Grab a glass of champagne and join us. It’s time to meet another of the great salonnières who came before us, a plucky Parisian gal named Madame Dupin née Louise Marie Madeleine Guillaume de Fontaine. Beguiling and beautiful, Louise was a gutsy gal 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.

Claude Dupin

Louise was born in Paris on October 28, 1706, to a successful banker and a stunning French actress who—oops—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. Dupin had a six-year-old son, Louis-Claude, who was to 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 famous castles in the Loire Valley. Louise was thrilled—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 touté la France. Madame du Deffand, also a regular guest, was always a bit miffed that Louise’s salon was eclipsing her own.

CC Interior

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. Mind you, this was 18th century France. 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 salonnière ahead of her time, Madame Dupin proved once again that a woman’s home is her castle. Bravo, Madame!

To read more about the great salonnieres in history, click here. For a list of America’s 100 best modern-day salonnieres click here, and for tips and ideas from today’s most skilled party hosts, click here.

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