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Princess Maria Fortunata d’Este

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Dec 11, 2021

Maria Fortunata d’Este (24 November 1731 21 September 1803) was a Modenese princess by birth and a princess du sang by marriage. By her marriage to Louis François Joseph de Bourbon, Prince of Conti, her first cousin, she became the Countess of La Marche and later the Princess of Conti; and was a member of the French court of King Louis XV and King Louis XVI. She was the last Princess of Conti, and died without issue.

Princess of Conti

Maria Fortunata d’Este

Posthumous portrait by Hortense Haudebourt-Lescot, 1836.
Princess of Conti
Reign 2 August 1776 – 21 September 1803
Born (1731-11-24)24 November 1731
Ducal Palace, Modena
Died 21 September 1803(1803-09-21) (aged 71)
Venice, Italy
Burial
Convent of the Visitation, Venice
Spouse Louis François Joseph de Bourbon
Names
Maria Fortunata d’Este
Father Francesco III d’Este, Duke of Modena
Mother Charlotte Aglaé d’Orléans
Religion Roman Catholicism
Signature

. . . Princess Maria Fortunata d’Este . . .

She was born at the Ducal Palace of Modena, the fourth daughter and eighth child of Francesco III d’Este, Duke of Modena, the Sovereign Duke of Modena and his young wife Charlotte Aglaé d’Orléans, Mademoiselle de Valois — granddaughter of Louis XIV of France and Madame de Montespan. Her older sister Maria Teresa was her eldest surviving sibling followed by her brother the future Ercole III d’Este, Duke of Modena. The rest of her siblings would die unmarried.

Maria Fortunata was known to have been very pious and at the same time rather timid but charming. Her mother separated from her father in the 1740s after an affair with the Duke of Richelieu was discovered at the Modenese court. Exiled to France, Charlotte Aglaé still managed to help arrange the marriages of two of her daughters. The eldest Maria Teresa Felicitas married her second cousin, the Duke of Penthièvre, the wealthiest man in France and the future in laws of Philippe Égalité. Maria Fortunata also married a cousin, Louis François Joseph de Bourbon, the heir to the Prince of Conti.

As the heir of his father, her husband was known by the courtesy title of comte de La Marche at court. The marriage contract was signed in Milan on 3 January 1759 by the French ambassador to the court of Turin. A wedding by proxy took place in Milan on 7 February of the same year. It was celebrated in person on the 27th of February at Nangis-en-Brie in France. Maria Fortunata’s father settled upon her a dowry of one million livres. In addition, upon her arrival in France, her husband was given a gift of 150,000 livres from King Louis XV. The young comtesse de La Marche was presented to the King, the Queen and the rest of the royal family on 5 March 1759 by the Dowager Princess of Conti, her husbands widowed grandmother as well as her mothers own first cousin. The couple did not get along and never had any children. Many at court said this state of affairs was due to the influence of her husband’s mistress, Marie Anne Véronèse, known as Mademoiselle Coraline. Véronèse had been a dancer at an Italian theatre. Louis François and his mistress had two illegitimate children together, born in 1761 and 1767. In 1768, Maria Fortunata was asked to present her niece Louise Marie Adélaïde de Bourbon, Mademoiselle de Penthièvre, to the King and the court. Her niece would eventually marry Louis Philippe Joseph d’Orléans, Duke of Chartres, the future Philipe Égalité, in April 1769.

In 1770, the marriage of the Dauphin of France, the future Louis XVI, and the Archduchess Maria Antonia of Austria took place. Marie Fortunée, as she was known in France, and her husband were one of twelve couples invited to dine with the newlyweds in the Opéra of the Palace of Versailles, which had been constructed for the royal wedding.

. . . Princess Maria Fortunata d’Este . . .

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. . . Princess Maria Fortunata d’Este . . .