Saturday, 28 September 2013

A Genuine Fondness

Armand de Vignerot du Plessis, Duc de Richelieu is one of the greatest womanisers of the entire l'ancien régieme (so prepare to see much more of him in this section!). His longest affair was with Émilie du Châtelet. They first met in 1729 and began their affair when Armand was 34 and Émilie was 24 years old.

The two had a connection prior to their own relationship since Armand's sister had married Émilie's brother-in-law. During their time together a genuine interest grew between the two and Armand discovered that Émilie was interested in a variety of subjects some of which he had a thorough knowledge. Consequently, he encouraged her in hiring several professors to teach her higher mathematics and the likes - the subjects were normally never considered in a woman's education. Richelieu absolutely adored her bright mind and saw no reason to feel intimidated - or even emasculated - by it. Due to his high rank it is possible that Armand put Émilie in contact with these bright-minded professors.

Jean-Marc Nattier (1685-1766) - Portret van maarschalk hertog Richelieu - Lissabon Museu Calouste Gulbenkian 21-10-2010 13-34-54.jpg

The affair lasted 18 months which is longer than any other of Richelieu's many affairs; it should also be noticed that he had no other mistresses during this time period. The special thing about this relationship is that unlike many other liaisons at Versailles it was more than just a physical attraction. When their affair was no longer physical they continued a good friendship for 16 years only ending due to Émilie's death. They wrote countless letters to each other. There appear to have been no jealousy whatsoever between the couple (Émilie was married) and she even attended Armand's wedding in 1734.
So, this affair between the eager and talented student Émilie and the infamous womaniser Armand turned out to be far more than just sex - it was a relationship of devotion and respect.

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