La Duchesse: The Life of Marie de Vignerot, Cardinal Richelieu’s Forgotten Heiress Who Shaped the Fate of France

Pegasus. Mar. 2023. 408p. ISBN 9781639363476. $28.95. BIOG
Much has been written about the French clergyman and statesman Cardinal Richelieu, but McShea (Apostles of Empire) focuses on his favored niece, Marie de Vignerot, the daughter of Richelieu’s sister Françoise. Always interested in advancing his family’s standing in the French court, Richelieu arranged an advantageous marriage for his niece. But Marie was widowed and childless after only two years. She was 18. Retreating to a nunnery, she planned to take religious vows, but was brought back to the French court by Richelieu, who convinced her to leave the religious order behind. Appointed a lady-in-waiting to French King Louis XIII’s mother, Marie de Medici, Marie de Vignerot began to make her mark in French society, eventually becoming highly influential both at court and as a patron of the arts and literature. This book is a meticulously researched work that reads like a novel. It is exceptionally well-written with rich details of 17th-century France.
VERDICT This is a fine work that sheds light on the nearly forgotten story of a consequential figure in French history.
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