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Page 1 The life of Mère Thérèse, La Baronne de Vaux

Page 2  Book Review by Méabh Ní Uallacháin

Page 3  The Story of John Casey by Margaret Mary Joyce

Page 4  Our Deceased Sisters and Acknowledgements

Page 5  Birthday Celebrations

On 7th Feb 1800 Thérésia de Cabarrus Tallien gave birth to the first of the four children she would have with Gabriel-Julian  Ouvrard. She named the little girl Clémence Isaure Thérésia. Naming her Clémence was likely due to the circumstances surrounding her birth. In the midst of her labour, news was brought to Thérésia that a friend, the comte de Senonville was going to be given the death sentence. She asked the attending doctor, Jean-Louis Baudelocque, the leading obstetrician of Parisien society, if she had time to go intercede for him with Napoleon. On being told it was ok but to be quick about it, she summoned her carriage and went off to plead his cause with Napoleon. Her efforts were successful and on return to her residence she gave birth that evening at 7.00 and called the child Clémence to commemorate her victory.


Over the next editions of Seo agus Siud we will be retelling the story of the life of Mère Thérèse based on the text from  Mairin Barrett’s book, Mère Thérèse (1983), and also Jehanne Aubry’s book Une Fille de Madame Tallien, La Baronne de Vaux (1935) with additional historical background and images researched by Barbara McArdle

Thérésia lived there until her marriage in 1805 to the Comte de Caraman, later to become the Prince de Chimay. And afterwards it was used by the couple  as a Parisien  base. The Chimay family sold the property in 1840, five years after Thérésia’s death. It was bought by the  Marquis de Chanaleilles and has been known as the Hôtel de Chanaleilles ever since. Over the years, much of the land attached to the grand hôtels of the area was sold off for redevelopment.  New streets were created to allow access to newly built appartment blocks. What would have been the avenue leading to Thérésia’s property became the rue Vanneau, and cut up the side of Thérésia’s  property to link with the rue de Varennes with the rue de Babylone.  Another new street cut across the front of the property and was named rue de Chanaleilles after the then owner of the propetry.  The Hotel de Chanaleilles now lies behind high walls at the corner of rue Vanneau and rue de Chanaleilles. The map below dated 1850 shows the new streets of rue Vanneau and rue de Chanaleilles

The Hôtel de Chanaleilles without its land and gardens is now in private ownership and surrounded by high walls. It has been extensively restored and also extended. The website The Devoted Classicist has some photographs of it before and after restoration.  While not depicting the residence as it was in Thérésia’s time, the images can nevertheless give us some idea of what it looked like.  This is where the young Clémence would have lived during her holidays from the Choisel nursery and her boarding school.

When Clémence was born, Thérésia was then living in the bijoux residence at rue de Babylone which had been presented to her the previous year by Gabriel-Julian Ouvrard. Rue de Babylone was then a quiet suburban street in the fashionable Faubourg Saint-Germain, home to many of the magnificent dwellings of the French aristocracy. The map below drawn by Michel Huard for his website depicts the area in 1790. We see that most of the grand hôtels fronted on to the rue de Varenne but their gardens extended down to rue de Babylone.  (Reminder: the term hôtel in french is used of a large town house).  Madame Tallien’s house was then called Hôtel de Barbançon.  It had been built by the Marquis de Barbançon in 1770, was confiscated by the state during the revolution and changed hands a number of times before being purchased by Ouvrard. The entrance to the property was almost opposite the barracks of the French National Guard which still exists today at that place.

Two of the grand hôtels of Thérésia’s day have retained most of their gardens.  The Hôtel Biron is now the Rodin museum and the Hôtel Matignon is today the official residence of France’s prime minister.

Clémence’s early years were spent in the nursery run the the Choisels in boulevard des Invalides. just round the corner from the rue the Babylone. In the four years after Clémence’s birth, a brother, Jules Adolphe Edouard, and then two sisters, joined her in their nursery.  Her two younger sisters were named Clarisse Gabriel Thérésa, and Stéphanie Caroline Thérésa   As the Choisel’s house was just round the corner from the rue the Babylone, her mother could easily have Clémence and her three siblings brought round to her residence on visits.

When Clémence was six years old, her mother withdrew her from the nursery and sent her to finish her education at the convent boarding school, Abbaye-aux-Bois in rue de Sèvres, again not far away. This time almost round the corner in rue de Sèvres at the opposite end of rue de Babylone. Clémence’s early life was all within a quite confined area of Paris.  Her mother’s house in rue de Babylone, the nursery in boulveard des Invalides, and the boarding school in rue de Sevres were all in the 7th arrondissement and would have been within walking distance of one another. Clémence was there for 11 years leaving in 1817 when she was 17 years old. Her holidays would have been spent with her mother and her other siblings wherever her mother was in residence. Thérésia married in 1805.  She and her new husband initially lived in rue de Babylone while the chateau de Chimay was undergoing restoration and after that they seemed to have divided their time between Paris and Chimay.  So Clémence would have been lived in both residences and been familiar with her mother’s social circles.

Mairin Barrett tells us: “In pre-Revolutionary the Abbaye-aux-Bois times it had been a big Cistercian Abbey with a large boarding school attached, but during the Revolution, the premises were confiscated and both nuns and pupils had to leave.  When more settled times returned for the Church some of the nuns came back and with much labour they managed to re-establish the boarding school. Clémence would have been among the earliest of the pupils in this new phase of the school's history.”  

The garden pictured here was where Clémence would have played, walked and prayed. When the buildings of the Abbaye were demolished at the beginning of the 20th century to make way for the enlargement of the rue de Sèvres, a small garden square was constructed  in the midst of the new configuration of apartment blocks and a new street.  It was named, as was the new street, after Mme Recamier, a famous literary socialite who took up residence in the Abbey in 1819 two years after Clemence had left. The square, a delightful green oasis among the busy streets and now renamed square Roger Stephane is hidden down an entry from the rue de Sèvres.  This square possibly contructed on the site of the original garden is all that remains of the Abbaye aux Bois.

We finish this chapter of Clémence's life with a direct excerpt from Mairin Barrett’s book describing Clémence's education in the Abbaye aux Bois:

The education Clémence received there was typical of what was considered fitting for the daughters of well-to-do families. The academic subjects they studied were grammar, literature, history and geography; they also did a little science and sufficient arithmetic to keep household accounts — being girls they were not expected to tackle Euclid or the classical languages. Other subjects were drawing, painting, fine needlework, dancing, learning to play on the harp or the clavichord, all of them accomplishments considered necessary for young ladies. And for the older girls there was specific training in the social arts.  The emphasis was on turning out cultivated and sincerely Christian ladies, and great attention was paid to the moral and religious formation of the girls. They would also have been made conscious of their duty to be charitable towards the poor, but as yet there was very little thought of its being a Christian's duty to try to change the things that kept people in poverty.  

In terms of our modern educational requirements Clémence's schooling might appear sketchy and inadequate but for her own day it was considered sufficient by most educators. Louise Humann, who during the very years Clémence was in school was running a highly successful educational establishment, would not have agreed but she was exceptional in her devotion to learning and in her expectation of what girls could achieve. Clémence was not particularly academic-minded, but she was intelligent and could express herself clearly and logically as various letters that are preserved in the Archives in Juilly show.  

In the school holidays when Clémence went home, her education in the art of mingling in polite society continued. Her mother's salon was famous and even when she and her husband moved permanently to Chimay,  people still liked to be invited to her soirées. Clémence evidently enjoyed these functions and once she was considered old enough to do so she was allowed to attend. Later on when she had her own house, she too had a well-known salon and was at her ease in the highest society. Like her mother, Clémence knew everyone and when she began to devote herself to the poor in a big way there were many she could call on for help in her projects

                                                                    (To be continued)

The Comte de Senonville was to write to Clémence 27 years later declaring his everlasting gratitude to her mother and flamboyantly reminding her that he had been “restored to life before her great black eyes had even seen the light of day.”

Below is an extract from the Registry of Births for the 10th arrondissement in Paris detailing Clémence’s birth.

Hotel de Barbançon given to Mme Tallien in 1800

rue de Babylone

Boulvard des Invalides where the Choisel Nursery was

Abbaye aux Bois where Clémence went to school

rue Vanneau

Hotel de Chanaleilles

rue de Chanaleilles

Courtyard L’Abbaye-aux-Bois Street View L’Abbaye-aux-Bois Garden L’Abbaye-aux-Bois

Map of the Faubourg Saint-Germain