Wednesday, October 28, 2009

October 27, 1779

Thierry has been and gone, and during his stay I debated whether or not to tell him of the King's proposal. Finally I did, and the result was a very unsatisfactory argument when we both would have much prefered to take pleasure in our short time together. He has gone back to Auvergne for the time being, but may come again at a later date. As to me, I have not decided on a course of action; an all too common situation recently it seems.

Comtesse de R- has a sweet little dog, and I am reminded of my desire this summer to have a small companion of my own, so perhaps I will soon. I need some creature to love me.

The cold weather along with recent troubles has made me very melancholy of late. Friday, however, brings a visit from my marchande des modes so perhaps that will cheer me. A lucky run at cards has made me feel that I may allow myself some frivolity, but I will temper it with some charity as I have determined to visit St. Cyr, where Christine and I were at school together, and will bring them some books for the students and money for the Sisters. Perhaps then I will feel happier.

I begin to wish I had never asked for the reacquisition. No one made any demands on me at home in quiet Saint Saturnin. But there, I am being melancholy again and must cease. I am tired, nothing more.

Olympe, Comtesse

Monday, October 26, 2009

Although this blog mainly deals with the eighteenth century it is pertinent following the last journal entry to talk about Olympe's famous ancestor, Henri de la Tour d'Auvergne, Vicomte de Turenne; often simply known as, Turenne. A man well-respected both in his own time, as well as the eighteenth century, he was refered to in the writings of La Chalotais and Turgot, and admired by Napoleon.

Henri was born on September 11th 1611, the second son of Henri Duc de Bouillon, Prince of Sedan. His mother was Elizabeth, daughter of William the Silent, Prince of Orange. From an early age he admired the great generals of antiquity, like Alexander the Great, but was crippled by physical disability as well as a speech impediment. Educated as a Huegenot, he utilized great personal discipline to overcome his physical ailment, but was never able to shake his speech impediment. His father died in 1623, but being a younger son this didn't have much discernible effect, and he went to war as a bodyguard to his uncle the Prince of Orange.

When Frederick of Orange died his brother Marice succeeded him, and in 1626 gave Turenne a captaincy. In 1630 after garnering some acclaim for his siege technique he shifted his focus from the Netherlands to France, in part at his mother's behest. Cardinal Richelieu gave him the rank of colonel of an infantry regiment, which he soon proved he deserved by his great courage in 1634 earning the rank of Marechal de Camp.

By 1642 he had gained a reputation as one of the most valiant and able commanders in France, and had achieved the rank of Lieutenant General; but the implication of his brother, the Duc de Bouillon, in the conspiracy of Cinq-Mars dampened his prospects of promotions somewhat, as did his staunch Huegenot background, and refusal to marry into either the family of Cardinal Richelieu or Mazarin. Nevertheless on December 19th 1643 he was entrusted with the rank of Marshal of France. It must have been a proud moment for the boy who had once dreamed of the glories of Caesar and Alexander.

When Mazarin died in 1661 Louis XIV appointed Turenne as Marshal General, and even offered to revive the office of connetable of France, but only if the marshal would become a Roman Catholic. Turenne refused. He had, however, finally submitted to matrimony in 1652 to Charlotte de Caumont. Both he and his wife always struggled with the divisions of the Christian church. She died in 1662 having never found resolution, but in 1668 Henri finally converted to Catholicism, submitting to pressure by his nephew the Abbe de Bouillon.

In 1672 Henri's past and present collided, when Louis XIV's Dutch Wars brought Turenne into conflict with the Prince of Orange. The fighting was bitter, and the Dutch went so far as to flood the country around Amsterdam to prevent the French from holding it. In response Turenne allowed his troops to sack the countryside everywhere they persued the enemy. Historians and contemporaries have sometimes criticized this heavy-handedness on his part, but it is hard to go into the many factors that played into his military decisions. The reader is welcome to decide based on further research.

At the battle of Salsbach on July 27th, 1675 Henri de Turenne was hit by one of the first shots fired, and died. Mourned in France and beyond, he was remembered with love by his troops who felt a kinship with him unlike many superior officers. His fellow officers for years to come would praise his prowess and brilliance. He was undoubtedly the most famous member of the De la Tour d'Auvergne family, and one that Olympe could rightly be proud of.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

October 21, 1779

It is has been a day full of important letters, two days, in fact. The most important coming yesterday, the first was from T- confirming his arrival on Saturday the 23rd. Much to Maman's displeasure he will be staying here at the Hotel de Sully, in the guise of a messenger from my steward. He does bring word from Monsieur Ficheux, as he is traveling directly from Saint Saturnin. I suggested that he stop in Riom on his way north to visit his sister Eleanore and her first-born son delivered safely a week past, but he remains uninterested in the expansion of his family.

The other letter yesterday was by far the most exciting as it was a summons to court. I dressed quickly as soon as I received it (you may only imagine the uproar!) and arriving at court was conducted into His Majesty's presence. Apparently when I received word that the reacquisition could not be determined until after the surveyors had completed their tasks in Auvergne and Limousin he had not finished reading my case. The surveyors will complete their task, but in the meantime an intriguing proposition has been made.

In 1651 my cousin, Henri de Turenne, the most illustrious general of our nation, was promised the title of Duc de Bouillon. Objections from other very powerful Dukes prevented him from ever taking true posession of the title or lands, but the King has made a suggestion. If I rescind my claim to the land in Limousin, and marry within a year a peer with the King's blessing it is within his gift to grant me the Duchy of Bouillon for my heirs. I do not know if he is aware of my intended marriage to Thierry, who is not a peer, and I have never sought to grasp that title when so many other blood relatives have a greater claim to it. If I do not accept his offer I can marry Thierry, go back to Auvergne, and probably will never have the reacquisition after all. If I accept, I must give up Thierry, or become like those Lords and Ladies who bow their heads at breakfast and sup with sin come night.

Even if I were to be a chaste wife and dutiful subject, the Duchy would never be mine. I would have a husband who would outrank me and control all that I now call mine, and there is no more guarantee that the promise for my heirs would be upheld than it was for Turenne, as great and good a servant as he was well known to be. It seems I cannot win either way, nor can I remain still and make no move for an answer must be given.

As if in answer to my concerns the first person at my lever today was M. Poisson. He offered to lodge T- at his home in Paris, in the hopes that it would allow him to better seek employment and not cast dispersions on my good name. I will speak with T- about this when he arrives, but I hope he will accept. I begin to feel that a quick marriage would be best, without the pressures of a disapproving society.

A letter from Christine in answer to mine has also offered consolation, at time when I needed it the most, though she cannot have known it when she wrote the words. She encourages me to remain steady in my aim, and to not allow the will of others to overcome my own strength. The question is, can I win anything in this situation, or am I fated to lose what I most want? I never sought a Duchy, I came only for a parcel of land. Not a title, or a lord, or kingly promises. I only wanted to better my own small province, but glory it seems will be thrust upon me, or misery. I should be most interested to know what lordly husband would be foisted upon me, should I chose the path of fortune.

Olympe, Comtesse

Monday, October 19, 2009

Back to the research

Finally! My two major projects for the opera are finished, and I can get back to researching and posting more.
The book I am currently trying to find time to read, France in the Enlightenment, is a wonderful source and covers many diverse areas with some depth; from geography to economics, society to education, and more. I think I am going to have to give up on constantly renewing the library's copy, and just buy it for myself. It's well worth the investment, and available in the original French as well as translated into English.

Friday, October 16, 2009

And I quote...

"Don't forget to show my head to the people. It's well worth seeing."

- Danton's last words to his executioner

Sunday, October 11, 2009

October 10, 1779

I can scarcely believe how long it has been since last I have written my thoughts here. It is now October and the weather has turned, but not before one very interesting night.

I attended the opera with the Comtessse of R- and some friends (with whom I am pleased to have become rather close), and finding it very pleasant we were loathe to return home. Rather than spending the rest of the evening at someone's home for supper however, the Marquis de L- invited us to his own revel. With few instructions we followed him in our own few carriages out of Paris itself. You can only imagine, our coaches following upon each other by sight of their lanterns only, with us in excited trepidation wondering at the adventure. We arrived by and by at a secluded field outside of the city itself. L- informed us that it had been or was going to be used to grow potatoes! For what reason I can only wonder at, as they are a food fit only for animals as everyone knows.

Blankets were spread on the ground and a bonfire had been started in a great heap, which served to warm us, and more than one gentleman removed his cloak to better protect the ladies from the chill night air. L-'s servants were there in advance of us and had laid out a delightfully rustic feast of fruits, cakes, partridge, venison and, of course, wine. There was singing and dancing, and some couples took advantage of the darkness to engage in more clandestine activities away from the fire. I know I saw the Marquise de T- (whose husband is much older and never leaves the house) with the Comte de C-, and they not only stole away for quite a while, but left together with her carriage following his.

I completely ruined a pair of yellow embroidered shoes dancing in the muddy field, but it was worth it to pass such a pleasant night in jovial company. I returned to the Hotel de Sully shortly before dawn, as the sky was turning from black to blue. There is something so wonderful about laying down as the birds begin to sing. No, I should not be sorry to stay here. With T- coming to visit in a few weeks perhaps that is a future worth hoping for.

Olympe, Comtesse