Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Claudine Alexandrine Guerin de Tencin, Baronne de Saint-Martin-de-Ré

Claudine Alexandrine Guerin de Tencin 1682-1749 by ? (Musee Dauphinois - Grenoble France)Claudine Alexandrine was born in Grenoble on 27 April 1682 as the daughter of the Parlement's president. She spent her childhood in a convent - like most other of the upper class' ladies - and her parents wished for her to become a nun. After a while though Claudine Alexandrine tired of life at the convent and gained permission from Pope Clement XI to put down the veil again. Already, at this time she had been the source of gossip and it was said that she had had an affair with an Irish soldier.

After travelling to Paris where her sister lived Claudine Alexandrine set up one of the popular salons where the clever and sophisticated of the time could come and discuss ideas and theories. Claudine's love life was active to say the least. She even had an illegitimate son by Chevalier Louis-Camus Destouches and allegedly another affair with the Archbishop of Cambrai. Her life took a dangerous turn when (yet) another of her lovers took his own life within her house which landed her in the Bastille until the Grand Council could safely declare that she had had nothing to do with his death.
Claudine Alexandrine was also a novelist whose books were appreciated by her contemporaries. Towards the end of her life she established the first French literary salon that admitted foreigners so it is safe to say that she had a passion for books. Her brother, the Archbishop of Embrun, was her closest friend and she was thrilled when he received a cardinal's hat. Naturally, their relationship sent tongues wagging but their relationship was purely fraternal and not romantic at all.

What was romantic however was Claudine Alexandrine's relationship with the Marèchal de Richelieu - the closest friend of Louis XV. Despite her taste for political intrigues - it was suspected that she had some power over the Marèchal - she had no influence in the behind-the-scenes affairs of Versailles. The before-mentioned literary salon was so successful that she even managed to regain a good reputation after her previous escapades; she herself referred to the salon as her "menagerie". Eventually, Claudine Alexandrine died on 4 December 1749.

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