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June 06, 2008

Femme of the Week: Louise-Honorine Crozat du Châtel, Duchesse de Choiseul

Meet the lovely Louise-Honorine. She was the daughter of the marquis du Châtel, Louis-François. Her grandfather had earned the title by lending money to the French Government, by Louis XIV.

Born a supremely wealthy heiress Louise-Honorine was betrothed at age 12 to Étienne-Françios de Choiseul, who would become the Duc de Choiseul. Before her betrothel, however, she had let her self fall in love, rather, she let herself be fascinated and taken by the charming Étienne-Françios for they crossed paths many times in her childhood. (I would compare her feelings toward Étienne-Françios to those of young Maria Theresa to her beloved Francis I.)

Her Man, her love....
Before becoming duc, he was the Comte de Stainville, and was of no grand fortune. He had fallen in love with Louise-Honorines older sister the Duchesse de Gontaut. Married to the Duc de Gontaut they could not produce an heir. The Duchesse had fallen inlove with Étienne-Françios and he gave the Duc de Gontaut the heir he couldnt have!!!!! After the child was born, the Duchesse found herself on her deathbed. She was so in love with her Étienne-Françios that she called her little sister in and asked her to marry him (this would ensure Étienne-Françios financial stability because the Crozat family was so well off).

Testimonials to die for:
She was graceful, sweet and known for her petite figure (described as a model figure.) Her manners and elegance delighted men and ladies alike! And we could only dream of receiving the testimonials she gained:
"The most perfect being of either sex. Nothing that I ever saw anywhere was like the Duchess of Choiseul, who has more parts, reason and agreeableness than I ever met in such a delicate little creature. You would take her for the Queen of an Allegory." HORACE WALPOLE
"What a pity that she is an angel! I would rather that she were a woman, but she has only virtures, not a weakness, not a fault." MADAME DU DEFFAND
She was a different breed from most ladies of the 18th century. "One of the moral assets of the eighteenth century," instead of being boring or annoying by upholding her standards she manages to charm and enchant, in an age of loose morals and corrupt refinement. She managed to evade the guillotine and secured respect after the revolution as well.

Her Man, her love...and His Women:
Well her man, the Duc de Choiseul was a well known seducer, in fact it had been said that he could have served as the model of Valmont in Laclos' Les Liaisons Dangereuses. He married when he was 31, she was 15. His favorite mistress while married was the Princesse de Robecq and I quote, "a hand-me-down from the King"!

Another problem for our Duchesse is that the Duc was strangly obsessed with his ambitious sister, Beatrix de Stainville (a disagreeable woman). He helped her gain a marriage to the Duc de Garmont, ( "a drunkard and looked as if nature had intended him as a barber") After she became Duchesse de Garmont, she left her husband and lived with the Duc and Duchess -she walked all over Louise-Honorine.... Louise was basically Eirene, the Duc- Titus and Beatrix- Gaia.


A Queen of Society Makes her Debut:

Her husband became the ambassador to the Papal State, and Louise-Honorine made her debut as queen of society in Rome, a position she would also hold later at Versailles. She spent time studying the antiquities and her intelligence and wit left her popular among high society. The Duchesse still suffered with her domestic situation, and this would soon disrupt her life. After Madame de Pompadour passed, it was Beatrix who felt she could fill her spot! So when the Duc presented his sister to fill the role....it ruffled feathers. In particular, Madame Du Barry. In a combination of political and catty reasonings, Louis XV sent the Duc and Duchesse into Exile becuase of the obnoxious sister!----->

Louise-Honorine was okay with this, however. After all they had been through she had loved her husband more and more every day. She was a true romantic. And although he embarrassed her with his public affairs, she continued to try and win over his heart. She had won his respect, she was everything a husband, a man of power could have asked for.

Slipped Away...
An illness had taken over Louise-Honorine and she could not fight it off. The Duc, who was waiting in a room outside of her chambre, (he had been forced out of the room she was in) and he was told, "She is no more." A discussion of having her last rites performed took place, but the Duc found him self inconsolable and severely afflicted. Having taken the Duchesse for granted for so long, he had not realized the love he held for her. His friends tried to talk to him but he lost it. He ran from the room to hers yelling that he needed to see his wife for the last time, words pouring out in yelps. He threw himself at her bedside yelling and crying "my dear wife! my dear wife!"

It was then that the Duchesse began to show a sign of life. The Duchesse would recall that hearing the cries of the man you love with all your heart was enough to give her the strength to put her hands around his neck. The following years were the happiest of Louise-Honorine's life! The happiness ended in 1785 when her beloved passed away. The grief was unbearable to her, and while dealing she also worked to pay off her husbands debts. Her repayment was interrupted with the revolution, and she simultaneously became so ill she underwent an operation. She was arrested in 1794 and moved to the Conciergerie. She was fortunate to evade the guillotine after Robespierre fell.

2 comments

  1. A model of virtue and devotion to her husband.
    Let us not forget, the Duc did have much to do with the marriage of M.A. to the dauphin before his exile.
    Was it not stupendously humoristic of King Louis XVI upon the return of the Duc de Choiseul from exile, greeting him with the words, ..."Mr. Choiseul, you've become fat...You have lost your hair...You are becoming bald."?

    No man wants to hear this at his 20th High School Reunion. Let alone returning to Versailles.
    Quelle honte!Quelle horreur!!!

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  2. P.S.
    Could you elaborate on the Choiseul-Titus, Beatrix-Gaia, and Louise-Eirene comment? My knowledge of Greek mythology is a little rusty. Titus was a Titan? Gaia was Mother Earth, and Eirene was who? I realize I only have to google this answer, but I'd rather have your turn of phrase, s'il vous plait?

    Also, I am a dunder-head. I realized too tard that your next quotation was my own redundancy in repeating the same quote. I am such a dodo. Oh well, it was my own translation though.

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