The Poet's Princess

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Let God's will be done

The Court snipes at the comeback of the Duchess in an outraging silence. When she walks in everyone shrinks back from her, avoiding her like plague. She stares in astonishment at her former flatterers and wooers. Where is the cheering crowd applauding the excellence of her mind and the splendour of her beauty? She fails to understand why she is treated so lowly, she who used to be the coveted object of their desires. Wasn’t her “ruelle” (the parlour) the centre of grand designs where fortunes were made and dissolved, didn’t those she befriended become infallibly the Court’s minions? To shelter herself from the unbearable truth, she opts on blind impulse for an illusion: she turns to God as the only witness of the purity of her heart.

In 1651, she sends the following letter to the Priory of Carmelites at the Faubourg Saint-Jacques, the monastery where she wished, at the age of thirteen, to retire and become nun:

“There is nothing I desire more ardently than to have finished with this war and to throw myself upon you for the rest of my days. What has made me see clearly the way is the disclosure that, whatever attachment I may have had in the world, and of whatever nature, it is now finished with and broken. If I wanted to tell you all the thoughts that trouble and weigh my soul down, I would never stop writing this letter. My poor health does not allow me such a long and sad account. It must suffice to say that my need is urgent and that I feel its weight in the depths of my soul. Do show it to God and let God’s will be done.”

What a strange letter! Anne de Longueville, a woman strong enough to mock the social conventions, leans on God not to collapse when she had understood with painful lucidity that all she has been thought to be true is false, that she was betrayed not only by her heart but also by her mind.

“I feel like a person who, after a long dream of greatness and honour, is suddenly woken up and finds herself in chains, pierced by wounds, downcast and thrown into a dark prison.”

Such is the final account of her life and she bravely accepts its consequences. She will never return to the Court which, under the rising sun of Louis XIV will become more brilliant than ever. She retires to her aunt, Madame de Montmorency to the monastery of the Daughters-of-Saint-Mary at Moulins where “she threw the world out of her heart to fill it up with desires for solid values and real greatness,” it is like Madame de Motteville describes the defeat of a pure soul by a corrupt world. Yet, doesn’t her reasoning resound with all the satisfaction of a wise woman who succeeds in choosing safety against venture and never takes the risks of doing anything that ought not to be done?

As if trying to remake her life, Anne de Longueville returns to the moment when she was lead astray- her marriage, and she tries to rectify this crucial point of her first clash with society. She seeks reconciliation with her husband and wants to forget that it was his lack of love and consideration that threw her into the arms of other men. She nurses this old debauched man whose health was undermined by multiple affairs. She even goes to the Monastery de Maubuisson to visit his illegitimate daughter, an abbess of scandalous life. She accompanies her husband visiting his lands and she even succeeds in mourning his death.

Nothing hinders her any more to realise her most ardent desire. She, who has felt all the pains of attachment breaks them retiring into the solitude of a monastery.

Anne de Longueville never suffered from egotism, the syndrome of dry hearts. She cannot content herself with the salvation of her soul knowing that there are people who suffered through her fault. She sends donations to the provinces devastated by the civil war.

She has still another painful task: to restore the relationship with her brother, Armand de Conti. According to Madame de Motteville, since Bordeaux they haven’t been on friendly terms. Their reunion is sealed with her affectionate friendship with Conti’s wife, Anne de Martinozzi and thus “this family, disunited by the madness of the world, was reinstalled by Christian virtue in a wholesome piece”. That’s the sparkle at the end of the darkness, related by Madame de Motteville.

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