Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Get to Know- Thierry Duverney

Readers of the diary know that Olympe's faithful love (and secret husband) is Thierry Cretien Louis Duverney. They met in 1775 when Olympe, having burned-out on the heady world of Versaille and Paris, was in Riom at her estate, Portaberaud.

Thierry was the son of a merchant and city councilman, Robert Louis Augustin Duverney. Msr. Duverney had four children from his first marriage, including one older son, and when his first wife died in childbirth he remarried the daughter of a local financier, Blanche Marguerite d'Ambert. Thierry was the first of their two living children, born in 1755.

Educated in Riom, taught to be inquisitive and bookish by his mother, and frequently the source of diplomacy amongst his siblings, he later attended the Lycee Louis-le-Grand in Paris. Though highly intelligent he was not as ambitious or studious as many of his fellow students. Graduating without significant honors and dismayed after a brief attempt at studying law he returned to Riom to work for his father.

In 1775 he attended a local literary society hosted by a Mme Carrier, and it was there that he met Olympe. Polite exchanges became impassioned discussions of history, theology, literature, politics, and art. Soon it was clear that they preferred each others company to that of any other, and Thierry received many invitations to dine at Portaberaud. Due to her station it was necessarily Olympe who first declared her love for the somewhat shy and self-effacing Thierry, and after that it was noted that he was her constant companion whether in Saint-Saturnin, Paris, or Riom.

Olympe encouraged him to pursue further advancement, knowing that without earning or purchasing a title of nobility they would never be able to marry without her surrendering her title and holdings. After many years and many attempts he finally secured a position with the Ferme Generale, the powerful tax farmers of France, and began to rise through their ranks, being sent frequently to cities like Brussels, Lille, and Calais.

When Olympe's life became endangered by a former suitor a mutual friend, the Marquis de Franconville-aux-Bois, offered to marry her in order to provide the protection of his rank and family connections in addition to hers. This plan was entertained with the idea that it, like many 18th century aristocratic marriages, would allow Olympe a cover by which to carry on her affair with Thierry; but in the end the Marquis' true intentions made them both uneasy, and she and Thierry were forced to flee Paris.

A letter accusing Thierry of spying for the British was given to the police and a Lettre de Cachet was issued for his arrest. As the Lettres de Cachet could result in the accused being tossed in jail for indefinite periods of time without trial, Thierry, with the help of Olympe, fled to Venice, but not before they were secretly married in Marseille.

And that is where we are in the story.

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