Set towards the end of the reign of Henry II of France, The Princesse de Cleves (1678) tells of the unspoken, unrequited love between the fair, noble Mme de Cleves, who is married to a loyal and faithful man, and the Duc de Nemours, a handsome man most female courtiers find irresistible.... read more
Mademoiselle de Chartres is a sheltered heiress ("in her sixteenth year", i.e. aged 15) whose mother has brought her to the court of Henri II (a disguised version of the court of Louis XIV) to seek a husband with good prospects, financially and in society. Old jealousies against a kinsman... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
Mademoiselle de Chartres is a sheltered heiress ("in her sixteenth year", i.e. aged 15) whose mother has brought her to the court of Henri II (a disguised version of the court of Louis XIV) to seek a husband with good prospects, financially and in society. Old jealousies against a kinsman spark intrigues against the young ingenue, and the best marriage prospects withdraw. She accepts her mother's recommendation and the overtures of a middling suitor who admires her, the Prince de Clèves. However, after her marriage, she meets the dashing Duc de Nemours, and the two fall in love, yet do nothing to pursue their affections, limiting their contact to an occasional visit in the now-Princess of Clèves's salon.
The Duc becomes enmeshed in a scandal at court that leads the Princess to believe that he has been unfaithful in his affections. A letter from a spurned mistress to her paramour is discovered in the dressing room at one of the estates. The letter is actually to the Princess' uncle, the Vidame de Chartres, who has also become entangled in a relationship with the Queen. The Vidame begs the Duc de Nemours to claim ownership of the letter, which ends up in the Princess' possession. The Duc has to produce documents from the Vidame to convince the Princess that his heart has been true.
Eventually, the Prince of Clèves discerns that his wife is in love with another man. She confesses it to him, and he relentlessly quizzes her until he learns the man's identity, eventually resorting to trickery to get her to reveal it. After he sends a servant to spy on the Duc de Nemours, Monsieur de Clèves believes that his wife has been unfaithful in more than just her emotions, and he becomes ill and eventually dies (either of his illness or of a broken heart). On his deathbed, he blames the Duc de Nemours for his illness and death, and begs the Princess not to marry him.
Now free to pursue her passions, the Princess is torn between her duty and her love. The Duc pursues her more openly, but she rejects him, choosing instead to enter a convent for part of each year. After several years, the Duc's love for her finally fades, while the Princess passes away in obscurity at a relatively young age.
“You are my wife, I love you like a mistress, I know you are in love with the most fascinating man at Court who sees you every day and is aware that you love him - I must have been mad to think that you would be able to over-come your passion for him.”M. de Clèves
you are upon the brink of a precipice; great efforts must be used, and you must do great violence to yourHighlighted by 4 Kindle customers
heart to save yourself: reflect what you owe to your husband; reflect what you owe to yourself, and think that you are going to lose that reputation which you have gained, and which I have so much at heart; call up, my dear daughter, all your courage and constancy; retire from Court;Highlighted by 4 Kindle customers
how difficult it was to preserve this virtue, except by an extreme distrust of one’s self,Highlighted by 3 Kindle customers
The Duc de Nemours had long wished to have a picture of Madame de Clèves; when he saw that which Monsieur de Clèves had, he could not resist the temptation of stealing it from a husband, who, he believed, was tenderly loved; and he thought that among so many persons as were in the same room he should be no more liable to suspicion than another.Highlighted by 3 Kindle customers
“If you judge from appearances in a Court,” replied Madame de Chartres, “you will often be deceived; truth and appearances seldom go together.Highlighted by 3 Kindle customers
The Duc de Nemours’ passion for Madame de Clèves was at first so violent, that he had no relish left for any of the ladies he paid his addresses to before,Highlighted by 3 Kindle customers
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