Marie Mancini

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Entry by Elizabeth Goldsmith, 2004

Born in Rome on August 28, 1639 to Hieronyma and Lorenzo Mancini, Marie was brought to France at age thirteen along with three of her sisters and her mother, at the invitation of her maternal uncle Cardinal Jules Mazarin, Prime Minister during the minority of Louis XIV. Before coming to court she was initiated into French culture at the provincial court of her oldest sister Laure, the duchesse de Mercoeur, in Aix-en-Provence. Following her arrival in Paris her uncle placed her for eighteen months at the convent of the Visitation in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine. By 1655 she was a member of Anne of Austria's circle and a frequenter of the salons of Mme de Rambouillet and Mme de Sablé. In 1657 she formed a romantic attachment with the young king, a relationship which initially was looked upon favorably by Mazarin and Anne of Austria. But in 1659, as negotiations commenced for the marriage of the king to the Spanish Infanta Maria Theresa, Mazarin had Marie removed from the court and sequestered with two of her sisters in the remote fortress of Brouage. After the king's marriage in 1660, Mazarin arranged a marriage for her to Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna, grand constable of Naples and the head of the most powerful noble family in Rome. In 1661, the two were wed by procuration and Marie was sent to Italy.

In Rome, Marie and her husband became powerful patrons of art and theatre. Marie held French-style salon gatherings at the Palazzo Colonna, competing with the former queen Christina of Sweden's "academy" gatherings on the other side of the Tiber. The principal theater in Rome during this period was in the Colonna palace. In 1669 and 1670 Marie published two astrological almanacs, with numerous predictions for mundane and political events. She gave birth to three children: Filippo, born in 1663, Marcantonio, born in 1664, and Carlo, born in 1665. After the birth of her third son Marie broke off conjugal relations with her husband and the marriage began to deteriorate. She eventually became fearful that Lorenzo Onofrio was plotting to kill her. On May 29, 1672, accompanied by her sister Hortense, she fled Rome and traveled to the south of France where she received a letter of safe conduct from Louis XIV. Colonna, however, intervened and the king reversed his earlier promise of protection and asked Marie to leave France. She was received for several months at the court of the Duke of Savoy in Chambéry, then in 1674 she went to Flanders, where she was incarcerated by agents of her husband, who continued to demand her return to Rome. She managed to arrange her release and sailed to Spain, where she entered a convent in Madrid. In 1676 a work purporting to be her life story in her own words appeared in print, entitled Mémoires de M.L.P.M.M. Colonne. She expressed her outrage by writing her own story in response and publishing it in 1677, La Vérité dans son jour, ou les véritables mémoires de M. Mancini, connétable Colonne. The writer Sébastien Brémond published a revised edition in 1678 under the title Apologie ou les véritables mémoires de Madame la Connétable Colonna, Maria Mancini, écrits par elle-même. Marie continued to reside in Madrid until after her husband's death in 1689, when she was able to return to Italy. She remained in Italy for most of the rest of her life, devoting time to her son's interests and also involving herself in espionage and political intrigue. She died in Pisa on May 8, 1715.

Marie Mancini has long interested historians and novelists for her role as the first love interest of Louis XIV. She has more recently been studied as an author of memoirs and as one of the first women in France to publish her life story. Her astrological almanacs have never been studied. They reveal a familiarity with medieval Arabic works translated into Latin as well as Kepler and Cardano. In addition to her printed works, she produced a voluminous correspondence which has been preserved in the Colonna family archive in the Santa Scholastica library in Subiaco, Italy. Her letters written to Lorenzo Onofrio and to her friends and family after her flight from Rome offer rich textual material for the study of the practice of marriage and divorce in the last decades of the seventeenth century. The letters also document one woman's efforts to sustain an epistolary community that would help her achieve her goal of leading a kind of independent life for which there were few models at the time.


- 1669 [?]: Discorso astrosofico delle mutationi de' tempi; e d'altri accidenti mondani dell'anno 1670, s.l.n.d.
- 1671: Discorso astrosofico delle mutationi de' tempi; e d'altri accidenti mondani dell'anno 1672, Modena.
- 1677: La Vérité dans son jour, ou les véritables mémoires de M. Mancini, connétable Colonne. s.l.n.d., Patricia Cholakian et Elizabeth Goldsmith éds. Delmar, New York, Scholars Facsimiles and Reprints, 1998.
- 1678: Apologie ou les véritables mémoires de Madame la Connétable Colonna, Maria Mancini, écrits par elle-même, Sébastien Brémond éd, Leyden, Jean van Gelder. -- Ed. Gérard Duscot, Mémoires d'Hortense et de Marie Mancini, 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.101-121.
- Dulong, Claude. Marie Mancini, la première passion de Louis XIV. Paris, Perrin, 1993.
- Goldsmith, Elizabeth C. "Publishing the Lives of Hortense and Marie Mancini", in Elizabeth C. Goldsmith and Dena Goodman (dir.), Going Public: Women and Publishing in Early Modern France. Ithaca, N.Y., Cornell University Press, 1995, p.30-45.
- Graziosi, Elisabetta. "Lettere da un matrimonio fallito: Marie Mancini al marito Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna", in Gabriella Zarri (dir.), Per Lettera: La Scrittura epistolare femminile tra archivio e tipografia, Rome, Viella, 1999, p.534-584.
- Perey, Lucien. Le Roman du grand roi: Louis XIV et Marie Mancini. Paris, Calmann Lévy, 1894.


- «Marie aurait certainement été mieux inspirée de rester à Rome, en épouse constamment trompée, certes, et affligée d'un bien difficile mari» (Claude Dulong, Marie Mancini, voir supra, p.290).
- «Femme d'action, certes, mais d'action désordonnée, irréfléchie, elle n'obéissait qu'à ses pulsions immédiates, prenait en général les partis les plus extravagants, mais allait au bout de ses résolutions, fussent-elles hasardeuses et vouées à l'échec, sans se soucier du résultat» (Maurice Lever, préface a son édition des mémoires apocryphes de Maria Mancini, Cendre et poussière, Paris, Le Comptoir, 1997, p.26-27).
- "Marie wanted to refute the pseudomemoirs' misrepresentations, while at the same time placating Louis XIV and Lorenzo Colonna. These strategic moves had a direct influence on the contents of her text, but they also [...] forced her to focus her story on herself rather than on others. Her behavior may have sparked crises of international scope, but she limits her recollections to the 'feminine' sphere -the trivial occupations and limited spaces of a great lady's existence. [...] What is more, like the autobiographers who would come after her, [...] her goal, seldom appreciated by her biographers, is to impose form on a chaotic existence" (Patricia Cholakian, Women and the Politics of Self-Representation, voir supra «Choix bibliographique», p.112).

Marie Mancini
Spouses Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna, grand constable of Naples
Birth date 1639
Death 1715
Biographical entries in old dictionaries
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