Summary & Commentary 

The closing years of the reign of Henry the second were distinguished by a splendour and galanterie which have never been surpassed.
(N.B. Galanterie means homage and favours rendered to ladies).

The King was handsome and of an amorous disposition liking the company of all the ladies. His love affair with his mistress Diane de Poitiers (Duchesse de Valentinois) had lasted over twenty years but was still as passionate as ever. He enjoyed all manner of sports, wearing the colours of his mistress at the tournaments, who attended dressed as youthfully as her teenage granddaughter.

Her presence appeared to be sanctioned by the presence of the Queen (Catherine of Medici), who retained her beauty into middle age. She had married the future King when he was Duke of Or1eans and when it was assumed that the crown would pass to his elder brother, who had died, however (in l536.)

The Queen was ambitious and enjoyed the throne. She did not appear to resent the King's liaison with Diane de Poitiers but she hid her feelings so skilfully that it was difficult to know. It was also good politics for her to keep close to Diane de Poitiers as by this she ensured that she kept close the King.

Page 2: il semblait qu’elle souffrait sans peine l’attachement du roi pour la duchesse de Valentinois, et elle n’en témoignait aucune jalousie; mais elle avait une si profonde dissimulation, qu’il était difficile de juger de ses sentiments; et la politique l’obligeait d’approcher cette duchesse de sa personne, afin d’en approcher aussi le roi.

Never have so many beautiful ladies and handsome men appeared in a court:

(1)        The Queen’s daughter - Elizabeth of France, later to be Queen of Spain, now showing admirable wit and of matchless beauty.

  1. Mary Stuart of Scotland who had recently (l558) married the heir to the throne - (The Dauphin). Although very young (sixteen years) she was admired for her wit and beauty and was perfectly at home in the French court where she had been brought up.

(3)        Marguerite of France (Madame, soeur du roi) like the Queen loved music and poetry and maintained these tastes established in the court by the late King.

The authoress lists the brilliant nobility of the court:

(4)        The King of Navarre.

(5)        The Duke de Guise - was a brilliant general and a wise statesman.

(6)        The Cardinal de Lorraine, his brother was a man of excessive ambition.

(7)        The Chevalier de Guise (later Grand Prior of Malta) -handsome - witty - valiant.

(8)        The Prince de Condé - physically deformed - but possessing great charm.

  (9)     The Duke de Nevers - now an old man but previously a notable general and statesman.
 (10)    His second son the Prince de Clèves — a worthy heir to his noble father.

Two outstanding beaux were:­

  1. The Vidame de Chartres -  was handsome, valiant, galant.


(12)      The Duke de Nemours  — who alone surpassed him. The authoress describes him as a masterpiece of nature;

Page 4  ce prince était un chef d’oeuvre de la nature; ce qu’il avait de moins admirable était d’être l’homme du monde le mieux fait et le plus beau.  Ce qui le mettait au-dessus des autres, était une valeur incomparable, et un agrément dans son visage, et dans son esprit, dans son visage, et dans ses actions.

Nemours was valiant, charming, popular with men  and women, skilled in all sports. All eyes were attracted to him. All women were attracted to him. He enjoyed galanterie and had several mistresses - but it was difficult to decide whom he truly loved.
He was often seen with Mary Stuart and their conduct might suggest he aspired to her love.

Mary Stuart was the niece of the Guises who had increased their standing by her marriage. `They were ambitious and hoped to take over some of the power then exercised by the Constable of France, on whom the King relied for the running of the country.

The Duc de Guise was already the Kings favourite along with the Marechal de St. André.

The two factions fighting for power and influence at the court were thus the Guise family and the Constable. To each it was important to win the support of Diane de Poitiers, the real power behind the throne.

Diane de Poitiers was becoming anxious at the growing influence of the Duc de Guise and had delayed Mary Stuart’s marriage as far as she could. Above all she hated his brother, the Cardinal de Lorraine, who had treated her with disrespect and who was now becoming close to the Queen.

Diane de Poitiers was thus in agreement when the Constable sought to ally himself with her, by marrying his son (M. d’Anville) to her granddaughter. Unfortunately the young man was hopelessly in love with Mary Stuart and was interested in no other woman.

The Maréchal du St. André was the only man at the Court who belonged to neither faction. He was the King’s other favourite and had been his friend for many years. He was a man of merit and charm and the King lavished gifts on him.

The years of Henry II’s reign had been years of military success against the Emperor and the combined forces of Spain and England (under Mary Tudor). Now however honours were becoming more even and a stalemate was being reached. There were moves towards peace.

Negotiations at Cercamp prepared a peace treaty -the main articles of which were that the King’s daughter Elizabeth of France would marry the eldest son of the King of Spain and Marguerite, Madame the King's sister, would marry the Duke of Savoy.

At the same time Mary of England died and Henry made moves to reconcile England and France by recognising the succession of Elizabeth. The French emissary returned saying that Elizabeth appeared to be captivated by the reputation of the Duke de Nemours and suggested that marriage might be possible. The King was in favour and wished Nemours to go to England. Nemours, however, thought this would be presumptuous on his part and would leave him open to a humiliation. Instead, he sent his favourite to find out the sentiments of Queen Elizabeth.

  The death of Queen Mary of England raised obstacles to the peace treaty and negotiations were broken off.

  At this time there appeared at the Court a young lady, in her sixteenth year, whose beauty was remarkable even among the many beautiful ladies of’ the court. She belonged to the house of Chartres and was a rich heiress.

   Her widowed mother had paid great attention to her education while they had lived away from the court, cultivating not only her wit and her beauty but also a respect for virtue.


  Some mothers believe that virtue is taught by avoiding the subject of personal relationships, but Madame de Chartres told her daughter about the relations of men and women, warning of men’s deceits, of the dangers of love affairs, how virtue enhances the character, but requires strict self control. Finally that true happiness comes from loving one’s husband and being loved by him.

  Page 11:  …elle lui contait le peu  de sincérité des hommes, leurs tromperies et leur infidélité, les malheurs domestiques où plongent les engagements (love affairs); et elle lui faisait voir, d’un côté, quelle tranquillité suivait la vie d’une honnête femme, et combien la vertu donnait d’éclat et elévation à une personne qui avait de la beauté et de la naissance.

  (N.B. Mlle. de Chartres is a fictitious character, but the authoress surrounds her with real historical figures and puts her in the family of the historical Vidame de Chartres).

 Madame de Chartres was very proud and regarded few men as worthy of her daughter. Thus in her sixteenth year, she brought her to the court.

The head of the family, the dashing Vidame de Chartres came to meet them and was struck by her beauty. (N.B. how little detail we have in her personal description - what counts for the authoress is her character).


Page 11:  La blancheur de son teint et ses cheveux blonds lui donnaient un éclat que l’on n’a jamais vu qu’à elle; tous ses traits étaient réguliers. Et son visage et sa personne étaient pleins de grâce et de charme.


The day after her arrival at the court, Mlle.. de Chartres went to a rich Italian jeweller’s to match up somestones. The Prince de Clèves came in and was struck by her beauty. He wondered who she was and if she was married. 


He noticed her modesty as she showed genuine embarrassment his gaze.

Page 12:  il demeura si touché de sa beauté, et de l’air modeste qu’il avait remarqué dans ses actions, qu’on peut dire qu’il conçut pour elle, dès ce moment, une passion et une estime extraordinaires. Clèves frequented the society of Marguerite de France Madame, soeur du roi. He was full of the praises of the unknown young girl he had seen. Her lady in waiting guessed he was describing Mlle. de Chartres. Madame promised he would meet her there the next day.

The next day the three queens received Mlle.. de Chartres admiring her beauty. Then Madame, soeur du roi, introduced her to M. de Clèves.

M de Clèves begged her to remember that he had been the first to admire her, even before he had known her rank.

M de Clèves’ friend the chevalier de Guise was also smitten by her beauty.
Mlle. de Chartres became popular at court especially with Mary Stuart and the King’s young daughters.

The only person at court who regarded her with disfavour was Diane de Poitiers. She was angered by the closeness of the Vidame de Chartres to the Queen, and her disapproval fell on the whole family of Chartres.

The Prince de Clèves was passionately in love with Mlle. de Chartres but he did not dare to ask for her hand, knowing the pride of Mme. de Chartres, as he was not the eldest son of the Duc de Nevers.

Also he feared his father, who had close ties with Diane de Poitiers, would disapprove of a marriage with the Chartres family.

The rival he feared most was the Duke de Guise. Even though they did not speak of their love, their friendship had been cooled by this rivalry.

At the court Mme. de Chartres continued the education of her daughter, stressing the need for virtue in a court full of the conflicts of amorous intrigues and ambition -where there were many warring factions.

Each of the Queens had her own following. Each grouping was jealous of the other, and the ladies of each grouping were jealous of each other in the group either over favour or over a lover. Thus the court was a lively fascinating place for a young girl, but also very dangerous.

Thus Mme. de Chartres begged her daughter to treat her like a friend, not like a mother and confide in her about any amorous approaches.

The Chevalier de Guise made no secret of his love for Mlle de Chartres - but he knew he had not enough riches to be eligible. - He knew that his elder brother would not approve as the marriage of a youngest brother reduced the family wealth.

The Cardinal de Lorraine his brother, had another reason. He had a secret hatred for the Vidame de Chartres. He made public his opposition to the match and Mme. de Chartres and the Vidame reacted by saying they had given no thought to this marriage.

The old Duke de Nevers was so angry when his son maintained his intention to marry Mlle de Chartres that reports reached the court. Mme. de Chartres was resentful and looked for another match.

Using great skill and with the support of the Vidame de Chartres, Mme. de Chartres thought she had found a good match in the eldest son of the Duke de Montpensier, who seemed to desire the match.

The Vidame tried to use M. d’Anville, the Constable’s son to obtain the King’s approval and the approval of the Duke de Montpensier. Knowing that M. d’Anville was hopelessly in love with Mary Stuart he asked this Queen to persuade M. d’Anville to do this office. She agreed, even though it would offend her uncle the Duke de Guise, whom she now felt was getting too close to Catherine de Medici, the Queen.

An important intermediary in these negotiations was Châtelart, the friend and confidant of M. d’Anville.  In his closenss to the Constable’s son, he saw a lot of the Dauphiness and he too fell madly in love with her.   Madame de Lafayette tells us;
Page 19
…ce fut en le voyant souvent qu’il prit le commencement de cette malheureuse passion qui lui ôta la raison, et qui lui coûta la vie.

(Her account is delicately reticent.  She does not tell us the harsh unseemly details, which she would have found in the history written by Brantôme that he was twice found hiding in Mary Stuart’s bedroom and was executed for his audacity.

M. d’Anville was glad to help. However by the time he spoke to the Queen, Diane de Poitiers had intervened and had warned the King against the marriage. The King told M. d’Anville that he disapproved of this match.

Mary Stuart had to apologise — explaining that she was hated by the Queen and by the King’s favourite Diane de Poitiers, who obstructed all her wishes.

She explains that they hate her because of her mother. The King had loved her mother before he fell for Diane de Poitiers. When in the early years of his marriage, Catherine de Medici had failed to give him children, he considered divorcing her to marry Mary’s mother.

Diane de Poitiers had been jealous of the King marrying a lady he had loved and joined with the Constable to prevent the divorce and to marry her to the King of Scotland. Thus disappointing Henry XVIII of England who also wished to marry her.

Thus her mother loved by three Kings had married the least. Mary fears the same ill fortune in her life.

Now no suitors dared think of Mlle. de Chartres, fearing the King’s displeasure, or fearing that she would consider only a Royal Prince. Nevertheless the obstacles had been removed from M. de Clèves. At this time his father the Duke de Nevers had died.

He recognises that a stroke of luck has removed the other suitors but he would have preferred the good fortune of her love.

Meeting her at last in some privacy, he told her of his feelings for her, and she replied with a sweetness which gave him hope.

Mlle. de Chartres told her mother who told her she approved of M. de Clèves and would give her consent. Mlle. de Chartres said she admired his qualities and would marry him with less reluctance than anyone else, but she felt no special inclination for him.

Page 22   ( Her mother had praised his fine qualities: his grandeur, his wisdom) Mademoiselle de Chartres répondit qu’elle lui  remarquait les mêmes bonnes qualités; qu’elle l’épouserait même avec moins de répugnance qu’un autre; mais qu’elle n’avait aucune inclination particulière pour sa personne.

Right the next day, M. de Clèves asked her mother’s permission. She, having no fear that her daughter could not love such a man, accepted. The marriage contract was drawn up with the approval of the King.

M. de Clèves was unhappy to see that her feelings for him did not go beyond esteem and gratitude.

Practically every day, he complained to her that her responses were those of a bride in a marriage of convenience.

Page 23   vous n’êtes pas plus touchée de ma passion que vous le seriez d’un attachement qui ne serait fondé que sur les avantages de votre fortune, et non pas sur les charmes de votre personne.

She protested that she blushes at his presence. He says this is nothing more than modesty.

Mlle.. de Chartres did not know what to reply. She did not understand these distinctions and M. de Chartres realises this.

Page 23  Mademoiselle de Chartres ne savait que répondre, et ces distinctions étaient au-dessus de ses connaissances.  M de Clèves ne voyait que trop bien combien elle était éloignée d’avoir pour lui des sentiments qui le pouvaient satisfaire, puisqu’il lui paraissait même qu’elle ne les entendait pas. ( understood)

Le Chevalier de Guise returned to Paris and was heartbroken to hear of the match. Mlle.. de Chartres felt pity for him but nothing more.  Her mother realised from her confidences that she loved neither her future husband nor anyone else. She deliberately reminded her daughter of’ M. de Clèves love for her and how he had loved her when no other man dared to think of’ her.
The marriage took place. But M. de Clèves did not find the place in his wife’s heart he desired. He was still the languishing lover.

There was no question of jealousy, in spite of the attentions of the beaux of the court; her behaviour was exemplary and her mother was there to give support.

During this time, the Duke de Nemours, who had been in Brussels awaiting news from his emissary to Elizabeth, had now grown to believe the marriage to the Queen was possible and the reports from England were encouraging.

He returned to Paris for a court wedding – the wedding of the king’s daughter Claude de France to le duc de Lorraine- also to prepare a magnificent retinue for his journey to London. Mme. de Clèves was not at the court when he visited the Queens but she had heard so much about him that she was impatient to see him.

At the marriage ball, she had just finished dancing and was looking for her next partner. A man had entered causing some commotion. The King tells her to take the newcomer. The latter climbed over the chairs to the floor. From his striking looks, Mme. de Clèves knew him to be Nemours. They were both equally struck with the other. They made such a handsome couple that there were murmurs of admiration.

After the dance they were introduced. Modestly Mme. de Clèves said that she had not known who Nemours was. Mischievously Mary Stuart denies this and says Nemours should be flattered by this pretence.

The Chevalier de Guise still enthralled with her.  He recognised sorrowfully that fate had contrived a romantic and extraordinary meeting between Mme. de Clèves and Nemours.

Mme. de Clèves returned home excited, full of praise for M. de Nemours, so that her mother also had suspicions.

The big court wedding of the Duke of Lorraine took place the next day and she saw Nemours there. In the following days she saw him constantly at tennis with the King, tilting at the ring.

To her, Nemours seemed to surpass all others in his appearance and in his wit and he made a great impression on her.

Nemours was strongly attracted to her. Seeing each other often, and each recognising the other as the most perfect in the court, inevitably they got infinite pleasure from their frequent meetings.

(Now begins the first secondary episode). Mme. de Chartres tells how it came about that the King is so much in love with Diane de Poitiers who is much older than he is, who was the mistress of his father and has other lovers besides the King.

Mme. de Chartres expresses her incomprehension about the King’s attachment to his mistress. Even if she had been young and beautiful, had been faithful to him, had loved him for himself alone without concern for glory and power, and had used her power honestly and in the King’s interest alone, it would have been difficult not to praise his passion for her.

Mme. de Chartres feels the need to make an apology for this historical account. Her daughter replies that, on the contrary until now she has felt ignorant of the factions and intrigues at the court. She had not realised until recently the enmity between the Constable and the Queen as their conduct does not reveal this.

Her mother warns about the hypocrisy of the court.

Page 30    Si vous jugez sur les apparences en ce lieue-ci, répondit Madame de Chartres, vous serez souvent trompée, ce qui paraît n’est presque jamais la vérité.
Diane came from the family of the Duke of Aquitaine. Her father was involved in treason but was pardoned on the scaffold at the intervention of his daughter, who became the late King’s mistress.

Later Madame d’Etampes replaced her as mistress.

When the King’s eldest son died, Diane proposed to make his second son love her, to make him more lively and attractive as he seemed then unsuitable for the throne.

Madame d’Etampes, jealously disapproved and the King was also angry. But the new Dauphin was captivated by Diane, The King gave his preference to his third son, the Duke of Orleans, causing hatred between the brothers. Mme. d’Etampes also supported the younger brother. The constable supported the Dauphin.

Mme. d’Etampes committed an act of treason to prevent the Dauphin winning an outright victory against the Emperor, who was favourable to the Duke of Orleans. Shortly afterwards, the Duke of Orleans died of the plague and the King himself died shortly after.

The first thing the new King did was to recall the Constable to govern the country and drive out Mme. d’Etampes.

During the 12 years of the King‘s reign, Diane de Poitiers had had absolute control of everything, expelling all her enemies.

Mme. de Chartres tells of noblemen who have given cause for jealousy to the King. Either the King was unaware of these or he did not dare complain.

The passion of Nemours for Mme. de Clèves was so violent that he turned away from his former loves (including Mary Stuart) without giving them any explanation. He lost interest even in his visit to England.

(The Historian Brantôme records that perhaps other loves caused the change in Nemours).

Nemours saw Mme. de Clèves often with Mary Stuart. He was happy to let people believe Mary was still the object of his attentions. No one noticed the change in the direction of his feelings, except Mme. de Clèves whose own love enhanced her perceptions. The Chevalier de Guise was also aware (for the same reason).

Without any explicit purpose she didn’t tell her mother of the sentiments of Nemours towards her but her mother realised and was alarmed for she knew the danger of loving Nemours.

Page 37:  Cette connaissance lui donna une douleur sensible, elle jugeait bien le péril où était était cette jeune personne, d’être aimée d’un homme fait comme M. de Nemours pour qui elle avait de l’inclination.

Mme. de Chartres suspicions were confirmed by certain events, which occurred before the ball which the Maréchal de Saint-André was to give for the royal family in his splendid new home.

A few days before, the Dauphin was taken ill and Mary Stuart was unable to go to the Queen's court that evening. She remained at home selecting jewels for the ball with her intimate friend Mme. de Clèves.

The Prince de Condé who called in to find the reason for their absence reported with puzzlement some words of Nemours at the court. Nemours had said that a lover would prefer the woman he loved not to go to a ball, because if the woman loved him in return, they would find that the preparation for the ball, the social activity of the ball, the enjoyment of the sense of her own beauty  a distraction to their love.

If the lady did not love him, to see her at the ball would displease him even more. He would then fear that she might find love with some one else.

Finally the greatest suffering was for her to be there and for him to be absent.

Mme. de Clèves understands what Nemours means, knowing that duties for the King prevent Nemours attending the ball.

The Prince added that there was only one occasion when Nemours was glad to see his mistress at the ball was last year when his mistress came to the ball he himself gave for Mary Stuart. Then she could see him proudly entertaining the court.

Mary Stuart shows her mischievous sense of humour when she says that Nemours was right, so many ladies at that ball had been his mistresses, the house would have been empty without them.

Mme. de Clèves was pleased to find a moral pretext not to go to the ball. She told her mother circumstances could be embarrassing because the Marshall was attracted to her and probably intended to honour her as much as the King.

Her mother tried to change her mind telling her that this could not be stated publicly as a reason for her absence. Mme. de Clèves pretended an illness therefore in two days before the ball.

Nemours returned to Paris the day after the ball. He saw Mme. de Clèves at the court of Mary Stuart. The former was trying to look like a convalescent but the latter perceptibly observed that Nemours’ words had made Mme. de Clèves think she would be favouring her admirer the Marshall by going to his ball.

Nemours now knew that his speech had. been reported to Mme. de Clèves before she absented herself from the ball. However, Mme. de Chartres quickly covers for her daughter and convinces Mary Stuart her daughter’s illness was real.

Nemours had noticed. that Mme. de Clèves had blushed and he suspected the truth. Mme. de Clèves was a little disappointed that her mother’s lies were totally effective and. had convinced. Nemours.

Nemours was happy to see his rival, the Marshall, leave court to join new peace talks with the Emperor.

Mme. de Chartres pretending to be unaware of her daughter’s feelings for Nemours praised him to her in very ambivalent terms. She praised him for being incapable of falling in love and for looking for pleasure with women not for a serious attachment.

Page 42:   Elle se mit un jour à parler de lui: elle lui en dit du bien, et y mêla beaucoup de louanges empoisonnées sur la sagesse qu’il avait d’être incapable de devenir amoureux, et sur ce qu’il ne se faisait qu’un plaisir, et non pas un attachement sérieux du commerce des femmes.

Nevertheless rumour had it that he Nemours had a great passion for Mary Stuart and Mme. de Chartres advises her daughter to frequent the company of the Dauphiness less, otherwise she could be regarded as a confidante in this affair.

Mme. de Clèves had never heard these rumours and her pain shows on her face. This strong emotion forced Mme. de Clèves to admit to herself that she was interested in Nemours.

She recognises that the feelings she has for Nemours are those which M. de Clèves had so often asked for. She is hurt to feel that Nemours might have been using her as a cover for his love for Mary Stuart and she resolves to confide in her mother. But the next morning Mme. de Chartres has a fever and they cannot talk.

In the afternoon Mme. de Clèves found Mary Stuart and her ladies wandering at the change in Nemours conduct. He has now forsaken all his many mistresses.

Delicately Mary Stuart says that Nemours was not too fastidious in his mistresses at times.
She tells how he was before he went to Brussels:

Page 43
Devant que d’y aller, il avait un nombre infini de maîtresses, et cétait même un défaut en lui; car il ménageait également celles qui avaient du mérite et celles qui n’en avaient pas.

Mme. de Clèves feels some bitterness towards Mary and later in private tells her she must know that she, the Dauphiness is the cause of Nemours changed conduct.

Mary Stuart denies this with convincing sincerity and says Nemours has now ceased his attentions towards her. Mme. de Clèves feels relieved.

Mme. de Chartres illness grows worse. Her daughter never leaves her side and M. de Clèves, whose passion for his wife has not diminished, supports his wife in her distress.

M. de Nemours comes frequently to the house during the illness on the pretext of seeing his friend, M. de Clèves. He contrived to be alone with Mme. de Clèves and let her know from the tone of his voice who was the real object of his affections.

Page 45
Il lui faisait voir combien il prenait d’intérêt à son affliction et il lui en parlait avec un air si soumis, qu’il la persuadait aisément que ce n’était pas de madame la dauphine don’t il était amoureux.

Mme. de Clèves was troubled by mixed emotions on seeing Nemours. Realising that the pleasure she felt on seeing him was the start of love, she felt close to hating him.

After the doctors break the news to Mme. de Chartres that she is dying, she calls her daughter to her.

She tells her daughter that the acute grief she feels on leaving her is sharpened by the danger in which she leaves her. She has long been aware of her daughter’s attraction to Nemours but had feared that by speaking she would have merely helped her daughter to recognise her own sentiments.

She exhorts her daughter to think of what she owes her husband and herself and her reputation.

Page 46

Songez ce que vous devez à votre mari; songez ce que vous devez à vous-même, et pensez que vous allez perdre cette réputation que vous êtes acquise et que je vous ai tant souhaité

She tells her daughter to have the strength of will to retire from the court. However painful this may be, it will be less so than the misfortunes of a love affair.

Finally she pleads that on her deathbed she should not have her prospects of happiness in the life to come spoiled by the sight of her daughter’s downfall.

Mme. de Clèves bursts into tears. But her mother beaks off the conversation distressing to them both. She died two days later without seeing her daughter, the only love of her life.


Summary & Commentary  Part Two

Mme. de Clèves sorrow was unparalleled. It was increased by the need to defend herself against Nemours which her duty to her mother imposed on her. Now she had no confidante to help her control her turbulent emotions.

Her husband took her away to the country away from her unhappy memories.

He had never left her side in her bereavement and she was even more determined to fulfil her duty to him. She felt for him more affection and tenderness than ever before and hoped to protect herself from Nemours by staying at his side.

She was determined to avoid seeing Nemours.

She reproached her husband when affairs of court kept him away from her for two days. That morning, news of the death of the young and beautiful Mme. de Tournon had added to her sorrow.

Her husband apologised for his delayed return. He had had to stay to console an unhappy friend, desolate over the death of Mme. de Tournon. He must however undeceive his wife about the latter’s merit. Although publicly Mme. de to Tournon pretended that since the death of her husband she could love no other man, M. de Clèves had long known that she had a secret liaison with the Count de of Sancerre.  Now he has been astonished to learn that she was at the same time giving the same hopes of marriage to Estouteville.

(Now begins the 2nd subsidiary story. Although the characters are historical the story appears to be an invention)

Sancerre who was M. de Cleve’s close friend had hidden his love for Mme. de Tournon from him. M. de Clèves discovered the affair by chance. He had confided in Sancerre a secret o£ a jealous quarrel between the King and Diane de Potiers over a ring, which the King believed she had given to a departing lover- le maréchal de Brissac. The next day M. de Clèves heard the same story from Mme. de Tournon and he knew that Sancerre had passed it on to her. Clèves was angry and Sancerre confessed the truth and that Mme. de Tournon was resolved to marry him in spite or his limited wealth. Clèves felt anxious about a woman who could maintain such a hypocritical pose. However, Sancerre was able to excuse her pretence and M. de Clèves became reassured on seeing the two together. Mme. de Tournon began to return to social life..

In time Sancerre detected a cooling in her feelings. He felt also that after 2 years their marriage was even further off. Clèves felt that the marriage would in any case harm his reputation (as he was not rich enough for her and could be suspected of self- interest) and that a secret affair would be the best. Clèves told his friend that he should invite his mistress to confide in him and should respect her if she confided that she did not love him or loved someone else.

Mme. de Clèves blushed when her husband added that he respected sincerity so much that if his mistress or even his wife confessed to him that she loved someone else, he would forget he was a lover or a husband to advise and pity her.

Page 53 la sincérité me touche d’une telle sorte, que je crois que, si ma maîtresse, et même ma femme, m’avouait que quelqu’un lui plût, j’en serais affligé sans en être aigri; je quitterais le personnage d’amant ou de mari, pour la conseiller ou pour la plaindre.

Sancerre spoke to his mistress but she was merely offended at his suspicions. Nevertheless she postponed their marriage until after a long journey he had to make.

On arriving in Paris two days ago, M. de Clèves had heard of the death of Mme. de Tournon. He had hastened to console Sancerre, who had just returned to Paris. He found him inconsolable, sure that she would have married him on his return, even though he had had few letters from her while he had been away.

M. de Clèves had to leave him to go to the court. When he returned shortly afterwards, he found Sancerre’s mood totally changed. He was furiously angry, having discovered that his mistress had been unfaithful to him. He now suffered from the pangs of jealousy as well as the pangs of bereavement.

Sancerre explains that his friend Estouteville had just visited him and had in great distress, unaware of Sancerre’s love, confided his own love for Mme. de Tournon. He had told Sancerre that he had loved Mme. de Tournon for six months, but that she had expressly forbidden that he should speak of it to his friend Sancerre. He, Estouteville, was to marry her at the time of her death and she had arranged that for appearance’s sake, her father would command this marriage.

Estouteville convinced Sancerre when he showed him letters from Mme. de Tournon, which were full of affection, such as Sancerre had never known.

Sancerre thus suffered pains of her death and of her infidelity.

M. de Clèves seeing his friend so distraught arranged for his brother to keep him company and to avoid further distress he made arrangements to keep Estouteville from him.

Mme. de Clèves was surprised at this deceit. M. de Clèves pointed out the extent of this deceit. In fact, it had been Estouteville and not Sancerre who had been the reason for her coming out of her solitude- a truth she had successfully contrived to hide from Sancerre.

M. de Clèves insisted on returning to Paris to see Sancerre and said that it was time now for Mme. de Clèves to return to society, after her bereavement.

Mme. de Clèves agreed believing her feelings for Nemours had been completely erased by the words of her mother and the sorrow of her death. (She believes she has lost her love for Nemours).

On the evening of her return, Mary Stuart came to see her to express her condolences and to distract her with news of the court in her absence.
She tells her that Nemours is still passionately in love, so much so that he neglects the crown of England, but no-one knows the name of his mistress.

The King had received a letter from Nemours’ Ambassador to Elizabeth, saying that Nemours should now go to England.  Nemours had laughed it off as likely to lead to humiliation for him and argued that Elizabeth was now considering a match with Philip of Spain or that she would choose instead Lord Courtenoy. The King had shown that neither of these was a possibility. 

The other courtiers felt Nemours was distracted by his new love. The Vidame de Chartres believed that his mistress did not return his love, as he was never seen close to any lady or seen slipping away to secret meetings.

Once again Mme. de Clèves was under the charm of Nemours -full of gratitude and tenderness to know that he was turning down a crown for love of her. Her emotions were such that had Mary Stuart had any suspicions she would have easily have perceived her confusion.

But then Mary Stuart reported M. d’Anville’s view that she, Mary, was the object of his love. This aroused a new turmoil in Mme. de Clèves, but Mary Stuart went on to deny the possibility.  Nemours had never shown feelings of this nature towards her.

Mary leaves urgently to help the King to persuade his daughter, Madame, Elizabeth of France, who under the revised peace treaty terms is to marry the aged Philip 11 of Spain. Also to rejoice with Marguerite, the sister of the King on her betrothal to the Duke of Savoy.
Thc King and the court visited Mme. de Clèves. Nemours waited to see her alone. After she received him on her bed (the custom for formal receptions) they sat in timid silence for a long time.

They talk formally about the bereavement. Mme. de Clèves says she believes she will be permanently changed by this sad experience. Nemours says violent passion can also cause changes. Changes have been noted in him but a man would wish that the woman he loved was also aware. Aware that no other woman or no ambitions could distract him.
Page 64

L’on voudrait qu’elles sussent qu’il n’y a point de beauté, dans quelque rang qu’elle pût être, que l’on ne regardât avec indifférence, et qu’il n’y a pas de couronne que l’on voulût acheter au prix de ne les voir jamais.

He goes on to talk of the difficulty a man has in avoiding the company of the woman he loves — to disguise his feelings from the public

Mme. de Clèves does not know how to reply. Whether to reproach him for his boldness or to feign not to understand. The attraction she felt towards him troubled her and she was unsure hat to say or do. She remained silent and Nemours was reassured. Their meeting was interrupted by the return of her husband.

Mme. de Clèves realised from her own reactions to his declaration that she was deceiving herself when she had believed herself indifferent to Nemours. Now her only aim is to avoid giving him any mark of her love and the only way is to avoid him

Page 65  Elle ne se flatta plus de l’espérance de ne le pas aimer; elle songea seulement à ne lui en donner jamais aucune marque..

She uses the excuse of her mourning to avoid the places where she will meet Nemours.


Nemours stops going to the court knowing he will not see Mme. de Clèves there.

At this time M. de Clèves fell ill and Nemours came to see him staying a long time. Nemours was able to let her know why he was absent from court functions. After this, the Princesse de Clèves used to force herself to leave as soon as Nemours arrived.

Her husband reproached her for shunning his visitors. She was on the point of saying there was a rumour that Nemours was in love with her. But she could not say the name and was ashamed to wish to hide the full truth from her devoted husband.

At the court a few days later, the topic of conversation was astrology. Catherine de Medici was inclined to give it credence, but the King discounted it as, a few years ago, he had gone incognito to an astrologer with two courtiers and he had been told that he would be killed in a duel. He dismissed this as impossible.

Nemours says he cannot believe in astrology, because he adds in a whisper to Mme. de Clèves that his fortune teller says he will be made happy by the woman he loves.

Mary Stuart asks him to repeat his whisper for everyone to hear. Nemours says he was told he would be raised to such a high fortune, to which he would not dare pretend. Mary finds the prediction possible in his match with Elizabeth I.

As the period of mourning was over Mme. de Clèves had to return to court and there she often saw Nemours. She tried to avoid him but her reactions revealed to Nemours that she was not indifferent towards him.

The Chevalier de Guise was aware of this mutual attraction and recognised Nemours as his rival for the love of Mme de Clèves. When the two men were opponents in the sporting activities of the court, their keen rivalry was very evident.

Mme. de Clèves was anxious lest Nemours might be persuaded to go to see Elizabeth of England. We see her jealousy when she cannot stop herself commenting that a beautiful portrait of the Queen flatters the Queen.

Mary Stuart denies this. She believes Elizabeth has the beauty and charm of Anne Boleyn, her mother. She tells her story.

She tells of the meeting of Henry VIII and Francis I of France at Boulogne. The love affair between Anne and Henry which had lasted nine years. His divorce from Catherine of Aragon and the English Reformation.

The treachery of the Viscountess de Rochefort which led to Henry having Anne executed for adultery. She mentions Henry’s other wives including the execution of Katharine Howard along with the treacherous Viscountess de Rochefort.

Mary Stuart was having miniature portraits made of all the beautiful girls of the court to send to her mother the Queen of Scotland. Mme. de Clèves was at her most beautiful as she was being painted and Nemours had to make an effort to conceal his love.

M. de Clèves had lent Mary his own miniature of his wife for comparison. Nemours, envious, stole the portrait while the ladies were talking to Mary Stuart on her bed. Mme. de Clèves caught a glimpse of Nemours’ theft through the curtains and was shocked. Mary asked what she was looking just as Nemours turned and realised Mme. de Clèves had possibly seen him.

The theft put Mme. de Clèves in a dilemma. If she made a public protest she would make known Nemours’ love for her. If she protested in private she would provoke a frank declaration of his love to her.

She decides to allow him to take the portrait. She is pleased to do him a favour, without needing to admit it. However, Nemours makes her into a willing accomplice by begging her in a whisper to ignore what she may have seen.
Nemours leaves delighted with his acquisition and the realisation that his love is returned.
The evening was spent looking for the lost portrait.

M. de Clèves was upset about the lost portrait, although he was only
teasing when he suggested that a secret lover had taken it.
These words filled Mme. de Clèves with remorse. Realising that neither Elizabeth of England nor Mary Stuart stood in her way, she was now unprotected from Nemours’ love.

She realised that she should keep away from Nemours but her passion for him was so violent that she could not do it and she was now uncertain whether she could hide her love from Nemours.

Page 75 ….il n’y avait de sûreté pour elle qu’en séloignant.  Mais comme elle n’était pas maîtresse de s’éloigner, elle se trouvait dans une grande extrémité et prête à tomber dans ce qui lui paraissait le plus grand des malheurs, qui était de laisser voir à  M. de Nemours l’inclination qu’elle avait pour lui.

She thinks of her mothers warning. She thinks of her husband’s words about sincerity and considers confessing to her husband but she rejects this as folly.

The peace treaty was signed with the Emperor and the proposed royal marriages were finally agreed. The King planned magnificent court festivities for the marriages including plays, ballets and a splendid tournament.

The King himself and other noblemen including Nemours were to be the champions of the lists, challenging all comers.


One day after the King, Nemours, the Chevalier de Guise and the Vidame de Chartres had been playing tennis, Châtelart picked up a love letter from the tennis court which he believed had fallen from Nemours’ pocket. Châtelart, who was insanely in love with Mary Stuart gave it to her, as she was curious to know the secret of Nemours’ love life. (He no doubt wished to damage Nemours' relationship with Mary).

 The court had now moved to the lists where the King and the nobles were trying some new horses, which were not yet properly broken in.
The King’s and Nemours’ mounts proved very fiery. Attempting to avoid injury to his King, Nemours crashed heavily with his mount into a pillar of the riding school. People ran to him believing him seriously injured.
The Princesse de Clèves was so concerned that she did not hide her feelings (to the grief of the Chevalier de Guise) and when Nemours regained consciousness he recognised clearly the expression on her face.
Page 79

… vit d’abord madame de Clèves; il connut sur son visage la pitié qu’elle avait de lui, et il la regarda d’une sorte qui put lui faire juger combien il en était touché.

As they leave the lists, the Chevalier de Guise expresses his disappointment to have seen her feelings for Nemours and says he will exile himself from the court, where he can no longer bear to live.

(Mme. de La Fayette sketches Guise’s later history how he planned to conquer Rhodes but death prevented him. In fact her history is incorrect — he did go to Rhodes).

Mme. de Clèves, distressed at having shown her feelings did not take offence at Guise's s impertinence.

Nemours returned later in high spirits. He whispered to Mme. de Clèves his delight at her pity for him, but pity was not appropriate.
Page 80 Nemours passa auprès de madame de Clèves, et lui dit tout bas: J’ai reçu aujourd’hui des marques de votre pitié, madame; mais ce n’est pas de  celles dont je suis le plus digne. 

Mme. de Clèves was alarmed to have failed to control her feelings, - but under it all felt a certain sweetness.

Mary Stuart came and slipped the love letter, supposedly written by Nemours, to Mme. de Clèves. She told her to read it and see if she knew the handwriting and then come back and tell her.

Mme. de Clèves was thunderstruck by the idea that Nemours had a mistress. She could not move from the spot for some time. Her hand was trembling. She suffered unbearable pain such as she had never known before.
Page 81

Elle tenait cette lettre d’une main  tremblante; ses pensées étaient si confuses, qu’elle n’en avait aucune distincte, et elle se trouvait dans une sorte de douleur insupportable qu’elle ne connaissait point, et qu’elle n’avait jamais sentie.

The lady who wrote the letter was reproaching her lover having discovered that while they were apparently sharing a mutual love, he had in fact another mistress.

Thinking him unworthy, the writer of the letter decided to hide her sorrow from him and to feign indifference. She did not break with him, but believed that her coldness would hurt him and rekindle his love.

The stratagem worked and her lover returned to her with more passion than before. But as he had deceived her once, she will not know take him back and she is writing to let him know w the whole truth.

(N.B. The letter is a model of precious style with an excessive elaboration of the sentiments of love).

Mme. de Clèves believes the hurt she feels stems from the tender events of the day. She tells herself that had she not just given him an indication of her love, she would not be concerned to find out now that he loved another.  But she was wrong. Her sufferings were the pangs of jealousy.

Page 83
Ce mal qu’elle trouvait si insupportable, était la jalousie avec toutes les horreurs dont elle peut être accompagnée.

She recognises merit in this mistress of Nemours and sees that the lady believes Nemours loves her. Mme. de Clèves suspects that Nemours’ discreet conduct towards her resulted from his having another mistress.

Her thoughts go round and round in her brain. She regrets not leaving society, in spite of her husband’s pleas. She regrets not confessing to her husband.

At least she feels cured of her attraction to Nemours.

She did not go back to Mary Stuart that night, but went to bed early and passed a sleepless night constantly re-reading the letter.

The Vidame de Chartres also passed an anxious night. The letter had in fact belonged to him and he only discovered its loss when he started to boast about this extremely pretty letter to his young nobleman friends.

The Vidame became desperately anxious when he received a warning from a lady of Catherine de Medici’s retinue that the Queen had been notified of a love letter which had fallen from his pocket. The Queen was attempting to get hold of the letter.

(Later it is revealed that there is a secret liaison between the Vidame and the Queen of France).

The Vidame discovers that it had been passed on to Mary Stuart and he turns to Nemours for help.

He asks Nemours to say that he dropped the letter.

Nemours says that it could be that he had some-one else who would quarrel with him for receiving such a letter.

The Vidame says he will give Nemours evidence to show to his secret mistress to prove to her to whom the letter was really addressed.

The Vidame tells Nemours that since he came to the Court Catherine de Medici has always shown him particular kindness.

His own feelings for the Queen of France were no more than those of respect and he was very much in love with Mme. de Thémines.

Two years ago, he found himself several times in intimate conversation with the Queen and on one occasion he had boasted that he was a man who could keep a secret. The Queen answered that she badly missed some-one in whom she could confide.

The Queen began to confide in the Vidame. One day she contrived to be alone with him, to warn him that his secret love affair with some other lady was known of and could cause him some misfortunes.

In fact the Vidame had two mistresses. Besides Mme. de Thémines (an affair so secret he was sure the Queen knew nothing of it), he had an affair with another woman (less proper and less beautiful) which he broke off to ensure his position. He could then confidently tell the Queen that he had no mistress, at the same time flattering her by saying that only some-one far above what he could hope for could engage his love.

The Queen doubted his sincerity and gave him two days to make a full confession, before becoming her confidant. If he should deceive her, she would not forgive him for the rest of her life.

The Vidame, proud of an attachment to the attractive Queen of France and yet unwilling to give up Mme. de Thémines decided to risk concealing the truth.

He swore to the Queen his sincerity. She would not have accepted his friendship had he been in love with some-one else. A man would betray any confidence to his mistress.

The Queen promised to promote the Vidame’s interest.

She confided then her intimate feelings to the Vidame. How in spite of appearances she could not bear the control which Diane de Potiers exerted over the King. How Diane de Poitiers was unfaithful to the King and despised her, the Queen.

How Mary Stuart was also disrespectful towards her.

How the Constable was the real ruler of France and had shown his hatred towards her.
How the Kings favourite the Marechal de Saint-André treated her no better.
The Vidame had been touched that she had confided her true feelings to him alone.

Part three

The Vidame, however, continued his affair with Mme. de­ Thémines and when the latter appeared cool towards him, his love had redoubled. So much so that the Queen heard of it and he was forced to repeat his oath of fidelity. Finally Mme. de Thémines appeared to break with him.
But then the Vidame had fallen in love with Mme. de Martigues who is in the circle of Mary Stuart.

The Queen of France, who is of a violently jealous nature believed his interest was in Mary herself. Mary’s uncle, the Cardinal de Lorraine, who sought the Queen’s favour was exploiting the disagreement between the two queens.

The Vidame fears that the letter will prove to the Queen that he had an affair with Mme. de Thémines and was unfaithful also to the latter with yet another woman.

The Vidame is afraid that Mme. de Martigues whom he loves will also see the letter and will quarrel with him.

Nemours believes that the Vidame has deserved his troubles. He himself has a reputation but would not dream of such conduct.

On m’a acccusé de n’être pas un amant fidèle, et d’avoir plusieurs galanteries à la fois; mais vous me passez de si loin, que je n’aurais seulement osé imaginer les choses que vous avez entreprises.

He reproaches the Vidame for his conduct.

Nemours believes it is pointless to pretend that the letter fell from his pocket and he is appalled when told that some courtiers and Mary Stuart are already of this opinion. (He tells himself that this could harm him with Mme. de Clèves).

The Vidame gives Nemours a letter from friend of Mme. de Thémines, which proves the ownership of the letter.

Nemours’ first concern was not to go to Mary Stuart for the letter but to go to reassure Mme. de Clèves.

Mme. de Clèves refused to see him — which pleased Nemours. Her bitterness showed her feelings for him.

Nemours explained to M. de Clèves that there was a serious problem over a letter, which was of great importance to the Vidame.  M. de Clèves took Nemours into his wife’s bedroom and left them to solve the Vidame’s problem together.

Mme. de Clèves is at first sharp and bitter in her retorts to Nemours. This reaction pleases Nemours.

Page 99  L’aigreur que M. de Nemours voyait dans l’esprit de madame de Clèves  lui donnait le plus sensible plaisir qu’il eût jamais eu, et balançait son impatience de se justifier.

Eventually Nemours is able to tell the full story. However, Mme. de Clèves remains cold and distant until finally Nemours is able to begin to convince her that the letter belongs to the Vidame. He does this by showing the letter from the friend of Mme. de Thémines.

 Finally he is successful in convincing Mme. de Clèves.  Although she condemns the Vidame’s conduct, he is her uncle and she wishes to help him.

She and Nemours plot their course of action together. They decide not to return the letter to Mary Stuart, in case she should show it to Mme. de Martigues and and as they would not wish Mary Stuart to know the secrets which the Queen confided to the Vidame.

Nemours would have taken advantage of their intimacy for his own interests had not Mary Stuart summoned Mme. de Clèves at that moment and broken up their tête à tête.

When Mme. de Clèves goes to Mary Stuart, the latter says that the Queen has demanded the letter. She did not dare say that Mme. de Clèves had the letter, as the Queen now believes there is some relationship between Mary and the Vidame and will assume that Mme. de Clèves, as a relative, is party to the intrigue.

Mary Stuart has told the Queen that the letter is in the dress she wore yesterday and that her servants who have the keys are out.
Mme. de Clèves says Nemours has the letter now and she blames her husband.

Mary Stuart is annoyed, feeling that the Queen will suspect her and Nemours. She reproaches Mme. de Clèves for being too frank with her husband.

Page 102  il n’y a que vous de femme au monde qui fasse confidence à son mari de toutes les choses qu’elle sait.

Mary thinks of a way out. Mme. de Clèves must rewrite the letter from memory and Mary will make Châtelart say it was the same letter, which he gave her.

Mme. de Clèves hoped to get the letter back from Nemours —but Nemours had already handed it over to the Vidame.

Thus Mme. de Clèves and Nemours had to shut themselves away to recompose the letter. They both felt a charm in this situation.

Page 103  Cet air de mystère et de confidence n’était pas d’un médiocre charme pour un prince et même pour madame de Clèves.

At the same time the presence in the house of her husband and the realisation that they were doing this for her uncle made Mme. de Clèves feel relaxed.

 They worked light-heartedly. Nemours made constant jokes to interrupt their work. They made the work last for a long time. When finally it was completed it was such a poor copy that it convinced no-one. The Queen was convinced the letter was to the Vidame not to Nemours and that Mary Stuart was involved. Thus later she drove Mary from France.

This incident also led to the downfall of the Vidame.

(History tells us that the Vidame’s liaison with the Queen was broken and one year later in 1560, he was put to death supposedly on her orders, his name being linked to the Huguenot conspiracy- la conjuration d’Amboise.  It is probable that the Cardinal of Lorraine had some hand in this as well).

Madame de Lafayette’s account is very brief, avoiding unpleasant detail.  She says simply :
 (Page 104):
"Leur liaison se rompit, et elle le perdit ensuite a la conjuration d'Amboise, où il se trouva embarrassé."


After Nemours left with her husband, Mme. de Clèves came down to earth. She suddenly realises that whereas the previous day she had reproached herself for showing Nemours signs of love, she has today shown by her conduct a jealousy, which was a certain proof of her love. Even though Nemours had shown his love, she had treated him well in her husband’s presence and sent for him afterwards to spend the afternoon together. She saw that she had formed a relationship with Nemours and was deceiving her husband.

Page 105  elle trouvait qu’elle était d’intelligence avec M. de Nemours, qu’elle trompait le mari du monde qui méritait le moins d’être trompé, et elle était honteuse de paraître si peu digne d’estime aux yeux même de son amant.

But most unbearable of all was the memory of how deeply she had suffered from the pangs of jealousy in the night.

She had never thought before that Nemours could love someone else. Now her eyes were open to the sufferings of distrust and jealousy.

She recognises that Nemours is probably incapable of a sincere and lasting love.

Page 105  Elle fut étonnée de n’avoir point encore pensé combien il était invraisemblable qu’un homme comme M. de Nemours, qui avit toujours fait paraître tant de légèreté parmi les femmes, fût capable d’un attachement sincère et durable.

She resolves to get away from the court and from Nemours. If M. de Clèves wishes to know the reason perhaps she will do him and herself the hurt of telling the reason.

She tells her husband she wishes to go to their country house at Coulommiers for her health. He dismisses the idea but agrees for her to go while he is away from Paris with the King. She intends to stay in the country.

After their afternoon together, Nemours was impatient to see Mme. de Clèves again. He had the idea of inviting the Vidame de Chartres to his sister’s house near to Coulommiers and then during the visit of the Vidame, (her uncle) for the two of them to call on Mme. de Clèves .

While at his sister’s house, Nemours lost his way during a stag hunt. He discovered then that he was near to Coulommiers  He found his way to a  pavilion in the grounds of the chateau of Mme. de Clèves. He had gone inside to admire the beauty of the salon when M. and Mme. de Clèves approached up the drive.

Embarrassed to be found there so unaccountably, Nemours had hidden in. the back room. He remained there unable to make an exit to the salon where M. & Mme. de Clèves were alone, and also curious to hear Mme. de Clèves’ conversation with her husband, of whom he was intensely jealous.

Mme. de Clèves was pressing his wife to say her reasons for not wishing to return to the Court. Her excuses failed to convince him.
Finally she asks him to accept only that prudence requires that she should not remain exposed in the midst of the court.

M. de Clèves realised that that could only mean one thing. Mme. de Clèves went down on her knees and confessed that she had indeed such a reason for wishing to leave the court — but she told her husband that she had not revealed her love to her lover. She asked him for his guidance and support and reminded him what affection and esteem she had shown by this confession.

Page 109   Songez que, pour faire ce que je fais, il faut avoir plus d’amitié et plus d’estime pour un mari que l’on n’en a jamais eu: conduisez-moi, ayez pitié de moi, et aimez-moi encore, si vous pouvez.

M. de Clèves was very distressed and sat with his head in his hands. Finally he raised his weeping wife from her knees and asked for her pity. He was hurt that he could not arouse her love and yet she loved someone else.

He pressed his wife to tell him who the man was, recognising that in court society respect of the husband did not stop a man courting the man’s wife.

Mme. de Clèves refused to reveal the name.

The eavesdropping Nemours was also anxious to hear the name. As he was madly in love with Mme. de Clèves, he was afraid that one of his rivals might have won her love.

Now M. de Clèves torn by jealousy began to put wrong constructions on past events. She had given the lost portrait to a lover. She had shown her feelings to other people.

Mme. de Clèves was indignant and began to explain. But her husband in his jealousy wanted to know how her lover had shown his love.

She asks for her husband’s consideration in this embarrassing business. Her husband apologised but acknowledged that he would find himself asking again for the name.

Page 112 Vous avez raison,  madame, reprit-il; je suis injuste; toutes les fois que je vous demanderai de pareilles choses; mais ne vous offensez pourtant pas si je vous les demande.

At this point the servant interrupts with a summons for M. de Clèves to the court.

Left alone, Mme. de Clèves was shocked by what she had done. To a large extent the confession was involuntary. She felt that she had taken a big risk. By next morning, however, she recognised some sweetness in the mutual affection evident in her confession and in her husband’s reaction.

Nemours had left delighted. Her explanation about the portrait was enough to tell him that he was the cause of her problems. Yet the confession suggested that he would never enjoy her love. Yet again, he was pleased to have reduced Mme. de Clèves to this extremity.
Page 113

Il sentit un plaisir sensible de l’avoir réduite à cette extrémité. Il trouva  de la gloire à s’être fait aimer d’une femme si différente de toutes celles de son sexe; enfin, il se trouva cent fois heureux et malheureux tout ensemble

Very excited by his experience, Nemours needed to tell it to someone else and fell into the common imprudence of telling the story as having happened to someone else. The Vidame to whom he related it, suspected that Nemours was involved.   Nemours denied it and bound the Vidame to secrecy.

The King had summoned M. de Clèves to say he had chosen him and Mme. de Clèves to escort his daughter to Spain. The journey was still some time off but M. de Clèves had to order his wife to return to the court with this journey in mind.

When the couple met again, M. de Clèves was still devoured by his jealousy. He says he believes her lover is either the Marshall de Saint—André, the duc de Nemours or the Chevalier de Guise.

She again asked to be allowed to retire from court, but her husband was confident that his wife’s conscience would restrain her more than any rules of his.

Page 116 De l’humeur don’t vous êtes, en vous laissant votre liberté, je vous donne des bornes plus étroites que je ne pourrais vous en prescrire.

(M. de Clèves delivers his wife to her own conscience, having faith in her strength.)

So effective was Mme. de Clèves in cold shouldering Nemours that he began to feel that he must have dreamt what had gone before.

M. de Clèves was able to eliminate the Marshall and the Chevalier de Guise when he saw that his wife was not concerned by rumours that one of these princes would also accompany them to Spain.

To trick his wife, on leaving the King’s room, he whispered that Nemours had been nominated. Immediately Mme. de Clèves said it was a bad choice. Her husband admitted the lie and said that he now knew the truth, He left her in her embarrassment.

While she was still distressed, Nemours approached her. She snapped at him to leave her alone.

Nemours protested that he trembled to approach her and hardly dare look at her and he asked why she should make it appear that he was the cause of her sorrow.
Page 118
Hélas! Madame, répondit-il, je ne vous y laisse que trop; de quoi pouvez-vous vous plaindre?  Je n’ose vous parler, je n’ose même vous regarder: je ne vous approche qu’en tremblant.

Angry to have given Nemours the opening to declare his love, she leaves him without a word.

At home, her husband apologised for his trick. He says he feared Nemours most of all as a rival. He asked her to stay faithful to him while he loved her so much. Both husband and wife broke down in tears embracing each other in silence.

The book now describes the pomp of the arrival at Court of the Duke of Alba who was to marry Elizabeth, the King’s daughter, as proxy for the King of Spain. Mme. de Clèves was obliged to attend these celebrations, but the absence of Nemours who was entertaining the King of Savoy gave her some repose.

Meanwhile the Vidame had found it impossible not to tell the extraordinary story of the confession to his mistress Mme. de Martigues. He told her he was sure Nemours was the lover. She felt she must let Mary Stuart know as Mary was curious about Nemours.

When Mme. de Clèves next went to Mary Stuart she found her bursting with impatience to tell her this story which cast light on Nemours’ mysterious love affair.

When told that Nemours was madly in love with a lady at the court Mme. de Clèves felt bitter pangs of jealousy.

When told that the lady had given no signs of her love but had confessed to her husband, to explain her desire to stay away from court, Mme. de Clèves felt despair. She hid her emotions from Mary Stuart, who chattered on excitedly.

When she recovers, Mme. de Clèves says that the story is improbable. However, Mary says the Vidame was the source of the story, admitting that Nemours disclaims his own involvement.

At this point, Nemours enters and Mary says she will ask Nemours himself. Mme. de Clèves pleads that she should respect the Vidame’s confidence.

Nevertheless, Mary asked if he was loved by a lady at court who hid her passion from him but had confessed it to her husband. Mme. de Clèves wishes the floor would open for her.

Nemours was embarrassed. He knew Mary Stuart was attracted to him. In addition, she was with her favourite confidante, Mme. de Clèves, whom he knew he had offended.

He was speechless and Mary Stuart believed that she had caught him. But Nemours’ wit returned. He denied that he was the man in the story. He said that the role of a man in love was appropriate to him but not that of a man who was loved.

Mary Stuart accepted this as a reference to their previous relationship, but she continued to make sport with Nemours’ embarrassment.

Nemours maintained that his embarrassment was for his friend who confided in him. He pitied his friend who could not be loved really by this lady who otherwise would not have made this confess to her husband.

Mary Stuart said that Mme. de Clèves did not believe this story. Mme. de Clèves asked who in the circumstances would tell the story - neither husband nor wife would.

Nemours saw an opportunity to harm M. de Clèves and suggested that a husband would tell the story as an attempt to find the name of a lover.

Page 124
M. de Nemours, qui vit les soupçons de madame de Clèves sur son mari, fut bien aise de les lui confirmer; il savait que c’était le plus redoutable rival qu’il eût à détruire.

The court then interrupted their conversation - but as Mme. de Clèves was leaving, Nemours found the opportunity to whisper to her that he had not been sincere in suggesting that his feelings were for Mary Stuart.

Mme. de Clèves tripped over her robe and used this pretext to leave the court.

Told of the accident, M. de Clèves hurried home to find his wife very distressed. She tells him that their story is known at the court and accuses him of telling the secret of her confession to discover the name of her lover.

M. de Clèves is particularly hurt that Nemours knows the story. But Mme. de Clèves refuses to confirm that he is the man she loves. She tells him how the story had come to the court and she believes that Nemours had been told by one of her husband’s friends.

M. de Clèves believes that it is more probable that she has let the secret escape.

Both know they had not divulged the secret - so both were obliged to blame the other- however incredible it might seem. Then came long silences between them and they constantly went over the same ground. The couple now felt an estrangement that they had never known before.

Page 126
..ils furent longtemps sans parler, et ils ne sortirent de ce silence que pour redire les mêmes choses qu’ils avaient déjà dites plusieurs fois, et demeurèrent le coeur et l’esprit plus éloigné et plus altéré qu’ils ne l’avaient encore eu.


The next day after a night of distress, M. de Clèves says that they must put aside the question of who broke the secret and concentrate on ensuring that no-one connected her with the story, Thus she must treat Nemours with absolute coldness.

Feeling angry with Nemours, Mme. de Clèves is less worried about returning to court, where she had been chosen to carry Mary Stuart’s train at the wedding.

She spends the day alone composing her mind. She tried to work out why Nemours, after showing so much discretion had now been so indiscreet. She concluded that once he knew she loved him, he could not hide a love which flattered his glory. This makes her disappointed in him.

Page 128
J’ai eu tort de croire qu’il y eût un homme capable de cacher ce qui flatte sa gloire.
(N.B. She blames the bad behaviour of Nemours on a general failing in men).
She burst into tears to think of the complications of her situation - with her husband - Nemours - the court. But the biggest blow was her disappointment with Nemours.

Page 128

Ces tristes réflexions étaient suivies d’un torrent de larmes; mais quelque douleur dont elle se trouvât accablée, elle sentait bien qu’elle aurait eu la force de les supporter, si elle avait été satisfaite de M. de Nemours.

Nemours was also violently displeased at his imprudence in telling the story and about its consequences. He regretted saying some of the things he had said to Mme. de Clèves, which showed his awareness of her love. He thought he had been impolite, He could not see however, how he could approach her to repair the damage. He felt unworthy of her.

Page 129
Je n’ai point  d’excuse; je suis indigne d’être regardé de madame de Clèves, et je n’espère pas aussi qu’elle me regarde jamais.  Je lui ai donné, par ma faute, de meilleurs moyens dpour se défendre contre moi que tous ceux qu’elle cherchait.


He regrets throwing away his opportunity, but above all he regrets the hurt he has caused Mme. de Clèves.
He decides not to try to speak to her but to wait for time to heal the damage.

The wedding ceremony for Elizabeth due the next day proved a welcome distraction.

Mme. de La Fayette (following the historians Anselme & Godefroy) describes the costumes — the procession to the church — and mentions the festivities, which followed.

Mme. do Clèves was beautiful. Nemours’ respectful silence made him appear less guilty in her eyes.

On the day of the tournament, Mme. de Clèves admired the skill of Nemours and could hardly hide her joy at his success.

The day ended tragically. The King insisted on a final joust with the Count of Montgomery. The lances broke and a splinter lodged in the King's eye. The wound was serious and the Constable remembered the astrologer’s prediction.

The. court with all its different factions was agitated, awaiting the death of the king but pretended only to have concern for his health
Mme. de Clèves pretended to be ill in order to absent herself from the Court. Her husband was often with her, but there was now certain coolness between them.

Before the King died, Marie of Medici refused access to his deathbed to Diane de Poitiers and demanded the return of the crown jewels she was keeping. The King’s mistress refused as long as the King lived.

The King died on the seventh day. As the royal procession went into the palace, Catherine de Medici stood back and told Mary Stuart it was for her as the new Queen to pass first. But there was more bitterness than propriety in this remark.

Mary Stuart’s uncles having gained the favour of the Queen Mother took over control of the land. The Duke de Guise took over the armed forces and the Cardinal of Lorraine took control of finance. Diane de Poitiers was expelled from the court.

All people, including the Constable, hostile to the Guises were kept from the court on various pretexts.

Mme. de Clèves was no longer to accompany Elizabeth to Spain.

Mme. de Clèves preferred not to go to the coronation and her husband was not sorry to accept her excuse of illness.

Nemours made a last effort to see Mme. de Clèves. He called on her while she was alone. In a great state of agitation, Mme. de Clèves had him told that she had suddenly been taken ill and could not see him. Nemours went away believing his faux pas had destroyed his chances forever.

Two ladies who had seen Nemours arrive mentioned it to M. de Clèves. Jealousy was rekindled in his heart even more violently than before. He rushed back home to find Nemours had left. He then began to wonder whether Nemours was indeed the man and whether he had been mistaken.

He questions his wife on whom she had seen and prompts her when she does not mention Nemours.

When she said that she was too ill to see Nemours, her husband asked why Nemours was treated differently from her other visitors. He accused her of letting Nemours know that she was afraid of him.

She replied that she could hardly be blamed for not seeing Nemours.

He asked why she should be afraid of seeing him if he had not declared his love. He then accuses her of not telling the whole truth. He lamented his suffering. He loved her as a mistress and she loved another.

Page 140

Je suis plus malheureux que je ne l’ai cru, et je suis le plus malheureux de tous les hommes.  Vous êtes ma femme, je vous aime comme ma maîtresse.

Mme. de Clèves believed that by this outburst he had betrayed the trust that she had had in him.

He said that she had expected the impossible of him.

Page 141
Comment pouviez-vous espérer que je conservasse de la raison?  Vous aviez donc oublié que je vous aimais éperdument et que j’étais votre mari.  L’un des deux peut porter aux extrémités: que ne peuvent point les deux ensemble.

He tells her he loves her and. he hates her.
Page 141
Je vous adore, je vous hais; je vous offense, je vous demande pardon

He told her he didn’t know how he had lived since her confession. She had made him the unhappiest man in the world.

He left the next day without speaking to her again. They corresponded while M. de Clèves was away and the sweet terms of their letters restored peace between them. Her words reassured him and he was confident of his own passion, of her fidelity and her “amitié” towards him. But the idea of Nemours returned constantly to M. de Clèves mind, each time more strongly than before.

In the early days that Nemours was away from Paris, Mme. de Clèves did not miss him — but later she suffered to think there was no way in which she could meet him.

She went away to Coulommiers and took some copies of a number of Diane de Poitiers’ portraits which depicted events of the reign. Above all there was a picture of the siege of Metz, on which there was a faithful portrait of Nemours. (Is this an inconsistency in the story? Why did she take this picture if she wished to forget Nemours and reassure her husband?).

Thc Vidame’s mistress Mme. de Martigues joined her there for a time. On returning to the court she described to Mary Stuart the house and Mme. de Clèves’ fondness for nights of solitude in the summer house. Nemours and M. de Clèves were present during the conversation.


When Nemours questioned Mme. de Martigues further, M. de Clèves rightly assumed that Nemours intended to meet his wife there.

To find out once and for all about his wife’s conduct, yet
to avoid warning Nemours by leaving the court himself, M. de Clèves told one of his gentlemen whose loyalty and intelligence he trusted, of his suspicions. He asked him to watch whether Nemours went to Coulommiers and went into the garden of his house..

The gentleman went on his mission. He waited for Nemours in the forest on the road along which Nemours had to pass to reach the house of Mme. de Clèves. He saw Nemours pass and stealthily climbed the tall fence into the garden.

Nemours slipped along the fence to the well-lit pavilion and peeping through saw Mme. de Clèves, beautiful in a state of undress on that hot night.

He saw her decorate a walking stick of his which she had secretly acquired, with his colours from the tournament. Then she moved to admire his portrait, in a mood of reverie that passion alone can give.
What delight this caused Nemours!

He was about to enter the room, but suddenly realised this was madness, when he had never even spoken to her of his love. He feared her righteous anger. Nevertheless he moved forward a few steps. Mme. de Clèves turned and thought she saw Nemours. Immediately, very agitated, she went into the room where her maids were.

She wasn’t sure whether she had seen Nemours, or whether it was only in her imagination. She was tempted to return to the room to find out the truth, - partly wishing it - partly fearing it. But prudence prevailed. She stayed in the pavilion till early morning, feeling herself close to Nemours.

Nemours also waited until early morning to leave the garden, hoping to see her again. On his return, M. de Clèves’ gentleman saw him.

Nemours spent the whole day at the village near Coulommiers intending to return to the house that night.

As he walked alone in the country, he was overwhelmed by his love for Mme. de Clèves.

Page 148 s’abandonna aux transports de son amour, et son coeur en fut tellement pressé qu’il fut contraint de laisser couler quelques larmes; mais ces larmes n’étaient pas celles que la douleur seule fait repAndré: elles étaient mêlés de douceur’ et de ce charme qui ne se trouve que dans l’amour.

In his heart he calls on her to show for some brief moments at least, her love for him, showing the tenderness she had shown to his portrait.

When he returned that night, M. de Clèves’ man followed him. But Mme. de Clèves suspecting that Nemours might return had remained in her bedroom. Nemours nevertheless stayed in the park the whole night.
The next day, Nemours called on his sister Mme. de Mercoeur and found a pretext for her to accompany him to the house of Mme. de Clèves.

Mme. de Clèves was cold to Nemours at first, as his presence confirmed that he had had the temerity to come to the house the previous night. His wit and charm however soon dispelled her coldness.

Nemours asked to see the pavilion and told Mme. de Clèves that he had spent there, uninvited by her, the sweetest and cruellest moments of his life.

Nemours had contrived for his sister to leave before him but Mme. de Clèves was afraid to be left alone with Nemours and she insisted on driving some of the way with his sister. Nemours went so pale with disappointment that his plan had failed, that his sister thought he was ill.

Nemours left for Paris and Chambord.
All this time, Nemours had been watched by M. de Clèves’ gentleman. He raced Nemours to Chambord to report to his master.

M. de Clèves could tell by the man’s manner that the news was bad. The gentleman claimed he had nothing upon which a confident judgement could be based. He only knew that Nemours had gone into the forest garden two nights in succession and that on the third day he had visited Mme. de Clèves with his sister.

This was enough for M. de Clèves. Struck by the most violent despair, he gestured to his gentleman to leave him alone. He was suffering the pain of a deceived lover and the shame of a deceived husband.

Page 153
Peu d’hommes d’un aussi  grand courage et d’un coeur aussi passionné que M. de Clèves ont ressenti en même temps la douleur que cause l’infidélité d’une maîtresse et la honte d’être trompé par une femme.

Shattered by this news, M. de Clèves was struck down that very night by a very serious fever.  His wife hastened to his bedside and found that his manner with her was very distant.  She attributed this to his illness.

After her arrival,Nemours came every day to the house, on the pretext of having news of the patient. He did not see her and he became jealous that the illness could renew the friendship of husband and wife and distract her from him.
(N.B. that Mme. de Clèves feels “amitié” not “amour” for her husband).

However, the prospect of the death of M. de Clèves, offered him hopes that he was afraid to entertain for fear they should come to nothing.

The doctors despaired of M. de Clèves. On one of the final days, after a very disturbed night, Mme. de Clèves seeing her husband’s anxiety, broke down, weeping on her knees by his bed.

M. de Clèves had been unsure whether his wife’s distress during his illness was genuine or pretended. Her tears made him break his resolution not to speak of the distress she had caused him.

He told her that she was weeping a lot for the death she was causing and that she could not truly feel so much sorrow.

Page 154
Vous versez bien des pleurs, madame, lui dit-il, pour une mort que vous causez, et qui ne vous peut donner la douleur que vous faites paraître

He asked why she had confessed and then betrayed him. It would have been better to leave him in peaceful ignorance of her infidelity. He no longer wanted to live now that he had lost his love and esteem for his wife.

His passion for her had been greater than he had dared to show as a husband - he had hidden the greater part of his love.

Page 155 He says his passion for her:  
……a été au delà de vous en avez vu, madame; je vous en ai caché la plus grande partie, par la crainte de vous importuner ou de perdre quelque chose de votre estime, par des manières qui ne convenaient pas à un mari.

She will miss his true love and will see the difference with the love of men who only seek the honour of seducing her.
Page 155

Vous sentirez le chagrin que trouvent les personnes raisonnables dans ces engagements, et vous connaîtrez la différence d’être aimée comme je vous aimais à l’être par des gens qui, en vous témoignant de lámour ne cherchent que l’honneur de vous séduire.

His death will leave her free to make Nemours happy. These reproaches were incomprehensible to Mme. de Clèves.
She assured him of her virtue.

He told her that reports spoke of her passing nights with a man.

She denied it and pleaded to him to believe her for the sake of his life. She told him that she had thought she had seen Nemours in the garden of her house, but that the servants could bear witness that she had never seen Nemours alone.

M. de Clèves was relieved that he could die regarding his wife with the same esteem. He hoped his memory would be dear to her and that if it had been within her power, she would have loved him as she had loved Nemours. He lost consciousness. A few days later he was dead.
Mme. de Clèves was almost demented with grief. Mary Stuart -now Queen - was very concerned and took her away into a convent without Clèves being aware of where she was going.
Her sisters-in-law then brought her back to Paris.


Summary & Commentary  Part Three

When Clèves regained enough strength to be able to reason, she realised that she was the cause of the death of a loving husband and she abominated herself and Nemours.

Page 157
Quand elle commença d’avoir la force de l’envisager et elle vit quel mari elle avait perdu, qu’elle considéra qu’elle ait la cause de sa mort, et que c’était pour sa passion qu’elle avait eu pour un autre qu’elle en était   cause, l’horreur qu’elle eut pour elle-même et pour M. de Nemours ne se peut représenter.

Nemours heard through his servants from the gentleman of M. de Clèves that his visit to Coulommiers was the cause of the death. He realised that Mme. de Clèves would be estranged from him and that he must force himself to keep his distance.

He could not restrain himself however from calling to ask news of her. He was told that instructions were that Mme. de Clèves did not wish even to know who had called. Nemours, so fondly in love, determined at least to see Mme. de Clèves.

Mme. de Clèves was still smitten with grief. She blamed herself for not having felt love (passion) for her husband, as though it were in her power.

Her consolation was that she missed him now as much as he deserved and that she would for the rest of her life do as he would have wished.

Nemours was hardly in her thoughts in the preoccupation of her grief.

Several months later, when Mme. de Clèves was recovering, Mme. de Martigues called and tried to take her mind off things by chattering about court life. She mentioned that Nemours seemed less happy than usual and seemed to be shunning the company of women.

The next day Mme. de Clèves went to the premises of a local craftsman in silk. Inspecting his products, she came to a locked room and asked to see the silks inside there as well. The craftsman said the room was hired by a very handsome gentleman who came each day, supposedly to paint, but who merely gazed from the window.

Mme. de Clèves saw that the windows overlooked her room and immediately suspected that the man was Nemours.

Afterwards, she became agitated and had to go out for a walk in a park outside the city. There she saw a man lying on a bench in a deep reverie. Hearing someone approach, the man left to avoid company, little knowing it was Mme. de Clèves.

Mme. de Clèves recognised Nemours. The sight of him relit her passion. She realised how constant was his love - he had given up the delights of court for her, seeking only to see her secretly.

Page 161
Ce prince se présenta à son esprit, aimable au-dessus de tout ce qui était au monde; l'aimant depuis longtemps avec une passion pleine de respect et de fidélité; méprisant tout pour elle; respectant jusqu’à sa douleur; songeant à la voir sans songer à en être vu.

She could see no obstacle to their love. He was of equal rank - she had no duty to anyone else.

But then she remembered that Nemours had caused her husband’s death - and she believed it was as much a crime to marry Nemours now as it had been to love him during her husband’s life.
Page 162

Elle ne trouva guère moins de crime à épouser M. de Nemours qu’elle en avait trouvé à l’aimer pendant la vie de son mari.

She fortified this argument with thoughts on the problems, which she would have on marrying this prince. (Doubts about his fidelity).

Finally she is convinced that she should avoid Nemours. However her heart did not go along with these convictions. She was tortured by the thought of him. One morning, after a restless night, she went to the window and she saw him looking at her room from the window opposite.

Nemours was now becoming impatient of his restraint -so unlike his conduct in his other love affairs. He sought a way to meet Mme. de Clèves.

He therefore confessed his love for her to the Vidame. The latter was delighted; he had himself thought that Nemours was the only match worthy of his widowed niece. They thought of a plan.

The Vidame invited Mme. de Clèves. Nemours came into the room as if by chance. Casually the Vidame left them together pretending some pressing business.

The two lovers stayed silent for a time. When Nemours spoke, Mme. de Clèves reproached him and started to leave. He reassured her and said that she was not compromised, as no one knew they were together. He spoke to her of his own uncontrollable love for her, and how it had withstood all tests

At this, Mme. de Clèves took a seat again and talked to Nemours earnestly. Admitting that she was aware of his love, and she responded favourably.

Their discussion led them onto the subject of Mme. de Clèves’ confession to her husband and Nemours explains how he had overheard it.

Mme. de Clèves told him he was forgiven and admitted what Nemours had previously overheard, that he was the first man she had ever really loved.

Nemours threw himself on his knees with joy at this avowal. But she tells him this avowal would have no sequel.

She said that she would never think again of any man and least of all of Nemours for a reason which Nemours could not know

Nemours said that he knew that M. de Clèves believed he was her lover.

She cut Nemours short on this painful topic and told him that in her eyes he was guilty of the death of her husband. And she must treat him as his murderer.

Page 166

Il n’est que trop véritable que vous êtes cause de la mort Clèves; les soupçons que lui a donnés votre conduite inconsidérée lui ont coûté la vie, comme si vous la lui aviez ôtée de vos propres mains.


Nemours despaired that a sense of duty without any foundation was blocking their love. He told her that to him she would be both a wife and a mistress.

Page 167
Ma destinée m’aurait conduit à aimer la   plus estimable personne du monde; j’aurais vu en elle tout ce qui peut faire une adorable maîtresse; elle ne m’aurait pas hai, et jen’aurais trouvé dans sa conduite que tout ce qui peut être à désirer dans une femme.

He asked whether she did indeed love him.

She agreed again that she did and she said that it was because she loved him that she feared the misfortunes that would occur in their marriage. She apologised for her frankness but told him that her fear was that some day he would no longer love her as he did then. A man is not constant in his love and she asks whether she will ever be prepared to see their love end.
(N.B. She blames all men rather than Nemours alone).
Page 168
Mais les hommes conservent-ils de la passion dans ces engagements éternels?  Dois-je espérer un miracle en ma faveur, et puis-je me mettre en état de voir certainement finir cette passion dont je ferais toute ma félicité.

M. de Clèves was the unique example of a constant husband. Perhaps it was because his love was unrequited that it lasted.  In any case the love of Nemours is returned and she has not the same power over him.

She went on to say that she was led by her passions but was not blinded by them and she saw that Nemours had had many love affairs and would have many more. The day would come when he was no longer satisfied with her.

Page 169
J’avoue, répondit-elle, que les passions peuvent me conduire; mais elles ne sauraient m’aveugler: rien ne me peut empêcher de connaître que vous êtes né avec toutes les  dispositions pour la galanterie,et toutes les qualités qui sont popres à y donner des succès heureux; vous avez eu déjà plusieurs passions, vous en auriez encore, je ne ferais plus votre bonheur;
Abandoned by Nemours she would then suffer and know perhaps the misery of jealousy to which the incident of the lost letter had introduced her.

Nemours was an attractive man. Most women liked him and would like to win him. She would suspect affairs all the time and usually she would be right. (A lover can be reproached for not loving his wife but one could not reproach a husband).

Finally, she recalls that Nemours was responsible for her husband’s death and she would feel her husband’s reproaches.

Nemours threw himself at her feet and Mme. de Clèves was touched bewailing the fact that the circumstances of her husband’s death must separate them forever.

Nemours denies that it was an obstacle.  She agrees that this may be in her imagination and asked him to see if time changed things.

At this she rushed out to have herself driven home.

The Vidame and Nemours were convinced that Mme. de Clèves would change her mind. However they decided that to avoid scandalous suspicions of an affair during the lifetime of M. de Clèves, Nemours should let time pass.

After the meeting, Mme. de Clèves was full of troubled contradictory emotions. Seeing him as she had seen him on that day, she could not believe that she would be unhappy as his wife but reason and duty then said otherwise.

She was relieved that she could use the period of mourning to clarify her ideas.

The Vidame came at Nemours’ bidding to attempt to persuade her to marry his friend. She told the Vidame that her duty to her husband prevented the marriage.

The Vidame realised that his niece was more resolute than he thought but he did not discourage his friend by telling him.

While the two noblemen were away with the King, the Vidame wrote to her talking of Nemours and enclosing a note from him. Mme. de Clèves forbade this.

In solitude, Mme. de Clèves became more convinced that Nemours could never be faithful in love and this reinforced her sense of duty.
Page 174
La fin de l’amour de ce prince et les maux de la jalousie qu’elle croyait infaillibles dans un mariage lui montraient un malheur certain où  elle s’allait  jeter.

She realised that she could only abide by her decision if she never saw Nemours. She therefore went to her estates near the Pyrenees and asked the Vidame not to communicate with her.

All this agitation brought on a serious illness by the time of her arrival at her estates. She survived the crisis but did not recover her health.
The prospect of death had made Mme. de Clèves see things in a more detached way. When she recovered a little, she discovered that Nemours was still in her heart but she conquered these feelings and grew closer to the memory of her husband.
Page 176

Enfin elle surmonta les restes de cette passion qui était affaiblie par les sentiments que sa maladie lui avait donnés; les pensées de la mort lui avaient reproché la mémoire de M. de Clèves.

Even now she was afraid of what circumstances could do to her resolve and she retired into a convent.

Nemours realised that this was the final blow to his hopes. He got Mary Stuart and the Vidame to write to her.

Finally Nemours went to the convent.

Mme. de Clèves refused to see him and sent another person to say that her duty and her peace of mind were opposed to the attraction, which she felt for him. Her mind was now on things of the other world.

The pleas of Nemours were in vain. He was overwhelmed with grief. He tried in vain for years until time relieved his grief and extinguished his passion.

Mme. de Clèves lived part of the year in the convent, part on her estates. She died young, leaving an example of inimitable virtue.
Page 177
…et sa vie, qui fut assez courte, laissa des exemples de vertu inimitables.