Grab a glass of champagne and join us, doll. It’s time to meet another of the great salonnieres who came before us. This time, it’s a plucky Parisian gal named Madame Dupin née Louise Marie Madeleine Guillaume de Fontaine. Louise was quite something. Beguiling and beautiful, she was a gutsy sally whose greatest legacy may well be that she saved one of the most famous castles in France, the Château de Chenonceau, from the revolutionaries. But let’s start at the beginning.
Louise was born in Paris on October 28, 1706, to a successful banker and a stunning French actress who, oopsie, happened to be married to another man. At 16, Louise, already known throughout Paris for her intelligence, beauty and grace, was married off to Claude Dupin, a well-to-do widower in his forties who had a six-year-old son, Louis-Claude, who would eventually become the grandfather of the novelist George Sand.
Château de Chenonceau
Several years into their marriage, Claude became the proud owner of several properties in France including the magnificent Château de Chenonceau, one of the most well-known châteaux of the Loire Valley. Louise was thrilled since she now had a place where she could hold her salons away from the hubbub of Paris. With regular guests like Voltaire (who nicknamed Louise “the goddess of beauty and music”), Montesquieu, and members of French nobility, it wasn’t long before our gal’s soirées became the talk of France. Madame du Deffand was also a regular guest although she was always a bit miffed that Louise’s salon was eclipsing her own.
The interior of Château de Chenonceau
There were many fabulous and fruitful years, including one when Louise took pen to paper and wrote a feminist oeuvre entitled, On the Equality of Men and Women, which championed the idea that women should have equal access to education and the right to work. And this was 18th century France, mind you. Didn’t I tell you she was plucky?
Sadly, things began to turn in 1769 when Claude died and, later, the French Revolution began. Louise, now 83, struggled to protect the Château de Chenonceau from the revolutionaries who sought to destroy it. As spunky and canny as ever, Louise saved the castle by convincing the revolutionaries that they needed her bridge because it was the only way to cross the Cher river. Ten years later, Louise died at her beloved Château, which still stands today and has become one of the Loire Valley’s top tourist attractions.
Another sally who was way ahead of her time, Madame Dupin proved that it’s a woman’s home that’s her castle. We’ll drink to that, doll.