Jeanne Françoise Julie Adélaïde Récamier

Jeanne Françoise Julie Adélaïde Récamier

Jeanne-Françoise Julie Adélaïde Bernard Récamier (December 4, 1777 - May 11, 1849) was a Frenchwoman who was a leader of the literary and political circles of the early 19th century.


Born in Lyon, France and known as Juliette, she was married at fifteen to Jacques Récamier (d. 1830), a rich banker more than 30 years her senior. At the time, it was said that he was in fact her natural father who married her to make her his heir.

Beautiful, accomplished, and with a real love for literature, she possessed at the same time a temperament which protected her from scandal, and from the early days of the French Consulate to almost the end of the July Monarchy her salon in Paris was one of the chief resorts of literary and political society that pretended to fashion. The habitués of her house included many former royalists, with others, such as Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte and Jean Victor Marie Moreau, more or less disaffected to the government. This circumstance, together with her refusal to act as lady-in-waiting to Empress consort Joséphine Bonaparte and her friendship for Anne Louise Germaine de Staël, brought her under suspicion.

It was through Madame de Staël that Madame Récamier became acquainted with Benjamin Constant, whose singular political tergiversations during the last days of the empire and the first of the restoration have been attributed to her persuasions. Madame Récamier was eventually exiled from Paris by the orders of Napoleon I of France. After a short stay at her native Lyon she proceeded to Rome, and finally to Naples. There Récamier was on exceedingly good terms with Joachim Murat and his wife Caroline Bonaparte, who were then intriguing with the Bourbons. She persuaded Constant to plead the claims of Murat in a memorandum addressed to the Congress of Vienna, and also induced him to take up a decided attitude in opposition to Napoleon during the Hundred Days.

Her husband had sustained heavy financial losses in 1805, and she visited Madame de Staël at Coppet in Switzerland. There was a project for her divorce, in order that she might marry Prince Augustus of Prussia, but though her husband was willing, it was not arranged. In her later days she lost most of the rest of her fortune; but she continued to receive visitors at L'Abbaye-aux-Bois, the old Paris convent to which she retired in 1814. Here François-René de Chateaubriand was a constant visitor, and in a manner master of the house; but even in old age, ill-health and reduced circumstances Madame Récamier never lost her attraction. She seems to have been incapable of any serious attachment, and although she numbered among her admirers Mathieu de Montmorency, Lucien Bonaparte, Prince Augustus of Prussia, Pierre-Simon Ballanche, Jean-Jacques Ampère and Constant, none of them obtained over her so great an influence as did Chateaubriand, though she suffered much from his imperious temper. If she had any genuine affection, it seems to have been for Amable Guillaume Prosper Brugière, baron de Barante, whom she met at Coppet.

In 1859, "Souvenirs et correspondences tirés des papiers de Madame Récamier" was edited by Madame Lenormant. See Madame Lenormant's "Madame Récamier, les amis de sa jeunesse et sa correspondence intime" (1872); Mme Mohl, "Madame Récamier", with a sketch of the history of society in France (1821 and 1862); also François Guizot in the "Revue des deux mondes" for December 1859 and February 1873; H Noel Williams, "Madame Récamier, and her Friends" (London, 1901); E Herriott (Engl. trans., by Alys Hallard), "Madame Récamier et ses amis" (1904) (elaborate and exhaustive).

Juliette Récamier died in 1849 at the age of 71 and was buried in the Cimetière de Montmartre in the Montmartre Quarter of Paris.

She gave her name to a famous kind of sofa called the "récamier" after her and her habit to lie in one. [



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