Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Champion Adulterer of the 18th Century's Lovers & Mistresses

Armand de Vignerot du Plessis
3rd Duc de Richelieu
Duc de Fronsac, 3rd Duc de Richelieu, Governor of Guyenne 1755, Marshal of France 1748, Ambassador to Vienna 1725-1728.
Son of: Armand-Jean de Vignerot du Plessis, Duc de Richelieu.
Husband of:
1. Anne-Catherine de Noailles
2. Marie-Elisabeth-Sophie de Lorraine, mar 1734
3. Jeanne de Lavaulx.

The champion adulterer of the 18th century in France.
"Richelieu was known as the champion adulterer of the 18th century in France. A dozen titled ladies fell in turn into his bed, drawn by his rank, wealth,reputation, and personal charm. Richelieu's success with women lay in his ability to understand a mistress and to help realize her ideals. When more than a physical attraction was involved, as was the case with Emilie, he developed a true interest in the personality and problems of his companion." (People in Emilie's Life @ Visit Voltaire)

A seraglio of all the rank and beauty of the French court.
"The regent and his ministers were not the only persons on whom the ladies of the court forced themselves, with all the effrontery of prostitutes. Many of the courtiers were as much, or perhaps even more, followed by them than the regent. Among these happy mortals, the duke of Richelieu was particularly distinguished. Besides several princesses, he had connexions with a great number of other ladies. His seraglio, as the editor of his Memoirs very justly observes, comprehended all the rank and beauty of the French court; and to such a degree of depravity had all the women arrived, that they boasted in a manner of their love for this universal favourite. He very often found, on his return home, ten or twelve love-letters at a time, in which the favour of his company was requested the following night. He did not give himself the trouble to read all these letters, some of which were written in cyphers. He opened only the billet of the fair female whom he wished to make happy, and put the rest, sealed as they were, into his drawers, where they were viewed by Soulavie as so many monuments of the immorality of the court. The duke took delight in vexing the women who were attached to him, and in setting them together by the ears. When he wanted to get rid of one, he sent her designedly, but apparently by mistake, the love-letters that were intended for others. The duke had so little regard for women, that he once directed one of his friends and rivals to be shewn into his chamber, where he was in bed with a lady to whom both of them paid their addresses. She attempted to conceal herself beneath the clothes, but the duke even took off her mask, and exposed the blushing beauties of the confounded fair one to the view of the petrified spectator. In his general conduct he followed this practice, which always succeeded to his wishes, to inspire those with whom he had connexions with a small degree of jealousy, to exasperate them against one another, and to afford them occasion to suspect him of inconstancy." (History of the Female Sex: 337)

The professor of pleasure.
" . . . Contemporaries regarded Richelieu, the grand-nephew of the great cardinal, as 'the professor of pleasure,' the prince of vice,' and 'le Lovelace francais,' in short, as the very embodiment of an eighteenth-century galant-libertine. His long life (1696-1788) spanned almost the entire century, reaching from the last years of the reign of Louis XIV into the twilight of the French monarchy. He was in his youth a charmer; as an adult, a don Juan; and, in his senescence, a debauched Sadean. . . Richelieu was no mere hedonist ne'er-do-well; he was not merely a 'prince of pleasure' but also an 'excellent diplomat, a lucky general, a sensible provincial administrator, and friend of the arts and letters, and a patron of actors and dancers. As a soldier, he distinguished himself in the Wars of the Austrian Succession (he was named marshal of France in 1748) and in the Seven Years' War. . . Richelieu had served as ambassador to Vienna as quite a young man, from 1725 to 1728. He negotiated the marriage of the old dauphin to Maria-Josepha of Saxony, the mother of three future kings of France: Louis XVI, Louis XVIII, and Charles X. He was as relentless in the pursuit of pleasure as in the pursuit of power. 'In short, he was an example of the perfect 'grand seigneur' of the eighteenth century with all that the term covered, both good and not-so-good.'". (Liaisons Dangereuses: Sex, Law, and Diplomacy in the Age of Frederick the Great: 212)

From princesses of the royal blood to serving maids.
"As a boy, still in his teens, he had begun to play the rôle of Don Juan at the Court of the child-King, Louis XV. The most beautiful women at the Court, we are told, went crazy over the handsome boy, who bore the most splendid name in France; and thus early his head was turned by flatteries and attentions which followed him almost to the grave. The young Duchesse de Bourgogne, the King's mother, made love to him, to the scandal of the Court; and from Princesses of the Blood Royal to the humblest serving-maid, there was scarcely a woman at Court who would not have given her eyes for a smile from the Duc de Fronsac, as he was then known. . . From his earliest youth there was no "game" too high for our Don Juan to fly at. Long before he had reached manhood he counted his lady-loves by the score; and among them were at least three Royal Princesses, Mademoiselle de Charolais, and two of the Regent's own daughters, the Duchesse de Berry and Mademoiselle de Valois, later Duchess of Modena, who, in their jealousy, were ready to "tear each other's eyes out" for love of the Duc. Quarrels between the rival ladies were of everyday occurrence; and even duels were by no means unknown. . . The Duc's career, however, was not one unbroken dallying with love. Thrice, at least, he was sent to cool his ardour within the walls of the Bastille—on one occasion as the result of a duel with the Comte de Gacé. His lady-loves were desolate at the cruel fate which had overtaken their idol. They fell on their knees at the Regent's feet, and, with tears streaming down their pretty cheeks, pleaded for his freedom. Two of the Royal Princesses, both disguised as Sisters of Charity, visited the prisoner daily in his dungeon, carrying with them delicacies to tempt his appetite, and consolation to cheer his captivity." (Love Affairs of the Courts of Europe)

Portrait of the Duc de Richelieu.
"Louis-Francois-Armand de Vignerot du Plessis, duc de Fronssac and later duc de Richelieu, . . . was a colourful character who made his presence felt in the town of Bordeaux. Appointed as Governor of Guyenne in 1755, he remained in Bordeaux until his death in 1788.  Great-nephew of Cardinal Richelieu and godson of Louis XIV, he gained fame by his exploits in battle. His victory in the battle of Fontenoy during the War of the Austrian Succession won him the position of Marshal of France. His debauchery made him a famed libertine, known for his many female conquests and his cynicism. He played a major cultural rile in the town through his support of artists, his friendship with Voltaire and his role in the arrival of Victor Louis to build the Grand Theatre in Bordeaux."  (Musee d'Aquitaine)

The Palais-Royal--The duke's rendezvous point with his inamoratas.
"It appears to have been Richelieu's custom to give rendezvous to his inamoratas even to those of the highest rant, in the courts of the Palais-Royal, whither the duke would send his carriage to take them up and convey them to the little house of his in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, where he would e waiting to receive them. One fine evening, when his carriage was waiting on this spot for Madame de Sabran, it was perceived by Madame de Guebriant, who had made of it on many occasions. She-supposing that it was there for her, and that the note making the assignation had miscarried, entered it, upon which the coachman who had often drive her before, concluded that he mast have misunderstood the orders which his master had given him, and took the lady to the house mentioned by the duke. That nobleman was naturally much astonished and mortified at the mistake, but he was too well bred to express his surprise, and Madame de Guebriant occupied, without suspecting anything, the place which had been reserved for her rival at the supper-table. Meanwhile, Madame de Sabran, who had been punctual to the appointed hour, was impatiently waiting the arrival of Richelieu's carriage in the courts of the Palais-Royal; but the minutes passed, and the wheels of the ducal chariot still tarried. At length, fearing that she might be recognised if she remained any longer in a place so frequented, and transported by love and jealousy, she called a hackney-coach and was driven to the house in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, to which she was no stranger, promising herself that she would give her lover a piece of her mind, for having exposed her to so much inconvenience. Her indignation on learning on her arrival there that her place had been usurped by a rival van be imagined, while Madame de Guebriant was equally furious at the destruction of a pleasing illusion under which she had lain; and, as ladies in the circumstances are not accustomed to mince their language, the scene which followed was exceedingly animated, and might have occasioned a less resourceful person than M. de Richelieu considerable embarrassment. The latter, however, preserved his sang-froid, and taking the two exasperated rivals by the hand, made them sit down. Then, placing himself between them, he told them that it was the stupidity of his coachman that had been the cause of all the pother, and 'concluded by endevouring to prove to them that it was perfectly possible for a man to be in love with two women at the same time.'" (The Fascinating Duc de Richelieu: 26)

His lovers were:
1) Anne, Baronne de Tencin.

2) Anne-Charlotte d'Irumberry de Salaberry (1702-1770)
Wife ofLouis-Pierre de Rome de Vernouillet, Marquis de Vernouillet.
Armande-Felice de La Porte Mazarin
Marquise de Nesle
Lady-in-waiting to Queen Marie Lecszinska
Lover in 1718.
"Among the other gallant women admitted into the court of the queen, Mme. de Nesle and Mme. de Gontaut were also noted, ladies who had feelings of affection for the Duke de Richelieu, lest interested perhaps but more natural than those of Mme. de Prie for M. le Duc. Mme. de Nesle was bright, courageous, active. There was on the contrary more intelligence and reflection in Mme. de Gontaut. The behavior of the ladies of the queen's palace was therefore quite varied. . . ." (Memoirs of the Duke de Richelieu: 300)

"One of the most singular of these numerous combats through the centuries pitted two women against each other. The Marquess (sic) of Nesle and the Countess of Polignac, two ladies of the highest standing in the court, were the principals in this curious affair. In the early years of the 18th century during the reign of the Regent, Philip of Orleans, Mme de Nesle was the object of many scandalous whispers in the Court; she had lived openly with several of the most important nobles, some of royal blood. Tiring of the Prince de Soubise, she turned her sights on the dashing Duke de Richelieu. Unfortunately, Richelieu, a famous rake of the time, had no intention of becoming monogamous for Mme de Nesle. Mme de Polignac was then one of his many mistresses and he showed preference to her over all others. To settle the possession of Richelieu's fancy, Mme de Nesle decided upon a duel, to be fought in the Bois de Boulogne with pistols--notoriously inaccurate weapons even at close distances." (A History of the Chateau de la Muette: 33)
Charlotte-Aglae d'Orleans
4) Charlotte-Aglae d'Orleans (1700-1761)
Duchessa di Modena
Lover in 1718.
a.k.a. Mademoiselle de Valois

Mademoiselle de Valois' physical appearance & personal character. "'Mlle. de Valois,' she writes, 'is a brunette; she has very beautiful eyes, but her nose is villainous and too big. In my opinion, she is not  beautiful. . .  [S]he has a fine complexion and a beautiful skin. When she laughs, a long tooth in her upper jaw produces a vile effect. Her figure is short and ugly; her head sunk in her shoulders; and what is worse, in my judgment, is the lack of grace that she shows in everything she does; she walks like a woman eighty years old. . . But she loves to be thought pretty; she has some taste for the toilette . . . She has no good instincts . . . she is deceitful, untruthful, and horribly coquettish; in short, she will give us all cause for mortification. . . . " (The Fascinating Duc de Richelieu, Louis Francous Armand du Plessis (1696-1788:41-42)

"Mademoiselle de Valois is not, in my opinion, pretty, and yet occasionally she does not look ugly. She has something like charms, for her eyes, her colour and her skin are good. She has white teeth, a large, ill-looking nose, and one prominent tooth, which when she laughs has a bad effect. Her figure is drawn up, her head is sunk between her shoulders, and what, in my opinion, is the worst part of her appearance, is an ill grace with which she does everything...."  (Elizabeth Charlotte)

Mademoiselle de Valois' persona or character.
" . . . Mlle. de Valois, at this time, seems to have been regarded by her contemporaries as a very agreeable young lady. Without being beautiful or even pretty, she pleased and attracted, since her fine eyes and her dazzling complexion went far to redeem the defects of which her grandmother speaks; she was affable and good-humoured, and, though of an extremely indolent disposition, possessed of considerable intelligence, which, had she chosen to exercise it, might have resulted in her becoming as accomplished a woman as her sister, the Abbess of Chelles."  (The Fascinating Duc de Richelieu, Louis Francois Armand du Plessis (1696-1788):42)

"As to Mlle. de Valois, the third daughter of the regent, she had the pallor of an invalid: she possessed a beautiful , however , and like her sisters inherited from her father a penchant for pleasures. She became, at length, passionately fond of the Duke of Richelieu. While seated sis by side at the gaming table they exchanged signals by nudging each other with their feet, and since this amused them both, a mutual attachment was the result of these pleasantries. Mlle. de Charolais, the first love of the duke, observing this, forestalled them and putting her own foot forward, the duke sometimes mistook it for that of the other princess. Mlle. de Charolais consumed with jealousy had the patience to continue this long enough to ascertain that Mlle. de Valois was the object of his passions and learned by the aid of this method of communication how far they had progressed in their love affair. At the end of a game she would rise like a fury with fiery eyes and under the pretext of indisposition, would go home, wild with anger, and thoroughly aroused against Mlle. de Valois, leaving the duke embarrassed on account of his mistake and little inclined for the time being, to continue his communications with Mlle. de Valois, who was more furious than her rival at perceiving the mistake. Neither manifested resentment against the duke, who deceived them both, but toward each other they swore eternal enmity." (The Fascinating Duc de Richelieu: 109)

The Duc's courtship of the Mademoiselle de Valois.
"But Richelieu had evaded suspicion, and won the young princess's heart. He has now a new conquest to achieve, many obstacles to overcome. Mdlle. de Valois has elderly and careful attendants, and appears to be vigilantly guarded. From this circumstance, it may be observed, en passant, one is willing to believe that the conduct and character of the regent's daughters have usually been described with much exaggeration. Mere folly, doubtless, has frequently been magnified into vice, owing to the unfortunate mania that prevailed in the court of the regent, and far beyond that circle, of assuming an air of reckless depravity as a protest against the hypocritical piety of the old court of Versailles. But to return to Richelieu. To accomplish his object, he had to bribe, to persuade, to make love to serving-women; to assume numerous disguises; to write, or to get written, billets-doux---tender, imploring, passionate, despairing---and to tax his poor brain to invent methods for their safe delivery to the princess. At every court fete, ball, or concert, the Duc de Richelieu was sure to be present; but not always Mdlle. de Valois. Though she now comprehended that the perfumed billets which reached her hands hidden in roses or other flowers---so frequently lying on her escritoire, her taposserie, or toilette, and placed there she knew not how---were missives from the handsome young duke, whose despairing, languishing gaze she so often encountered, and replied to with a burning blush. At length the interview took place. The lovers met in the apartment of one of the officials of the household, whose services Richelieu had secured. Many stolen meetings followed, the duke always in some new disguise. The jealous suspicions of Mdlle. de Charolais, however, led to the discovery of this intimacy." (: 104)

"It was a more serious matter that sent him again to the Bastille in 1718. False to his country as to the victims of his fascinations, he had been plotting with Spain, France's bitterest enemy, for the seizure of the Regent and the carrying him off across the Pyrenees; and certain incriminating letters sent to him by Cardinal Alberoni had been intercepted, and were in the Regent's hands. The Regent's daughter, Mademoiselle de Valois, warned her lover of his danger, but too late. Before he could escape, he was arrested, and with an escort of archers was safely lodged in the Bastille. Our Lothario was now indeed in a parlous plight. Lodged in the deepest and most loathsome dungeon of the Bastille—a dungeon so damp that within a few hours his clothes were saturated—without even a chair to sit on or a bed to lie on, with legions of hungry rats for company, he was now face to face with almost certain death. The Regent, whose love affairs he had thwarted a score of times, and who thus had no reason to love the profligate Duc, vowed that his head should pay the price of his treason.

Once more the Court ladies were reduced to hysterics and despair, and forgot their jealousies in a common appeal to the Regent for clemency. Mademoiselle de Valois was driven to distraction; and when tears and pleadings failed to soften her father's heart, she declared in the hearing of the Court that she would commit suicide unless her lover was restored to liberty. In company with her rival, Mademoiselle de Charolais, she visited the dungeon in the dark night hours, taking flint and steel, candles and bonbons, to weep with the captive. She squandered two hundred thousand livres in attempts to bribe his guards, but all to no purpose: and it was not until after six months of durance that the Regent at last yielded—moved partly by his daughter's tears and threats and partly by the pleadings of the Cardinal-Archbishop of Paris—and the prisoner was released, on condition that the Cardinal and the Duchesse de Richelieu would be responsible for his custody and good behaviour. A few days later we find the irresponsible Richelieu climbing over the garden-walls of his new "prison" at Conflans, racing through the darkness to Paris behind swift horses, and making love to the Regent's own mistresses and his daughter! But such facilities for dalliance with the Regent's daughter were soon to be brought to an end. Mademoiselle de Valois, in order to ensure her lover's freedom, had at last consented to accept the hand of the Duke of Modena, an alliance which she had long fought against; and before the Duc had been a free man again many weeks she paid this part of his ransom by going into exile, and to an odious wedded life, in a far corner of Italy—much, it may be imagined, to the Regent's relief, for his daughters and their love affairs were ever a thorn in his side. It was not long, however, before the new Duchess of Modena began to sigh for her distant lover, and to bombard him with letters begging him to come to her. "I cannot live without your love," she wrote. "Come to me—only, come in disguise, so that no one can recognise you." This was indeed an adventure after the Lothario Duc's heart—an adventure with love as its reward and danger as its spur. And thus it was that, a few weeks after the Duchess had sent her invitation, two travel-stained pedlars, with packs on their backs, entered the city of Modena to find customers for their books and phamphlets. At the small hostelry whose hospitality they sought the hawkers gave their names as Gasparini and Romano, names which masked the identities of the knight-errant Duc and his friend, La Fosse, respectively. The following morning behold the itinerant hawkers in the palace grounds, their wares spread out to tempt the Court ladies on their way to Mass, when the Duchess herself passed their way and deigned to stop to converse graciously with the strangers. To her inquiries they answered that they came from Piedmont; and their curious jargon of French and Italian lent support to the story. After inspecting their wares she asked for a certain book. "Alas! Madame," Gasparini answered, "I have not a copy here, but I have one at my inn." And bidding him bring the volume to her at the palace, the great lady resumed her devout journey to Mass. A few hours later Gasparini presented himself at the palace with the required volume, and was ushered into the august presence of the Duchess. A moment later, on the closing of the door, the Royal lady was in the "hawker's" arms, her own flung around his neck, as with tears of joy she welcomed the lover who had come to her in such strange guise and at such risk. A few stolen moments of happiness was all the lovers dared now to allow themselves. The Duke of Modena was in the palace, and the situation was full of danger. But on the morrow he was going away on a hunting expedition, and then—well, then they might meet without fear. On the following day, the coast now clear, behold our "hawker" once more at the palace door, with a bundle of books under his arm for the inspection of Her Highness, and being ushered into the Duchess's reading-room, full of souvenirs of the happy days they had spent together in distant Paris and Versailles. Among them, most prized of all, was a lock of his own hair, enshrined on a small altar, and surmounted by a crown of interlocked hearts. This lock, the Duchess told him, she had kissed and wept over every day since they had parted. Each day now brought its hours of blissful meeting, so seemingly short that the Princess would throw her arms around her "hawker's" neck and implore him to stay a little longer. One day, however, he tarried too long; the Duke returned unexpectedly from his hunting, and before the lovers could part, he had entered the room—just in time to see the pedlar bowing humbly in farewell to his Duchess, and to hear him assure her that he would call again with the further books she wished to see. Certainly it was a strange spectacle to greet the eyes of a home-coming Duke—that of his lady closeted with a shabby pedlar of books; but at least there was nothing suspicious in it, and, getting into conversation with the "hawker," the Duke found him quite an entertaining fellow, full of news of what was going on in the world outside his small duchy. In his curious jargon of French and Italian, Gasparini had much to tell His Highness apart from book-talk. He entertained him with the latest scandals of the French Court; with gossip about well-known personages, from the Regent to Dubois. "And what about that rascal, the Duc de Richelieu?" asked the great man. "What tricks has he been up to lately?" "Oh," answered Gasparini, with a wink at the Duchess, who was crimson with suppressed laughter, "he is one of my best customers. Ah, Monsieur le Duc, he is a gay dog. I hear that all the women at the Court are madly in love with him; that the Princesses adore him, and that he is driving all the husbands to distraction." And thus, by the wish of the Duchess's husband himself, the ducal "hawker" became a daily visitor at the palace, entertaining His Highness with his chatter, and, when his back was turned, making love to his wife, and joining her in shrieks of laughter at his easy gullibility. Thus many happy weeks passed, Gasparini, the pedlar, selling few volumes, but reaping a rich harvest of stolen pleasure, and revelling in an adventure which added such a new zest to a life sated with more humdrum love-making. But even the Duchess's charms began to pall; the ladies he had left so disconsolate in Paris were inundating him with letters, begging him to return to them—letters, all forwarded to him from his château at Richelieu, where he was supposed to be in retreat. The lure was too strong for him; and, taking leave of the Duchess in floods of tears, he returned to his beloved Paris to fresh conquests." (Love Affairs of the Courts of Europe)

6) Comtesse Batthyany.
"The Countess Batthyany was not the only grande dame with whom Richelieu succeeded in ingratiating himself during his residence in Vienna. . . ." (The Fascinating Duc de Richelieu)

7) Comtesse de Gace.
a.k.a. Mademoiselle de Chateaurenaud.
"The Comtesse de Gacé, nee Mlle. de Chateaurenaud, was a daughter of Francois Louis de Rousselet, Comte de Chateaurenaud. She is a woman without intelligence,' writes Mathieu Marais, 'whom women of loose morals themselves despise, and who has conceived the idea that it is good style to be debauched. The same chronicler relates that, some eighteen months later, at a supper-party given by the Marquise de Nesle, Madame de Gace, after priming herself 'with wine and all kinds of liqueurs,' dance 'almost naked' before the company, after which she went into the antechamber and gave a second performance for the benefit of the lackeys. In consequence of this exploit, her husband, 'who did not mind being deceived, but objected to being made ridiculous, 'obtained a lettre de cachet and had her shut up in a convent near Paris, from which, however, she eventually escaped and had many surprising adventures." (The Fascinating Duc de Richelieu: 26)

8) Duchesse d'Alincourt.
a.k.a. Marquise d'Alincourt.
"In recounting the story of the arracheurs de palissades, contemporaries seemed less concerned about the offense itself than about the circumstances that surrounded it. They not only scolded the culprits but also pitied the families. One of them, the duchesse d'Orleans, exculpated the duchesse de Boufflers. All of them recognized that the incident spelled trouble for Villeroy because his grandson's wife, the duchesse de Retz, had already scandalized the court by her promiscuity. She had not only dined with the profligate duc de Richelieu and his friends with no clothes on but also attempted to deliver her own sister-in-law, the marquise d'Alincourt into his hands in the gardens at Versailles. The marquise, sister of one of Rambures's accomplices and wife of another, accused her of having attempted to seduce Louis XV and of having actually laid hands on hi, The duchess, who had supposedly inherited her wanton disposition from her mother, sounded more incorrigible than her husband, who had evidently had no history of sodomitical misdemeanors. Villeroy, in any case, was responsible for the king's person, and it looked like he had not protected his young charge from corruption by the same sex or the opposite sex. To compensate for his negligence, he had his wayward relatives punished. The lettres de cachet pleased Balleroy, who reported that the court was being reformed 'at last,' but also publicized Villeroy's misfortune. When courtiers visited him to offer their condolences, the porter allegedly asked if they had come for the front door or the back door, that is to say on account of vaginal or anal intercourse. Little more than a week after Alincourt and Retz were exiled, the marshal himself was exiled, largely because of conflicts with the regent and other powerful figures at court." (Order and Disorder under the Ancien Regime: 299)

9) Emilie du Chatelet (1706-1749). 
French writer.
Lover in 1729-1731.
Wife ofFlorent-Claude, Marquis du Chatelet, a military man and royal governor, mar 1725 [Ref1:102]

Her first lover: "Her first lover was the Duke of Richelieu, then in the very height of his renown for gallantry, a conqueror in love, if not in war; one to whom few women had sufficient sense of rectitude to say---nay. The liaison between the duke and Madame du Chatelet was, however, of very short continuance; it apears to have been severed by mutual consent, and, unlike most love affairs, to have been converted into a sincere and strong attachment. The poor Marquise du Chatelet was thought nothing of in the affair; and, seemingly, appears to have prided himself upon the great condescension shown by the duke towards him in taking his wife for a temporary mistress. Some few years after this connexion was dissolved, and the Duke of Richelieu, had married a young and beautiful woman, Madame du Chatelet, when, recovering from a severe and dangerous illness, wrote, in the following characteristic strain of levity, to her former lover: "Who would have thought that friendship would have caused me to be regretted by Madame de Richelieu, Voltaire, and yourself? You know my heart, and how Voltaire, has entirely taken possession of it. I now feel proud of loving in you the friend of my lover, and this sentiment would increase the pleasure I feel in our friendship, had not our past circumstances embittered it. Never can I forgive myself for entertaining any other feeling, however slight, towards you." (Reynold's Miscellany of Romance, General Literature, Science & Art, Volumes 3-4: 343-344)

Rare show of fidelity to any mistress: "The Duc de Richelieu had an affair with Emilie several years before she met Voltaire. At the time, Emilie was 24 and the Duc was ten years older. . . It was in 1729, following his return from a diplomatic mission in Vienna, that Richelieu met Emilie. It was likely that their paths would cross socially as a brother of Emilie's husband had married Richelieu's sister. . . The affair with Richelieu lasted for eighteen months, and it was rare for Richelieu to show such fidelity to any mistress. . . When the affair ended, Richelieu and Emilie carried on a correspondence and friendship until the time of Emilie's death -- a time period of sixteen years. . . . " (People in Emilie's Life)

"The name of Madame du Chatelet has been rendered famous by her connexion with the renowned philosopher of the eighteenth century, Voltaire. This lady, likewise, was remarkable for her love of science, and the eagerness with which she followed the study of geometry, then, singular as it appears, the fashionable feminine occupation of the day. She was the daughter of noble, but impoverished, parents, and her maiden name was Emilie du Breteuil. At the early age of eighteen, she was married to the Marquis du Chatelet, a rich, well=meaning, but exceedingly commonplace description of person, and several years her senior. After this marriage was effected, Madame du Chatelet made her appearance in the world of fashion, where her beauty and acquirements caused much sensation." (Reynold's Miscellany of Romance, General Literature, Science & Art, Volumes 3-4: 343)

Emilie's physical appearance & personal qualities: "Of a tall, graceful, and full figure, blue eyes, dark hair, most intelligent and expressive countenance, with hands and arms of matchless symmetry, this lady was calculated to create, even in casual observers, sentiments both of admiration and respect. She was extremely fond of dress, passionately devoted to the exercise of hunting, and in every respect a contrast to the man with whom she was united. Considering, therefore, her dazzling reception in the world, her fondness for display, dress, and extravagance, together with the lax ideas of morality that were those of her time, it is not surprising that Madame du Chatelet followed the example of other ladies, and rushed headlong into a vortex of gallantry."  (Reynold's Miscellany of Roman, General Literature, Science & Art, Volumes 3-4: 343)

"At age twenty-two, Emilie not met the most sought-after man in all of France. It wasn't Voltaire, but rather the one man Voltaire often said he wanted to be: Louis-Francois Armand du Plessis, the duc de Richelieu, ten years her senior. If Emilie had wanted to make the women in her Paris circles dislike her even more, she couldn't have chosen better. Richelieu was a man's man, yet also one whom most women blindly adored.It was through him that she got the confidence crucial for the next state of her life. . . . " (Passionate Minds: Emilie du Chatelet, Voltaire and the Great Love Affair of the Enlightenment: 47)

" . . . Mme du Chatelet also raised three children and found time to carry on love affairs with several prominent (and some not-so-prominent) men. In addition to her husband (the marquis Florent du Chatelet, whom she married at 19), she had affairs with the Duc de Richelieu, Voltaire, Maupertius, Comte de Guebriant, Clairaut, and Jean Francois Saint-Lambert." (The Portraits of Emilie du Chatelet)

[Bio2] [Pix1] [Ref1] [Ref2:Claxton] [Ref3:Visit Voltaire]

10) Francoise de Mailly-Nesle, Marquise de Nesle (1695-1767)
a.k.a. Francoise-Anne de Mailly-Rubempre.
Daughter of: Louis de Mailly, Comte de Mailly & Anne-Marie-Francoise de Saint-Hermine.
Wife of: Scipion Sidoine de Polignac, Vicomte de Polignac(1660-1739), mar 1709.
French aristocrat.
a.k.a. Madame de Prie, Marquise de Prie.
"Jeanne Agnes Berthelot de Pleneuf (1698-1727), daughter of Etienne Berthelot, seigneur de Pleneuf. She was married, in 17 13, to Louis, Marquis de Prie, a member of an old but impoverished family, who the same year was appointed Ambassador at Turin. On her return to France, in 1719, Madame de Prie, who is described by Saint-Simon as a beautiful, graceful, fascinating, intelligent, and well-read woman, made an abortive attempt to subjugate the Regent, but succeeded in casting her spells over the Due de Bourbon. "When Monsieur le Due was appointed First Minister, she "disposed of him as a slave," and became the virtual ruler of France. She had her flatterers and her court, and Voltaire addressed to her complimentary verses and dedicated to her his comedy, V Indiscrete It was she who, in 1 725, played the principal part in promoting the marriage of Louis XV. and Marie Leczinska, to whom she was appointed dame du palais. Flushed with success and devoured by ambition, she endeavoured, some months later, to bring about the dismissal of Fleury; but he intrigue failed and proved her ruin. She left the Court and withdrew to Paris; but when, in June 1 726, Monsieur le Due was exiled to Chantilly, the marchioness received orders to retire to her country seat at Courbepin. Here, in October of the following year, she destroyed herself by poison, at the age of twenty -nine."
(The Fascinating Duc de Richelieu)

11) Louise-Adelaide d'Orleans.
Louise-Anne de Bourbon
Comtesse de Charolais
Lover in 1718.
a.k.a. Mademoiselle de Charolais.

"He had succeeded not long before in gaining, clandestinely, of course, the affections of Mdlle. de Charolais, sister of Monsieur le Duc; and his conquests in the royal houses he greatly piqued himself upon. Her eyes were beautiful, and so remarkably lustrous that she was recognized by them when wearing a mask. Mdlle. de Valois, one of the regent's daughters, a very handsome girl, had also attracted him greatly, when she made her debut at a court ball given to celebrate the visit to Paris of the Duchesse de Lorraine. The young duke was almost in love with her; he decidedly admired her, and determined she should know it. It was difficult. But that gave zest and piquancy to his purpose. It had been difficult to make Mdlle. de Charolais understand that her smile or frown was life or death to him. He was an adept in that 'eloquence, twin-born of thought,' the eloquent language of the eyes. But so was the keen-sighted Madame de Prie, the 'amie intime,' as it was customary to say, of M. le Duc; and any openly-displayed attentions to Mdlle. de Charolais would have been very unceremoniously resented by her brother." (The Old Régime: Courts, Salons, and Theatres, Volume 1: 103)
Louise Anne de Bourbon, Mlle de Charolais,
in the habit of a Franciscan Mond
After a painting at Versailles by an unknown artist
Physical appearance and personal qualities: "At Chantilly, where the quarrel with the Chevalier de Baviere took place, as well as at Hotel de Conde, Richelieu was at this time a very frequent visitor, nor was it long before the reason of his partiality for the Conde family was an open secret. Physical appearance and personal qualities: The Duc de Bourbon---or Monsieur le Duc, as he was called---had six sisters all of whom had inherited the good looks and intelligence of their mother. The flower of the flock, however, was the third daughter, Louise Anne de Bourbon, Mlle. de Charolais, then in her twenty-first year, who was one of the prettiest women of her time. 'The charms of her countenance surpassed all that the painters have been able to conceive; nothing was so beautiful as her eyes, nothing so seducing as her mind. As she was the model of beauty, she was that of fashion. All the women wished to be coiffees and dressed as she was; but the more they sought to imitate her, the less they succeeded in being compared with her. The character of this princess was a singular compound of good and evil qualities: frank, generous, loyal, and kind-hearted, but haughty, vain, vindictive, and dissolute. In both love and hatred she scorned half-measures; she was at once the most devoted of friends and the most implacable of enemies." (The Fascinating Duc de Richelieu: 25)

"Rulhiere declares that at the time when Richelieu crossed her path, Mlle. de Charolais's heart was 'still in its first innocence,' but, according to other writers, the young lady was already 'experimentele.'  However that may be, it is certain that she soon conceived for Richelieu a most violent passion, to which the duke, whose senses were pleased by her beauty, and whose vanity was naturally flattered by the preference of a Princess of the Blood, was not slow to respond, and that before the end of the year 1715, thanks to the facilities afforded them by a complaisant waiting-woman of Her Highness, she had become her mistress."  (The Fascinating Duc de Richelieu, Louis Francois Armand du Plessis (1696-1788): 25)

13) Madame d'Ancenis.
a.k.a. Madame d'Anceny.

14) Madame d'Averne.
"Due de Richelieu appeared upon the scene. Madame d'Averne had heard much of this all-conquering nobleman — who had not? She may have been among the admiring ladies who had congregated in the Rue Saint-Antoine to watch him promenading on the terrace of the Bastille ; she had very probably assisted at his reception by the Academy or the Parlement, but up to this time she does not appear to have enjoyed the honour of his acquaintance. Now, however, they met frequently at fetes and balls — so frequently, indeed, as to seem something more than a coincidence — and soon the lady began to feel quite a thrill of pleasurable excitement when M. de Richelieu levelled his lorgnette in her direction at the Opera or led her out to thread the mazes of the dance. What need to dwell upon the sequel } How could Madame d'Averne be expected to resist him who was accounted irresistible ? How could she, a mere member of the petite noblesse, albeit the sultana of the ruler of France, fail to be flattered by the homage of one over whom titled dames had been ready to fight to the death, whom Princesses of the Blood had consoled in the Bastille, and for whose sake the Regent's own daughter had made so great a sacrifice ? In June 1722, the Regent departed for Rheims, to attend the coronation of the young king, leaving Madame d'Averne, of whose fidelity he was becoming more than a little suspicious, at Versailles, where it would be possible to have her kept under closer observation than in Paris or at Saint-Cloud. His return was followed by a momentous piece of news. Marais writes: 'The return from the Coronation has not been favourable to the mistresses. The Regent told Madame d'Averne the very same day that it was not proper for her to remain at Versailles, since it was a bad example for the King; that he would be always one of her friends ; that his man of affairs would be charged with hers, and that he would come and sup with her in Paris, and even pass the night at her house, if she desired, and other things which savoured of inconstancy or disgust.' And he adds : " The lady is suspected of infidelity with the Due de Richelieu, who has taken advantage of the absence of the master.' This semi-disgrace of Madame d'Averne was succeeded by an open rupture between her and the Regent, and Marais reports that the lady shows herself every day at the Opera in the company of the Due de Richelieu and other gentlemen. Poor Madame d'Averne soon discovered that, in exchanging her royal admirer for Richelieu, she had made a very bad bargain. A week or two of happiness, and the faithless duke began to neglect his conquest, whom, indeed, he had never valued except as a weapon wherewith to wound the Regent in his tenderest spot. It was in vain that she gave the most sumptuous fetes, in the hope that he might be induced to attend them ; it was in vain that she wrote him the most touching letters. All er efforts to regain the ascendency which she flattered herself she had once possessed over him were futile, and, at length, like Mile. Charolais and many another, she was forced to find consolation in the homage of other admirers, and the Marquis d'Alincourt, in collaboration with M. des Allures, succeeded in bringing some solace to her wounded heart. As for the Regent, though he showed a little resentment against Richelieu, on learning that he had supplanted him in the affections of Madame d'Averne, his anger did not last long, and, perhaps being of opinion that his rupture with that lady was not altogether a matter for regret, he heaped coals of fire upon the head of his successful rival, by inviting him to a supper-party at the Palais-Royal." (The Fascinating Duc de Richelieu)

15) Madame de Boufflers.
16) Madame de Chatillon-Goesbriant.
17) Madame de La Matelliere (d.1742)
18) Madame de Prie.
19) Madame de Duras.
20) Madame de Flamarens.
21) Madame de Gontaut.
22) Madame de Mouchy.
23) Madame de Parabere.
24) Madame de Falaris.
25) Madame de Polignac.
"When, for instance, the Duc wearied of the lovely Madame de Polignac, this lady was so inflamed by hatred of her successor in his affections, the Marquise de Nesle, that she challenged her to a duel to the death in the Bois de Boulogne. When Madame de Polignac, after a fierce exchange of shots, saw her rival stretched at her feet, she turned furiously on the wounded woman. "Go!" she shrieked. "I will teach you to walk in the footsteps of a woman like me! If I had the traitor here, I would blow his brains out!" Whereupon, Madame de Nesle, fainting as she was from loss of blood, retorted that her lover was worthy that even more noble blood than hers should be shed for him. "He is," she said to the few onlookers who had hurried to the scene on hearing the shots, "the most amiable seigneur of the Court. I am ready to shed for him the last drop of blood in my veins. All these ladies try to catch him, but I hope that the proofs I have given of my devotion will win him for myself without sharing with anyone. Why should I hide his name? He is the Duc de Richelieu—yes, the Duc de Richelieu, the eldest son of Venus and Mars!'" (Love Affairs of the Courts of Europe)
26) Madame de Rome.
27) Madame de Sabran.
28) Madame Michelin.
a.k.a. Michelot
"...He revels in describing the artifices by which he got the most unassailable of women into his power--such as the young and beautiful Madame Michelin, whose religious scruples proved such a frail barrier against the assaults of the young Lothario...."  (Infomotions)

29) Madame Renaud.
30) Marechale de Villars.
31) Maria Anna Balbi, Marchesa di Groppoli.
32) Marie-Anne de Cupis de Camargo (1710-1770)
a.k.a. La Camargo.
French-Belgian dancer.
"Premiere danseuse at the Paris Opera (1726-51) who created major roles in Rameau's operas.  'La Camargo', as she was known, was as colourful -- sometime scandalous -- person both on and offstage.  Her family, originally from Brussels, moved to Paris when her dancing career began to blossom. Like other dancers and actresses of the Louis XV ere, she was the mistress of a count and a popular figure in the Parisian salons; she shortened her skirts in order to display her footwork and was famed for her leaps. Her success kindled the jealousy of her teacher, Francoise Prevost, and her contemporary Marie Salle. Her brothers, in particular the violinist Jean-Baptiste (1711-88) and the cellist Francois (1732-1808), were active at the Concert Spirituel." (Companion to Baroque Music: 115-116)

33) Marie-Louise-Elisabeth d'Orleans, Duchesse de Berry.

34) Marie-Sophie de CourcillonDuchesse de Rohan-Rohan (1713-1756)
35) Marquise de Vernouillet.
36) Marquise du Chatelet.
Lover in 1733.
37) Ninon de l'Enclos.
38) Princesse de Conti.
39) Princesse de Liechtenstein.
"Another distinguished conquest was the Princess von Lichtenstein, who elonged to the moderate party at the Court, that is to say, to the party opposed to the alliance with Spain and war with France, and who is said to have furnished him with some valuable information concerning the intentions of the Austrian Government. In connection with this intrigue, partly sentimental and partly political, Soulavie relates an amusing anecdote: From fear of compromising the princess and exciting the suspicions of the Austrian Ministers, it was Richelieu's habit to visit her unaccompanied, very plainly dressed, and on foot, and to be admitted into her palace by a private door, which was opened at a prearranged signal. One night, when he had gone out as usual in this disguise, he happened to meet, not far from the princess's house, three of his own lackeys, in a rather hilarious condition, who, perceiving a man, whom they took to be an ordinary 
citizen, evidently very desirous of escaping observation, proceeded, in that spirit of mischief which inebriation often begets, to follow him. The duke endeavoured to shake them off, but without success, and when, on reaching the princess's door, he found that they were still at his heels, he lost his temper and struck one of the men with his cane. The fellow, smarting with the pain, immediately began to shout out that the servants of the Ambassador of France were being insulted ; a crowd quickly assembled; the watch came hurrying up, and Richelieu, in order to avoid being arrested, was obliged to reveal his identity to the astonished bystanders and the terrified lackeys." (The Fascinating Duc de Richelieu)

40) Princesse de Rohan-Soubise.
French actress
a.k.a. Therese Dancourt, Therese Boutinon des Hayes, Francoise de La Poupliniere, Madame de La Pompliniere, Madame La Poupliniere. 

Spouses & Children:  She married 1) in 1729, Charles-Francois d'Albert d'Ailly, Duc de Pecquigny; and 2) in 1732, Hercule-Meriadec de Rohan, Duc de Rohan-Rohan (1746).[Fam1]

" . . . The Duc de Richelieu, a powerful figure at the court of King Louis XV and a flamboyant womanizer, had seduced Monsieur de La Pouplineiere's beautiful and much younger wife. The duke and the the tax collector happened to be neighbors in Paris.  To facilitate the secret encounters with his new lover, the duke had had a secret passageway built in a huge fireplace that led directly into Madame de La Poupliniere's music room.  The tax collector eventually discovered the ploy and banished his wife from his household.  The episode had caused a huge scandal at the time---as much because of the affair itself as because of what was perceived as La Poupliniere's unnecessarily cruel treatment of his wife. . . . "  (A Venetian Affair: A True Tale of Forbidden Love in the 18th Century:122)

" . . . As the century progressed, the premiers gentilshommes were very often accused of taking advantage of their privileged position, especially the infamous duc de Richelieu.  One of his conquests was Therese Boutinon Deshayes, the wife of financier and arts patron Alexandre Le Riche de La Poupliniere . . . , one of the forty tax farmers who had bought the privilege of collecting French taxes in return for a healthy cut of the gross.  She was the daughter of Mimi Dancourt, a celebrated soubrette at the Comedie-Francaise for nearly thirty years. . . ."  (Women on the Stage in Early Modern France: 1540-1750: 253)

Personal & family background:  "Richelieu's biographer assumes Therese was a professional actress, presumably because her mother was, and because she was from a theatrical family.  Her grandfather was Florent Carton dit Dancourt, an actor playwright from a 'superior' background.  He was a gentleman, well-educated, and a nascent lawyer when he became enamoured of Therese Le Noir, the lovely teenage daughter of La Thorilliere. The younger Therese's own father was Samuel Boutinon Deshayes, a former lieutenant of the dragoons at the court of Denmark, and an elderly cousin of her grandfather's." (Women on the Stage in Early Modern France: 1540-1750: 253)

The Don Juan at the Court:  "As a boy, still in his teens, he had begun to play the role of Don Juan at the Court of the child-King, Louis XV.  The most beautiful women at the Court, we are told, went crazy over the handsome boy, who bore the most splendid name in France; and thus early his head was turned by flatteries and attentions which followed him almost to his grave.  The young Duchesse de Bourgogne, the King's mother, made love to him, to the scandal of the Court; and from Princeses of the Blood Royal to the humblest serving-maid, there was scarcely a woman at Court who would not have given her eyes for a smle from the Duc de Fronsac, as he was then called."  (Infomotions)
[Ref1:Chap. 17] [Ref2:Introductions & Reviews:95] [Family Tree]

References for the Duc de Richelieu.
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