Madam De La Tour Du Pin

Memoirs
  • Memoirs

  • 'A story of a simple but straightforward woman, caught up in the complications of the French Revolution' Economist


    Madame de la Tour du Pin was born Henrietta-Lucy Dillon in Paris in 1770. An aristocrat, she spent her youth surrounded by wealth and luxury. In regular attendance at Marie Antoinette's Sunday courts, she was, by her own account, 'outstanding in any gathering', rivalling even the Queen in beauty.

    At the age of 16 she is given curtseying lessons by her dancing master and is hastily married to the future Marquis de la Tour du Pin. A life of pleasure-seeking and extravagance begins, but is rudely cut short by the storming of the Bastille.

    Written for her only surviving child, this intimate record of her life recounts the terrible fate that awaited all those who attended the Court of Louis XVI during the years of the French Revolution. Throughout France appears the terrifying silhouette of a rival Madame - Madame Guillotine - and, because of her beauty, Madame de la Tour du Pin is frequently prey to the now deadly compliment of being mistaken for the Queen.

    When the king is executed, she flees Paris to travel round France, only to discover that her many properties have been plundered. When it becomes too dangerous to remain on native soil she leaves for Holland - thence to America and to England - in search of a new life, but her heart remains in Paris, whither eventually she returns, a dispossessed émigré.

    Written with great intelligence, compassion and wit, the Memoirs of Madame de la Tour du Pin provide us with a uniquely female perspective on the French Revolution. It is a valuable historical document, made all the more affecting by the author's sense of a bright and beautiful world cruelly snatched away by the forces of history.

Aristocrat Henrietta-Lucy Dillon was born to a half-French mother and Anglo-Irish father in Paris in 1770. Married at 16, she spent her early life surrounded by luxury as a regular visitor to the court of Marie Antoinette. An outstanding diarist, in her later life she wrote her memoirs for her only surviving child Aymar; the diary records her experiences during the French Revolution, which saw her fleeing France for America and England, where she lived in much reduced circumstances. She later returned and was for the last years of her life the French ambassadress to Holland and the Kingdom of Sardinia. She died in Pisa, aged 83, having witnessed the Battle of Waterloo, the fall of Napoleon and return of Louis XVIII and the Restoration.

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