The Ranums' Panat Times
Correspondance du Marquis et de la Marquise de La Moussaye (1619-1663)
presented by Jean-Luc Tulot, preface by Janine Garrisson (Paris: H. Champion, 1999)
When Georges Dethan had read my chapters on "Refuges de l'Intime" in the Histoire de la Vie privée volume, he remarked that I had given no attention to intimacy between siblings. He was right. But I didn't really have good sources for this very important aspect of family history. Georges was very close to his sisters, Béatrice and Colette, therefore it is possible this his own life experiences led him to note the lacuna in my chapter. Had I had the La Moussaye correspondence, I could at least have made a stab at intimacy between sisters, and at what is surprising: deference.
The Marquise de La Moussaye (Henriette-Catherine, née de la Tour d'Auvergne) puts herself in a position of extreme deference to her sister, the Duchess de la Trémoïlle, most likely because of the tremendous difference between the two in rank and wealth. On the crucial issues in the La Moussaye household, the purchase of the comté de Quintin, and finding marriage partners for their children, Mme la Comtesse de La Moussaye defers to her sister, Mme la Duchesse de la Trémoïlle. With perhaps one exception: there is one important matter on which La Moussaye seeks help, and she practically drafts the letter on her behalf that her sister is supposed to write to a third party. The Duchess was certainly a skillful, thoughtful drafter of letters; and she just may have resented, a little, her sister's drafting of a letter to be sent in La Trémoïlle's name. Is the reaction to someone who narrates what you are to say part of the general phenomenon of intimacy? I would think so.
By contrast, the brother-in-law, the Marquis de La Moussaye, has to work at expressing gratitude and deference to his sister-in-law. When very anxious about the financial aspects of buying Quintin, he writes one letter with what would later be called a very suspicious, if not paranoid twinge. There are expressions of resentment about alleged ingratitude for all that he has done to "manage" the Estates of Brittany his sister-in-law should be more grateful toward him.
La Moussaye? A minor noble family probably would never had been able to ally with the La Tour d'Auvergne and the La Trémoïlle families in the mid-seventeenth century, had there not been a shortage of marriageable daughters in Huguenot families of princely or ducal rank. Thanks to the La Trémoïlle habit of saving correspondence and accounts (Bill Weary's thesis must not be forgotten!), a rich insight into social rank, clientage and intimacy is possible. Jean Tulot has very carefully edited these letters with little introductions alerting the reader to major themes.
The leitmotiv is the fate of Huguenots in both a local and a real-wide setting. J. Garrisson sets the stage about exclusion and the inability to believe that they are being excluded because of religion. For my part, these letters reveal that the movement of exclusion so brilliantly discerned by van Deursen, so long ago, was also occurring in the highest ranks of French society. Van Deursen's work is about exclusion from guilds and other corporate bodies. Here the exclusion comes in the form of declining powers in the Estates of Brittany, loss of patronage in church appointments and harassment from a prelate whom I had always thought congenial, Denis de la Barde, Chavigny's commis in the 1630s, diplomat in Switzerland and then bishop of Saint-Brieuc (don't forget his history of the period, and important source!). At one point relations between the Marquise and the Bishop became so tense that "plusieurs témoins déposoient avoir vu la dame de La Moussaye lever la main pour donner un soufflet à l'évêque et qu'il eut reçu, en effet, si le seigneur évêque n'eut pas été petit de stature et étant à une marche du pesron plus bas que la dame!" Something of a reconciliation took place many years later.
As always, there is a literary dimension to these letters. Mme de La Moussaye wants to please her high-ranking sister by "conversation" in writing. News about purchasing Quintin (a real financial strain!), and its reconstruction, are followed by gossip and occasional snaps at their brother for lack of attention to family matters not the Duc de Bouillon, or even the Prince de Tarente (trying hard to impose his powers in Brittany), but none other than Turenne! When Turenne does write, however, he has the letters delivered by someone; in once instance, the third party is Louis Gaucher d'Adhémar de Monteil, Comte de Grignan whose son will be in the Julie d'Angennes-Montausier circle and will wed Mme de Sévignés daughter (and whose twentieth-century "cousin" was our late friend, d'Adhémar de Panat!!). Many other prominent personages make cameo appearances in these letters. The marriage contracts enable one to sense the La Moussaye fortune. Quintin cost him 480,000 livres, a sum that required them to borrow heavily and to lean on the support of the not-so-financially-sound La Trémoïlle. The letters reveal more about rank and clientage than about religious belief. The latter is there, though, in conventional expressions, their very conventionality carrying profound belief. Let's leave the last word to the Marquise:
Le mariage de mon filz s'est accomply très heureusement, il possède [sic] une personne quy a beaucoup de bonnes qualités. J'espère que Dieu bénira ce mariage et qu'ils perpétueront dans notre maison le zèle que j'ay toujours eu à votre service et de tout ce quy vous touche.... (p. 342).
This letter is to his sister-in-law!