Louise Lévêque de Vilmorin

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Marie Louise Lévêque de Vilmorin (4 April 1902 – 26 December 1969) was a French novelist, poet and journalist.

Born in the family château at Verrières-le-Buisson, Essonne, a suburb southwest of Paris, she was heir to a great French seed company fortune, that of Vilmorin. She was afflicted with a slight limp that became a personal trademark. Vilmorin was best known as a writer of delicate but mordant tales, often set in aristocratic or artistic milieu. Her most famous novel was Madame de..., published in 1951, which was adapted into the celebrated film The Earrings of Madame de... (1953), directed by Max Ophüls and starring Charles Boyer, Danielle Darrieux and Vittorio de Sica. Vilmorin's other works included Juliette, La lettre dans un taxi, Les belles amours, Saintes-Unefois, and Intimités. Her letters to Jean Cocteau were published after the death of both correspondents. She was awarded the recipient of the Renée Vivien prize for women poets in 1949.[1][2]

Femme fatale[edit]

As a young woman, in 1923, she had been engaged to novelist and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry; however, the engagement was called off, even though Saint-Exupéry gave up flying for a while after her family protested such a risky occupation. Vilmorin's first husband was an American real-estate heir, Henry Leigh Hunt (1886–1972), the only son of Leigh S. J. Hunt, a businessman who once owned much of Las Vegas, Nevada by his wife, Jessie Noble.[1] They married in 1925 (1924 according to other sources), moved to Las Vegas, and divorced in the 1930s. They had three daughters: Jessie, Alexandra, and Helena.

Her second husband was Count Paul Pálffy ab Erdöd (1890–1968), a much-married Austrian-born Hungarian playboy, who had been second husband to the Hungarian countess better known as Etti Plesch, owner of two Epsom Derby winners. Palffy married Louise as his fifth wife in 1938, but the couple soon divorced.

Vilmorin was the mistress of another of Etti Plesch's husbands, Count [Maria Thomas] Paul Esterházy de Galántha (1901–1964), who left his wife in 1942 for Vilmorin. They never married. For a number of years, she was the mistress of Duff Cooper, British ambassador to France. Louise spent the last years of her life as the companion of the French Cultural Affairs Minister and author André Malraux, calling herself "Marilyn Malraux".

Francis Poulenc literally sang her praises, considering her an equal to Paul Éluard and Max Jacob, found in her writing "a sort of sensitive impertinence, libertinage, and an appetite which, carried on into song [is] what I tried to express in my extreme youth with Marie Laurencin in Les Biches." (Ivry 1996)


Louise was the younger daughter of Philippe de Vilmorin (1872 - 1917) by his wife Berthe Marie Mélanie de Gaufridy de Dortan (1876 - 1937), daughter of Roger de Gaufridy de Dortan (1843–1905) and his wife, Adélaïde de Verdonnet (1853–1918).[2].[3]

Her siblings were:

  • Marie Pierre (a.k.a. Mapie, 1901-1972), who married, as her first husband, a cousin, Guy Marie Félix Lévêque de Vilmorin (1896-1984) in 1922 (div. 1932) by whom she had three children.[3] She married 2ndly 1933, Guillaume de Toulouse-Lautrec-Montfa, comte de Toulouse-Lautrec (1902-1955), a relative of the painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec; by him she had further issue a son and a daughter. She became a popular food columnist in French magazines as Mapie de Toulouse-Lautrec.[4]
  • Henry (born 1903)
  • Olivier (1904-1962)
  • André (1907-1987)
  • Roger (1905 - 1980)[5], who was fathered by King Alfonso XIII of Spain.[4]

Louise de Vilmorin's children, all by her first husband, were:

a) Jessie [6][5] Leigh Hunt (b. 3 February 1929 [7] Hauts-de-Seine, Neuilly-sur-Seine [8], not 1928 as listed here [9]). She married 1stly 1951 (div by 1962) Albert Cabell Bruce Jr. (b. 11 August 1925), only son of Albert Cabell Bruce (nephew of William Cabell Bruce) by his wife Helen Eccleston Whitridge (grand-daughter of Gov. Oden Bowie), by whom she had issue, four sons: Cabell, Leigh, Thomas, and James, all born 1952-1959 in Midland, Texas. [10]. She married 2ndly Clement Biddle Wood, an editor of The Paris Review, in 1965.[11]

b) Alexandra Leigh Hunt (b. 1 April 1930 Hauts-de-Seine, Neuilly-sur-Seine)[12] married Henry Ridgeley Horsey (b. 18 Oct 1924 Dover, Delaware, USA). Her children were Henry Ridgely Horsey Jr., Edmond Philip de Vilmorin Horsey, Alexandra Thérèse Leigh-Hunt Horsey, Randall Revell Horsey, Philippa Ridgeley Horsey,

c) Helena Leigh Hunt (23 June 1931 Hauts-de-Seine, Neuilly-sur-Seine [13] - 28 December 1995 Southampton Hospital, Long Island, New York, aged 64),[6] a realist still-life painter. She was married (div) to John Tracy Baxter (b. 23 Aug 1926 Macon, Georgia, USA)http://www.geneall.net/U/per_page.php?id=317506, with whom according to the New York obituary, she had three daughters, Elizabeth Baxter and Etienne Baxter, and Leigh (Baxter) Warre.


  • Ivry, Benjamin (1996): Francis Poulenc, 20th-Century Composers series. Phaidon Press Limited, ISBN 0-7148-3503-X.
  • Bothorel, Jean (1993): Louise ou la Vie de Louise de Vilmorin, Bernard Grasset, Paris
  • Wagener, Françoise (2008), Je suis née inconsolable: Louise de Vilmorin (1902–1969), Albin Michel, Paris, ISBN 978-2-226-18083-4.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ de Flers, Claude; Bodin, Thierry (November 19, 2014). "Littérature, de la comtesse de Ségur à Marguerite Duras". In Ader Nordmann Catalogue. Femmes, Lettres & Manuscrits autographes [Women, Letters & Autographed Manuscripts] (PDF) (in French). 778. Paris, F: Etude Ader of Drouot. p. 403. Lettre autographe signée " N.C.B. ", Paris 24 mai 1949, [à la poétesse George Day] […] La seule poétesse éligible reste donc Louise de Vilmorin... 
  2. ^ Wagener, Françoise (January 14, 2009). Je suis née inconsolable : Louise de Vilmorin (1902–1969) [I was born inconsolable: Louise de Vilmorin (1902–1969)]. Essais - Documents (in French). Editions Albin Michel. ISBN 9782226196521. Retrieved 2016-04-10. Notons que Natalie Barney appréciait l'œuvre poétique de Louise et lui avait donné le Prix Renée Vivien […] 
  3. ^ "Sold images / Fine cabinet photograph of Alfonso XIII by Arnaldo Fonseca, c. 1907" Accessed 11 June 2012
  4. ^ Roger de Vilmorin's biological father is identified in Gerard Eyre Nobel, Ena, Spain's English Queen (Constable, 1984), page 170
  5. ^ "Miss Jessie L. Hunt, Prospective Bride", The New York Times, 6 January 1951
  6. ^ "Helena Leigh-Hunt Still-Life Painter, 64" (obituary), The New York Times, Published: 5 January 1996