Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2013 Issue

Marie de Hautefort: Beauty & Politics

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Victor Cousin's biography of Mme de Hautefort.

In France, when there’s a castle—or a church—there’s an old book not far away. Rich people and religious people have indeed been the guardians of arts and culture for dozens of centuries. There lay the beauties of a chaotic world populated by barbarians and illiterate creatures. Just the other night, as I was about to enter the castle of Hautefort, one of the most magnificent castles of Dordogne, I was welcomed in front of the contemporary drawbridge by a beautiful young actress dressed in the 17th century fashion. She introduced herself as Marie de Hautefort. Her name is quite familiar to historians as she was one of the favourites of Louis XIII in her time. As a devoted Dame d’Atours of Queen Ann of Austria—Louis XIV’s mother—she even played an important role during the troubled reigns of Richelieu and Mazarin.

 

Victor Cousin

As I came back from this visit, I soon found out that Madame de Hautefort, by Victor Cousin, was the authoritative biography of this lady. The first edition came out in 1856 in Paris, illustrated with a very nice portrait. The book itself is part of a series dedicated to some influential women of the 17th century. “The noble person we’re about to talk about,” warns the author, “does not belong to the political history of her time; she did not fight against the two great Cardinals (Richelieu and Mazarin) of France; she simply refused to sell them her soul, and to betray her friends and a cause which appeared virtuous to her.” This was already quite enough to run into serious trouble! Marie was born in 1616, in a castle that has sheltered many famous people over the years, such as Gui le Noir, Latours—who earned the nickname le Grand (the Great) during a crusade—or the warrior and poet Bertrand de Born. All through the 15th and the 16th centuries, the castle stood as a rampart against the English troops.

 

Marie lost both her parents at a very young age and was raised by her grandmother, Mme de la Flotte Hauterive, who eventually took her to Court when she was only twelve. She was beautiful and, as it seems, very well educated—she soon became a fille d’honneur of Marie de Medicis, the mother of Louis XIII. Victor Cousin quotes her first—and not that easy to corner—biography, written by the Duchess of Montmorency (1799): “This charming young lady was introduced to the Court at fourteen, where she soon earned the nickname of Sunrise.” She met the King at Lyon, who fell in love with her and who appointed her to the service of his own wife, Queen Ann of Austria. The Queen reluctantly welcomed the favourite but soon found out that she was a virtuous and a loyal young lady. Furthermore, Louis XIII was not an ardent lover. According to the testimonies of the time, including La Rochefoucauld’s, his love for Marie de Hautefort was strictly platonic. Cousin reports an interesting scene involving the King, his wife and Marie de Hautefort. Caught by the King while reading a confidential letter, Marie had no choice but to slip it between her breasts to keep it out of reach. The Queen laughed and held Marie’s arms in her back, urging her husband to go for the letter. The King dared not touching Marie and, failing to retrieve the letter with a pair of pliers, left the room—far from his father Henri IV, indeed.

 

La Rochefoucauld and La Porte

 

In his preface, Victor Cousin confesses that he read a few authoritative books including the Memoirs of La Rochefoucauld: “I had a deep friendly relationship with Mlle de Hautefort who was young and surprisingly beautiful,” writes the author of the classic. “She was virtuous and a very faithful confidant; she was close to the Queen and an enemy to the Cardinal” de Richelieu. In fact, La Rochefoucauld fell in love with Marie, only to become one of the first victims (cf Cousin).

 

The Queen started to plot against her husband and his master, Richelieu, by exchanging compromising letters with her brother Philippe IV, as France was at war with Spain. Richelieu’s secret police soon revealed the conspiracy and the Queen had to give some explanations. In order to make sure she would tell the truth, Richelieu had a certain La Porte arrested—book lovers know La Porte quite well, as he left his colourful memoirs: he was the one who had carried the incriminated letters, and his confession had to match the Queen’s.

 

The Queen had belittled her implication and La Porte’s confession had to reveal certain things, and to hide others. How could they agree on what to say when La Porte was jailed in La Bastille under tight scrutiny? That’s where Mlle de Hautefort intervened. “Mme de Hautefort did all she could to help the Queen,” writes La Porte. “She could have lost everything. But she was so passionate for her Queen that she did not hesitate (…). She faced some terrible dangers to help her out.” Through a friend of her, Marie de Hautefort got in touch with a Commander of La Bastille, De Jars; one night, she surreptitiously left the Louvre under disguise, then went to talk to De Jars at La Bastille. The Commander was hesitant, as his implication could have cost him his life. “What? Are you hesitating?” said Mme de Hautefort. “What would happen to me, if someone should find out about it?” De Jars could not resist the persuasive young lady but he couldn’t talk to La Porte directly; he decided to contact some prisoners from the top floor of the tower. They lifted a stone from their floor, asked some croquants—or rebellious peasants—from Bordeaux, who were jailed below, to do the same. They then reached the cell of the Barton of Tenance who himself dug a hole in the floor of his cell to give access to the cell of La Porte! The prisoner soon knew exactly what to say and the accusation never went too far.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>iGavel Auctions<br>Antiquarian and Other Books<br>September 14 – October 12</b>
    <b>iGavel Auctions, Sep. 14 – Oct. 12:</b> Athanasius. <i>Illustrium Virorum Opuscula,</i> Paris, 1500. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>iGavel Auctions, Sep. 14 – Oct. 12:</b> <i>The New Testament of Jesus Christ, Translated Faithfully into English,</i> Rheims, John Fogny, 1582. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>iGavel Auctions, Sep. 14 – Oct. 12:</b> Stith, William. <i>The First History of Virginia printed in America,</i> [Williamsburg, 1747]. $2,500 to $3,500.
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    <b>iGavel Auctions, Sep. 14 – Oct. 12:</b><br>S. Bonaventure. <i>Commentarius in Secundum Librum Sententiarum Petri Lombardi,</i> Venice, 1477. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>iGavel Auctions, Sep. 14 – Oct. 12:</b> Juvenalis, Junii. <i>Satyrae,</i> with the commentary of Domitius Calderinus, Venice, 1475. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>iGavel Auctions, Sep. 14 – Oct. 12:</b> Horatius Flaccus, Quintus. <i>Opera.</i> Ed. with commentary of Christophorus Landinus, Florence, 1482. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <center><b>iGavel Auctions<br>Antiquarian and Other Books<br>September 14 – October 12</b>
    <b>iGavel Auctions, Sep. 14 – Oct. 12:</b> Scotus, Duns. <i>Quaestiones in Quattuor Libros Sententiarum,</i> 1476-1477. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>iGavel Auctions, Sep. 14 – Oct. 12:</b> Polidori, John. <i>The Vampyre, A Tale,</i> Paris, 1819. $1,000 to $2,000.
    <b>iGavel Auctions, Sep. 14 – Oct. 12:</b> Stowe, Harriet Beecher. <i>Uncle Tom's Cabin,</i> Vol. I and II, 1852, and a Later Edition, 1885. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <center><b>iGavel Auctions<br>Antiquarian and Other Books<br>September 14 – October 12</b>
    <b>iGavel Auctions, Sep. 14 – Oct. 12:</b> Twain, Mark. <i>The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,</i> 1877 [and] <i>The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,</i> 1885. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>iGavel Auctions, Sep. 14 – Oct. 12:</b> Book of Hours, Illuminated Vellum, Calendar of Months, 15th century. $600 to $900.
    <b>iGavel Auctions, Sep. 14 – Oct. 12:</b> <i>Picturesque,</i> America, Europe, Palestine, and Russia, 1872-1885. $400 to $600.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> C.F. Payne, <i>Micawber—Imitating Norman Rockwell's "Triple self-portrait,"</i> acrylic, watercolor & colored pencil, 2002. Sold June 2021 for $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Jane Russell, archive of letters written during a whaling voyage, 1840s. Sold July 2021 for $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Guild of Women Binders, exhibition binding of A.F. Pollard’s <i>Henry VIII,</i> London, 1902. Sold July 2021 for $12,350.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Robert Frost, <i>Collected Poems,</i> author’s presentation copy, signed, with entirety of <i>Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening</i> inscribed, NY, 1930. Sold June 2021 for $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> James Joyce, <i>Ulysses,</i> deluxe limited issue, signed, London, 1936. Sold June 2021 for $21,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Mercator [family], <i>[World and Continents],</i> 5 double-page maps, Amsterdam, c. 1633. Sold June 2021 for $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> George Schlegel, <i>New York, Taken from Central Park,</i> hand-finished color-tinted lithograph, 1874. Sold June 2021 for $11,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Nicolaus Copernicus, <i>De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium,</i> second edition, Basel, 1566. Sold April 2021 for $75,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Book of Hours, Use of Utrecht, illuminated manuscript, c. 1435-45. Sold April 2021 for $60,000.
  • <b><center>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts<br>& Works on Paper<br>30th September 2021</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 30:</b> Bible, English. The Holy Bible, Second Folio edition, the "Great She Bible", engraved More-Speed 1611 map of Canaan, Robert Barker, 1613-11. £7,000 to £10,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 30:</b> Galilei (Galileo). <i>Opere,</i> 2 vol., first collected edition, Bologna, Heirs of Dozza for Carlo Manolessi, 1656-1655. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 30:</b> Venetian choirbook.- Single leaf from a 13th century Venetian antiphonal, with large decorated initial, manuscript on vellum, Venice, [c.1260]. £6,000 to £8,000.
    <b><center>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts<br>& Works on Paper<br>30th September 2021</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 30:</b> Petrarca (Francesco). <i>Rerum vulrgarium fragmenta,</i> decorated manuscript on paper, Italy, [second half of the 15th century]. £8,000 to £12,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 30:</b> New York School of abstract expressionists.- Abbott (Mary Lee). [Sketch book of original artwork], [New York], 1945. £5,000 to £7,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 30:</b> Contemporary colouring.- Nitzschewitz (Hermannus). <i>Novum beatae Mariaevirginis psalterium,</i> Zinna, Press of the Cistercian Monastery, 1493. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b><center>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts<br>& Works on Paper<br>30th September 2021</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 30:</b> Shakespeare source book.- Montemayor (Jorge de). Diana of George of Montemayor: translated out of Spanish into English by Bartholomew Yong, first edition in English, B[ishop]., 1598. £6,000 to £8,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 30:</b> Milton (John). Poems of Mr. John Milton, Both English and Latin, Compos'd at several times, first edition, state with "S" in "S. Pauls" in imprint, 1645. £12,000 to £18,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 30:</b> Greene (Graham). <i>The Power and the Glory,</i> first edition, 1940. £6,000 to £8,000.
    <b><center>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts<br>& Works on Paper<br>30th September 2021</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 30:</b> Crowley (Aleister). View of the Tyrrhenian Sea, probably from the hill behind the abbey of Thelema, Cefalù, Sicily, charcoal, [1921]. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Sep. 30:</b> Fleming (Ian). <i>Casino Royale,</i> first edition, 1953. £12,000 to £18,000.
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