Sex, Power & the French Revolution: The scandalous life of Madame Du Barry

A cheap whore that got lucky; that’s the general historic consensus on Jeanne Bécu, more commonly known as Madame Du Barry. The rival of Marie Antoinette, scandalous mistress of Louis XV and joke of the French Revolution.

But I’d argue that there is WAY more to this lady than history has warranted her. 

The tale of Madame Du Barry verges on unbelievable. This is a story jam packed with love, sex and an EXTRODINARY  leading lady – oh, and at the end the entire cast is beheaded…

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Go on….

Jeanne Bécu was quite literally born into scandal. The illegitimate daughter of a seamstress, she was the result of a remoured (a quickly covered up) love affair with a local friar.

Yet despite her salacious start in life, Jeanne had a priveledged upbringing.

Her mother worked for an incredibly wealthy and powerful man, who just happened to be her former lover. This worked in favour of the precocious young Jeanne and she became an unofficial part of the household. Doted on by the staff, her  mother’s boss and even his mistress.

But this lush life came to a sudden end when Jeannes Mum married. The days of being showered with attention and gifts were over. And the family moved away from the household that had so adored Jeanne.

Soon money became more of an issue and Jeanne was shipped off to a convent.

Unsurprisngly this was not an environment that suited the fun loving and feisty Jeanne.

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Convents, not the natural home for teenage sass…

So as soon as she could Jeanne left the convent. And at just 15, Jeanne was making a living on the streets of Paris.

She worked selling low grade trinkets in the cities dingy side streets. In addition to a string of other short lived jobs and even shorter lived affairs…

Just surviving day to day was a struggle, but Jeanne still remembered her small taste of oppulance. She was determined to get that life back and was more than happy to work her arse off to get it.

Her endless jobs, hard work and good looks, caught peoples attention. Soon the back streets of Paris were abuzz about the beautiful and charismatic Jeanne.

A young Jeanne by François-Hubert Drouais
A young Jeanne by François-Hubert Drouais

Jean-Baptiste du Barry, had heard all about Jeannes beauty and he decided he wanted her on his books.

A ‘procurer’ of high class mistresses (read, Pimp) Du Barry thought Jeanne would be his crowning jewel and was desperate for her to join his merry band of mistresses.

Jeanne was totally down with this!

Becoming a mistress to the Parisian elite would allow Jeanne to get out of the gutter, maintain much of her independence, AND earn more money than she could dream of.

Finally Jeannes’ ship had come in… even if it was driven by Captain Creep.

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An accurate representation of Jean-Baptiste du Barry

Despite Captain Creep being at the wheel, Jeanne took Paris by storm. Becoming the mistress to political power players and influential courtiers.

She was the IT girl and everyone wanted a piece of her…including The King of France.

Jeanne had caught the Kings eye during a quick trip to Versailles (to see one of her many lovers) and upon meeting her King Louis XV was immediately entranced.

The king announced he wanted Jeanne as his main mistress. 

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The King in question, Louis XV

Slight snag; only titled, married, noble women could become the Kings mistress and Jeanne was a girl from the back streets of Paris with no ounce of noble blood…

But no matter! This was love!!

And so in a very real Cinderella story, the Kings men searched all the brothels of Paris, for the creep that could make their dreams come true.

And they found him!

Jeanne was married to her former pimp, Jean-Baptiste du Barry’s brother. He was then promptly paid to fuck off, making Jeanne just technically married.

The King then invented a fictional noble lineage for Jeanne, before transforming her old clothes into a fabulous gown and lavishing her with one of the most ornate wigs French court had ever seen.

Jeanne was now Madame Du Barry, and she was ready for her official debut as royal mistress extraordinaire.

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I’m shocked Disney has not made this yet!!!

Sadly the French Court didn’t get the whole ‘Cinderella story’ memo.

To them Jeanne was a ‘whore’. Sure she’d been cleaned up, but she was nothing more than a cheap guttersnipe who got lucky.

Women literally had to be bribed to become friends with Jeanne.

Those that didn’t ‘befriend’ Jeanne, remained irate that this strumpet had been chosen as mistress over noble born ladies. And so, in true OTT mean girls spirit, they started spreading rumour and gossip filled pamphlets about Jeanne across court.

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Who knew Mean Girls was inspired by Versailles?!

Almost as soon as she arrived at court, Jeanne had everyone around her actively pushing for her failure.

But she didn’t buckle. Instead Jeanne did what she always did. Worked.

Taking up classes in manners and etiquette, to help own her new role.

Not only that but just to prove that she was more than the cheap gold digger she was painted as, Jeannes first favour from the King wasn’t a request for money, political power or jewels…it was for mercy.

Infact, Jeanne became known for saving people from execution; falling to her knees and refusing to get up until the King agreed to spare lives.

She notably saved a debt ridden couple from beheading and a young women who was due to be hung after not reporting her still born child as dead.

Things were looking up for Jeanne,as she started cementing her place in court.

And then Marie Antionette turned up.

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In 1770 Marie Antionette married the Kings grandson (and heir).  joining the French Court.

Upon seeing Jeanne, Marie asked what she did and was told that Jeanne gave the King ‘pleasure.’

To which Marie Antionette said:

‘Oh, then I shall be her rival, because I too wish to give pleasure to the King.”

Yeah… Marie Antionette was very green.

But sadly if Jeanne thought that sweet (and VERY naive) Marie was going to be her first real friend at Court, she was all kinds of wrong.

She had in fact just met her very own Regina George (in sheeps clothing)

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This bitch..

When Marie Antoinette discovered what Jeannes job actually was, she was disgusted. Feeling that Jeannes mere presence was degrading.

BUT Marie’s hatred of Jeanne wasn’t just down to properiety.

Marie Antoinette was just weeks into her marriage, but she was still struggling to have sex with her new husband. Infact the pair hadn’t even consummated the damn thing!

Now this openly sexual woman was being thrust in her face constantly.

That’s not the basis for a lasting living friendship.

And so, egged on by the court, Marie Antoinette did what any young woman does when faced with someone they hate….

she froze the bitch out.

Marie Antoinette and her entourage indulged in long bitch sessions about Jeanne and developed a fun habit of throwing lavish parties…where Marie just accidentally always forgot to invite the Kings Mistress.

Not only that but Marie Antoinette refused to acknowledge Jeanne in public.

Now this wasn’t like the parties and snide comments. This was a HUGE deal. For Marie to not acknowledge the Kings mistress broke all kinds of court etiquette and appeared to send a message that she was questioning the Kings decision making.

It’s the historic equivalent of you striding across the office, punching your bosses PA in the face, flipping their desk and calling them a bitch.

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Big no no!

But it wasn’t just Marie going after Jeanne. Shots had been fired by both sides in this battle.

Jeanne orchestrated the removal of one of Marie Antoinette favourite courtiers. She also loved nothing more than openly and loudly talking about Marie Antoinettes bedroom issues with her new husband.

BUT Marie Antoinette icing out Jeanne had taken things to far… it had gone from a mutual dislike to an actual threat to Austrian French relation. This fued had to end!

So on New Years Day 1772, Marie Antoinette ended the fight in style.

She cooly walked over to Jeanne in one of Versailles packer corridors. Waiting until she had everyone’s attention, Marie stared Jeanne down and said

“There are a lot of people today at Versailles”  

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The weirdly polite shade of it all!

With the feud between Marie Antoinette and Jeanne now at an end, you’d be forgiven for thinking things would chill out for Jeanne.

Nope!

In April 1774 King Louis XV caught Smallpox.

By May he was dead.

Marie Antoinette and her husband were now ruling France…and with Jeannes’ rival now Queen, that could only mean one thing.

Jeanne was out on her arse. 

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Madame Du Barry, by Elisabeth Vigée LeBrun

Just like that, Jeanne was once more sent to a convent.

But she didn’t stay there for long. Jeannes’ mistress-ing work had paid off and she could afford to buy herself an amazing house out in the country. Out of the way of Marie Antionette but still the lap of luxury, it was perfect.

So there Jeanne lived. Hosting salons for Frances best artists, doing charity work in her local area and taking as many lovers as she wanted,

But we all know that this story can’t end in pastoral bliss. Why?

THE FRENCH REVOLUTION! 

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‘Do you hear the people sing, singing this won’t end well’

By the 1790s, the revolution was in full swing. Many of the courtiers that Jeanne knew, had already met with the Guillotine and so she was doing her best to keep a low profile out in the country.

But then in 1791, Jeanne had her jewels stolen in the night.

Desperate to get them back she launched an investigation. Traveling between France and London to look for them.

King Louis XVs mistress running around Europe on a hunt for her missing jewels soon caught attention…and not the right kind.

It turns out the French Revolution is not the climate in which to become a bougie Carmen Sandiego. The people were calling out for Jeannes blood.

In 1793 she was arrested and on the 7th Dec that year, Jeanne was sentenced to death. Madame du barry.jpg

Jeanne was an emotional wreck (to be fair, wouldn’t you be!?!) she was to die the next day and had no clue how to get out of it.

But then she had an idea!

In the morning, when guards arrived to cut off Jeannes hair -in preparation for her execution-she calmly told them that she wanted just a few hours grace, so she could tell the Revolutionaries where a load of her valuable jewels were.

Surely these stupidly expensive jewels would result in her freedom.

So Jeanne spent hours informing the guards of where all her hidden gems were.

After she finished the guards left….and the hairdresser came back to chop off Jeannes hair in preparation for the Guillotine.

This was the Revolution; they weren’t going to play fair. 

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Yeah…not known as the most friendly time in history

When Jeanne boarded the wagon that was to take her and the other doomed nobles to the Guillotine, she was a damn wreck.

The French elite prided themselves on remaining stone faced as they traveled to their deaths. They wouldn’t show a flicker of emotion about their imminent demise.

Jeanne wasn’t playing this game.

Whilst the others in the cart stayed haughtily neutral. Jeanne screamed, wept and begged onlookers to help her.

This unnerved the gathering crowds. Jeanne was the first person they had ever seen show any kind of fear about the whole ‘about to get my head chopped off’ thing. Suddenly this wasn’t such a fun day out…

When the cart arrived at the Guillotine, Jeanne was too scared to get out, having to be bundled onto the scaffold ‘like an animal’.

She continued weeping, wailing to the crowd

‘You are going to hurt me! Why?’

Then she saw the executioner and broke down even more.

Rather than enjoying themselves, as usual, the crowd was clearly deeply unnerved by what was about to happen. This caused the executioner to work faster than usual.

He thrust Jeanne onto the Guillotine. She turned to him crying:

‘one moment more, please monsieur, do not hurt me’

As Jeanne cried for mercy, the blade came down. Madame Du Barry 4

And so ends the tale of Jeanne, more commonly known as, Madame Du Barry. A woman who pulled herself out of poverty and into power. Who lived openly as a sexual being and in doing so felt the wrath of those around her.

Who overcame time after time, only to die at the hands of those she had grown up with.

This was interesting, where do I find out more? It’s weirdly hard to get hold of decent books on Madame Du Barry. A lot seem to have gone out of print/don’t exist in most  book shops/online outlets.

So first, check out your local library and if that leaves you empty handed, I fully suggest checking out the below:

Madame Du Barry, The Wages of Beauty by Joan Haslip 

‘Whores’: The sisters that ruled Versailles

As anybody with a sister can attest, there is no relationship in the world that revolves around so much love and so much loathing, as being a sister. Seriously though, its some complicated ish.

And no set of sisters quite embody this weird relationship as the de Mailly sisters.

Growing up in 18th century France, the 5 sisters were beautiful, noble born and all set to become good wives…but they didn’t.

Instead four of the five sisters would all go on to become mistress to the same man: King, Louis XV of France. 

Louise, Pauline, Diane and Marie de Mailly would wield unprecedented power; their lives would be risked, sisterly bonds would be built and broken.

They’d know fame and famine alike, and by the end all but 2 would be dead.

Side note: The middle sister, Hortense, didn’t go into mistress-ing. Valid career choice, but it means that for the reminder of this article we’re gonna wave goodbye to Hortense and focus on the other four.

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Both a fun gif and also kind of a historical mirror! See, The de Mailly were pretty much as famous, divisive and constantly sex shamed as the Kardashians!

Louise

Sweet, witty but very clumsy, Louise was the eldest of the sisters.

Louise De Mailley
Louise de Mailly

She was newly unhappily married to her cousin (yay for the past and its never ending parade of gross marriages) but, Louise dreamed that her life would become more than just a long stream of popping out extremely related babies.

At 19 she got what she wanted…thanks to her mother dying.

Yeah, less than ideal.

Still, as the eldest daughter, it was Louise’s duty to take up her late mother’s role as a lady in waiting to The Queen of France.

And just like that, Louise was shipped off to Versailles.

A mourning teenager dumped into the snakepit that was royal court…it could have gone tits up so easily!

Yet, Louise remained strong. Though her clumsiness meant she was far from elegant, she let her intellect and wit take centre stage; soon enough she was a court favourite!

And wasn’t just the court that was infatuated – Louise had caught the eye of the King.

King Louis XV of France
Meet King Louis XV of both France and blue balls

The King could be as in love with Louise as he liked…she wasn’t biting. Louise had taken her marriage vows seriously and it would take a lot more than a royal crush for her to break them.

This was incredibly unusual; the general rule was that if a King wanted to have sex with you…then like, you should probably start making your way to his bedroom…

But Louise stood her ground and she made Louis work!

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Louise aint gonna get with you for nothing!

It took Louis over a year to even get a kiss…but that kiss opened the floodgates to a whole lot more *wink*

Pretty soon Louise and Louis were official (plus their names match, so it was clearly meant to be) true love.gif

Louis and Louise weren’t a flash in the pan. She was in love and soon she was Louis’s official main mistress.

And as all big sisters know…the minute you get something good, your younger sister is immediately there wanting a piece of it! Enter:

Pauline 

The second eldest of the sisters, Pauline wrote to Louise and begged to be bought to court. As a good big sister, Louise let Pauline come stay…while also probably reminding her not to be embarrassing in front of Louises cool new courtier mates.

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Pauline de Mailly

The bright lights of Versailles suited Pauline to a tee. She was loud, funny and the life and soul of the party.

More than this though, Pauline was unashamedly ambitious. So. Naturally she wanted to milk her sisters new position for everything she could get.

And, boy, did she do that!

Just like Louise had done, Pauline quickly caught King Louis’s eye. The difference was, Pauline was happy to pursue the King…

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Thats breaking all kinds of sisterhood codes!

King Louis may have loved Louise (#L+L4ever) but he also reeeeally liked her sister.

It was all kinds of dicky and icky, but the Kings penis wants what it wants.

And so, though Louise got to remain top mistress, Pauline joined the ranks of official mistresses.

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Like I don’t think it counts as incest. BUT STILL

Pauline LOVED her new role and unlike Louise, she used her position as mistress for everything she could.

She created political sway for herself, bagged a rich husband with a title (who’d have to remain cool with her extra-marital duties) and snagged herself countless expensive gifts…including an actual castle!!!!!

Needless to say, the rest of court were somewhat jealous of this new upstart. And a general loathing of Pauline started to assimilate.

But Pauline didn’t care! She had power, riches and to boot she’d just got pregnant with the Kings kid – meaning nothing could topple her…right?

Nope! Turns out giving birth before decent medicine and pain relief was a killer…literally 

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Yep, the likelihood of survival during this era, er…well, its not exactly vegas odds.

Though Pauline delivered a healthy baby boy, she died in child birth.

Both King Louis and Louise were grief-stricken; it was arranged for Pauline’s body to be placed in state, to allow for mourners to pay their respects…but then something truly horrific happened.

A mob broke into the chapel housing Pauline. They wanted to exact punishment on the woman they saw as a ‘whore’ – so they mutilated her body. portrait of paulineLouise was devastated. Her little sister was dead and her body defiled.

She sunk into a pit of despair. Turning to religious rituals as a way of offering penance.

Louise wasn’t the only one mourning Pauline’s death; the political heavy weights were just as bereft.

Without Pauline, there was no woman with the ear of the king who was happy to push political plans.

See, Louise was in love (#L+LAlways) and therefore uninterested in using the man she loved as a step up to securing her own power.

But the politicians weren’t out of luck. There was another de Mailley sister waiting in the wings. And she had Pauline’s ambitious streak:

Marie Anne

The youngest of all the sisters, Marie Anne had a serious case of last born syndrome (i.e she felt she had something to prove) that mixed with her devastating looks, smarts and endless ambition, made her the perfect political mistress.

So she was bought to court with the intention that she would take Pauline’s place.

Marie Anne de Mailly
Marie Anne de Mailly

Slight issue…Marie Anne didn’t want to become the Kings mistress.

She already had a lover and she didn’t want to drop him to become the Kings sloppy seconds (well thirds).

King Louis had other ideas; he was now desperate to bag Marie Anne as his latest conquest…and so he sent her lover off to war (as you do)

Sadly for the King, Marie Anne’s lover came back from war alive, intact and a war hero.

But it wasn’t quite game over!

The king’s friends were desperate to get the King a mistress who would play their political games. So, they arranged for another woman to seduce Marie Anne’s lover.

Then they sent the pairs illicit love letters to Marie Anne, who was understandably heartbroken. So she broke up with her lover and fell into the Kings bed to spite him.

It’s official! French court was more of a bitchy head fuck than high school! 

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For reals though…who the fuck does that?

Despite the dickery that had made her a mistress, Marie Anne refused to be a pawn.

If she was going to a mistress she wanted three things:

1.A more powerful King than the one she had

2.Power and wealth of her own

3.To be the top mistress.

Luckily, one and two were pretty easy.

Marie Anne lent on the King, persuading him to build up his power, go to war and actually join the battle as a true military leader.

In return King Louis gave Marie the title of duchess and a HUGE pension.

But becoming the top mistress would be a little more difficult…after all, the woman in the role was Louise, Marie Anne’s own sister…

And yet…

Marie Anne was resolute she was gonna kick her sister off the top spot. 

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There is literally no way this can end well

Things weren’t looking great for Louise. Since Paulines death, she’d been down and had drifted away from the King.

Yet she was still very much in love with him (#L+LForLife), but faced with her own sister and the kings friends, who were also desperate for her removal, would her love be enough?

What made things even worse for Louise (if that was possible) was that she refused to believe that Marie Anne would be plotting against her, after all, they were sisters.

And, of course, Marie Anne used this against Louise.

She convinced Louise to resign her post as one of the Queens ladies. Which meant that Louise now had no official reason to be at court.

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Even for these sisters…that is cold!

Everyday the King was falling more and more for his new squeeze Marie Anne.

He spent his evenings with Louise proclaiming how desperate his was to get off with Marie Anne…which for some reason made Louise burst into tears! (go figure!)

Everyday King Louis grew less and less fond on his old -now very emotional- mistress. In his opinion, the only use she had now, was a way to make Marie happy…by dumping Louises arse.

So he had all of Louise’s furniture removed from her apartments and told her she was to leave Versailles.

Louise didn’t take this well. Falling to her knees and begging to stay…but it was no use.

Louise was out and Marie Anne was in.

But Marie Anne wasn’t taking any chances.

Just to be sure that Louise couldn’t return to her lost love, she ensured that Louise was sent to live out the rest of her days in a convent.

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I mean…THERE ARE LIMITS MARIE!!!

Now top mistress, Marie Anne enjoyed all the influence and power that was at her disposal.

She was in early twenties, a newly minted duchess and rich beyond her wildest dreams; it was time to pay it back. Enter:

Diane

Marie Anne wanted to ensure that her favourite sister, Diane, enjoyed this new regal lifestyle.

So she hooked Diane up with a fancy new husband and a new gig as (you guessed it!) The Kings mistress…with Marie Anne remaining top dog, naturally.

Diane de Mailly
Diane de Mailly

Together, Diane and Marie Anne travelled with King Louis to the battlefield during the war of the Austrian Succession; where on Marie Anne’s advice, King Louis would once more be joining the fray as a true military leader.

What could possibly go wrong?

Yeeeeeah… King Louis fell ill…like horrifying battlefield full of nasty diseases and no sanitation, ill.

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Literally!

King Louis was on his deathbed in the middle of a battlefield, surrounded by mistresses.

Things weren’t looking good for his immortal soul.

So King Louis denounced his main mistress Marie Anne and begged repentance for ever having been associated with her. Then he had her sent packing (you know, I’m starting to think this guy might be an ass hat)

Marie Anne and Dianne fled the battlefield.

On the road home, their carriage was met by an angry mob.

These women had put the King’s soul in danger and now they were going to pay!

The mob threw urine and rocks at the sisters. They threatened to lynch them and the pair barely got away.

The ordeal didn’t end there. Marie Anne almost immediately fell ill; she suspected poison.

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I mean…there were enough people who’d want her dead

Miraculously King Louis survived his illness! But, Marie Anne would not be so lucky.

She was summoned back to court, but whatever had caused her sickness, had wrecked her immune system.

Almost as soon as Marie Anne had returned to Versailles- she was dead.

With two sisters dead and one locked in a convent…things weren’t exactly peachy for the de Mailley sisters.

Diane managed to survive as a mistress for a few months longer, before King Louis grew tired of her.

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Well, at least King Louis was!

History has been rough on the de Mailly sisters. 

Remembered as wanton whores, or just not remembered at all – I kinda feel like these ladies got the short shrift.

Sure, they aren’t winning any best sister prizes soon (or ever) but they were ambitious, they created power, wealth and forms of independence for themselves.

They had faults (ok, fine, maaaaany faults) but these ladies are way to interesting to be sex-shamed from history!

This was interesting, where can I find out more: There aren’t that many solid non-fiction books on the ladies BUT there is a good historical fiction book.

The Sisters of Versailles by Sally Christie is a fun popcorn read; kinda The Other Boleyn Girl, but in Versailles.

The Batshit and Fantastical Life of Hortense Mancini

From bedding Kings to fleeing countries dressed as a pistol wielding man. Duelling her lovers, drinking, dancing and above all fighting for her independence; the life on Hortense Mancini was to be blunt, fucking insane…so lets get to it:

Born into nobility on the 6th June 1646 in Rome, Hortense Mancini was the fourth of five sisters.

Their Mother a great beauty, their Father an aristocrat who practiced black magic (specialising in necromancy) and their Uncle was Cardinal Mazarin; both Cardinal and Chief Minister to Louis XIV (the real power behind the French throne) – it’s safe to say the sisters had a somewhat eclectic background.

But things didn’t stay nattily rosey for long; in 1650 tragedy struck when Hortense’s Father died suddenly.

Fortunately the situation was far from as black as it could have been and Hortense’s Mother made the canny choice of leaning on Uncle Cardinal Mazarin in the families hour of need.

Uncle Cardinal had a soft spot for his nieces; in particular the wild and witty Hortense and he soon invited them to stay at French Court, where he would see what he could do for the girls.

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Cardinal Mazarin

The Mancini sisters took the streets of Paris by storm; very much the 17th century Kardashians; they were olive skinned, beautiful and very scandalous. They even had their own name ‘The Mazarinettes’ (that’s some top 17th century branding there, Kris Jenner would be proud)

With the attention of French society gossip mills focused on The Mazarinettes, it’s hardly surprising that when Uncle Cardinal announced his plans to arrange fabulously powerful and rich marriages for his nieces; the Mazarinettes became hot property.

Now the most eligable prospects in the European marriage market, everyone wanted a piece of Laure, Olympe, Marie, Hortense and Marie Anne.

Marie, Olympe, Hortense
Marie, Olympe and Hortense

The Mazarinettes had their pick of European nobility; Marie even became the lover of Louis XIV! Then Charles ll, party lover extraordinaire and future King of England, rocked up at French court.

Currently in exile from England, Charles quickly fell for fun loving Hortense. The pair seemed like two halves of one hedonistic whole; Charles proposed and promised to make the teenage Hortense England’s Queen (should his exile end…)

But Uncle Cardinal was having none of it. He was not about to set up his favourite niece with a galavanting eccentric Englishman with no fortune and only a title to his name (a title, btw, that was both now worthless and liable to one day get him killed) so Charles was sent packing

Charles ll
When Charles did become King, Uncle Cardinal offered 5 million for Hortense’s hand. Charles declined

Soon the Mancini sisters started to be married off to Princes, Generals and Dukes but Uncle Cardinal wanted something extra special for his favourite niece.

In fact this would be his dying wish and on his deathbed Cardinal Mazarin left Hortense his fortune and finalised her marriage to the richest man in Europe.

At the age of 15 Hortense was now one of Europes wealthiest women.

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-maybe not a totally historically accurate gif interpretation… –

This all sounds great. Until you realise that the richest man in Europe was the literal worst.

Armand-Charles de La Porte, Duc de La Meilleraye
Presenting the incredibly sexy Armand-Charles de la Prote

Hortense’s husband to be, Armand-Charles de La Porte, Duc de La Meilleraye (say that three times fast) was a religious nut, which is bad, but this guy took zealous dickery to a whole new level.

He worried that the sight of milkmaids milking cows would be so lustful and sinful to passing men that he ordered that any milkmaids in his service have thier teeth knocked out, so their smiles would no longer pose the threat of starting some kind of dairy based sexual riot.

what the dick?
Yup, don’t look for the logic here

Upon marrying Armand-Charles de La Porte, Duc de La Meilleraye –from now on just Armand, because I’m not typing that all out again- 15 year old Hortense quickly realised that he was a monumental bell end.

Aside from his zealous nature, he was jealous and prone to angry and violent outbursts. He covered any nude paintings of men in the house so Hortense wouldn’t be tempted by lustful thoughts, burst into her room at night to check for hidden lovers and forced her to spend days praying away her sins.

This wasn’t Hortenses’ style.

If her husband wouldn’t let her be around men then that was fine; she could be flexible.

And so, soon into her marriage Hortense starting seeing another young woman; Sidonie de Courcelles.

Unsurprisingly Armand wasn’t happy when he discovered the affair. And so he packed the two girls off to a Convent.

Yup…That’s right. He sent them away. Far away. Together. This man is a genius.

OBVIOUSLY the girls continued their affair and weren’t overly fussed about their punishment.

They spent their days at the Convent playing pranks on the nuns, pouring ink in the holy water and attempting escape by fleeing up the chimney.

It was basically St Trinians but with more sex and pissed off nuns (actually, how has this not been made into a film?) Soon the nuns had enough and sent the pair back to Armand and the affair fizzled out.

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Fucking fun wrecking Armand

Somehow in their seven years of tumultuous marriage Hortense and Armand had 4 children (no I don’t know either) But the children weren’t enough to keep Hortense tied to Armand.

She decided to leave her husband, which in the 17th century meant that she would lose her children. The price of Hortenses freedom was high, but one she would be willing to pay if it meant escaping Armand for good.

After several foiled attempts (which led to Armand imprisoning her in the family home) Hortense left her husband on 13 June 1668. She rode out the gates on horseback, dressed as a man and quickly fled France for the safety of her sister Marie’s home in Rome.

Sadly Marie’s place wasn’t the safe house Hortense was hoping her; as Marie was deathly afraid her husband was trying to poison her (I’m not saying that Uncle Cardinal was shit at picking spouses but…) so the sisters fled to France where Marie’s former lover Louis XIV announced that both women were now under his protection.

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Marie and Hortense

Things were looking up. Louis XIV gave Hortense a hefty pension, which allowed her the unusual freedom of becoming an independent woman. She set up house in France and transformed her new home into a haven for artists, philosophers and great minds of the time.

Hortense also picked up a lover, The Duke of Savoy , who helped Hortense fight of her husbands many demands for her return.

Sadly all good things must come to an end; the Duke died and Armand finally managed to get his hands on her assets; freezing all her finances (including her pension from Louis XIV) until she agreed to come back to him.

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Fucking Armand! 

But Hortense wasn’t going to back down that easily.

She headed to England; agreeing to work with England’s ambassador to France, Ralph Montagu on his plan to de-seat one of the English Kings mistresses, Louise de Kerouaille.

Thats right, after turning down his proposal, Hortense was now travelling to England to become Charles ll’s new mistress. You can’t deny Hortense had moxy.

Hortense battled treacherous roads, icy weather and a near shipwreck on her journey from France to England. But she refused to give in and return to her husband, set on forging her own path and getting back the independence she had lost in France.

Hortense arrived at English Court in 1675 dressed as a pistol wielding man (naturally) and Charles ll fell for his old love once more; Hortense became a royal mistress.

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You can tell because her boobs out

Her partying, drinking and general debauchery rivalled Charles. Luckily Hortense’s love of sword fighting and horse riding helped ensure this her lifestyle didn’t have too much of an effect on her appearances.

Naturally the other women in Charles life started to grow concerned about Hortense; she could be a real threat to their positions.

But Hortense didn’t want to be like his other mistresses, she wasn’t a Nell Gwynn; she couldn’t dedicate her whole life to Charles. She escaped one man that wanted to rule over her and she sure as shit wasn’t go back there.

Hortense wanted to live as she choose; to drink, dance and take as many lovers as she could!

And so she did.

She lived independently yet remained a mistress. Charles loved Hortense for who she was and so he turned a blind eye to her refusal to call him ‘your majesty’ and made an exception for her long list of lovers; that is until Hortense pushed things too far by sleeping with both Charles and his daughter…

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Not at the same time. But still. 

Anne, Countess of Sussex was Charles daughter with one of his first mistresses, Barbara Castlemaine.

Anne was 15 and unhappily married when she met Hortense (now in her early 30’s) the two became firm friends, which quickly progressed to much more (wink).

The women attempted to keep the affair relatively quiet, but the court rumour mills intrest peaked.

Then things really hit the front page when Hortense and Anne publicly duelled in St James Park, in their nightgowns, with a group of men looking on.

Anne’s husband was furious and she was sent away from court where desperate and lovelorn she took to her bed for days, a miniature of Hortense pressed close to her chest.

Charles ll wasn’t best pleased with Hortense, but with the affair over he cooled down.

…..Until Hortense took on another lover, this one the Prince de Monaco.

Sleeping with his daughter was one thing, but sleeping with another royal was a step too far for Charles. He put a stop to their affair and stripped Hortense of her royal pension for several days.

Thats right, days, I know, I don’t know how she coped either.

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Charles and Hortense remained friends. And with her pension back in place Hortense lived more than comfortably in Chelsea, her home once more a salon for artist, poets and great minds.

Then in 1685 Charles ll died suddenly.

Hortense maintained her place at court, remaining good friends with England’s new King, James ll, but with her protector now gone there was nothing stopping Armand from forcing his errant wife home.

And so in 1689 Armand took his case to court. The law was on his side and demanded that Hortense return to Italy and Armand. But she refused.

This time though Hortense’s fighting spirit failed her. With the stress of Armand’s continued efforts to force her back, as well as her years of drinking and gambling starting to take effect, Hortense found herself in spiralling debt.

She maintained her refusal though, retiring to the English countryside, where she died in 1699.

But thats not the end of the Hortense’s story…

Because Armand was still alive. 

That’s right, Armand had plans for Hortense, even in death.

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Yeah, Armand be crazy. 

Armand traveled to England, where he bought Hortense’s body from her creditors.

He then proceeded to take Hortense with him wherever he went, with her body propped up in his carriage.

Because Armand was (and will always be) the literal worst.

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