Madame de Tourzel

Another great post by Elena at Tea at Trianon on the Marquise (later Duchess) de Tourzel, who became governess to the royal children after the emigration of Madame de Polignac following the storming of the Bastille.

Elena reminds us that Marie-Antoinette wrote the Marquise on that occasion: “I
entrusted my children to friendship. I entrust them
now to virtue.”

I would add competency. Madame de Tourzel was a cultivated woman who had educated her own children (a rarity in the French nobility of the time.) She was also a kind, affectionate widow who endeared herself to both Madame Royale and the second Dauphin, Louis-Charles. The rambunctious little boy fell head over heals in love with Pauline, Madame de Tourzel’s seventeen-year old unmarried daughter. One of his main fears (and one which Madame de Tourzel did not hesitate to use to great effect) was to lose the young lady’s good opinion.

Madame de Tourzel is a gifted writer, and her Memoirs (unfortunately, to my knowledge, not translated into English) were an indispensable resource while I was working on Mistress of the Revolution. In particular the part relating the atrocities of the September prison massacres relied on Madame de Tourzel’s eyewitness account.

In her Memoirs, she brings to life the claustrophobic atmosphere of the much diminished Court under siege at the Tuileries Palace after the royal family had to leave Versailles. Her integrity shines through. Unlike Madame Campan, she never embellishes for the sake of melodrama, and she is not swayed by personal prejudices. Madame de Tourzel, Pauline and her other children survived the Revolution. Afterwards she led a very retired life, surrounded by the memories of the royal family.

Much to my regret, I was unable to find a portrait of Madame de Tourzel during the Revolution. Here is represented as an elderly lady during the Restoration. Note the bust of the Dauphin on the mantelpiece. She never doubted that the child had died in the Tower of the Temple (in which she was right, as we now know.)

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4 Comments to “Madame de Tourzel”

  1. Catherine Delors says:

    Perfect, Elena, thank you!
    The French version is extremely thorough in terms of political events. Madame de Tourzel had an amazing memory.

  2. Here is the link to the online Memoirs in English; I don’t know how complete they are compared to the original French. I also just put a link on the sidebar of my blog in case this one does not work.,M1

    I know the picture you mean, Catherine, the one with the dauphin, that they are not sure about.

  3. Catherine Delors says:

    Thanks for the tip, Elena! I looked for an English version of the Memoirs, and could not find any currently in print. If you have a link, please send it. Madame Campan’s Memoirs, of course, are all over the place in translation.

    For an earlier portrait, I found a sketch of a lady with a boy, who could be Madame de Tourzel and the Dauphin, or indeed anyone else because the attribution seemed dubious.

  4. Thank you for the link, Catherine! Oh, yes, Madame de Tourzel’s Memoirs are indeed translated into English and are even online. Thank goodness for that, since she is really an indispensable source! But of course it is always best to read in the original language, if possible!

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