Mademoiselle de Montpensier

Writings, Châteaux, and Female Self-Construction in Early Modern France


Mademoiselle de Montpensier: Writings, Châteaux, and Female Self-Construction in Early Modern France examines questions of self-construction in the works of Anne-Marie-Louise d’Orléans, Duchesse de Montpensier (1627-1693), the wealthiest unmarried woman in Europe at the time, a pro-women advocate, author of memoirs, letters and novels, and the commissioner of four châteaux and other buildings throughout France, including Saint-Fargeau, Champigny-sur-Veude, Eu, and Choisy-le-roi. An NEH-funded project, this study explores the interplay between writing and the symbolic import of châteaux to examine Montpensier’s strategies to establish herself as a woman with autonomy and power in early modern France.

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Sophie Maríñez, Ph.D. (2010), The Graduate Center, City University of New York, is Associate Professor of French and Spanish at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York.
"Sophie Maríñez explores the links between la Grande Mademoiselle’s writings and her architectural patronage in this vivid portrayal of one of the century’s most important and colorful figures. Montpensier takes on new significance in a continuum that reaches from the medieval period and extends into our own. The pleasure of this well written text is enhanced by a generous number of rare illustrations."
- Christine Reno, Vassar College

"Mademoiselle de Montpensier was a woman of many talents and varying interests, political, literary, and artistic. By integrating Montpensier’s literary output and her patronage of the architecture, and arguing that such efforts must be seen as a coherent attempt at “self- construction” by the princess, Sophie Maríñez offers us new and intriguing insights into the personality of one of the most prominent women in 17th century France.
Not the least of these perspectives is Maríñez’s placement of Montpensier in a continuum of pro-women literature and of the patronage of architecture reaching back to such powerful predecessors as Christine de Pizan and Anne of Brittany. As such, Maríñez maintains, Montpensier cannot be evaluated in a vacuum, but must be viewed as the successor of other women whose talents and determination enabled them to disregard the gender-imposed norms of their respective times.

This is an important work of scholarship, a real voyage of discovery, and will be read with pleasure by anyone interested in the “splendid century” that was Louis XIV’s France."
- Vincent Pitts, author of La Grande Mademoiselle at the Court of France (1627-1693)

"Sophie Maríñez is excellent on Montpensier’s renegotiation of constructs traditionally ascribed to women: most obviously virtue, chastity, and submission to patriarchal figures. In Montpensier’s case, this process of self-construction is literalized in the commissioning of buildings, gardens, and portraits and tracked in her correspondence and memoirs." - Emma Gilby, French Studies, 72.4, Oct. 2018.

« C’est une synthèse originale et bien informée que nous livre ici cette spécialiste sur une figure bien connue du XVIIe siècle, par ailleurs écrivain, la Grande Mademoiselle. L’ouvrage procède d’une optique précise et centrale dans une œuvre; il envisage celle-ci comme profondément cohérente dans sa double dimension architecturale et littéraire, unifiée par l’affirmation conquérante d’un goût féminin en matière de châteaux et par une revendication constante d’indépendance féminine. »
– Jean Garapon, Université de Nantes, Revue d'Histoire Littéraire de la France, 119.3 (2019).

“This well written monograph is an original and much needed contribution to the scholarship on this neglected author and socialite. Montpensier mirrors the zeitgeist of Louis XIV’s reign but at the same time transcended her period in her view of women’s relationship to marriage, art, architecture, and sociability. The reader will find a wealth of information here on every aspect of the classical period, as it relates to a unique personality and , if not a feminist of the modern mold avant la lettre, someone who at least promoted the dignity of women as she could, using the resources she had at her disposal.”

– Michael Mulryan, Christopher Newport University, Dalhousie French Studies, 112 (2018).

“Maríñez traces a women’s tradition reaching back to the late medieval times: Montpensier’s writing and building projects were inspired by female models like Marguerite de Valois and Diane de Poitiers. Though some of her story has been told before, Maríñez enlarges the female anon through her readings of material images and figures, deploying in the process a literary/architectural sensibility most attractive to this reviewer.”

- Barbara Woshinsky, Miami University, Early Modern Women Journal, 14.1, Fall 2019.