Marie Jeanne Baptiste of Savoy-Nemours

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Marie Jeanne of Savoy
Marie Jeanne by Robert Nanteuil, 1678
Duchess of Savoy
Consort 20 May 1665 – 12 June 1675
Regent of Savoy
Tenure 12 June 1675 – 14 March 1684
Spouse Charles Emmanuel II, Duke of Savoy
Issue Victor Amadeus II, Duke of Savoy
Full name
Marie Jeanne Baptiste
House House of Savoy
Father Charles Amadeus of Savoy
Mother Élisabeth de Bourbon
Born (1644-04-11)11 April 1644
Hôtel de Nemours, Paris, France
Died 15 March 1724(1724-03-15) (aged 79)
Palazzo Madama, Turin
Burial Sacra di San Michele,
Religion Roman Catholic

Marie Jeanne of Savoy (Marie Jeanne Baptiste; 11 April 1644 – 15 March 1724) was born a Princess of Savoy and was later the Duchess of Savoy. Married by proxy to Charles of Lorraine in 1662, Lorraine soon refused to recognise the union. Despite this, she married Charles Emmanuel II, Duke of Savoy in 1665 who was her second cousin once removed. The mother of the future Victor Amadeus II of Sardinia who saw the elevation of the House of Savoy to kings, she styled herself as Madama Reale or Madame Royale and acted as Regent of Savoy from 1675 in the name of her son Victor Amadeus II who was her husband's successor.[1] Her regency officially ended in 1680 but she maintained power for four years until her son banished her from further influence in the state.[2] She left a considerable architectural legacy in Turin and was responsible for the remodelling of the Palazzo Madama which was her private residence. At the time of her death she was the mother of the King of Sardinia as well as great grandmother of the King of Spain and King of France.

Life in France[edit]

Marie Jeanne Baptiste de Savoie was born at the Hôtel de Nemours in Paris and was the eldest of five children born to Charles Amadeus, Duke of Nemours and his wife Élisabeth de Bourbon.[3] Through her mother, Marie Jeanne was a great grand daughter of Henry IV, King of France via her father César de Bourbon, Légitimé de France, whose mother was Gabrielle d'Estrées.[4] This made her a half-first-cousin once removed of Louis XIV and a relation to most Catholic royalty at that time. She was a member of the Nemours cadet branch of the House of Savoy which had settled in France in the sixteenth century.[5] Marie Jeanne grew up with her sister Marie Françoise, Mademoiselle d'Aumale who was born in 1646. She was styled as Mademoiselle de Nemours prior to marriage. As a young girl she frequented the salon of the famous Madame de La Fayette who later introduced Marie Jeanne into correspondence with Madame de Sévigné.[6]

Her father died in 1652, killed in a duel with his own brother-in-law the Duke of Beaufort.[7] For the next several years she and her family were under the guardianship of her paternal uncle Henri the new Duke of Nemours. At Henri's death in 1659 his estates reverted to the crown but were later secured by Marie Jeanne who used the estates for her own income. With two young daughters, no financial support, nor influence at court, her mother Élisabeth looked to her maternal family for support. Élisabeth's mother was a princess of Lorraine.[8]

Marriage negotiations[edit]

Her family wanted a match with Charles Emmanuel II, Duke of Savoy, who was the son of Christine Marie of France (half-aunt of Élisabeth). Christine Marie summoned Marie Jeanne her mother and sister to Turin in 1659 for inspection.[9] Charles Emmanuel II had shown a keen interest in Marie Jeanne as a potential wife but his mother had been warned by Cardinal Mazarin of Marie Jeanne's ambitious nature causing nothing to be discussed further. Christine Marie arranged a marriage between her son and Françoise Madeleine d'Orléans, who proved suitably docile for the controlling mother. This wedding took place in 1663.[10]

Having returned to France, Mademoiselle de Nemours caught the attention of the dashing Prince Charles of Lorraine, heir of the Duke of Lorraine.[11] The court of Portugal had previously requested her hand in marriage, however she refused after some deliberation on the subject.[12]

Charles' rank was similar to that of the Duke of Savoy and the match was pursued by Marie Jeanne's mother. Officially engaged to Charles on 4 February 1662 the match was a popular one with the court and the union was supported by Queen Anne (mother of Louis XIV). Charles was hesitant about the union but, under pressure from Élisabeth, signed the marriage contract in which a dowry of two million livres was promised. However, when the Treaty of Montmarte was signed two days later, the duchies of Lorraine and Bar reverted to Louis XIV. This left the house of Lorraine landless. As a result, Charles backed out of the union soon after, but the two remained in contact till Charles' death in 1690.[8] The "marriage" between Marie Jeanne and Charles had not been consummated and was thus considered void in the church.[8]

The situation in Savoy changed in December 1663. Christine Marie died, and was followed by her daughter-in-law Françoise Madeleine less than a year later. This left Charles Emmanuel II unmarried and without an heir.[7] Proposals came from Françoise Madeleine's sisters but were rejected. It became clear that Charles Emmanuel II wanted to unite with Marie Jeanne who was a member of his own house.[13] This union was supported by Louis XIV. He did not want Charles Emmanuel II to marry an Archduchess of Austria, for fear of loss of influence in the duchy.[14]

Marie Jeanne's monogram

Negotiations took over a year before Marie Jeanne went to Annecy with her grandmother Françoise of Lorraine on 1 May 1665 to meet her future husband.[8] Marie Jeanne married Charles Emmanuel II on 10 May 1665 at the Castello del Valentino amid great celebration. Her large dowry included border provinces of Genevois, Faucigny as well as Beaufort which would become the property of the mainline House of Savoy.[15]

Wife and Duchess of Savoy[edit]

In Savoy her name was Italianised to Maria Giovanna Batista di Savoia and was known as Madama Reale. This name was a reference to the style Madame Royale which was from her native France and used by the late Christine Marie.[16] Marie Jeanne was praised as being an attractive and intelligent woman.[17] Almost a year after the marriage the 21-year-old duchess gave birth to a son on 14 May 1666 who was named Victor Amadeus in honour of Victor Amadeus I, Duke of Savoy the child's grandfather and husband of Christine Marie.[1] In the same year, her sister Marie Françoise married Afonso VI of Portugal.[7] The two sisters remained close all their lives. Prior to her husband's death, Marie Jeanne played little part in the politics of the time. In his reign, her husband carried out various improvements to the royal residences and left a great architectural legacy in Savoy. The couple also ordered the construction of various churches in Turin.[18]

Her husband also had various mistresses and illegitimate children, who Marie Jeanne was obliged to ignore. In 1672 Hortense Mancini, on the run from her husband, sought and received the protection of Charles Emmanuel II.[19] Much to Marie Jeanne's annoyance, she became a feature at court and was given the Château de Chambéry. Marie Jeanne was unable to remove her from there until Charles Emmanuel died. On 12 June 1675 Charles Emmanuel suddenly died in Turin at the age of forty after a series of convulsive fevers.[20] On his death bed he pronounced his wife as Regent of Savoy over his son and heir.[1]

Regent of Savoy[edit]

Declared Regent of her eleven-year-old son's dominions, she took her new charge with great interest and ambition. She carried on her husband's work on the properties of Savoy. She did much to maintain links with her powerful neighbour France, which was both ally and family. She was criticised for wanting to maintain power too much, and for being a puppet of Louis XIV.[2]

Marie Jeanne with her husband and son in 1666 by an unknown artist

Her relationship with her only son was always strained. This tension has been blamed on her ambition to keep power to herself.[21] Marie Jeanne spent most of her time working on state business, which she enjoyed, and had little time for her only child. She kept him under close scrutiny in order to make sure he would not try to assume power from her.[21] Despite the bad relationship with her son, she openly kept lovers at court. At the age of thirty three, she was in a relationship with the Count of Saint Maurice, some ten years her junior. Marie Jeanne and Saint Maurice's relationship lasted some four years before his whole family left in disgrace due to his father failing on a string of diplomatic relations.[21]

By 1677 Marie Jeanne was looking to organise a marriage for her son who would reach his majority in May 1680 even though her hold on power lasted another four years. Popular candidates were the Archduchess Maria Antonia a cousin in Portugal, a Princess of the Palatinate or the French born Anne Marie d'Orléans.[22] Marie Jeanne first looked to her sister in Lisbon whose only daughter the Infanta Isabel Luísa[23] was the heiress to her father's dominions. Portuguese law stated that an heiress to the throne must remain in the country and marry a kinsman. Marie Jeanne opened negotiations with Portugal in order to get the Infanta to marry her son Victor Amadeus II, Duke of Savoy.[24] This prestigious union would have left Marie Jeanne permanently in control of the Savoy with Victor Amadeus II living in Portugal. Openly disliking the union, Victor Amadeus II approaching his majority in 1679, he decided to postpone the marriage for two years even though plans were even made for Victor Amadeus' arrival in Lisbon and a political party even established opposing the union.[25]

These grand plans were halted as the birth of a son for Peter II of Portugal and a revolt in Piedmont supported by Victor Amadeus forced Marie Jeanne to abandon her plans and look elsewhere. The Infanta died unmarried in 1690 of smallpox. As a result, Marie Jeanne looked to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany who offered Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici as a bride.[26] Negotiations were kept secret from France. This match was popular as it would give a powerful ally in Italy and was even favoured by Victor Amadeus II. The secret correspondence between Savoy and Tuscany has since been lost and the match never materialised.[27]

Even though Marie Jeanne and her regency officially ended in 1679 she did not hand over power till 14 March 1684 when forced to do so by her son. She was responsible for the creation of the Royal Academy of Turin as well as making Savoy a neutral state. As noted, Louis XIV was eager to maintain his already considerable influence in Savoy and thus offered his niece Anne Marie d'Orléans. Anne Marie was the daughter of Philippe of France, Duke of Orléans and his first wife Henrietta of England. Victor Amadeus agreed to the match and he married Anne Marie in person on 6 May 1684.[28]

Retirement and later life[edit]

Her son having taken power from his mother decided to banish her from all direct influence at court.[21] She retired to the Palazzo Madama in the city of Turin opposite the Ducal Palace of Turin where the court resided most of the year.[29] This building had been the home of Christine Marie in her dowager years and under Marie Jeanne was extended under the direction of Filippo Juvarra who was a favourite of her son.

Marie Jeanne in widows clothing by an unknown artist, held at the Ducal Palace of Modena.

In 1686 she sold the Duchy of Aumale from Louis Auguste de Bourbon, an illegitimate son of Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan. the duchy of Aumale had been her personal property since 1659 at her father's death. Marie Jeanne was also the last Countess of Geneva which was united with Savoy after her death.[30]

Her son's marriage, though loveless, would produce some eight children four of which would have progeny. Marie Jeanne acted as godmother to her eldest grandchild Princess Maria Adelaide. She also maintained a good friendship with her daughter-in-law Anne Marie.[31] Maria Adelaide and her sister Maria Luisa would have a close relationship with their grandmother and both would make weekly visit's to the Palazzo Madama.[32] Her relationship with Maria Adelaide in particular is documented in letters the two sent to each other after 1696 when the young princess married Louis of France. Maria Luisa married Louis' brother Philip V of Spain in 1700. Sadly Maria Adelaide would die in 1712 at Versailles of Measles.[33] These two prestigious marriages were designed by Louis XIV to entice Savoyard support during the War of the Spanish Succession. During this war, Marie Jeanne was obliged to sell her jewels in order to maintain her household during the Battle of Turin of 1706.[34] She and her grandchildren were obliged to flee to the safety of Genoa during the conflict.[35]

Thanks to the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 her son was given the Kingdom of Sicily in recognition for his services to Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor in the War of the Spanish Succession.[36] Her son was crowned king of Sicily in Palermo Cathedral in December 1713. This absence caused Victor Amadeus II to ask his mother to maintain the government while he was gone but she declined and her grandson Victor Amadeus, Prince of Piedmont was made regent instead.[37]

Months after, the Savoyard court the family found out the death of Maria Luisa who had died in February 1714 which was followed a year later by the Prince of Piedmont who died of smallpox. Three deaths in four years caused mother and son to become closer.[29] With the death of the Prince of Piedmont her youngest grandson Charles Emmanuel, Duke of Aosta became heir apparent to his father's domains.

Despite family issues her son lost Sicily; Victor Amadeus II exchanged Sicily for Sardinia in 1720 as part of the Treaty of The Hague. This newly formed country was called States of Savoy or Kingdom of Sardinia, it was composed of several states including Savoy, Piedmont, Aosta Valley, Nice, Oneglia and Sardinia.

Marie Jeanne died at the Palazzo Madama in March 1724 a month before her 80th birthday.[38] She was buried at the Sacra di San Michele outside Turin. She donated her heart to the Carmelite Convent of Saint Cristina where she had an apartment for personal use.[31]


  1. Vittorio Amedeo II (4 May 1666 – 31 October 1732) married Anne Marie d'Orléans and had issue.[28] Had illegitimate issue with Jeanne Baptiste d'Albert de Luynes.[39] Married morganatically to Anna Canalis di Cumania.[40]


Titles, styles, honours and arms[edit]

Arms as Duchess of Savoy

Titles and styles[edit]

  • 11 April 1644 – 20 May 1665 Her Highness Mademoiselle de Nemours
  • 20 May 1665 – 12 June 1675 Her Highness The Duchess of Savoy
  • 12 June 1675 – 15 March 1724 Her Highness The Dowager Duchess of Savoy


  1. ^ a b c Symcox, 69
  2. ^ a b Campbell Orr, 32
  3. ^ Tome, p 431
  4. ^ Fraser, p 293
  5. ^ Ragnhild, p 334
  6. ^ Campbell Orr, p 31
  7. ^ a b c Pitts, 172
  8. ^ a b c d Campbell Orr, p 21
  9. ^ Campbell Orr, p 19
  10. ^ Williams, p 7
  11. ^ Campbell Orr, p 22
  12. ^ Hahn, p 105
  13. ^ Ragnhild, p 332
  14. ^ Ragnhild, p 333
  15. ^ Vitelleschi Vol I, p 66
  16. ^ Campbell Orr, p 23
  17. ^ Hahn, p 101
  18. ^ Frézet, p 579
  19. ^ Campbell Orr, p 25
  20. ^ Frézet, p 594
  21. ^ a b c d Symcox, 70
  22. ^ Williams, p 13
  23. ^ Symcox, p 81
  24. ^ Williams, p 9
  25. ^ Symcox, 82
  26. ^ Williams, p 12
  27. ^ Williams, p 23
  28. ^ a b Williams, p 17
  29. ^ a b Campbell Orr, p 41
  30. ^ Frézet, p 546
  31. ^ a b Campbell Orr, p 39
  32. ^ Williams, p 35
  33. ^ Fraser, p 363
  34. ^ Storrs, p 97
  35. ^ Storrs, p 275
  36. ^ Storrs, p 160
  37. ^ Campbell Orr, p 40
  38. ^ Symcox, p 227
  39. ^ Fraser, p 294
  40. ^ Symcox, p 229


  • Tome, Quatri: Les Anciennes Maisons de Paris Sous Napoléon III, Paris, 2009, BiblioBazaar LLC, ISBN 978-1-115-27908-6
  • Fraser, Antonia : Love and Louis XIV; The Women in the Life of the Sun King, Anchor Books, London, 2006, ISBN 0-7538-2293-8
  • Frézet, Jean: Histoire de la Maison de Savoie, Volume 2, Alliana et Paravia, 1827
  • Hahn, Emily: Love conquers nothing: a glandular history of civilization, Ayer Publishing, 1971, ISBN 978-0-8369-8062-2
  • Oresko, Robert (2004). "Maria Giovanna Battista of Savoy-Nemours (1644-1724): daughter, consort, and Regent of Savoy". In Campbell Orr, Clarissa. Queenship in Europe 1660-1815: The Role of the Consort. Cambridge University Press. pp. 16–55. ISBN 0-521-81422-7. 
  • Pitts, Vincent Joseph. : La Grande Mademoiselle at the Court of France, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000, ISBN 0-8018-6466-6
  • Ragnhild, Marie Hatton: Royal and republican sovereignty in early modern Europe, Cambridge University Press, 1997, ISBN 0-521-41910-7
  • Storrs, Christopher: War, diplomacy and the rise of Savoy, 1690-1720, Cambridge University Press, 1999, ISBN 0-521-55146-3
  • Symcox, Geoffrey: Victor Amadeus II: absolutism in the Savoyard State, 1675-1730, University of California Press, 1983, ISBN 978-0-520-04974-1
  • Vitelleschi, Marchese: The romance of Savoy, Victor Amadeus II. and his Stuart bride Volume I, Harvard College Library, New York, 1905
  • Williams. H. Noel: A Rose of Savoy, Marie Adelaide of Savoy, duchesse de Bourgogne, Mother of Louis XV, New York, 1909

External links[edit]

Media related to Marie Jeanne of Savoy at Wikimedia Commons

Marie Jeanne Baptiste of Savoy-Nemours
Born: 11 April 1644 Died: 15 March 1724
Italian royalty
Preceded by
Title last held by
Françoise Madeleine d'Orléans
Duchess of Savoy
20 May 1665 – 12 June 1675
Succeeded by
Title next held by
Anne Marie d'Orléans
Titles in pretence
Preceded by
Title last held by
Françoise Madeleine d'Orléans
Queen consort of Cyprus
20 May 1665 – 12 June 1675
Reason for succession failure:
Kingdom disestablished
Succeeded by
Anne Marie d'Orléans