Here is Franciszka Corvin-Krasińska, whose diary I just read. It was fascinating. Somebody should make it into a movie. I liked that she did a good job of describing her surroundings, as well as foreshadowing (which is crazy, because she had not yet lived her story!) She also was an admirable, brave woman, and I did not find her to be an obnoxious, melancholy, brooding, depressed, romantic, ball of hormones. I thought she was very “real” – a person with flaws, but who genuinely tried to do what she thought was right.
SPOILER ALERT – I am going to ruin the surprise of the story in the next little bit, so read at your own risk!
Here is her eventual husband, Charles of Saxony, Duke of Courland.
Their marriage was totally morganatic, aka he outranked her. He was slated to become the king of Poland at one time! So how did a nice, beautiful, but not super wealthy or prominent or noble woman end up marrying the Duke of Courland who might have been king?
Well…they eloped of course.
But what is tragic: they kept it a secret.
Clandestine marriage! Class warfare! Bedroom secrets! Why isn’t this a movie?
What I loved about this book, and the reason I read it even though I don’t have any known Polish ancestors, was because it really took me into the 18th century setting of central Europe. Later in life, Franciszka became close friends with Maria Theresa,
one of the most influential the only Habsburg woman to ever rule Bohemia/Moravia.
Though all of my known Czech ancestors were common people, with the highest rank being a burgher, but most of them being small to medium size land holding farmers struggling to eke out a living and pay their robota taxes, still, this book gave me a really interesting glimpse into the way the nobility of that time and place lived. I think it’s important to understand this, although I also think it is ridiculously easy to get sucked into the allure and magic of that era. I’m not really interested in heraldry or proving my ancestors’ names/class/rank; I am interested in understanding their world.
L. P. Hartley said, “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”
When Franciszka becomes engaged to Charles, she does (eventually) get permission from her parents. She writes:
Here my beloved Mother interrupted my writing. She came into my room carrying heavy bundles of costly silks, laces, and jewels, and laying them down on the[Pg 174] chairs she said rather timidly: “I have brought here a part of the things which are destined for each of our daughters; I would have brought more, but nothing seems to me good enough. I have been talking to my honored husband; he will sell a few villages in order that when the happy moment comes, and the marriage is announced to the world, our second daughter may receive an outfit in accordance with her high rank.” Moved to tears, I wanted to embrace her knees, but she did not permit me, and was still making excuses for the “miserable presents,” as she called them.
My reaction when I first read this was to chuckle and think, “Oh yeah, I’ll just sell a few villages! What kind of nonsensical fairyland world were they living in, where it was possible to sell a few villages to pay for her dowry – more specifically, her wedding dress????”
I don’t know.
In general, the concept of 18th century ownership is something that I struggle to grasp. I mean, what does it mean in practical terms, to “own” a village? I don’t know.
I need to read more.