Marie de Lorraine, born on 12 August 1674, was a daughter of Louis de Lorraine, Comte d’Armagnac, and his wife Catherine de Neufville de Villeroi. The couple was very fertile and had fourteen children, Marie was their ninth child and fifth daughter.
Both of her parents were rather prominent courtiers. Louis held the rank of foreign prince and the position of Grand Écuyer de France, one of the greatest offices of the Maison de Roi. He was also quite close to Louis XIV and probably one of the very few friends the King had. Catherine was a daughter of Nicolas de Neufville de Villeroy, who acted as governor for the young Louis XIV. Her uncle, the Chevalier de Lorraine, was rather prominent as well, being the long-time favourite of the King’s brother.
As daughter of a foreign prince, Marie held the rank of foreign princesses from birth on. She was known at court as Mademoiselle d’Armagnac… and also known to be rather spoiled. One of those girls, who get what they want. Some blame it on her mother, who had a reputation of being fond on intrigues and having her elegant nose high in the air. Catherine, not really a fan of Madame de Montespan, was once exiled from court for plotting against the King’s favourite. Marie was also known as rather fun-loving, fond of music and dancing, of all sort of entertainments and a bit of a fashion-junkie with fondness of very low necklines and plenty of ribbons a la girls just wanna have fun. She is described as vivacious, with lush brown curls, which she often adorned with pearl decorated combs, sparkling dark eyes and an unusual flair.
Marie had quite a lot going on and plenty of admirers kissing her hands… but as it happened, her intended groom was not that fascinated with her. Marie’s older sister Marguerite married Nuno Álvares Pereira de Melo, the 1st Duke of Cadaval. A Portuguese nobleman and statesman. Marguerite served a bit as a connection link between Portugal and France via Lorraine. Something like this, being a connection link, also happened to Marie.
Louis de Monaco, who had married Catherine-Charlotte de Gramont, was eager to gain French support for his principality. Louis XIV did not take him quite as serious as the Prince de Monaco hoped for and although he had a very prominent French wife, the court, including said wife, did not really care much for him. He was kind, a bit shy, but rather proud, a fabulous soldier who had won glory in many battles… but most people thought him to be a bore. And there was one thing that irked him quite a bit. He did not count as foreign prince at the French court, although he was in fact the sovereign Prince de Monaco. After his wife died in 1678, Louis had to think of the future and that meant he needed to find a wife for his heir. This heir, Antoine, then known as the Duc de Valentinois, was born in 1661 had won some glory for himself and Louis XIV already, but was not really eager to marry yet. It is not clear who came up with the idea, but all of the Louis’, Louis XIV, Louis de Monaco and Louis de Lorraine, thought it a good idea to marry Antoine to Marie. According to rumours of the time, some people claimed that Madame de Maintenon had a hand in it as well. The story goes that she feared for the King’s soul aka did not wish him to have a mistress and was worried he might take one as he started to ogle the young and beautiful Marie, who so often danced gracefully at Marly.
Either way, it was agreed that Antoine should marry Marie, although her dowry was not really the largest. It were only 300000 livres, of which the Chevalier de Lorraine provided one-third in form of cash and precious gems. This marriage also finally gained the Monacos the rank of foreign princes, both the father of the groom and the father of the bride are addressed by the customary tres-haut, tres-puissant at tres-illustre prince.
The marriage took place in Versailles on 13 July 1688. Marie, barely fourteen years old, became the Duchesse de Valentinois. Louis XIV gifted them a chateau just outside of Paris, but it was in need of renovations and furniture, thus the newly-weds moved in with the parents of the bride.
Bride and groom were of a quite different character. She loved to be the centre of attention and to shine at entertainments. He, very tall and not entirely handsome, preferred the opera, its backstage area, singers and dancers, considering himself to be a man well-antiquated with the female gender. Antoine was later quite taken with his young and charming wife. She not so much with him.
Being a married woman, seems to have made her even more desirable in the eyes of the male courtiers. They flocked to the Hôtel d’Armagnac, which apparently was open day and night, to pay court to her. Madame de Sévigné called Marie: “More of an elegant flirt than all of the ladies of the Kingdom put together.” The constant coming and going of young men eager to charm the Duchesse quickly caused a lot of talk. In the meanwhile, the Duc amused himself at the opera or on the battlefield. Louis de Monaco got a bit alarmed, maybe reminded of his own wife and her rumoured affairs, and sought to put an end to the talk, not just the talk of Marie being flirty with young men, but also the talk of his son slipping under the skirts of opera singers when he was not away at war…. it was in vain.
He could not get his son away from the opera, nor Marie from flirting. He blamed the latter on her youth and told his son to make friends with the mother, which he had neglected, in order to get Marie to like him: “I still think excuses should be made for your young wife, because she is so young and that is also why you should bear with her to some extent. I trust that with time, she will act better towards you and will realise more than she does at present where her true and chief interest lies. Your misfortune is entirely due to the fact that you haven’t gained the favour of your mother-in-law, Madame d’Armagnac. She is the stumbling block… as long as you and she don’t get together, you can’t expect much tenderness from the daughter.”
Despite their being not much tenderness, their first child, Catharina-Charlotte was born in 1691. The couple was still living in Paris as Louis de Monaco came up with another idea to put an end to the talk of flirting. He had to go to Monaco and Marie should go with him to finally see the place she would be Princesse of at some point. In order to really get Marie to join him, Louis hinted to Louis XIV that the Mediterranean air would do her good and the King agreed, which left Marie no choice than to join her father-in-law.
They travelled together to Monaco, while Antoine was off at war again, and Marie liked it there at first. She especially loved to stay at a little summer-house, which she called le désert and ruled it supreme, while visitors to Monaco praised her beauty and grace. As news reached Marie and her father-in-law of Antoine being wounded during battle at Namur, Marie was quite worried. Things improved for a short while between the couple after Antoine returned from war to spend time in Monaco… but Antoine still had not managed to gain the full esteem of his wife and her mother. As he announced he intended to return to his regiment, Marie found the idea of staying in Monaco suddenly very unpleasant.
She begged “acting as if she had been carried off to the Indies” to be excused to return the France and her family. Once there, she told everyone her father-in-law had attempted to rape her.
Not many believed the accusation. The French court was of the general opinion that Louis de Monaco was too gentleman to do such a thing, some said Marie was only looking for a reason to stay in France. Louis de Monaco was outraged as he heard of it and Antoine was rather livid. He set up a own household in the outskirts of Paris and they lived separately for the next six years. Marie took plenty of lovers during this time and Antoine apparently had a straw version made of each of them, which he hung in front of his house. Louis XIV disapproved of this behaviour and mentioned this to the Duc, who said the King should be glad he was only hanging men of straw and not real men.
Marie and Antoine avoided each other for the next years. Eventually, Louis XIV got involved once more, not to scold Antoine again, but to achieve a sort of reconciliation between the two. It worked out. They even shared a bed again and returned to Monaco together in 1697. A daughter, Louise-Hippolyte, was born shortly after. It was Marie’s second child and daughter and she gave birth to another four daughters between 1698 and 1708. Leaving Monaco without a legitimate male heir. There was an illegitimate heir however. Antoine had a son with the dancer Elisabeth Durfort.
As Louis I de Monaco died in 1701, his son Antoine became the new sovereign Prince of the small principality. The couple settled in Monaco, but did not live together it appears. Marie lived at her désert, Antoine spent most of his time with his various mistresses at the Giardinetto. Boredom was a well-known companion for Marie by then. There was not much to do, no grand fetes, no entertainments. Their court was small, apparently not even twenty families strong, and all somehow related to the Prince de Monaco. Marie invited her mother and one of her sisters for company.
There was not much joy either. After their first daughter, Caterina-Charlotte, died in 1696, Marie had to see another two of her daughters die in infancy: Elisabetta-Charlotte called Mademoiselle de Valentinois was born in 1698 and died in 1702. Maria-Devota called Mademoiselle des Baux was born in 1702 – 24 October and died in 1703.
With no legitimate male heir being born to them, their daughter Louise-Hippolyte was the heiress of her parents… and as such the question of finding the best suited husband for her was a huge one. Louise-Hippolyte, nicknamed Coco, had been placed in a convent, against her will, by her father until a husband was found. Marie of course wanted to have a say in the matter… but Antoine did not quite fancy that. Nor did he like it one bit that Marie’s father demanded to be involved as well. (The Comte d’Armagnac suggested at one point the groom could be his son Charles.)
The heir of Monaco was at that time Antoine’s younger brother François-Honoré, but it was expected he would renounce his claims in order to pursue his Church career further… which then would make Louise-Hippolyte’s future husband also the new Prince de Monaco, provided he agreed to take the Grimaldi name and coat-of-arms as his own. It was not an easy situation, with many factions involved, and caused new tension between Marie and her husband.
In first, there were two gentlemen in the race for Louise-Hippolyte’s hand. One was the Comte de Roye, of the House of Rochefoucauld, young and dashing. The other was the Comte de Lux, member of the House of Montemercy. Antoine preferred the first, the Comte d’Armagnac and Marie the latter. They considered the second option to be better suited, not just because the Comte de Lux did not demand all of Valentinois for himself, but also because he was free of debts, which Monaco had plenty of, had property of his own and the better rank in the eyes of d’Armagnac.
Louis de Lorraine hinted just that in letters to Antoine, but Antoine ignored it and thus got it formulated a bit more clearly in another letter. The Comte said it would be an insult to both their great Houses to sell his granddaughter in such a way and how he can not understand why it is even considered to marry her to the Comte de Roye, who is a known rascal and always in dire need of money. He also ordered Marie not to sign the marriage contract unless he himself or one of her brothers wrote her to do so.
It went back and forth for two years, turned into a bit of a quarrel and in the end none of the two candidates gained Coco’s hand in marriage. The father of the Comte de Roye released the Prince of Monaco from his promise to have their children wed, because Louis XIV was a bit annoyed by it all, and Monsieur de Lorraine stopped to insist Coco ought to be married to the Comte de Lux. The Princesse de Monaco was rather annoyed by it all as well and decided to put an end to it. She travelled secretly to Paris and met with her father.
Together they came up with another candidate and knowing that the Prince de Monaco would not agree to any candidate suggested by Monsieur de Lorraine, they also came up with a plan to make the Prince think Lorraine was not the source of the idea. The new candidate was Jacques Goÿon de Matignon, quite rich and from an ancient Norman family. Marie and her father asked the Duchesse de Lude to put the name forward and talk well of the gentleman. She did her job so well, that the Prince de Monaco was immediately taken with the idea and made her swear not to mention the name of the gentleman in presence of any Lorraine. The Duchesse agreed, of course, and believing to have outwitted his wife and father-in-law the Prince made them both swear to agree to the match he planned to arrange, without naming the candidate. It did not make him at all suspicious that the Comte d’Armagnac made no ado at all and happily agreed. Jacques Goÿon de Matignon gave up his name and coat-of-arms, Louis XIV gave his approval and Jacques married Louise-Hippolyte on 20 October 1715.
Marie also had a hand in the marriage of her daughter Margaretha, who wedded Louis de Gand de Mérode de Montmorency, Prince d’Isenghien, a famous French General. The marriage took place on 16 April 1720 and was the Prince d’Isenghien’s third.
The Princesse de Monaco spent her last years relatively quietly and died on 30 October 1724, aged fifty. Antoine did not mourn her much. As set down in their marriage contract, stating the oldest child will inherit, Louise-Hippolyte became Marie’s heiress… which led to a lawsuit filed by Antoine that lasted several years. In dire need of money, he tried to press claims to control his late wife’s estates. In his opinion, his very rich son-in-law and daughter did not need such a vast inheritance. This lawsuit left Antoine in even more dire need of money and ruined his credit… also his relationship to his son-in-law, whom he treated quite badly during the battle for inheritance. It is no surprise, that when Antoine directly appealed to his son-in-law to settle the matter, the answer was not what he wished for. Jacques suggested to offer a loan if Antoine would drop the lawsuit. This suggestion only enraged Antoine. The whole affair was still not really settled by 1731, the year Antoine died.