Mancini, Hortense (1646–1699)

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Mancini, Hortense (1646–1699)

Duchess of Mazarin . Name variations: Duchesse de Mazarin. Born in Rome in 1646 (some sources cite 1640); died in Chelsea, England, in 1699; fourth daughter of Laurent also seen as Lorenzo Mancini and a mother (maiden name Mazarini or Mazarino) who was the sister of Cardinal Jules Mazarin (chief minister to the young Louis XIV); sister of Olympia (c. 1639–1708), Marie Mancini (1640–1715), Marie-Anne Mancini (1649–1714), Laure Mancini (1635–1657); cousin of Anne-Marie Martinozzi (1637–1672) and Laura Martinozzi; married Marquis de La Meilleraye and Mayenne, who was elevated by the cardinal to the duke of Mazarin.

A Roman family, the Mancinis were introduced to the French court by Cardinal Jules Mazarin; they were the daughters of one of his four sisters and had come to live with him in Paris. There were five Mancini sisters, called the "Mazarinettes," who were married off to some of the oldest and noblest families in France and Italy, including Laure Mancini who married Louis de Vendôme, duke of Mercoeur; Olympia Mancini who married Eugene Maurice de Savoie-Carignan and was the mother of Prince Eugene of Savoy and the mistress of Louis XIV; Marie Mancini who was in love with Louis XIV but married the Prince of Colonna; Marie-Anne Mancini who married Godfrey Maurice de la Tour, duke of Bouillon; and Hortense. Mazarin had another sister Laura Margaret Mazarini who married Girolamo Martinozzi, adding their children Anne-Marie Martinozzi , who married the prince de Conti, and Laura Martinozzi , who married Alphonse d'Este, to his flock of nieces.

One of the most beautiful and flamboyant women in Europe, Hortense walked out on her miserable marriage to the duke of Mazarin. A religious fanatic, the duke had forced her to perform severe penances for her sins—real or imagined. He had also squandered her sizeable dowry. But Louis XIV refused to acknowledge Hortense's petitions to return the property she had brought to the marriage. After a brief dalliance with the duke of Savoy and an order by a French court to return to her husband and submit to his authority, Hortense fled to England in late 1675, accompanied by her pet parrot and her black page, Mustapha. Before long, she became the mistress of Charles II of England, following a considerable line of mistresses that included Marguerite Carteret, Lucy Walter , Elizabeth Killigrew , Catherine Pegge , Moll Davies , Lady Elizabeth Byron, Frances Stuart, Louise de Kéroüalle (duchess of Portsmouth), Barbara Villiers , countess of Castlemain, and Nell Gwynn . As a compulsive gambler and sexual free spirit, Hortense's term with the king was short. "Each sex provides its lovers for Hortense," commented an idle courtier. Her over-familiarity with a daughter of Charles, as well as her conspicuous flirtation in 1677 with the prince of Monaco, ended her reign as royal mistress. Her memoirs were probably written by the abbé de Saint-Réal from materials supplied by her. (For more information see Gwynn, Nell.)

suggested reading:

Les Nieces de Mazarin. Paris, 1856.

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