Dorothea of Courland – Becoming the Duchess of Dino (Part three)

dorothea courland dino
(public domain)

Read part two here.

Dorothea accompanied Charles to the Congress of Vienna as he needed someone to play the part of hostess and his wife Catherine was off having an affair with someone else. Dorothea was ready for a change of scenery, but she would have to leave her two little sons behind. This would be her one regret – to leave them behind for an undetermined amount of time. Her marriage was already over, but they would remain officially married. The gossips of Paris were soon talking about Charles and Dorothea being an item, but it is unlikely their relationship was anything but platonic.

She made Kaunitz Palace the place to be while Charles negotiated his way to a favourable settlement for France. Dorothea handled the diversity of the many guests with ease. Charles grew to trust her, and she would leave Vienna as a trusted counsellor he could count on. At the end of 1814, Dorothea fell in love with a Count Clam-Martinitz, a major in the Austrian cavalry. He was only a year older than her and was considered to be one of the most brilliant young officers. They were soon an item, and they were seen together all over Vienna. Edmond heard of his wife’s behaviour in Vienna but decided he cared too little to challenge the Count to a duel.

In February 1815, Napoleon escaped from Elba and was soon advancing on Paris. It wasn’t until July that he was defeated for good. By then Dorothea had left Vienna and – unable to return to Paris – she visited her estates in Silesia (Poland). Charles went into exile with the King to Ghent, but Dorothea wrote, “Vienna. The whole of my destiny is contained in the name of this city. Here began my life of devotion to Monsieur de Talleyrand (Charles) and here that strange and unusual association was formed to which only death was able to put an end…”1

By July 1815, King Louis XVIII was able to return to Paris, and so Dorothea returned as well. Unwilling to live with Edmond, she installed herself on the first floor of Charles’s palace. Even Count Clam-Martinitz had come to Paris, and while she was in Vienna, her husband had cared little, but in Paris, the affair became somewhat of a scandal. It was later reported that a duel was fought and that “Périgord (Edmond) was wounded by a sabre-slash across the face and that the Courlands, including his wife, are delighted. It is known that she is already trying to get a separation from him.”2 At the beginning of November, Dorothea and Count Clam-Martinitz left together for Italy and then on to Vienna.

Charles immediately appealed for her to return, much to Dorothea’s surprise. It was a difficult choice for her. She had relished the power and influence in the life she had with Charles, but Count Clam-Martinitz offered a different kind of life. In addition, returning to Paris also meant seeing her children again. In the end, she chose Paris and her affair with Count Clam-Martinitz came to an end.

In April 1816, Dorothea and Charles set out to the château of Valençay, which took some 20 hours by coach from Paris. A room was even prepared for Dorothea’s mother. They did not stay in the country for long, and they were back in Paris by the winter. In December 1817, Charles was offered a dukedom by the King of the Two Sicilies, but as he was already satisfied with his princely title, he passed the honour to his nephew, making Dorothea a Duchess in the process as well. They were to be known as the Duke and Duchess of Dino. The following year, Dorothea applied for a separation of goods between herself and Edmond, which was granted just a few months later. Though their marriage was all but over, a little flame in 1820 caused Dorothea to fall pregnant again. She gave birth to a daughter named Pauline on 29 December 1820, but Edmond went away for good six months later.

However, the Parisian gossip machine immediately assumed that Charles was Pauline’s father, though of course, the situation does raise some questions. There is no strong evidence that their relationship was ever intimate and even the age difference was not that unusual for the time. In any case, Charles was always fond of Pauline. Society gossips and the press would for many years assume that Dorothea was Charles’ mistress. She later wrote, “Living as I have done in the house of Monsieur de Talleyrand (Charles) and in his confidence, how I could escape the licence of the Press and its attacks in this most libellous age of journalism? It was long before I got used to it. I used to be deeply wounded, very much upset and very unhappy, and I shall never become completely indifferent… However, as it would be equally absurd to allow one’s peace of mind to be at the mercy of people one despises, I have made up my mind to read nothing of this kind, and the more directly concerned I am, the less I want to know about it. I do not wish to know the evil which people think or say or write about me or about my friends.”3

In 1821, Dorothea’s mother fell ill and died a short while later. The grief she felt for her mother’s death came as a surprise to her as they had not been close in her childhood. She wrote, “I am deeply distressed. I have lost immensely, both for the present and for the future. She was very dear to my heart and always ready to extend a helping hand to revive, succour or defend.”4 Charles, who had been close to Dorothea’s mother, came to depend even more on Dorothea and also on Pauline.

For the next ten years, as Charles was out of favour with the regime, they settled into a routine. Dorothea and Charles continued to dream of returning to power and divided their time between Paris and Valençay.

Read part four here.

  1. Duchess of Dino by Philip Ziegler p.127
  2. Duchess of Dino by Philip Ziegler p.129
  3. Duchess of Dino by Philip Ziegler p.152-153
  4. Duchess of Dino by Philip Ziegler p.154

About Moniek Bloks 2747 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.