Publishing the Lives of
Hortense and Marie Mancini
ELIZABETH C. GOLDSMITH
There are probably no women from the reign of Louis XIV whose private lives were more consistently on public view than were those of Hortense and Marie Mancini, nieces of Cardinal Mazarin. Hortense became her uncle's principal heiress in 1660, when, at the age of fifteen, she agreed to the marriage he had arranged for her to the devout Armand de la Meilleraye. Although most observers viewed the choice as ridiculous ( Madame de Sévigné and her friends, for example, would later amuse themselves by describing the spectacle of Cardinal Mazarin playing Orgon to Meilleraye's Tartuffe), initially Mazarin must have believed in Meilleraye's integrity, for he inserted in the marriage contract the unusual stipulation that both Hortense and her husband would assume the family name Mazarin. The new duc de Mazarin was further given sole control of his wife's dowry, a significant share of the cardinal's large fortune. For the next thirty years the public was treated to accounts of this disastrous union through letters, gazette notices, published court proceedings, real and false memoirs, and character portraits.
Hortense ran away from her husband in 1668 to live for a time in Rome with her sister. Marie's own exposure to publicity had begun with her affair with the young Louis XIV in 1660, just prior to his marriage to the Spanish Infanta, and continued after she left Rome to embark on a series of voyages with Hortense, in search of provincial or foreign courts where they would be permitted to live apart from their husbands. Hortense settled at the court of the duke of Savoy in 1672, then moved in 1675 to London, where for twenty-four years she was prominently engaged in court society and politics. Marie's itinerant life-style ended only with the death of her husband, Laurent Colonna, in 1689.
Just how outrageous their behavior was may be gauged in part by the commentary it received, but also by the two husbands' persistent efforts to