Court Memoirs of France Series— Complete

Author: Various

Section XXI. Mademoiselle De Valois, Charlotte-Aglae, Consort of the Prince of Modena.

Mademoiselle de Valois is not, in my opinion, pretty, and yet occasionally she does not look ugly. She has something like charms, for her eyes, her colour and her skin are good. She has white teeth, a large, ill-looking nose, and one prominent tooth, which when she laughs has a bad effect. Her figure is drawn up, her head is sunk between her shoulders, and what, in my opinion, is the worst part of her appearance, is the ill grace with which she does everything. She walks like an old woman of eighty. If she were a person not very anxious to please, I should not be surprised at the negligence of her gait; but she likes to be thought pretty. She is fond of dress, and yet she does not understand that a good mien and graceful manners are the most becoming dress, and that where these are wanting all the ornaments in the world are good for nothing. She has a good deal of the Mortemart family in her, and is as much like the Duchess of Sforza, the sister of Montespan, as if she were her daughter; the falsehood of the Mortemarts displays itself in her eyes. Madame d’Orleans would be the most indolent woman in the world but for Madame de Valois, her daughter, who is worse than she. To me nothing is more disgusting than a young person so indolent. She cares little for me, or rather cannot bear me, and, for my part, I care as little for a person so educated.

She is not upon good terms with her mother, because she wanted to marry her to the Prince de Dombes, the Duc du Maine’s eldest son. The mother says now reproachfully to her daughter that, if she had married her nephew, neither his father’s nor his own misfortunes would have taken place. She cannot bear to have her daughter in her sight, and has begged me to keep her with me.

My son has agreed to give his daughter to the Prince of Modena, at which I very sincerely rejoice. On the day before yesterday (28th November, 1719) she came hither with her mother to tell me that the courier had arrived. Her eyes were swollen and red, and she looked very miserable. The Duchess of Hanover tells me that the intended husband fell in love with Mademoiselle de Valois at the mere sight of her portrait. I think her rather pretty than agreeable. Her hawk nose spoils all, in my opinion. Her legs are long, her body stout and short, and her gait shows that she has not learnt to dance; in fact, she never would learn. Still, if the interior was as good as the exterior, all might pass; but she has as much of the father as of the mother in her, and this it is that I dislike.

Our bride-elect is putting, as we say here, as good a face as she can upon a bad bargain; although her language is gay her eyes are swollen, and it is suspected that she has been weeping all night. The Grand Prior, who is also General of the Galleys, will escort his sister into Italy. The Grand Duchess of Tuscany says that she will not see Mademoiselle de Valois nor speak to her, knowing very well what Italy is, and believing that Mademoiselle de Valois will not be able to reconcile herself to it. She is afraid that if her niece should ever return to France they will say, "There is the second edition of the Grand Duchess; "and that for every folly she may commit towards her father-in-law and husband they will add, "Such are the instructions which her aunt, the Grand Duchess, has given her." For this reason she said she would not go to see her.

The present has come from Modena; it does not consist of many pieces; there is a large jewel for the bride, with some very fine diamonds, in the midst of which is the portrait of the Prince of Modena, but it is badly executed. This present is to be given on the day of the marriage and at the signature of the contract in the King’s presence; this ceremony will take place on the 11th (of February, 1720). The nuptial benediction will be pronounced on Monday, and on Thursday she will set off. I never in my life saw a bride more sorrowful; for the last three days she has neither eaten nor drunk, and her eyes are filled with tears.

I have been the prophetess of evil, but I have prophesied too truly. When our Princess of Modena told me that she wished to go to Chelles to bid her sister farewell, I told her that the measles had been in the convent a short time before, that the Abbess herself had been attacked by this disease, which was contagious. She replied that she would seek it. I said such things are more easily found than anything good; you run a risk of your life, and I recommend you to take care. Notwithstanding my advice, she went on Sunday morning to Chelles, and passed the whole of the day with her sister. Soon afterwards she found herself unwell, and was laid up with the measles. Her consolation is that this illness retards her journey.

On the 12th of March (1720) my son brought his daughter to bid me farewell. She could not articulate a word. She took my hands, kissed and pressed them, and then clasped her own. My son was much affected when he brought her. They thought at first of marrying her to the Prince of Piedmont. Her father had given her some reason to hope for this union, but he afterwards retracted.

[According to Duclos it was Madame herself who prevented this
marriage by writing to the Queen of Sicily that she was too much her
friend to make her so worthless a present as Mademoiselle de Valois.
Duclos adds that the Regent only laughed at this German blunder of
his mother’s.]

She would have preferred marrying the Duke or the Comte de Charolois, because then she would have remained with her friends. Her father has given her several jewels. The King’s present is superb. It consists of fourteen very large and fine diamonds, to each of which are fastened round pearls of the first water, and together they form a necklace. The Grand Duchess advised her niece well in telling her not to follow her example, but to endeavour to please her husband and father-in-law.

[The same author (Duclos) says, on the contrary, that the Duchess
had given her niece the following advice: "My dear, do as I have
done. Have one or two children and try to get back to France; there
is nothing good for us out of that country."]

The Prince of Modena will repair to Genoa incognito, because the Republic has declared that they will pay due honours to his bride as a Princess of the blood, but not as Princess of Modena. They have already begun to laugh here at the amusements of Modena. She has sent to her father from Lyons an harangue which was addressed to her by a curate. In spite of her father, she will visit the whole of Provence. She will go to Toulon, La Ste. Beaume, and I know not what. I believe she wishes to see everything or anything except her husband.

[She performed her journey so slowly that the Prince complained of
it, and the Regent was obliged to order his daughter to go directly
to the husband, who was expecting her.]

It may truly be said of this Princess that she has eaten her white bread first.

All goes well at Modena at present, but the too charming brother-in-law is not permitted to be at the petite soupers of his sister. The husband, it is said, is delighted with his wife; but she has told him that he must not be too fond of her, for that is not the fashion in France, and would seem ridiculous. This declaration has not, as might be guessed, given very great satisfaction in this country.

The Grand Duchess says, in the time of the Queen-mother’s regency, when the Prince and his brother, the Prince de Conti, were taken to the Bastille, they were asked what books they would have to amuse themselves with? The Prince de Conti said he should like to have "The Imitation of Jesus Christ;" and the Prince de Condo said he would rather like "The Imitation of the Duc de Beaufort," who had then just left the Bastille.

"I think," added the Duchess, "that the Princess of Modena will soon be inclined to ask for ’The Imitation of the Grand Duchess.’"

[The Princess of Modena did, in fact, go back to France, and
remained there for the rest of her life.]

Our Princess of Modena has found her husband handsomer and likes him better than she thought she should; she has even become so fond of him, that she has twice kissed his hands; a great condescension for a person so proud as she is, and who fancies that, there is not her equal on the earth.

The Duke of Modena is a very strange person in all matters. His son and his son’s wife have requested him to get rid of Salvatico, who has been here in the quality of envoy. This silly person made on the journey a declaration in form of his love for the Princess, and threatened her with all sorts of misfortune if she did not accept his love. He began his declaration with,

"Ah! ah! ah! Madame, ah! ah! ah! Madame."

The Princess interrupted him: "What do you mean with your ah’s?"

He replied, "Ah! the Prince of Modena is under great obligations; I have made him happy."

He had begun the same follies here, and was in the habit of entering the Princess’s chamber at all times, and he even had the impudence to be jealous. The Princess complained of him to her husband, and he told his father of it, begging him to send the rogue away; but the father was so far from complying that he wanted to make Salvatico his major-domo. Upon the whole, I think that Salvatico’s love for our Princess of Modena is fortunate for her; for, having learnt all that had passed here,

[Mademoiselle de Valois had an amorous intrigue with the Duc de
Richelieu; and it is said that she only consented to marry the
Prince of Modena upon condition that her father, the Regent, would
set her husband at liberty. Madame had intimated to the Duc de
Richelieu that, if he approached the places where her granddaughter
was with her, his life would be in great peril.]

he might have made inconvenient reports: he would, however, perhaps have done it in vain, for the Prince would not have believed him. Salvatico is quite crazy. He is the declared favourite of the Duke of Modena, which verifies the German proverb, "Like will to like, as the devil said to the collier."

The Prince and Princess are very fond of each other; but it is said they join in ridiculing the old father (2nd August, 1720). The Princess goes about all day from room to room, crying, "How tired I am, how tiresome everything is here! "She, however, lives a little better with her husband than at the beginning.


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Chicago: Various, "Section XXI. Mademoiselle De Valois, Charlotte-Aglae, Consort of the Prince of Modena.," Court Memoirs of France Series— Complete, ed. Braybrooke, Richard Griffin, Baron, 1783-1853 and trans. Holcroft, Thomas, 1745-1809 in Court Memoirs of France Series—Complete (New York: Doubleday, Page, 1909), Original Sources, accessed April 22, 2024,

MLA: Various. "Section XXI. Mademoiselle De Valois, Charlotte-Aglae, Consort of the Prince of Modena." Court Memoirs of France Series— Complete, edited by Braybrooke, Richard Griffin, Baron, 1783-1853, and translated by Holcroft, Thomas, 1745-1809, in Court Memoirs of France Series—Complete, Vol. 36, New York, Doubleday, Page, 1909, Original Sources. 22 Apr. 2024.

Harvard: Various, 'Section XXI. Mademoiselle De Valois, Charlotte-Aglae, Consort of the Prince of Modena.' in Court Memoirs of France Series— Complete, ed. and trans. . cited in 1909, Court Memoirs of France Series—Complete, Doubleday, Page, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 22 April 2024, from