Family Tree: Polignac | Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: Family Tree: Polignac

November 08, 2010

Family Tree: Polignac

The duchesse de Polignac was popular for her unpopularity during the French Revolution.  The name Polignac became a word interchangeable with 'hate,' as her close relationship with Marie Antoinette made for ample stories of the worst types; her reputation suffered daily.  The family was not always hated, and indeed would not always be!This post will touch on some of the 'highlights,'' if y

The Polignac's were a noble born family, but they were not very well off and were really provincial noblesse. They claimed their family dated back to the fifth century, but between the fifth and the eighteenth there were few members who could be coined remarkable.

Not until the eleventh century does a Polignac claim family relations.  This lone Polignac began the tracing of the family tree.  Their claim to nobility traced back to Caius Sollius Apollinaris Sidonius also known as Saint Apollinaris, both a man of the state and a poet.  Sidonius married the daughter of Roman Emperor Avitus, the union was advantageous for Gaul-Roman relations.  He also became a senator of Rome, and bishop of Avernum. All his accomplishments were later topped by his becoming a Saint! Although the Apollinaris name dates to the 5th century, the family tree is a little fuzzy from there.

The 11th century Polignac participated in the First Crusade and retired in Vellay.  During the sixteenth century, since the court of Francois I, the later mistress of Henry II, Diane de Poitiers, had shown favor on the family.  Her influence on the family had a positive effect and indebted to her, a tradition was born; to name all daughters Diane.

The name was not commonly known again until the Abbe Melchoir who would become the Cardinal de Polignac.  His fortunes began early when he was sent to Paris for his education.  While there the Cardinal de Bouillon noticed the bright boy and had him accompany him as a secretary to Rome.  While there his personality beamed and he made many friends in high places.   His work in Rome caught the attention of Louis XIV.  One of the high moments of the abbe's life was when he helped persuade the King to sign the Treaty of Utrecht.  He became Cardinal de Polignac on the recommendation from the King of England.

Possibly Diane de Polignac
This Cardinal had a fine taste for art, was an accomplished writer, and spoke fluently in several languages.  He was worldly and hospitable and generous.  The fortunes of the Cardinal de Polignac were passed down the family to a nephew, whose daughter Diane secured the post of lady in waiting to the Comtesse d'Artois.  Her lively spirit and easy going personality won over the court, her good conversation and wit made up for a lack of beauty.  So popular she became, that she received the title of cannoness and a substantial income with it.

Diane's younger brother, Jules, remained at the family home in the country.  He was set up for a marriage of convenience with Yolande Martine Gabrielle de Polastron.  The marriage did not do either family any favour as they were both old nobility and poor nobility.  After she secured a friendship with Marie Antoinette did her lot improve dramatically. Her husband Jules and herself were given the title of duc and duchesse de Polignac. Her sister in Law Diane also reaped benefits from the friendship, as the King made her Comtesse and appointed her head of the household of Madame Elizabeth.


  1. Thank you for writing about the family -- I am very fond of Little Po. Katherine Louise

  2. Who was Marie Antoinette more fond of: Lil' Po or Princess Lambelle?

  3. I too am very fond of little Poe, I really liked that article.

  4. It is interesting to see the history of a family, I was surprised that this family didn't have more outstanding historical personalities!

  5. Now this was an interesting read! Such a long history, and so few members of the family became historical figures, like Lauren said!

    (I do believe, by the way, that Diane de Poitiers was the mistress of Henry II, and not Francois I?)

  6. @Malena of Royal Women ah yes! I had my courts mixed up. Even the lesser famous members of the family are interesting when we take the time to look at them! Sad thing for a lack of portraits though!

  7. Let's not forget that Diane de Polignac became the long-time & much-loved mistress of Artois---Marie Antoinette's brother-in-law & her early partner in the crime of fun & frivolity during her early days at Versailles. Much later (after the rev & murders of MA & Louis) Little Po's son, Jules de Polignac, served as Artois'--now Charles X--- Prime Minister just before the 1830 July Revolution which overthrew the Bourbon Restoration. Here is another juicy tibit: Prince Albert & Princesses Caroline & Stephanie of Monaco (Princess Grace Kelly's children) are the great-great-great-great grandchildren of our little Po!