The Poet's Princess

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Leaving no stone unturned

As a child, my conception of happiness was simple: to have enough to read as a book a day takes the spleen away. Later on, less self-indulgent, I added the sharing of ideas with my fellow-creatures. Even now, I fail to grasp how a thinking human being, endowed with full intellectual capabilities, having access to culture and enjoying a certain material independence, can be disparate. It is, without any doubt, this “sound judgement” learnt from my précieux, which shelters me from the “real life”. I build my castles in the air without forgetting to keep a safe place on the earth in case of stormy weather.

Alas, no such “sound judgement” could prevent Anne de Bourbon from her disastrous marriage. Her father, a noble Prince of Royal Blood, opted for one of the most discredited debauchers of his time, the Duke de Longueville, because of his wealth. He completely disregarded the fact that the Duke compromised himself with a woman notorious Madame de Montbazon, renowned for all but virtue. To top it, the Duke was old enough to be Anne’s father.

Yet to be fair I must admit that the choice of Henri de Bourbon, Duke of Longueville, followed two abortive attempts at marriage. François de Lorraine, Prince de Joinville, to whom Anne was betrothed, had been killed in Italy. The second claimant, the Marquis de Brèze, Richelieu’s nephew, was too busy fighting the Spanish, to find time for marriage. There was also the Duke de Beaufort who was not insensitive to Anne’s charms. As a Vendôme, however, he was not considered worthy of a Bourbon.

″Thus on the 2nd of June 1642, this lovely young demoiselle de Bourbon, forced by her father, married the Duke de Longueville, the grandest nobleman she could have married, for he was enormously wealthy and second only to a Prince of Royal Blood. He could however not have considered himself worthy of her, given his age and his involvement with Madame de Montbazon. These two women had every reason to dislike each other. The perfect beauty of Anne de Bourbon, her youth and her magnanimity, urged her to despise her rival.” This is how Madame de Motteville reports the event.

I admire Madame de Motteville’s cool objectivity which is not my kind of treating the truth. Like a snake-charmer, I cajole the real into its most harmonious moves. Anne de Bourbon, as my literary creature, has the full privilege of staying unharmed by the historic truth.

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