The kings’ mistresses

From the book jacket: “The Mancini sisters, Marie and Hortense, were born in Rome, brought to the court of Louis XIV of France, and strategically married off by their uncle, Cardinal Mazarin, to secure his political power base. Such was the life of many young women of the age: they had no independent status under the law and were entirely a part of their husband’s property once married.”

When Marie Mancini attempted to leave her husband and did subsequently flee to France, he persisted in trying to bring her back to Italy. The archbishop wrote to her husband, Lorenzo “That you find it strange that a husband can’t pay to have his wife put in a fortress, I find totally in keeping with the practices in Italy. Here, however, one approaches wives using different methods.”

An excerpt about Cardinal Mazarin’s palace which he willed to Hortense and her husband Armand-Charles:

Their residence was the cardinal’s sumptuous Mazarin palace, not far from the Louvre. As a showcase for the material wealth they had inherited, the place featured the magnificent gallery where the cardinal had loved to pace in front of his grand collection of paintings. Now the palace was filled with young friends of Hortense and her lively brother Philippe. Armand-Charles watched this regular stream of fashionable visitors with some dismay, but at first he tolerated it. One wing of the palace had been left to the wayward Philippe, who would frequently join the gatherings his sister Hortense arranged. It was at these concerts and banquets that many of their friends first saw at close range just how astounding Mazarin’s art collection was. It included nearly nine hundred paintings, many of them by Italian masters: Raphael, Caravaggio. Carracci, Giorgione, Mantegna, Titian, da Vinci. Even more impressive were the hundreds of statues from Roman antiquity lining the halls and filling the courtyard.


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