The Duchess Departs

Following on from the previous post, finaly in December 1674 Cosimo di Medici’s wife the Grand Duchess Margaret Louise managed to return to France, to retire to a convent at Montmartre. This is from The Rise and Fall of the House of Medici by Christopher Hibbert:

“she saw to it that she did not go empty-handed. As well as a generous pension and lavish expenses for her journey, she was to be allowed to take hangings and beds as well as 10,000 crowns’ worth of silver. In fact she took a great deal more. … and gave away so mush money before she left that she had to ask for more in case she found herself ‘penniless on the highway’.

… she did not remain long in seclusion at Montmatre. At first she behaved with due piety and resignation, but soon she was off to Versailles, with Louis XIV’s permission. Letters from her demanding more money arrived in Florence by regular posts. She took to gambling, to wearing double layers of patches, thick rouge and a yellow wig. She was as talkative and restless as ever. She was rumoured to be having an affair with the Comte de Louvigny, with an adjutant in the Marechal de Luxembourg’s guards, as well as with a guardsman in the same regiment. Later she took a fancy to her groom who cracked nuts for her with this teeth, was allowed to win money from her at cards and who helped her to take a bath. She got deeper and deeper in debt, demanding another 20,000 crowns from Cosimo, who exasperated her by the inordinately long time he took in replying to her urgent letters. She created uproar at Montrmartre by furiously chasing a young, newly appointed abbess through the convent for having dared to criticise her conduct, brandishing a hatchet in one hand and a pistol in the other. After this escapade she obtained permission to leave Montmartre for the smaller community of Saint-Mande where she soon took another lover, this time a renegade monk.

But she was now 47 and beginning to show signs of becoming less unruly. She professed herself shocked by the goings-on at Saint-Mande where the nuns climbed over the walls at night and the Mother Superior, dressed as a man, disappeared for months on end. Impressed by her reformist zeal, the Archbishop appointed her Mother Superior in place of the absconding transvestite. Four years later she inherited a handsome fortune from her sister, and so had no need to bother Cosimo for money. She lived to the age of 76, endlessly talking bout her past, yet protesting that she never regretted having left Tuscany. ‘Ah!’ she would say, ‘I care little about that so long as I never have to set eyes on the Grand Duke again.’

I’m not sure about the transvestite nun, it may have been a goo disguise. IN England, men transporting valuables used to travel dressed as women in order to escape being searched by highwaymen. Says a lot about female grooming at the time.

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