Saturday, June 7, 2014

Princesse de Monaco: Decembre 8, 1776 - 9 Thermidor, Ans 2

Françoise-Thérèse de Choiseul-Stainville, Princesse Joseph de Monaco, appearing suitably pensive.  

The number of names born by royalty and the aristocracy should tip us off to the complicated nature of their lives.  Françoise-Thérèse de Choiseul-Stainville, Princesse Joseph de Monaco is a name that I come across in stories in which she's not the principle, but more of a bit player.  She's closely related to, or associated with, half a dozen Eighteenth Century French men and women with hyphenated names and changing titles that I know moderately well, but I don't know much about her.  

Considering the overlying, connecting, interwoven nature of life, in general, and the complexity of the French Revolution, there must be an infinite number of fascinating untold stories from the era.  Only a comparative few were recorded.  I want to know every single, solitary one.  

Here's a teensy fragment of Princesse de Monaco's story....


Françoise' parents, Jacques Philippe de Choiseul, Comte de Stainville, and Thérèse de Clermont d'Amboise married when the bride was fifteen and the groom was forty.  Both husband and wife (her parents) were unfaithful which was more the mode than the exception in that day and age.  The Comtesse's lovers include her husband's brother, the Duc de Choiseul (one of Louis XV's closest advisors and a chief architect of the Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI union) and the Duc de Lauzan, (whose reputation in the bedchambers of Versailles rivaled that of his reputation on the battlefields of the American Revolution.)  

The Comte and Comtesse de Stainville's system worked out well until the Comtesse broke a cardinal rule.  She acted in poor taste.  Specifically, she carried on one of her affairs (with an actor, for heaven's sake) in a way that displeased the Comte who, through the power of a lettre de cachet, had her swept from her home, in the middle of the night, and put into a convent for the rest of her life.

Françoise-Thérèse de Choiseul-Stainville, Princesse Joséph de Monaco, with her older sister, mother, aunt (drawn by a horse-drawn carriage, true to today's blog theme) in better days.

When her mother was exiled to the convent, Françoise and her sister were sent to a different convent to live and study.  Convents were the convenient, cost effective and frequently used receptacles for the Inconvenient Female.  

Later, Françoise enjoyed a happy marriage to Prince Joséph de Monaco with whom she had several children. They emigrated, during the Revolution, with the flood of aristocrats trying to save themselves and their possessions, but later made the ill-fated decision to return.  

Françoise was imprisoned, tried, and convicted, partly due to her husband's noble participation in the  War in the Vendée.  The twenty-five year old princess, wife, and mother delayed her meeting with the National Barber by feigning pregnancy.

Before her execution, she wrote three letters to the Public Prosecutor, Fouquier-Tinville, explaining the reason for her deception...

In the first, she wrote, "I should be obliged to citizen Fouquier de Tinville if he would be good enough to grant me a moment's audience.  I entreat him not to refuse my request."  

In the next letter, she wrote, "I inform you, citizen, that I am not pregnant.   I wished to tell you so [by word of mouth], but not hoping that you will come, I write you my word.  I did not sully my mouth with this falsehood from fear of death nor to avoid it, but to get a day's grace in order not to have my hair cut off by the executioner.  It is the only legacy which I can leave my children, and this at least should be pure.                         
(Signed) Choiseul Stainville, Joséphe Grimaldi Monaco, a foreign princess dying by the injustice of French judges"

In the last letter, she begged Fouquier-Tinville to send her children containing her hair and some farewell words.  The plait of blond hair is still in the possession of her descendants.

Françoise-Thérèse de Choiseul-Stainville, Princesse Joséph de Monaco, was transported on the last horse-drawn tumbrel that traveled from the Conciergerie Prison to the guillotine in the Place de la Révolution.   The afternoon of 9 Thermidor, in the confused hours that followed the overthrow of Robespierre and his cohorts, the Princesse's cart was actually delayed by the commotion in the streets.  Even the French Revolution was tied up in red tape and since no official word had been given to stop the executions, hers remained on schedule.  It was the last.

The Princesse's last recorded words, at the foot of the scaffold, were to a maid-servant about to share the same fate.   "Courage, my friend, crime alone can show fear."

Françoise-Thérèse de Choiseul-Stainville, Princesse Joséph de Monaco, was an ancestor of the current rulers of the Monaco, the second smallest country in the world - the smallest being Vatican City.  

Monaco is less than a square mile in size,  bordered by France on three sides and the Mediterranean Sea on the other.  One of the reasons Françoise was convicted at her trial was that Monaco was taken by France and, because she'd left Monaco, she was technically an émigre - a punishable offense.

I was born just down the hill from Monaco in Nice and visited about eight years ago.  The road between Monaco and Nice overlooks the Med with its sparkling, crystal blue water dotted with yachts belonging to some of the wealthiest people in the world.   In my mother's diary, she described driving on that winding road (the same one on which Princess Grace was killed in a car accident twenty-five years later) and being passed by a car carrying Prince Ranier and Princess Grace.  

That's about all I know on the subject.  Not very much, but it still needed to be written down, so I could stop thinking about it.  


Anonymous said...

Very, very interesting!

Madeleine Doak said...

Thank you, Anonymous, I'm glad you think so. I could talk about it all day long!