Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Theresa Tallien

Juan Cabarrus, the Minister of Finance for the King of Spain, was in a panic. His beautiFul daughter, who was very young, was attracting the attention of men. He needed to marry her off quickly.

He chose Juan Fontenay, a French aristocrat. Theresa, only fourteen, was probably not pleased, because Fontenay was short and not good-looking. However, she was presented at Court and she probably enjoyed the sumptuous life of luxury to which she was introduced by her husband. They had a son, Devin.

This was 1788 and danger was on its way. Fontenay fled the Revolution, leaving his young wife in peril from the ruthless French revolutionaries. Even though she divorced him in 1791, Theresa was jailed because she was the former wife of an aristocrat.

She actually went to prison twice. On the second occasion, she met and became friendly with the charismatic Josephine, the future wife of the Emperor Napoleon. She also met Jean Tallien, a revolutionary leader, and seized her chance. Even though he was pock-marked and unattractive, she became his mistress and had a daughter, Thermidor, to him. She was nicknamed 'Our Lady of Thermidor' because she used her influence to free many prisoners.

Theresa sent her lover a message: "I had a dream last night that you were no longer a coward, and I was free." After reading this, Tallien made an impassioned speech against Robespierre and managed to oust him from power. He also married Theresa. This marriage also failed, however, and they were divorced in 1802.

Theresa didn't act like a woman educated by nuns. She had many lovers, including Paul Barras and Gabriel Ouvrard. Eventually she married the Comte de Caraman, the 16th Prince of Chimay, and had several children with him.

She was famous for her salon and friendly with many in the artistic and intellectual world in Paris.

1 comment:

Matterhorn said...

Well, she sounds like a real survivor...I can't imagine being stranded in France at that awful time at such a young age.

I am currently reading a biography of the doomed Madame Elisabeth of France (sister of Louis XVI) by Princess Henriette of Belgium (sister of Albert I). It is a very sad but touching book and I will post on it soon. It is very interesting to hear the one princess talk about the other.

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