imposing bearing, and large, expressive blue eyes, won the hearts of many cavaliers, among whom the most prominent were the Dukes of Lorraine and La Rochefoucauld.

A close second to Mme. de Chevreuse in influence and power, was Mme. de Longueville, a woman of exquisite and aristocratic beauty, of brilliant mind, and an adept in the art of conversation. Tender and kind, but ambitious, she, like many others of her time and sex, had two distinct periods-one of conquest and one of penitence and pious devotion.

Born in a prison at Vincennes during the captivity of her father, the great Henry of Bourbon, Prince of Condé, she in time developed remarkable personal charms. Her early days were spent at the convent of the Carmelites and at the H?tel de Rambouillet, her mind-in these opposite worlds of religion and society-being divided between pious meditations and romantic dreams. At the time of the execution at Toulouse of her uncle, M. de Montmorency, she seriously considered entering the Carmelite convent.

Upon making her social début, she immediately became one of the leaders about whom all the gallants gathered. She formed a fast friendship with Mme. de Sablé, Mme. de Rambouillet, Mme. de Bouteville, and Mlle. du Vigean. Her beauty, which was quite phenomenal, soon became the subject of poetry. Voltaire wrote:

"De perles, d'astres et de fleurs,

Bourbon, le ciel fit tes couleurs,

Et mit dedans tout ce mélange

L'esprit d'un ange!

L'on jugerait par la blancheur

De Bourbon, et par sa fraicheur,

Qu'elle a prit naissance des lis."

[The heaven made thy colors, Bourbon, of pearls, of stars, of flowers, and to all this mixture added the spirit of an angel. One would judge by the whiteness and freshness of Bourbon that she was born of the lilies.]

In 1642, at the age of twenty-three, she was married, against her will, to M. de Longueville who was, after the princes of the blood, the greatest seigneur of France; he was old and indifferent, and enamored of another woman, while she was young and full of hopes, ambitions, and love. His conduct, being anything but correct, immediately set the young wife, with her instincts of refinement and principles and habits of the précieuses, against her husband. The advent of a rival in the person of Mme. de Montbazon, one of the most noted beauties of the day, made the state of affairs even more unpleasant, the humiliation being so much keener because it was on account of her charms that Montbazon was preferred to the wife. The latter's fate was a cruel one; she could not respect her husband, and, for her, respect was the only road to love. She continued to live at the H?tel de Longueville and to attend all court functions, where, through her beauty, she early became the object of much attention from the young lords, among whom Coligny seemed to impress her more than any other.

About this time occurred the deaths of Richelieu and Louis XIII., and the Importants, flocking to Paris to regain their rights and to share in the spoils of the new regency, began to make themselves felt. The leaders expected great favors from Anne of Austria who had been forced into obedience by the cardinal, but she was a great disappointment to them. A born lady of leisure, she was only too glad to be relieved of the arduous duties of government, and this her minister, Mazarin, quickly proceeded to do; his first object was to crush the influence of the Importants, who were very powerful in the salons, society, and politics.

The house of Condé declared in favor of Mazarin, but at first this did not affect Mme. de Longueville, whose kindness of heart and indifference to politics and intrigues were generally known. Probably, she never would have taken a part in the Fronde had it not been for the rival who had been seeking, by every possible means, to injure her reputation-a design which Mme. de Montbazon well-nigh accomplished by declaring that two letters which, at a reception, had fallen from the pocket of Coligny had been written by Mme. de Longueville. In reality, they had been written by Mme. de Fouquerolles to the Marquis of Maulevrier. Mme. la Princesse, mother of Mme. de Longueville demanded full reparation, threatening that unless it was at once granted the house of Condé would withdraw from court, and Mazarin managed to induce the queen to compel Mme. de Montbazon to apologize publicly. It may be of interest to give, in full, the apology, to show the nature of court etiquette, hypocrisy, and intrigue of that day. Mme. de Montbazon called at the h?tel of the princess and spoke the following words, which were written on a paper attached to her fan: "Madame, I come here to attest that I am innocent of the spitefulness of which they accuse me, there being no person of honor capable of uttering such a calumny; and if I had committed such a crime, I would have submitted to the punishments that the queen would have imposed upon me, would never have shown myself before the world again, and would have asked your pardon. I beg you to believe that I shall never be lacking in the respect that I owe you because of the opinion which I have of the merit and virtue of Mme. de Longueville." To which the princess replied: "I very willingly receive the assurance you give me of having had no part in the spitefulness that was published, deferring all to the order the queen has given me."

After this episode, the princess refused to be in the same place with Mme. de Montbazon. On one occasion, Mme. de Chevreuse had invited the queen to a collation at a place where the queen enjoyed walking; she requested the princess to join her, giving her word of honor that Mme. de Montbazon would not be there; she was present, however, and the princess was about to leave when the queen ordered Mme. de Montbazon to feign illness and retire; this she refused to do and remained, whereupon the queen and the princess left, and shortly afterward Mme. de Montbazon received orders to leave Paris.

This excited the Importants to fever heat and a plot was formed, with Mme. de Chevreuse as the leader, to assassinate the cardinal. Shortly after this, Coligny, as champion of the cause of Mme. de Longueville, challenged the Duc de Guise to a duel. The whole court was made up of two parties: the Importants with Mme. de Montbazon and Mme. de Chevreuse; and Condé and Mme. de Longueville with their friends; the result was the death of Coligny. Mme. de Longueville was a true précieuse and hardly loved Coligny, but allowed him and any other to serve and adore her in a respectable way-a principle followed by the better women of the age, such as Mme. de Rambouillet and Mme. de Sablé.

Some time after these occurrences, Mme. de Longueville was stricken with smallpox which, fortunately, did not impair her beauty; it was said, on the contrary, that in taking away its first flower it left all the brilliancy which, joined to her culture and charming languor, made her one of the most attractive persons in France. La Rochefoucauld has left the following picture of her: "This princess had all the advantages of esprit and beauty to as great a degree as if nature had taken pleasure in completing, in her person, a perfect work; but these qualities shone less brilliantly on account of one characteristic which led her to imbibe so thoroughly the sentiments of those who adored her that she no longer recognized her own."

After her twenty-fifth year, Mme. de Longueville became more and more imbued with the general spirit of the seventeenth century: coquetry and bel esprit became her chief occupation. The glory of her brother, the Duc d'Enghien, who was rapidly becoming a power, and the probability of the house of Condé becoming dangerous, made Mazarin realize that Mme. de Longueville was to be reckoned with, inasmuch as she had full control over D'Enghien and was constantly instilling new ideas into his mind and requesting from him the distribution of all sorts of favors. Mazarin, in 1646, succeeded in causing her withdrawal to Münster for one year; there she ruled as queen of the Congress. On the death of her father, the Prince of Condé, and at the request of her mother to come home for her lying-in, the husband of Mme. de Longueville consented to her return to Paris.

In the meantime, everything was being done by the Importants to win over the house of Condé and cause a breach between it and Mazarin. The court at this time was in full glory; to amuse the queen-regent, Mazarin was lavishing money on artists from Italy, and the nobility outdid itself in its attempts to rival royalty in elegance and luxury. Upon her return, everyone paid homage to Mme. de Longueville; it was at this period that La Rochefoucauld, who was anxious about his position at court, as he was accused of being in league with the Importants and was therefore refused the favors he desired, met Mme. de Longueville who was in the height of her glory and in full control of the most prominent house of the time-that of the Duc d'Enghien and the Prince de Conti, her brothers.

In order to conquer for himself what the cardinal would not grant him, La Rochefoucauld put forth every effort to win Mme. de Longueville; captivated by his fine appearance, his chivalry and, above all, by his powerful intellect, she gave herself up entirely, willing to share his destiny, to sacrifice all her interests, even those of her family, and the deepest sentiment of her life-the tenderness for her brother.

France at this time, 1648, was in a position to gain for herself a peace with the world at her own terms, and her future seemed to be without a cloud. It was the Fronde that checked her growth and glory, and the cause of this was the estrangement of the house of Condé through the action of Mme. de Longueville in passing with her husband over to the party of the Importants, she being the first of her family to forsake the government. Under the leadership of La Rochefoucauld, she cast her lot with the opposing party, allowing herself to be identified with the interests of those who had endeavored to tarnish her early reputation. Becoming a leader with Mme. de Chevreuse and Mme. de Montbazon (her rival), she easily won over her young brother, the Prince de Conti. After the imprisonment of her husband and her two brothers, she began her real career as a woman of tactics, politics, and generalship.

With the connivance of Mme. de Chevreuse and the Princess Palatine, a general plan had been formed to create a new government by the union of the aristocracy. The marriage, already spoken of, between the Duke of Enghien and one of the daughters of the Duke of Orléans and that arranged between the Prince of Conti and the daughter of Mme. de Chevreuse were to have united the Fronde with the house of Condé. The alliances, however, were declared off, and Mme. de Chevreuse went over to the cardinal and the queen; Condé's fall and Mazarin's success followed, being the result, mainly, of the determination of Mme. de Chevreuse to avenge herself upon Condé for having consented to the breaking of the marriage contracts.

Mme. de Longueville did all in her power to continue the conflict that Condé had undertaken, but, exhausted by continual excitement and ill success, she was compelled to retire. After this, her life, spent in Normandy, at the Carmelites' convent and at Port Royal, became a long penance, which increased in austerity until she died in 1679. Thus, her career was at first one of unblemished brilliancy, then a period of elegant and intellectual debauch, and finally one of expiation.

"Her politics," says Sainte-Beuve, "considered in the ensemble, are nothing more than a desire to please, to shine-a capricious love. Her character lacked consistency and self-will, her mind was keen, ready, subtle, ingenious, but not reasonable."

In her convent life, her crowning virtue was humility. Her enemies did not cease to attack her, but she received all their affronts with the noblest resignation. The following testimonies are taken from a Jansenist manuscript of 1685:

"She never said anything to her own advantage. She made use of as many occasions as she could find for humiliating herself without any affectation. What she said, she said so well that it could not be better said. She listened much, never interrupted, and never showed any eagerness to speak. She spoke sensibly, modestly, charitably, and without passion. To court her was to speak with equity and without passion of everyone and to esteem the good in all. Her whole exterior, her voice, her face, her gestures, were a perfect music; and her mind and body served her so well in expressing what she wished to make heard, that she appeared the most perfect actress in the world."

Her love for La Rochefoucauld was the secret of her failure in life. When she experienced the disappointments of her married life and discovered that her dream of being loved by her husband could not be realized, she looked to other sources for diversion. She was not an intriguing woman like Mme. de Chevreuse, but one of ambitions which were incited by her love for and interest in the objects of her affection. Although she carried on flirtations with Coligny and the Duke of Nemours, she really loved no one but La Rochefoucauld, to whom she sacrificed her reputation and tranquillity, her duties and interests. For him she took up the cause of the Fronde; for him she was a mere slave, her entire existence being given up to his love, his whims, his service; when he failed her, she was lost, exhausted, and retired to a convent at the age of thirty-five and in the full bloom of her beauty. Her professed lover simply used her as a means to an end, seeking only his own interests in the Fronde, while she sought his; and this is the explanation of her seeming inconsistency of conduct. In her religious life she was happy and contented; surrounded by her friends, she lived peacefully for over twenty years.

Thus, Marie de' Medici, a foreigner, Mme. de Chevreuse, and Mme. de Longueville represent the political women of the first half of the seventeenth century; Anne of Austria, who was of foreign extraction, was a mere tool in the hands of Mazarin, and exerted little influence in general.

One of the principal differences between the conspicuous political women of the sixteenth and those of the seventeenth centuries lies in the possession by the latter of less personal force than that wielded by the former, who allowed nothing to thwart their plans. The women of both periods were beautiful, but those of the earlier one were of a magnetic and sensual type, "inspiring insensate passions and exciting a feverish unrest," thus ruling man through his lower instincts. The lack of refinement, sympathy, and charity reflected in their actions is in glaring contrast to the dignity, repose, reserve, and womanly modesty and grace displayed by their less masterful successors of the seventeenth century.

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