Souza-Botelho, Adélaïde Filleul, Marquise of (1761–1836)

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Souza-Botelho, Adélaïde Filleul, marquise of (1761–1836)

French aristocrat who had a son with Talleyrand, survived the Revolution to become a popular author, and was the mother of general and diplomat Charles Auguste, count of Flahaut. Name variations: Adelaide Marie Emilie Filleul, marquise of Souza Botelho; Adele de Souza; Sousa. Born Adélaïde-Marie-Émilie Filleul in Paris, France, on May 14, 1761; died on April 10, 1836; daughter of Marie lrène Catherine de Buisson de Longpré (daughter of the seigneur of Longpré, near Falaise) and a middle-class man of Falaise named Filleul (who was one of the king's secretaries); married Alexandre Sebastien de Flahaut de la Billarderie, count of Flahaut (a soldier of some reputation, who was many years her senior), on November 30, 1779; married José Maria de Souza Botelho Morão e Vasconcellos (Portuguese minister plenipotentiary in Paris), in 1802; children: (with Charles Maurice de Talleyrand) Charles Auguste (b. April 21, 1785), count of Flahaut de la Billardérie.

Fled France for Great Britain (1792); published first novel, Adèle de Sénange (1794); moved to Germany (1794); returned to France (1797).

Adélaïde Filleul was born in Paris in 1761, the daughter of Irène de Buisson de Longpré and a wine commissioner and royal secretary named Filleul. After her mother's death, she went to live in the Louvre Palace with her older sister Julie , who in 1767 had married the marquis of Marigny, brother of Madame de Pompadour . Frequenting the intellectually vibrant and amoral society of late ancien régime Paris, Adélaïde attracted the attention of Alexandre Sébastien de Flahaut de la Billarderie, count of Flahaut, a poor aristocrat. Julie agreed to the count's proposal of marriage to Adélaïde, and the wedding took place on November 30, 1779. She was barely 18, he 54. It was a union of convenience for both: the count appreciated having a young beauty as his companion during his forays into society, and he supported her from his royal pensions and gifts from his brother, the count of Angiviller. Adélaïde claimed the marriage was never consummated.

Her real affection she conferred instead on Charles Maurice de Talleyrand and in 1785 had a son with Talleyrand, Charles de Flahaut. No scandal resulted, and her husband, the count, publicly accepted the baby as his own. But the onset of the French Revolution in 1789 posed other challenges. The Revolutionary government stopped paying her husband's royal pensions. Aristocrats lived in fear, and the count of Flahaut had to go into hiding in Boulougne, with papers Talleyrand secured for him. In 1792, Adélaïde fled to England with her son and joined the society of émigrés at Mickleham, Surrey, described in Mme d'Arblay's (Fanny Burney ) Memoirs. The following year, during the Reign of Terror, Adélaïde's husband was arrested and died at the guillotine.

Forced to live by her wits to support herself and her son, she sold off her jewels and then began writing novels. Her first, Adèle de Sénange, was published in London in 1794. Sentimental and somewhat autobiographical, it described a young French woman who, married to an older man, falls in love against her will with another, younger and more attractive man. It reportedly earned her 40,000 francs.

In 1795, Adélaïde moved to Germany and then, in 1797, returned to France with the protection of Talleyrand, by that time minister of foreign relations under the Directory. She tried to claim an estate in Le Mesnil-Bernard that had belonged to her mother's family, but the Revolutionary government had outlawed her as one of the émigrés, traitorous aristocrats who had left France to escape their just punishments. Her political connections sufficed, however, to have her name removed from the list of proscribed émigrés. Talleyrand provided a position for their son Charles de Flahaut in the navy's Official Records Office.

During Napoleon's reign, Adélaïde flourished. She published Emilie et Alphonse in 1800. Set amidst late ancien régime aristocratic life, it again portrayed an unhappy marriage, where family and society prevented a young couple from following their love. In 1802, despite some jealousy from Talleyrand, she married José Maria de Souza Botelho Morão e Vasconcellos, a Portuguese diplomat resident in Paris who admired her novels. This made Adélaïde the marquise of Souza-Botelho.

Julie (fl. 1770)

Marquise de Marigny. Flourished around 1770; eldest daughter of Marie lrène Catherine de Buisson de Longpré (daughter of the seigneur of Longpré, near Falaise) and a wine commissioner and royal secretary named Filleul; sister of Adélaïde Filleul, marquise of Souza-Botelho (1761–1836); married Abel François Poisson (1727–1781), marquis de Marigny (brother of Madame de Pompadour ).

With no strong political convictions herself, Adélaïde had little difficulty in adapting to the new regimes. Her later novels gracefully depicted aristocratic society, especially during the Napoleonic and Bourbon Restoration periods. The most famous was Eugène de Rothelin, published in 1808. Like the earlier books, it emphasized the need for emotional fulfillment. Mildly moralistic, her works contained finely crafted descriptions of French aristocratic life. They include: Eugénie et Mathilde ou Mémoires de la famille du comte de Revel (1811), Mademoiselle de Tournon (1820), La Comtesse de Fargy (1822), and La Duchesse de Guise (1831). Her son Charles de Flahaut served on Napoleon's staff and became a general, peer of France, and diplomat. Adélaïde helped educate her grandson, the duke of Morny, born of Charles de Flahaut's liaison with Queen Hortense de Beauharnais (1783–1837). The marquise of Souza-Botelho died in 1836 in Paris. Her complete works were published in 1811–1822.


Bearne, Catherine Mary Charlton. Four Fascinating French Women. NY: Brentano's, 1910.

Bernardy, Françoise. Son of Talleyrand: The Life of Comte Charles de Flahaut, 1785–1870. Trans. by Lucy Norton. NY: Putnam, 1956.

Maricourt, André, Baron de. Madame de Souza et sa famille: les Marigny, les Flahaut, Auguste de Morny (1761–1836). 2nd ed. Paris: Emile-Paul, 1907.

Poniatowski, Michel. Talleyrand et l'ancienne France, 1754–1789. Paris: Librairie Académique Perrin, 1988.

Kendall W. Brown , Professor of History, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah

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Souza-Botelho, Adélaïde Filleul, Marquise of (1761–1836)

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