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Marquise de Tourzel

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Marquise de Tourzel

Louise Élisabeth de Croÿ, Marquise (later Duchess) of Tourzel (Louise Élisabeth Félicité Françoise Armande Anne Marie Jeanne Joséphine; 11 June 1749 – 15 May 1832) was a French memoir-writer, noble and courtier. She was the last governess to the royal children of King Louis XVI of France and his wife, Queen Marie Antoinette.

Life

Louise Élisabeth was born in Paris, into the illustrious Croÿ family during the reign of Louis XV. The Duchess's father was the Duke Louis Ferdinand Joseph of Havré and his mother the Princess Marie Louise of Montmorency-Luxembourg. She was married in 1766, at the age of seventeen, to the Marquis de Tourzel. They enjoyed a happy marriage for twenty years, in which Louise Élisabeth bore six children. Her husband was killed in a hunting accident in 1786.[1] She was a staunch supporter of the House of Bourbon, and had this motto engraved on a ring she refused to part with: Lord, save the King, the Dauphin, and his sister![2]

French Revolution

In 1789, after the fall of the Bastille, many members of the Queen's intimate circle were forced to flee abroad. The Duchesse de Polignac, the queen's favourite and the governess to the royal children, was forced to emigrate to Switzerland.[3] Marie Antoinette appointed Louise Élisabeth to the newly vacant post, with particular attention to be paid to the Dauphin, Louis-Charles. The Marquise was advised to curb the Dauphin's fear of loud noises, particularly the barking of the many dogs at Versailles.[4]

From this intimate position, the Marquise de Tourzel was able to watch the disintegration of the Ancien Régime. After an angry mob of hungry women incited by revolutionaries stormed the Palace of Versailles on October 5, 1789, the Marquise accompanied the royal family to live in the Tuileries Palace in Paris.[4] Tourzel's loyalty was strong, and she refused to abandon the royal children as political strife in the nation dramatically increased. She even accompanied the King and his family on a dangerous attempt to flee Paris for a royalist stronghold in Montmédy.[5] This attempt failed, and the entire party was dragged back to Paris by republicans.[5]

After the abolition of the monarchy in 1792, Tourzel was separated from the royal family and imprisoned in La Force Prison and the Prison Port-Libre.[6] Also imprisoned at the same time were Tourzel's daughter, Pauline de Tourzel, and Marie Antoinette's most loyal friend, the Princesse de Lamballe.[6] Shortly after their imprisonment, the three women found themselves victims of the September Massacres, when thousands of incarcerated people in Paris were massacred by violent revolutionaries who were trying to rid the prisons of jailed aristocrats. Tourzel and her daughter were smuggled out of the prison by a mysterious gentleman, but Lamballe was not so fortunate.[4] She was savagely murdered, and her decapitated head was then paraded around the city.[7]

In January 1793, Louis XVI was executed.[8] In October, Queen Marie Antoinette was also sent to the guillotine.[8] Tourzel was devastated by their deaths, and she was equally shocked to hear of the death of Louis-Charles in 1795.[4] Several times over the coming decades, Tourzel was accosted by various men pretending to be "Louis XVII of France".[4]

Post revolution

During the Bourbon Restoration, Tourzel was made a duchess by a grateful King Charles X.[9] She later published her memoirs, which are an invaluable historical account of the final days of the royal household.[1] Her daughter, Pauline, became a lady-in-waiting to Marie Antoinette's only surviving child, Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte, Duchesse d'Angoulême.

In fiction

The Marquise has featured in several novels about the French Royal family, including Trianon and Madame Royale by Elena Maria Vidal, Flaunting, Extravagant Queen by Jean Plaidy and the Marie Antoinette romances by Alexandre Dumas, père. The character of the Marquise de Tourzel appeared in the 1956 French film Marie-Antoinette reine de France.[10]

References

Kingdom of France portal
Court offices
Preceded by
The Duchess of Polignac
Governess of the
Children of France

1789–1792
Monarchy abolished

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