Browse results

Mademoiselle de Montpensier

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

Series:

Sophie Maríñez

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.

Series:

Sophie Maríñez

Abstract

This chapter deals with Montpensier’s various positions against and for marriage, all of which were part of a process that starts from seeing marriage as a means to becoming a queen, evolves into privileging celibacy and autonomy, and shifts to reconsidering marriage again, but as an instrument sanctioning love with a man of her choice, Antonin Nompar de Caumont, comte de Lauzun. In the end, Montpensier returns to an earlier position advocating female autonomy. This evolution of her views appears plainly in her memoirs and her correspondence with Madame de Motteville. In architectural terms, these stages parallel the types of homes in which she lived or which she built during the same periods. For instance, the Tuileries, the palace she occupied until her first exile, represents the set expectations for a woman of her rank; Saint-Fargeau and Champigny-sur-Veude evoke her princely and royal lineages; Eu embodies the life of celibacy she envisioned; and, finally, Choisy-le-Roi, a palace she designed and built from scratch soon after her failed marriage to Lauzun, corresponds to her renewing a lifelong search for liberation from paternal, kingly, and marital authority.

Series:

Sophie Maríñez

Series:

Sophie Maríñez

Abstract

This chapter explores the links between Montpensier’s memoirs and her architectural patronage and reviews important events of her life, including her participation in the Fronde, her conflicted relationship with her father, and her exile to Saint-Fargeau. It focuses on the process whereby, at the outset of her exile in the ruined fortress, the reconstruction process involved both the transformation of this medieval fortress into a courtly château and the writing of a life narrative, her attention to which ended only shortly before her death in 1693. In the section of her memoirs written at Saint-Fargeau, she casts herself as a strong woman through an account of her role in the Fronde, an exposure of her father’s flaws, an emphasis on her dynastic lineage, and the adoption of key female figures as role models. In architectural terms, this reconstruction process entailed transforming Champigny-sur-Veude and Saint-Fargeau into châteaux that emphasized her princely and royal lineages as well as her ties with powerful women.

Series:

Sophie Maríñez

Abstract

This chapter explores Montpensier’s self-construction strategies in her literary work and argues that the fictional worlds these novels create—a moon, an island, and a faraway realm—function as the “others” of the châteaux in which she performed herself as a woman of high rank and power. To be sure, the narrators in Histoire de Jeanne Lambert d’Herbigny, Marquise de Fouquesolles (1653) and Relation de l’isle imaginaire (1659) cast Montpensier and her châteaux or estates in opposition to the historical Marquise de Fouquesolles and Sieur Busillet de Messimieu, lower nobles who aspired to higher ranks and whom Montpensier’s narrators mock and vilify. As a result, these novels project the anxieties of those who saw as a threat the emergence of individuals climbing the social ladder. By contrast, the exotic kingdom created in Histoire de la Princesse de Paphlagonie (1659), populated as it is by unmarried queens who were heads of state, serves to explore an alternative space in which to manifest ideals of female autonomy and power.

Series:

Sophie Maríñez

Abstract

This chapter offers a brief review of women patrons and examines the question of self-construction in the works of women patrons and writers who preceded Montpensier, including Christine de Pizan, Anne of Brittany, and Diane de Poitiers. Drawing from Judith Butler’s notions of “citationality” and “re-signification,” it argues that their works stand as precedents of strategies of resistance and/or re-negotiation of gender constructs that circumscribed their lives. After examining Christine de Pizan’s discursive strategies for the defense of women, self-authorization, and self-legitimation in her Book of the City of Ladies, it focuses on Anne of Brittany’s and Diane de Poitiers’s patronage. The former, who knew of Christine’s works, enlarged the château of the Dukes of Brittany, inscribing the signs of a re-negotiated identity as both Duchess of Brittany and Queen of France, and restructured her household by significantly increasing its size and the number of women, elevating their status and creating what became her highly praised “court of ladies.” “Citing” Christine de Pizan’s views through this patronage and these policies, Anne of Brittany laid the ground for their further dissemination among the female elite of her period. By contrast, Diane de Poitiers, Henri II’s favorite, commissioned Philibert Delorme to build Anet, a château that displays a complex image of chastity and sexual/divine power evoking both her loyalty to her late husband and her relationship with Henri II. The innovative, symbolic import at Anet also carries an ambiguity that destabilizes traditional constructs of gender hierarchies and re-signifies its female owner into a figure of divine power.

Series:

Sophie Maríñez

Series:

Sophie Maríñez

Series:

Sophie Maríñez

Series:

Sophie Maríñez