Jump to navigation Jump to la Princesse PDF La Princesse de Clèves is a French novel which was published anonymously in March 1678. The action takes place between October 1558 and November 1559 at the royal court of Henry II of France.
The novel recreates that era with remarkable precision. Events and intrigues unfold with great faithfulness to documentary record. Mademoiselle de Chartres is a sheltered heiress, sixteen years old, whose mother has brought her to the court of Henri II to seek a husband with good financial and social prospects. When old jealousies against a kinsman spark intrigues against the young ingénue, the best marriage prospects withdraw. The young woman follows her mother’s recommendation and accepts the overtures of a middling suitor, the Prince de Clèves. After the wedding, she meets the dashing Duke de Nemours. The Princess around whom the story is told.
The daughter of Madame de Chartres and the niece of the Vidame de Chartres, she struggles throughout the novel with her duty as a wife to Monsieur de Clèves and her untimely love for the Duke de Nemours. The mother of the Princess of Clèves. She supports the marriage between her daughter and Monsieur de Clèves and warns her daughter against loving the Duke de Nemours. Her death marks a turning point for the princess as she struggles with her love.
The husband of the Princess de Clèves. He is described in the novel as having « prudence rare in the young » and, although lacking in exciting characteristics in comparison with the Duke de Nemours, has financial and social stability in the court. These characteristics make Monsieur de Clèves an attractive suitor in the eyes of Madame de Chartres, the mother of the Princess. The dashing « chef d’oeuvre de la nature » with whom the Princess de Clèves falls madly in love. His own obsession with the Princess drives him to make many advances, despite the fact that she is already married to Monsieur de Clèves. The historical Duke at the time of Henri II was Jacques of Savoy, 2nd Duke of Nemours.
This character is believed to be a representation of King Louis XIV. A young knight who is madly in love with the Princess de Clèves. A lady of the court who manages to have an affair with two men, Estouteville and the Count de Sancerre. The uncle of the Princess de Clèves and a friend of the Duke de Nemours.
The Duke often uses the Vidame as a way to his niece, the Princess, and in one case, takes blame for a letter that had fallen from the Vidame’s pocket in order to secure his good grace. The historical Vidame at the time of Henri II was François de Vendôme, Vidame de Chartres. The novel was an enormous commercial success at the time of its publication, and would-be readers outside of Paris had to wait months to receive copies. The novel also sparked several public debates, including one about its authorship, and another about the wisdom of the Princess’ decision to confess her adulterous feelings to her husband. La Princesse de Clèves marked a major turning point in the history of the novel, which to that point had largely been used to tell romances, implausible stories of heroes overcoming odds to find a happy marriage, with myriad subplots and running ten to twelve volumes.
Beginning in 2006, before he became the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy had made some negative comments about the book, arguing that it was ridiculous that civil service entrance exams had included questions on La Princesse de Clèves. In relation to this, the novel is used by French filmmaker Christophe Honoré for his 2008 film La Belle Personne. The novel was the basis of Regis Sauder’s 2011 film Nous, princesses de Clèves, in which teenagers in an inner city school are studying the novel for their Baccalaureate exam. The Novel 100, Facts on File, 2004. La Princesse as it first appeared at Concourse House. French performance art company La Machine.