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Hortense Mancini (1646–1699)

Author of Mémoires d'Hortense et de Marie Mancini

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Hortense Mancini was born Ortensia Mancini in Rome to an aristocratic Italian family. She was one of five sisters, nieces of the powerful Cardinal Mazarin, chief minister of France. After the death of Hortense's father, her mother brought the girls to Paris in the hopes of arranging advantageous marriages for them. With their two Martinozzi cousins, they were known at the French court as the glamorous "Mazarinettes." Hortense, considered her uncle's favorite, was a bold and beautiful young woman. In 1659, she attracted the attentions of the exiled and penurious Charles II, but the cardinal refused his proposal. She was then married to Armand-Charles de la Porte de La Meilleraye, twice her age, one of the richest men in Europe. The couple were given the titles Duc and Duchesse Mazarin. They had four children, but Hortense ran away from her husband in 1668 to her sister Marie Mancini, Princess Colonna, in Rome. She then went to live in Chambéry in Haute-Savoie, where she had a relationship with Charles Emmanuel II, duc de Savoie. After his death in 1675, she was forced to leave Savoie and made her way to England, where she became the official mistress of King Charles II. Her portrait was painted by Godfrey Kneller, Jacob Ferdinand Voet, and other artists. When she fell from favor, she was pensioned off by Charles and lived in style in her house in Chelsea, London. She became one of the first French women to publish her memoirs. Mémoires D. M. L. D. M. (Mémoires de Madame la Duchesse de Mazarin), was published in Cologne in 1675; they were translated into English and published in England, first in 1676 and then again in 1690.
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