Femme of the Week: Suzanne Curchod | Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: Femme of the Week: Suzanne Curchod

April 18, 2009

Femme of the Week: Suzanne Curchod

In 1737 Suzanne Curchod was born. Her father was a pastor and insisted on a strong education for her. Well she got one! Author J. Christopher Herold noted that she received an "education suited for Leonardo Da Vinci." And although she never would admit it, she was quite the Latinist!

After her father died she took care of her mother, which she managed by teaching and being a governess. She worked all the time and it was very draining. When the offer to go to Paris with a friend arose, she decided to accept. She did not know the city or have much money for herself, so it was a bold move. Even though she knew she had limited funds the first thing she did in Paris was shop for clothes and accessories! When the bills came that sinking feeling in her stomach hit and at this point she realized, despite her high standards in men that had developed, she would have to marry.

In 1764 she met Jacques Necker, who was a Swiss financier, in Paris. He was smart, ambitious and his career would lead him to be the French minister of finance. It was natural that the kind, smart and lovely Suzanne caught his eye. He pulled a total Mr. Darcy and did not make his feelings known to her, and left Paris on business. Now Suzanne had already decided he fit her standards in men, she just had to wait for his return.

When he finally returned he wrote to her right away, asking to see her, and she responded, "I must then write to you what I should not have dared to say to you. If your happiness depends on my sentiments, I am afraid that you were happy before you desired it. I will remain at home all the evening and will see no one else." You can only imagine the excitement Jacques must have felt at this letter, and he certainly visited her that evening. They were married shortly after and would forever be completely in love with each other. How often did that happen!

Life In Paris
Madame Necker would also advance her career, as a socialite, among the most learned persons. With the new comfort of married life she slowly gained correspondence with the hottest philosophers. It was her education that brought her so far. Some women hosted salons for artists, writers, scientists and politicians, but Madame Necker chose the circle of philosophers. She hosted gatherings where displays of wit, and eager, interesting discussions would occur. She scheduled her salons on Friday where she would host a dinner. She planned this because other popular salons were held during the week, so that everyone of importance was available on Fridays! Soon everyone was saying thank god it's Friday and headed over to her house. A glimpse of her salon from Galiani:
"A Friday does not pass but I go to you in spirit. I arrive, and I find you one minute adjusting your dress; the next minute you are lying on the duchesse. I seat myself at your feet. Thomas groans to himself silently; Grimm and Suard laugh heartily; and my dear friend Creutz notices nothing...Dinner is announced. We go out' the others eat meat; I abstain...We rise from the table and drink our coffee, everyone speaking at the same time."
Health & Death
Suzanne's stress and anxiety deteriorated her health. She was always head to head with her daughter and when it came time for her to marry things worsened. When it was time for marriage, Suzanne's choice was William Pitt. Her daughter was against the match and refused. She was constantly struggling with her daughter, and she was concerned her husband did not love her as he once did. Jacques' feelings had not changed towards his wife, and she remained his one true love.

In 1784 the couple retired to a lovely château near Geneva, which was both restful and beautiful. She devoted herself to charity and organizing and working in the hospital setting. Her health continued to fade with her anxieties, one of which was a fear of death and being buried alive, an anxiety gained from her charity work. She began making very specific arrangements for her own funeral, and in May of 1794 she passed away. She is buried among trees which she planted by hand, and along side her beloved husband, so that their ashes would mix as one.


  1. It was probably a bless that marriage didn't work out! It sounds like her daughter would be a little too high maintenance for ol' William to handle!

  2. Ha ha! I remember reading that and being all, "Mme de Stael and William Pitt? That sounds like a bad plan."

  3. The Necker's chateau near Geneva is the 'Chateau de Coppet'. It is still there and is open to the public; fully furnished as back in Suzanne's days. Well worth a visit!