Sunday, 28 April 2013

Olympia Mancini

Olympia Mancini was born on July 11 1638 as the second eldest daughter of Baron Lorenzo Mancini and Geronima Mazzarini. She spent her childhood in Rome - where she had been born - until 1650 when her father died. Without a husband to insure a proper future for her children, Geronima went to Paris where her brother, Cardinal Mazarin, was already a prominent member at the French court. Olympia therefore travelled to the court of Louis XIV with her four other sisters.

Seven years after her arrival in Paris Olympia was married to Prince Eugène-Maurice of Savoy-Carignano on February 24. Olympia would have eight children by him; her most famous child was Prince Eugene of Savoy. At court she would be referred to merely as Madame la Comtesse due to her husband's title of Comte de Soissons. Her position at court would be elevated above all others - except the Princesses of the Blood - when she was made the Superintendent of the Queen's Household.

Olympia had a special gift for intrigues and quickly became involved in them. Olympia was not as beautiful as the other women at the French court but she made up for that with her exceptional charm and an ability to fascinate those around her. She found a friend in Princesse Henrietta of England who happened to be the sister-in-law of Louis XIV. The problem was that Henrietta and Louis had developed a relationship that deeply concerned Anne of Austria (Louis's mother). Despite that the relationship was not sexual something had to be done and here Olympia had an idea. If she presented Louise de La Vallière to the King it would seem as if he would merely visit his sister-in-law's chambers for his love of her lady-in-waiting.

But her plan went wrong when the King actually fell in love with Louise de La Vallière. Whether it was out of love for her dear friend Henrietta or sheer jealousy is unknown, Olympia became angry with Louise after the King fell in love. Olympia herself had briefly been the mistress of Louis XIV but their relationship was not long-lived nor particular strong. The next time her name appears is in a far more lethal context. Olympia was accused of having plotted to poison Louise de La Vallière with the help of the infamous poisoner La Voison - apparently her dislike went further than anyone had guessed. She was accused of this in 1679 during the Affair of the Poisons. What was almost worse for the Comtesse was that she was thought to have threatened none other than the King himself! She was allegedly supposed to have made it clear that if he did not return to her he would be sorry. As a result Olympia was sent into exile and went to the Spanish court.

Later she would also be accused of having poisoned her husband and Queen Maria Luisa of Spain who happened to be the daughter of her friend, Henrietta of England. The two of them had become friends after Olympia had settled down at the Spanish court. This led to another exile from a royal court and Olympia now went to Brussels. Olympia would die here on October 9 1708.

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