Anne Marie de la Trémoïlle Noirmoutier, Princesse Des Ursins

1642-5 December 1722

Anne Marie married to Adrien Blaise de Talleyrand in 1659. In January 1662 Talleyrand together with: Louis Alexandre de la Tremouïlle marquis de Noirmoutier; François de Grossoles marquis de Flamarens and Henri de Pardaillan-Gondrin marquis d'Antin fought a famous and deadly duel against: Tanneguy vicomte de Argenlieu; Gaston Jean Baptiste marquis de la Frette; Nicholas Gruel marquis d'Amilly and Pierre de Beauvillier chevalier de Saint Aignan. With the marquis d'Antin killed the affair made a lot of noise and death sentences were handed out by parliament, and so Talleyrand fled to to Spain. Adrien would later get wounded fighting the Portugese for Charles II, but unlike some others he was not pardonned by Louis XIV. Anne Marie had followed him and had also offered her services there but was not succesful and so the couple traveled on to Rome. Not finding any position there either Adrien traveled to Venice in order to solicit a commission there. On the road he died in Mestre in 1670. Anne Marie had remained in Rome, and had been smart enough to make some influential friends during their exile. Chief among those the cardinals of Port Carrero and d'Estrées now took care of her. It seems life became comfortable for her in Rome or at least better than she expected it to be, because she decided to stay in Rome.

Marriage to Flavio Orsini

In Rome there was also another widower. He was Flavio Orsini, Duke of Bracciano and as head of the Orsini family Grandee of Spain and prince. As the titles and the name suggests he was a man of very high rank, but he was not rich. It therefore seemed logical to try and bring him into the French camp. Cardinal d'Estrées thought this could be achieved by marrying him to a French wife and so Anne Marie's marriage to Flavio Orsini came about in February 1675. Flavio received the ordre du Saint Esprit in the same year. During her marriage Anne Marie continued to make friends and gain influence in Rome. On account of her marriage Saint Simon says about her looks and character that: The new bride was young and beautiful and knew it. In all her manners she was grace itself, noble and polite with a measure and distinction that charmed beforehand. She talked in a peculiar but natural and charming way with a natural eloquence. Talking she never showed her feelings and could very well appear to others in proportions they could handle. At her place it was all perfumes and flowers, everyone was naturally attracted to her that had even more grace in mind than in looks. Her great charm was a continual resource for her which she used frequently. This did not mean she didn't suffer setbacks: she was accused of not always being sincere, of always using artifices. She had an unlimited ambition for which nothing was sacred. She lived and died sustained by great courage in all stages and reverses of her life, but also by great abilities; a cruel enemy to some, but also a good, steady and loyal friend to others.

Trips to France

The now duchess of Bracciano held a kind of little court at Rome, but at a certain point financial difficulties induced her to stay at Versailles for a while and see what she could accomplish there. It is assumed that her prolongued stay in France lasted from 1687 till 1695 and that she lived more in Paris than at Versailles where it was said Maintenon feared her abilities. Versailles proposed to her to become lady in waiting to La duchesse d'Orleans (wife of Orleans jr.), but in the end Anne Marie thought this a bit below her standing. Anyway: she returned to Italy where she acted as a kind of agent for French interests in Rome and Naples while France was at war. Her husband had taken the emperor's side and she quarreled with him though probably on other subjects. This turned to such a battle and scandal that Flavio went into exile in Naples and stayed there for a long time.

Widow for the second time

On Flavio's death in 1698 Anne Marie had to face new challenges. She was childless and her husband had died covered in debt. Without near relations and posterity Flavio's possessions had to be sold. Livio Odescalchi bought the Duchy of Bracciano with the express condition that Anne Marie would give up the title, and she therefore styled herself princesse d'Orsini and that is where her name Princesse des Ursins originates. The sale of the duchy would however not bring in enough money to keep up her state and so Des Ursins had to look for a new career.

Connection to Savoy

It was perhaps with a view to the future that Des Ursins had visited Turin not only while passing between Rome and Paris, but also on other occasions. She had acquainted herself with the two duchess of Savoy, and kept a correspondence with them with the blessing of the duke. When the new king of Spain Felipe had to marry Marie Louise of Savoy, Louis XIV had to choose someone to handle the affair and Des Ursins was kind enough to propose herself for this job and for accompanying Marie Louise to Spain. She did this by proposing herself to La Maréchale de Noailles and the Cardinal de Noailles who happened to be in Rome at the time. These then joined Madame de Maintenon and Torcy, and so these wrote letters to the French ambassador at Madrid in April 1701 proposing Des Ursins as the most suitable candidate. All then agreed upon this choice for someone who officially only had to accompany Marie Louise to Madrid, but was in fact meant to become Camarara Mayor. The choice for Des Ursins was founded on some considerations: The candidate had to be able to form the underage princess, to amuse the couple and to bind them together. A French woman would be unacceptable to the Spanish, and a Spanish noblewoman would not be trusted by the French, and so all agreed upon Des Ursins, who spoke Spanish and whose late husband had been a grandee of Spain. Des Ursins of course jumped at the opportunity and hastened to escort the princess to Cataluna where she was married on 2 November 1701.

Camarera to the Queen of Spain

La Princess des Ursins immediately started to employ her talents, and officially became Camarera Mayor somewhere after April 1702. Her arrival at court was even later for Marie Louise only entered Madrid on 30 June 1702, while Felipe did not return to Madrid but left for Italy in April 1702. She applied herself to a regular correspondence to win over Madame de Maintenon in order to secure her influence at Versailles. She also profited fully from her old friendship with cardinal Porto Carrero, who led the junta, and with cardinal D'Estrées who was the French ambassador. The two cardinals were bitter rivals however, and she would not succeed in making them cooperate with each other. She was however much more successful in winning over the royal couple to her views and in making Maintenon believe that she could use her to govern Spain as well. Des Ursins then started to surround the royal couple with her creatures, in such a way that nothing was done without her involvement. She also helped Marie Louise to dominate Felipe so that he would not do anything without Marie Louise and Des Ursins being present. Des Ursins formed Marie Louise's social skills so well that the young queen soon 'ruled' the court, but she always did this together with Des Ursins. Soon it became apparent to the two cardinals that the king would only decide in cabinet meetings with the queen present. Cardinal D'Estrées was first to draw his conclusion and returned to France, leaving his brother the Abbé D'Estrées a replacement. Porto Carrero and Arias left the court soon after while Rivas and the king's confessor Daubenton where chased away (note that this is a very simplified version of events and that the description in the timeline section is way better). The triumph of the Princes des Ursins was complete.

The Princes Des Ursins oversteps herself

For some years Des Ursins had an equerry named D'Aubigny who, ever since traveling with her to France, was suspected of serving her not only as master of the horse. Since her victory over the cardinals Des Ursins was in the habit of opening the diplomatic post sent by the abbé D'Estrées to Versailles. At a certain time D'Estrées then sent a letter in which he complained to Versailles about this D'Aubigny, and his mastery over his mistress, and even accused them of being married. On opening this Des Ursins was enraged and added: 'Pour Mariés non!' in the margin and sent it on to Versailles. Louis XIV was probably not pleased with her remark that quietly but arrogantly admitted having a lover, but the fact that the letters of his ambassador were opened was unforgivable. Combined with the fact that the Jesuits wanted revenge for the expulsion of Daubenton by Des Ursins Louis XIV decided to recall Des Ursins from her post.

Louis was probably quite aware of the state of affairs at the Spanish court for he only took action when Felipe V was commanding the army at the border with Portugal at the end of the spring of 1704. Louis wrote a powerful letter to Felipe that induced him to send a letter to command Des Ursins to leave the court for France upon receiving the message. Of course this was a terrible blow for Des Ursins, but she arranged all that was in her power to return to Spain as quickly as possible. She went to Bayonne, and next to Toulouse. Louis hoped she would then continue to Italy, but this was not what she had planned. On one side she pressed for De Maintenon to support her, on the other side Marie Louise fought for her at court. Thus their first victory was the replacement of the Abbé D'Estrées by the Duke of Gramont a move with which Versailles hoped to placate Marie Louise. With this the last Frenchman of confidence was removed from the court and now Des Ursins proved herself capable of ruling Spain from Toulouse. Des Ursins was way too clever to make any overt move to Paris, but slowly she was allowed to approach the capital. Meanwhile it seems that the Duke of Gramont took Marie Louis's (and Des Ursins') party at Madrid, and combined with De Maintenon's exertions Des Ursins finally got permission to vindicate herself at Paris.

Triumph at Versailles

By her triumphant entree at Versailles on 10 January 1705 Des Ursins again demonstrated her talents. At first assuming the role of someone disgraced and humiliated, but later that of a mistreated princess, she swept all before her. During a few months she enchanted the king and when it was finally decided she should return to Spain she could make her demands. She got a duchy for her brother M. de Noirmoutier. Her other brother was made a cardinal, and she was given Amelot as ambassador. Furthermore she got permission to engage herself in all matters of state, to do what she thought appropriate, and it was agreed that she would be informed of all communication from Versailles to Spain. When she returned to Spain in summer 1705 her power was greater than ever.

Second term at Madrid

With affairs now more to her liking Des Ursins started a second term of rule together with Marie Louise. In 1707 the situation of Felipe improved drastically with the victory of Almanza in 1707, and she had little trouble to get rid of the Duke of Orleans who had been sent to command the French troops. Vendome's victory over Stanhope in December 1710 then secured Felipe's rule over Spain. Even before this Des Ursins was keen on getting the one goal she could still achieve: i.e. sovereignty over a territory. At her insistence there was talk of reserving a very small territory of the Spanish Netherlands for her benefit at the peace talks, but the other European powers did not like the project at all and so it came to nothing. The royal couple then proposed a territory in Spain itself, but this was vehemently opposed by Louis XIV, and so Des Ursins remained a princess without territory, and perhaps lost the goodwill of Louis and De Maintenon in this way.

Marie Louise dies

On 14 February 1714 Queen Marie Louise died and the prospects of the Princes Des Ursins changed somewhat. She still held the reigns of power in hand however, and she continued to rule Spain. It was however necessary to remarry the king and so Des Ursins started a quest to find a princess. Her requirements were that she wasn't to smart and without many powerful relations, in short she looked for a bride who would be totally dependent on her. Now at Madrid there resided an abbé Alberoni, a rather intimate friend of the late Duke of Vendome. He had been promoted to ambassador of Parma, and so he proposed the Princes Elizabeth Farnese of Parma. To put it short: On meeting the Princes of Parma near the Spanish border at Quadraque Des Ursins was met with insult and immediately banished from Spain.

The Princes Des Ursins returns to France

After arriving at Bayonne Des Ursins waited a few days for permission to come to court and when that didn't arrive she slowly traveled to her brother the Duke of Noirmoutier in February 1715. (I do not know what happened to her friend D'Aubigny who had settled in France with a lot of money.) Messages now arrived from De Maintenon forbidding her to come near the Palais Royal and Marly and forbidding her from staying the night at Versailles. De Maintenon also compelled others to declare they would not see her. Finally she was granted two short audiences with the king and De Maintenon in which they advised her to return to Italy with a nice pension. Perhaps Des Ursins was still not certain about the possibilities of reviving her fortune, but when the health of Louis XIV began to decline, her fear of the Duc d'Orleans complied her to leave. When at Lyon she heard of Louis XIV's death and she then hastened to Marseille and Genoa where she stayed for more than a year. She finally went to Rome where she stayed in great style, went to the court in exile of James of England and dominated that court for a while. On 5 December 1722 the Princesse Des Ursins died at a very advanced age while whole in body and spirit.


For this small biography I used: The appendix of book V of the memoirs of Saint Simon;