Despite being one of the most influential women of 17th century France, Marie de Vignerot has been largely forgotten. The niece, heiress, and advisor to the infamous Cardinal Richelieu, Marie was deeply motivated by her Catholic faith, yet never re-married after she became a widow at 18. She shaped France and the French empire’s political, religious, and cultural life as the unconventional and independent Duchesse d’Aiguillon, a position exceedingly uncommon for a woman to possess in her own right. Bronwen McShea joins Madison’s Notes to discuss her book, La Duchesse: The Life of Marie de Vignerot―Cardinal Richelieu’s Forgotten Heiress Who Shaped the Fate of France (Pegasus Books, 2023), the first modern biography of Marie de Vignerot, which discusses her life, motivations, and how and why she was written out of history.

Bronwen McShea is a Visiting Assistant Professor in History at the Augustine Institute Graduate School. She earned her B.A. and M.T.S. at Harvard University and her Ph.D. in history at Yale University, and was a 2018-20 James Madison Program Associate Research Scholar at Princeton University. She is also the author of Apostles of Empire: The Jesuits and New France and Women of the Church (What Every Catholic Should Know).

Annika Nordquist is the Communications Coordinator of Princeton University’s James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions and host of the Program’s podcast, Madison’s Notes.

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  1. WilliamWarford Coolidge

    Good interview. While I’m fairly good on 17th and 18th century France, I learned a great deal about 17th century France in today’s discussion. It had been a long time since I read about Richelieu and Louis XIII and had not heard of La Duchesse before Bronwen wrote about her. It was on my to-read list, and now I’ve ordered the book. 

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