DINO Duchesse de - Autograph Letter Signed while in London with Talleyrand
Dorothée de Courlande, Duchesse de DINO (1793-1862)
Autograph Letter Signed (“D”) to an unnamed correspondent [in fact, the architect Phidias Vestier], sending him two passes [not present], one for entry to the villa of the Dowager Duchess of Sutherland, the other for Bromley Hill.
3¼ pages 8vo in French, n.p. [but London], “Jeudi” n.d. [but after 1830].
Trans: “Here are the two passes – one for Westhill, villa of the Dowager Duchess of Sutherland whose garden and greenhouse are pretty, which you must go and discover. You get there by Battersea Bridge, and it takes less than an hour; it is near Wimbleton (sic). The pass is addressed to both the Housekeeper and the gardener.
The second note is for Bromley Hill. You should go there the day after tomorrow – it will take an hour and a half to get there; you pass through Greenwich and you take the road for the town of Bromley but instead of going as far as the town, you enter, about one mile before, into the Park of Lord Farnborough. Be good enough to return to me the pass from Lord Farnborough and that of the Duchess of Sutherland when you no longer need them as they have asked me to return to them.”
In a postscript she adds, “The greenhouse of Bromley Hill is, I am told, perfectly and gracefully attached to the apartment.”
The very beautiful and very wealthy German-born Dorothée de Courlande married Edmond de Talleyrand-Périgord, nephew of the great diplomat, in 1809, largely through the intercession of Tsar Alexander I. The marriage left the young Dorothée in a virtual no-man’s-land. She had been brought up in a family which had every reason to hate Napoleon and, by extension, the French, but she now found herself at the heart of the new French establishment.
The marriage proved unhappy, and by the time of the Congress of Vienna in 1814, the couple were living apart. However, it was the Congress of Vienna which propelled her into a new and far more important role in life, when she accompanied her uncle by marriage, Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand, as his hostess in Vienna. Henceforth, her place would be at his side.
They lived as a contented family together, something which surprised visitors who knew both parties prone to amorous adventures. Ferdinand I, King of the Two Sicilies, granted the Duchy of Dino to Talleyrand after the Congress of Vienna, in recognition of his services. The title was passed to Talleyrand’s nephew, and thus Dorothée became Duchesse de Dino, the title by which she is generally remembered.
When Talleyrand was appointed ambassador to London in 1830, Dorothée accompanied him. London suited her better than Paris, where she was considered ‘German’ and indeed better than her early home near Berlin, where she had come to be seen as ‘French’. For Talleyrand, the presence of a hostess who was both beautiful and extremely intelligent was a welcome asset.
It is evident that this letter dates from her time in London, between 1830 and 1838.
The unnamed recipient was in fact the architect Phidias Vestier, a protégé of Talleyrand, who was later responsible for some work at Talleyrand’s ancestral home of Valencay.
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