Marie Mancini – Princess Colonna (Part three)

Olympia, Marie and Hortense Mancini (public domain)

Read part two here.

Marie Mancini and King Louis XIV were still deeply in love with each other despite Marie being sent away from the French court by her uncle Cardinal Mazarin and Louis being due to marry another woman. All the Cardinal could do now was be direct with the King, and he wrote long letters to Louis pressing the importance of his marriage to Maria Theresa of Spain in order to maintain peace between their countries. In one letter Mazarin wrote it would cause “your ruin if you go on to give way to your passion for her.” He even began to question Marie’s intentions calling her ambitious and foolish to tarnish her reputation to the King. Still, the letters and gifts continued and one day during her exile, Marie found a puppy awaiting her wearing a collar saying “I belong to Marie” on the collar; clearly a display of the King’s feelings as well as a gift.

Mazarin and Louis’ mother became more focused than ever on breaking the young lovers up. While Louis’ mother believed he would still marry the Infanta, and it was common for Kings to keep mistresses, they both believed he was suffering from some kind of sickness due to how obsessed he was with Marie. They wrote letters to each other where they planned his wedding and talked of needing to “tend his cure.” They wanted a stop to all of this by the time the Infanta arrived.

anne of austria
Anne of Austria (public domain)

In August 1659, the court was heading to Saint-Jean-de-Luz to finalise Louis’ marriage negotiations. On this journey, Louis’ mother Anne of Austria allowed her son to do something rather strange; she allowed him to stop en-route to spend a day with Marie. The whole saga had ruined the relationship between Louis and his mother, and she seemed to feel bad for him and directed most of her anger at Mazarin for ever bringing the Mancini girls to Paris in the first place. Marie and Louis spent the day together talking, and Louis apologised to Marie for “all that he had made her suffer.” Here it seems Louis had come to terms with the fact he had to marry the Infanta, he declared his undying love to Marie but told her he had to marry someone else.

Once back in Paris, Queen Anne convinced her son to spend time with some other women in public in hopes that the news would get back to Marie and finally crush her feelings for the King. The Cardinal took this idea too far and encouraged Marie’s sister Olympia to flirt with him and lavish attention on him. Of course, this news made it back to Marie, who was devastated.

It finally dawned on Marie that things needed to come to an end between her and Louis and she pleaded with her uncle to save her reputation “to keep people from mocking me” and so she asked Mazarin to arrange “a marriage for me, quickly.” Within a month, Mazarin was writing letters of praise to Marie for her change in attitude. It is clear from reading their correspondence and Marie’s memoirs that she knew this was what she had to do to keep her uncle happy and not what she truly wanted. In one letter to Cardinal Mazarin, Marie wrote “it causes me no small pain to keep from writing him (the King). What gives me strength to do it is my duty and my wish to satisfy Your Eminence.”

On 9 June 1660, Louis married his cousin Maria Theresa of Spain and finalised peace with Spain. On the journey back to Paris, Louis left his entourage behind and made a solitary pilgrimage to the fortress where he had last seen Marie. Marie was back in Paris by this time, but the King wanted to see the place once more and to remember their time together. The Cardinal was now planning Marie’s marriage, and he dismissed the idea of a French husband upon hearing that Louis still had feelings for Marie and so Mazarin planned to send his niece back to Italy to be married, far away from the French King.

Lorenzo Colonna (public domain)

As he lay dying, Cardinal Mazarin narrowed down suitors for Marie and her sister Hortense. Marie was married to Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna in April 1661 and became Princess Colonna. Her husband was from one of Rome’s most noble families. When it came to the consummation of their marriage, Lorenzo was shocked to find that Marie was a virgin, her young love with Louis had indeed been something more than his usual flings. Louis continued to write to Marie and asked her husband how she was doing from time to time, and in the end, the young lovers settled into their own marriages.

For a time Marie was happy with Lorenzo, they had three sons together, and they became well-respected patrons of the arts. The couple were part of a great noble family in Rome and often held parties and public celebrations where Lorenzo would parade his beloved wife before the crowds. As the years went by, however, the couple drifted apart, Lorenzo took mistresses, and Marie refused to sleep with her husband for fear of having to go through childbirth again.

In 1672, Hortense Mancini had left her husband and moved into the Colonna residence with Marie. Hortense’s arrival in her French fashions with her fashionable friends brought back memories of the fun of French court and the sisters were soon causing scandal throughout Rome, hosting parties and swimming in the Tiber with numerous French visitors. Lorenzo, at this stage, began to believe Marie was having an affair with the Chevalier de Lorraine and he became possessive and violent. Things became so bad that Marie believed her husband would kill her and the sisters fled from Rome.1

Read part four here.

  1. Sources:
    *Sarah Nelson: Hortense Mancini and Marie Mancini- Memoirs
    * Elizabeth Goldsmith: The Kings’ Mistresses: The Liberated Lives of Marie Mancini, Princess Colonna, and Her Sister Hortense, Duchess Mazarin,
    * C. Begg: Writing from the road- Space and the spectacle of Hortense Mancini, Duchess of Mazarin
    * Susan Shifrin: “The Wandering life I led” essays on Hortense Mancini and early modern women’s border crossings

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