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Laure Martinozzi, Duchesse de Modène – Party like 1660

Laure Martinozzi, Duchesse de Modène

Born as Laura Martinozzi on May 27, 1639, Laura adopted the French version of her name, Laure, when setting foot on French soil. She was the oldest daughter of Laura Margherita Mazzarini, sister of Cardinal de Mazarin, and the Italian noble Girolamo Martinozzi da Fano, majordomo to Cardinal Francesco Barberini, nephew of Pope Urban VIII.


Laure Martinozzi, Duchesse de Modène et Reggio

Laure came to France either together with her mother and older sister Anne Marie, or with her cousins Marie and Hortense, on the orders of Mazarin. As with the others, Mazarin sought to find a good situated husband for his nieces. Laure grew up close to the young Louis XIV and Anne d’Autriche, who educated some of the Mancini-Martinozzi girls herself.

As Laure was tender fifteen years old, the same years as her sister married and became Princesse de Conti, Francesco I. d’Este, Duc de Modène, asked for Laure’s hand on behalf of his son Alfonso. A good deal for both, the Modène, a small state in northwestern Italy, was a somewhat sovereign Duchy and would thus add great prestige to Mazarin himself, while France would support Modène in its struggle with the Spanish.

The Cardinal agreed to the match and Laure and Alfonso were wed on Laure’s birthday in 1655 per procurationem in Compiègne, with Eugène Maurice de Savoie, future husband of Hortense Mancini, acting as proxy.

After only a short stay in France, Laure returned to her native Italy and to her new husband. Francesco I. d’Este died suddenly only three years after his son’s wedding, and the latter inherited the Duchy of Modène et Reggio, but only for a short time. Alfonso died 1662.

During their short marriage, Laure gave birth to three children. Francesco, who only lived for a year, a daughter Maria Beatrice and another son named Francesco. This Francesco was merely two years old upon the death of his father and Laure suddenly reining Duchesse of Modène and Regent for her son. Her uncle Mazarin would have been quite flattered by that, if he had not died the previous year.

Laure did a great job at ruling her little Duchy. Although the Duchy’s finances were not too great, Laure managed to keep everything together with coin saving politics and but still get enough money together to continue the works on the Palazzo Ducale and the church San Carlo, which had begun under the rule of her late father in law. As Regent, Laure was wise and focused on the future of her Duchy, for the sake of her little son.

Maria Beatrice Anna Margherita Isabella d’Este aka Mary of Modena as Queen of England
Maria Beatrice Anna Margherita Isabella d’Este aka Mary of Modena as Queen of England

Louis XIV assisted Laure in finding a husband for her daughter, after Laure borrowed him thousand soldiers for a ‘excursion’ to Candia Canavese.

Maria Beatrice Anna Margherita Isabella d’Este actually wanted to become a nun, but instead it was suggested that she could become the new Madame of France after the death of Henriette d’Angleterre. That did, luckily, not happen and Louis XIV helped her to a different groom, James Stuart, the brother of Charles II of England.

Laure’s son Francesco was declared to be of age as he was fourteen and Laure laid her Regency down. Shortly after Francesco became strongly influenced by his half-brother Cesare, not in a good way, and Laure returned to Rome to live their with her mother. Although her son requested the return of his mother several times, Laure did not set foot back into Modène again.

She did however do a pilgrimage to Loreto, where she prayed for her daughter to give birth to a healthy heir. Maria Beatrice had married James Stuart in 1673 and was now, as Mary of Modena, Queen of England. Laure’s wish would come true, but she would not see it herself. She died on July 19, 1687, in a Ursulinecloister in Rome, aged forty-eight.


  • Tess

    Thank you for the interesting article. Laura is certainly worthy of attention, but I was more interested in her daughter, Mary of Modena. Now I look closer to her life. What a variation of fate from becoming the Queen of England to exile. And personal tragedies. So many deaths of her children… I feel sorry for her.
    But you mention that Maria was ‘luckily’ not married to Philippe d’Orleans. I wonder why you think it was ‘luckily’? For her or for him?

    • AuroraVonG

      Luckily because if she had married him, we would know a lot less about his life and court life since we would not have the letters of Liselotte.

  • Tess

    It is true, I did not think about it. But… perhaps Maria would not burn Philippe’s letters and keepsakes after his death, and now we would know his personal thoughts and feelings…
    ‘What if…’, an endless topic in history.