Hortense Mancini

From SiefarWikiEn

Jump to: navigation, search

Entry by Elizabeth Goldsmith, 2004

Born in Rome on June 6 1646 to Hieronyma and Lorenzo Mancini, in 1653 Hortense moved to France with her mother, brother, and two of her sisters, at the invitation of her maternal uncle Cardinal Jules Mazarin, the French Prime Minister. In Paris, Hortense and her sisters were given a convent education and introduced at court. A marriage was arranged for Hortense, who in February 1661, at age fourteen, married Charles-Armand de la Porte, Marquis of Meilleraye. By arrangement with Hortense's uncle, her husband assumed the title Duke of Mazarin and became the principal heir of the Mazarin fortune. The Prime Minister died ten days after the wedding.

The marriage was an unhappy one from the start. The young girl was ill-suited to the domestic life that her new husband, a religious zealot, imposed on her. Hortense bore four children in the first five years of her marriage: Marie-Charlotte in 1662, Marie-Anne in 1663, Marie-Olympe in 1665, and Paul-Jules in January 1666. In November, Hortense left the Palais Mazarin and asked for a legal separation from her husband. The Parlement of Paris, at the Duke of Mazarin's request, ordered her return but in June 1667 she fled to Italy, where she lived under the protection of her sister Marie Mancini Colonna. In May 1672 she left Rome in the company of Marie, who was herself determined to obtain a separation from her husband Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna.

Hortense traveled to Chambéry and was given the protection of Charles-Emmanuel II, Duke of Savoie. She remaind in Chambéry until the duke de Savoie's death in 1675. While in Chambéry, Hortense composed her memoirs, which in 1675 were printed as Mémoires D.M.L.D.M. After leaving Chambéry Hortense traveled through Switzerland, Germany, and Holland, eventually settling in London at the court of Charles II. She resided in the Saint James Palace and cultivated a literary salon frequented by French exiles including Saint-Evremond, who became her close friend and ally in her ongoing negotiations with her husband for a legal separation and financial settlement. In 1689, Charles-Armand brought suit against Hortense to force her to return to France and resume conjugal life. Although the French court decided in his favor, Hortense chose to remain in London but faced increasing financial hardship. She lost a pension that had been granted to her by Charles II. With the ascension of William and Mary to the throne, she no longer enjoyed the favor of the English court. She died in Chelsea in 1699. After her death her husband claimed her body, paid her debts and traveled with her casket throughout France for nearly a year until he was finally persuaded to bury her in the College of Four Nations in Paris.

With the single exception of the memoirs of Marguerite of Valois, Hortense's published life story is the first example in France of a woman putting her memoirs into print. The genesis and even the authorship of this work has been debated, with some speculating that it was written by the Savoyard novelist and 'man of letters' César de Saint-Réal, who Hortense knew in Chambéry. There is no documentary evidence to confirm Saint-Réal's role in the composition of Hortense's story, but we do know that he assisted her in the distribution and publication of the manuscript. In addition to the memoirs, the pamphlet accounts of her divorce case are interesting examples of contemporary debates about marriage and the rights of women to live independently of their husbands.


- 1675: Mémoires D.M.L.D.M. à M. ***, Cologne, Pierre Marteau, 1675; Mémoires d'Hortense et de Marie Mancini, Gérard Duscot éd., Paris, Mercure de France, 1965.

Selected bibliography

- Cholakian, Patricia Francis. Women and the Politics of Self-Representation in Seventeenth-Century France. Newark, University of Delaware Press, 2000, p.85-100.
- Démoris, René. Le Roman à la première personne, du classicisme aux lumières. Paris, Armand Colin, 1975, p.110-128.
- Goldsmith, Elizabeth C. Publishing Women's Life Stories in France, 1647-1720. Aldershot, U.K. et Burlington, Vt., Ashgate Press, 2001, p.98-115.


- «La situation de la femme à l'égard des mémoires est ici différente de celle de l'homme: en tant que femme, elle n'a droit qu'à une gloire négative, alors que l'erreur politique du grand seigneur peut ne pas exclure la grandeur morale. Se publier, c'est déjà, en quelque manière, être coupable. Les seuls mémoires féminins antérieurs à ceux d'Hortense sont ceux de Marguerite de Valois, épouse d'Henri IV, dont on sait la réputation.
En tant qu'apologie, ces mémoires étaient donc partie perdue. Il n'est pas douteux, en revanche, qu'Hortense était tout à fait consciente de la valeur littéraire du sujet qu'elle entreprend de traiter. Sous son propre regard, ses aventures tiennent du roman, et elle le constate dès le début du livre» (R. Démoris, voir supra «Choix bibliographique», p.111).
- «Il ne faut pas oublier qu'en toutes leurs actions, à toutes les périodes de leur vie et même dans les pires circonstances, elles ne songeaient qu'à s'amuser» (Gérard Duscot, voir supra «Oeuvres», p.24).
- «Because of their intense interest in feminine sexuality, readers want to find a libidinal confession in the narrative of an «outlaw» like Hortense. But her memoirs pointedly avoid that scenario. Instead, they are a protest against the social and political enforcement of conjugal duty. They stubbornly insist on situating the heroine's apology not in the bedroom but in the courtroom, calling on public opinion to ratify her right to autonomy» (P. Cholakian, voir supra «Choix bibliographique», p.100).

{{DEFAULTSORT:Mancini, Hortense}

Hortense Mancini
Spouses Charles-Armand de la Porte, Marquis de Meilleraye, Duke of Mazarin
Birth date 1646
Death 1699
Biographical entries in old dictionaries
Personal tools