Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Get to Know- Olympe


I had hoped my portrait would be finished by now to use with this post, but as it is not I shall give it a post of it's own when it is. In the meantime...

Olympe Gabrielle Catherine de la Tour d'Auvergne was born on December 18th of 1750 at Opme castle in the province of Auvergne. Her father, Guillaume Roland Charles de la Tour d'Auvergne, was Count of Auvergne. Her mother, Marie-Madeleine de Lespinasse, was the youngest daughter of Claude Lespinasse of Lyon; a wealthy bourgeois (from Auvergne and not Lyon, oddly enough) who had purchased the chateau of Lespinasse from Guillaume in 1731, just before the birth of his daughter, and used it to give a veneer of nobility to his family.

Comte Guillaume in time came to desire the return of Lespinasse, but Claude was not about to give it up, and instead he made a bargain with the, then twenty year old, Comte. When Marie-Madeleine turned sixteen she married Guillaume, and papers were drafted leaving the chateau to she and her husband's descendants. (Complications ensued when her two brothers later challenged the will which didn't stipulate the land on which the castle stood). Married in 1748, their brief union produced only Olympe, and in January of 1756 Comte Guillaume died, leaving his estates and titles to his five year old daughter.

Free of her arranged marriage, Olympe's mother wasted no time, and entered into the social world of Riom, the capital of Auvergne, taking her daughter with her, but leaving her largely in the care of servants. Marie-Madeleine will receive her own post in time, but suffice to say that in February she married another Guillame. Msr. Guillame Renaud Cordelay was minor official with the city, and their hasty marriage left little room for Olympe. On the advice of a family friend she was sent to Saint Cyr.

There, at the convent for noble orphans, Olympe grew up. She heard of the births of her half-siblings, and the deaths of some of them, and her mother even traveled to Paris to visit her occasionally; but she never traveled to Riom or lived under the same roof as her mother or siblings. She became an avid reader and loved painting and music, and especially operas, some of which the girls even performed at school. A shy and serious girl, and never a beauty, she was not educated in how to manage an estate and felt the lack of this skill keenly once she came into her majority.

At the age of fifteen she left the convent, and traveled for the first time to the remote town of Saint Saturnin in the Auvergne she had always dreamed of, and promptly fell in love with it's quiet beauty. Presented at court in 1766 by her cousin, Charles Godfroy de la Tour d'Auvergne, Duc d'Albret, she spent some time in Paris with he and his sister, Marie Louise before returning to Auvergne in 1769.

Part of the reason for her exodus from the capital was increasing pressure for the now nineteen year old Countess to marry. Having a strong desire to control her own fortunes she realized that the only way to do this would be to remain unmarried, or to marry someone who would allow her to keep her independence. A firm distrust of other nobility developed during her time in Paris, and she began to seek the control she could have with lovers of a lower social class. A prolonged intrigue from 1770-1773 with a minor noble ended in heartbreak, and for the next two years Olympe threw herself into the decadent world of Paris and Versailles.
In 1775 she returned to her duties and began a tour of her province, determined to better understand her role as Countess. In Riom she met Thierry Cretien Duverney whose father was a merchant and had been elected to the city council. Over the course of the next four years Olympe found reasons to return to Riom often, and she and Thierry began to talk of marriage.


That brings us to the present(ish).

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