Marie Anne de La Trémoille, princesse des Ursins

Marie Anne de La Trémoille, Princesse des Ursins (1642 – 5 December 1722), was a French courtier and royal favourite known for her political influence, being a de facto ruler of Spain from 1701 until 1714. She spent most of her life as an agent of French influence abroad, at first in Rome, and then in Spain under the new Bourbon dynasty, followed by a final period at the exiled Stuart court in Rome. She played a central role at the Spanish royal court during the first years of the reign of Philip V before her ousting from the country following a power struggle with Elisabeth of Parma.

Marie Anne de La Trémoille, Duchess of Bracciano, attributed to Nicolas de Largillière
Marie Anne de La Trémoille, Duchess of Bracciano


She was the daughter of the Duc de Noirmoutier and his wife Renée Julie Aubery de Tilleport. She was married young to Adrien Blaise de Talleyrand, Prince de Chalais. Her husband, having been concerned in the duel of four against four, in which the Duke of Beauvilliers was killed in 1663, was compelled to flee France. He died soon afterward in Spain, and Marie Anne, now widowed, established herself in Rome. In 1675 she married Flavio Orsini, Duke of Bracciano. The marriage was far from harmonious, but her husband left her his fortune (popular imagination thought it to be huge, in reality, the duke was almost bankrupt) and the leadership of the French party in Rome. It brought her a series of lawsuits and troubles with Livio Odescalchi, nephew of Pope Innocent XI, who claimed that he had been adopted by the duke. At last the widow sold the title and estates to Odescalchi. [1]

Princesa de los Ursinos
Marie-Anne, later the Princesse des Ursins

She then assumed the title of Princesse des Ursins, a corruption of Orsini, and was tacitly allowed to use it, though it had no legal existence. The Princesse des Ursins had indulged in a great deal of unofficial diplomacy at Rome, more particularly with Neapolitans and Spaniards of rank, whom it was desirable to secure as French partisans in view of the approaching death of Charles II of Spain, and the plans of Louis XIV for placing his family on the Spanish throne.[1]

Her services in favour of France were rewarded in 1699 by a pension which her problematic financial situation made necessary to her. When Philip de France, Duc d'Anjou, grandson of the French king, was declared heir by the will of Charles II, the princess took an active part in arranging his marriage with Princess Maria Luisa of Savoy, a daughter of the Duke of Savoy. Her ambition was to secure the post of camarera mayor de palacio, or chief of the household to the young queen, a child of barely thirteen. By quiet diplomacy, and the help of Madame de Maintenon, she succeeded, and in 1701 she accompanied the young queen to Spain.[1]

Till 1714, the year of the death of the queen, she was the most powerful person in the country. Her functions about the king and queen were almost those of a nurse. Her letters show that she had to put them to bed at night, and get them up in the morning. She gives a most amusing description of her embarrassments when she had to enter the royal bedroom, laden with articles of clothing and furniture. But if the camarera mayor de palacio did the work of a domestic servant, it was for a serious political purpose. She was expected to look after French interests in the palace, and to manage the Spanish nobles, many of whom were of the Austrian party, and who were generally opposed to foreign ways, or to interferences with the absurdly elaborate etiquette of the Spanish court.[1]

Madame des Ursins was resolved not to be a mere agent of Versailles. During the first period of her tenure of office she was in frequent conflict with the French ambassadors, who claimed the right of sitting in the council and of directing the government. Madame des Ursins wisely held that the young king should rely as much as possible on his Spanish subjects. In 1704 her enemies at the French court secured her recall. But she still had the support of Madame de Maintenon, and her own tact enabled her to placate Louis XIV.[1]


In 1705 she returned to Spain, with a free hand, and with what was practically the power to name her own ministry. During the worst times of the war of the Spanish Succession she was the real head of the Bourbon party, and was well aided by Princess Maria Luisa of Savoy, the spirited young queen of Philip V. She did not hesitate to quarrel even with such powerful personages as the Cardinal Archbishop of Toledo, Portocarrero, when they proved hostile, but she was so far from offending the pride of the nation, that when in 1709 Louis the XIV, severely pressed by the allies, threatened, or pretended, to desert the cause of his grandson, she dismissed all Frenchmen from the court and threw the king on the support of the Castilians.[1]

Her influence on the sovereigns was so strong that it would probably have lasted all through her life, but for the death of the queen. Madame des Ursins confesses in her voluminous correspondence that she made herself a burden to the king in her anxiety to exclude him from all other influence. She certainly rendered him ridiculous by watching him as if he were a child. Philip was too weak to break the yoke himself, and could insist only that he should be supplied with a wife. Madame des Ursins was persuaded by Alberoni to arrange a marriage with Elisabeth of Parma, hoping to govern the new queen as she had done the old.

However, Saint-Simon related that the princess tried first to become queen of Spain herself and, when this plan failed, she persuaded Alberoni to choose Elisabeth Farnese of Parma, hoping that Elisabeth, who could not have hoped for a royal crown, would be indebted to her. In trying to become queen, Mme des Ursins lost the last remnants of support from Mme de Maintenon; in promoting Elisabeth without French consent, she also lost Louis XIV's support.[1]

Elisabeth had, however, stipulated that she should be allowed to dismiss the camarera mayor. Madame des Ursins, who had gone to meet the new queen at Quadraque near the frontier, was driven from her presence with insult, and sent out of Spain without being allowed to change her court dress, in such bitter weather that the coachman lost his hand by frostbite. In Bayonne, she waited for a while hoping that the King would call her back, in vain. Saint-Simon believes that the dismissal had been schemed beforehand, and even happened with consent of the king. After a short stay in France, she went to Italy, and finally established herself in Rome, where she imposed her personality on the small English emigre Jacobite court of "The Old Pretender", effectively running it until she died on 5 December 1722. She had the final satisfaction of meeting Alberoni there after his fall.[1]


Madame des Ursins has the credit of having begun to check the overgrown power of the church and the Inquisition in Spain, and of having attempted to bring the finances to order.[1]

Saint-Simon, in his Mémoires, draws a devastating portrait of a scheming intrigant, and her accomplices and minion, rather unjustly, and without crediting the important and positive role the princess played in getting and keeping the royal pair on the throne, and arranging the poor finances of the kingdom of Spain.( Despite his harsh view of her political influence, Saint-Simon admits that he personally liked and admired her.) A readable life of Madame des Ursins was published in Paris in 1858 by NF Combes, and there is an English life by C Hill, The Princess des Ursins in Spain (London, 1899). See her Lettres inédites, edited by A Geoffroy (Paris, 1859), and her correspondence with Madame de Maintenon (Paris, 1826).

Madame des Ursins also is credited as having introduced the essence of bitter orange tree as a fashionable fragrance by using it to perfume her gloves and her bath. Since then, the name of Neroli (she was Princess of Nerola, in Lazio, Italy) has been used to describe this essence. Neroli has a refreshing and distinctive, spicy aroma with sweet and flowery notes.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Chisholm 1911.
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Ursins, Marie Anne de la Trémoille, Princess des" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 27 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.

1642 (MDCXLII)

was a common year starting on Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar and a common year starting on Saturday of the Julian calendar, the 1642nd year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 642nd year of the 2nd millennium, the 42nd year of the 17th century, and the 3rd year of the 1640s decade. As of the start of 1642, the Gregorian calendar was

10 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which remained in localized use until 1923.



was a common year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar and a common year starting on Monday of the Julian calendar, the 1722nd year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 722nd year of the 2nd millennium, the 22nd year of the 18th century, and the 3rd year of the 1720s decade. As of the start of 1722, the Gregorian calendar was

11 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which remained in localized use until 1923.1722

Camarera mayor de Palacio

The Camarera mayor de Palacio (First Lady of the Bedchamber) was the Official of the Royal Household and Heritage of the Crown of Spain, who was in charge of the person and the rooms of the Queen of Spain.

Charlotte de Sauve

Charlotte de Beaune Semblançay, Viscountess of Tours, Baroness de Sauve, Marquise de Noirmoutier (26 October 1551 – 30 September 1617) was a French noblewoman and a mistress of King Henry of Navarre, who later ruled as King Henry IV of France. She was a member of Queen Mother Catherine de' Medici's notorious "Flying Squadron" (L'escadron volant in French), a group of beautiful female spies and informants recruited to seduce important men at Court, and thereby extract information to pass on to the Queen Mother.


A favourite (Australian English, British English, and Canadian English) or favorite (American English) was the intimate companion of a ruler or other important person. In Post-Classical and Early Modern Europe, among other times and places, the term is used of individuals delegated significant political power by a ruler. It was especially a phenomenon of the 16th and 17th centuries, when government had become too complex for many hereditary rulers with no great interest in or talent for it, and political institutions were still evolving. From 1600 to 1660 there were particular successions of all-powerful minister-favourites in much of Europe, especially in Spain, England, France and Sweden.The term is also sometimes employed by writers who want to avoid terms such as "royal mistress", or "friend", "companion" or "lover" of either sex. Several favourites had sexual relations with the monarch (or the monarch's spouse), but the feelings of the monarch for the favourite covered the full gamut from a simple faith in the favourite's abilities to various degrees of emotional affection and dependence, sometimes even sexual infatuation.

The term has an inbuilt element of disapproval and is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "One who stands unduly high in the favour of a prince", citing William Shakespeare: "Like favourites/ Made proud by Princes".

Francesco del Giudice

Francesco del Giudice (7 December 1647 – 10 October 1725) was a Roman Catholic cardinal from 1690 to 1725 who also held a variety of other ecclesiastical and governmental offices.

Giulio Alberoni

Giulio Alberoni (30 May 1664 OS – 26 June NS 1752) was an Italian cardinal and

statesman in the service of Philip V of Spain. He is known also for being a remarkable soldier and great gourmet who advised the Spanish court on table manners and menus.

La Trémoille family

The House of La Trémoïlle was a French noble family from Poitou whose name comes from the village La Trimouille in the départment of Vienne. This family has been known since the middle of the 11th century, and since the 14th century its members have been conspicuous in French history as nobles, military leaders and crusaders, and influential as political leaders, diplomats, Huguenots and courtiers. The male line of the family died out in 1933, while female line heirs of the last duke have kept the La Trémoïlle surname alive in Belgium.

Mejorada Ministry

The Mejorada Ministry was a Spanish government which existed between 11 July 1705 to 15 April 1714. It was headed by Pedro Fernández del Campo y Angulo, Marquis of Mejorada who was appointed by Philip V, Spain's absolute monarch.

This was a transitional time for Spain, following the establishment of a new royal dynasty and Spain's part in the Great European War of the Spanish Succession being waged over the future succession of Spain. Although Mejorda was formally the head of the government, real power was invested in Jean Orry and Marie-Anne de la Trémoille, princesse des Ursins - the royal favourites. Large chunks of Spain were under foreign occupation or refused to support Phillip's claim to the throne, to which Mejorda responded with a program of centralisation.

The Government was replaced in 1714 by the Velasco Ministry following Spain's defeat in the war.

Royal Alcázar of Madrid

The Royal Alcázar of Madrid (Spanish: Real Alcázar de Madrid) was a fortress located at the site of today's Royal Palace of Madrid, Madrid, Spain. The structure was originally built in the second half of the ninth century, then extended and enlarged over the centuries, particularly after 1560. It was at this time that the fortress was converted into a royal palace, and Madrid became the capital of the Spanish Empire. Despite being a palace, the great building kept its original title of Alcázar (English: "fortress").

The first extension to the building was commissioned by King Charles I (Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor) and completed in 1537. Its exterior was constructed by the architect Juan Gómez de Mora in 1636 on a commission from King Philip IV.

As famous for its artistic treasures as it is for its unusual architecture, it was the residence of the Spanish Royal Family and home of the Court, until its destruction by fire during the reign of King Philip V (the first Bourbon king), on Christmas Eve 1734. Many artistic treasures were lost, including over 500 paintings. Other works, such as Las Meninas by Velázquez, were saved.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.