Rare texts and images from early modern France

Succession in Barneville

At the beginning of Madame d’Aulnoy’s fairy tale “The White Cat,” an aging and timorous king sets up a winner-take-all competition between his sons: “whichever of you three brings me the most beautiful little dog will at once become my heir.” Some forty pages later, the eponymous heroine resolves the successoral contest with Oprah-esque largesse:

“I was born with six kingdoms; allow me to offer you one of them, and one to both of your sons. All I ask for in recompense is your friendship, and this young prince for my husband. We shall still be well provided for with three kingdoms.” 1

Marie-Catherine Le Jumel was not born with six kingdoms. As her father’s only child, she did however inherit from him the fief of Barneville and Pennedepie, two villages located between Honfleur and Trouville on the coast of Normandy. She went on to raise four daughters, but still had only one fief to pass on. In the fairy tale, a perfectly happy ending makes all feud and division disappear – and in real life?

detail of a 1719 map of Normandy showing Barneville and Honfleur
BIbliothèque nationale de France / Gallica

These questions of inheritance are at the center of a notarized “donation” signed by Mme d’Aulnoy and her two youngest daughters on May 10, 1701, just over eight months after the death of her husband. In an earlier post I examined an autograph “declaration,” dated February 8, 1701, in which Mme d’Aulnoy revealed the truth about the lawsuits that her husband had made her pursue against her relatives over an allegedly unpaid debt. Both these documents illustrate the newly widowed Marie-Catherine’s attempts to retake control over her legal and financial situation and to undo actions forced upon her by François de La Motte. While the “donation” is written neither in her own hand nor in the first person, it nevertheless provides invaluable insight into the author’s familial and material concerns. In the following I will try to briefly summarize its contents and circumstances before giving a full transcription of the original text.

The May 1701 donation aims to correct a transaction executed in November 1685, on the occasion of the marriage of Mme d’Aulnoy’s oldest surviving daughter Marie-Anne. The marriage contract stipulates that the mother transfers to her eldest daughter, “in advance of her future succession,” the fief of Barneville and Pennedepie with all associated lands. In exchange, Mme d’Aulnoy is promised an annual pension of 1000 livres, to be taken from the revenue of these lands. In a separate deed, Monsieur d’Aulnoy pledges to pay his wife an additional pension of 200 livres and to take care of the sustenance and education of their three younger daughters, so that they would cause no expenses to their mother.

These marital arrangements (which are all attested by notarial records) shed further light on the relationship between Monsieur and Madame d’Aulnoy in the years 1685-1700. As discussed here previously, in December 1686 Louis XIV himself ordered that Marie-Catherine be arrested and taken to the Ursuline convent of Blois. Two months later, the king clarified that in punishing her “bad behavior,” he did not mean to prevent her from carrying on with the lawsuits that she had filed against her husband. It is likely that at least some of these lawsuits revolved around the pension payments pledged in 1685. This is suggested by a 1690 “transaction” by which the two spouses attempted to put an end to their ongoing litigation: Monsieur d’Aulnoy agreed to pay his wife 550 livres of outstanding pension, as well as another 300 livres that he owed her according to a court order. In addition, he returned to her a casket (cassette) of personal effects that had been seized and sealed upon her arrest, and promised to let her freely choose where to live once she would no longer be confined to the convent.

François de La Motte died in August 1700. Similar to the “declaration” filed in February 1701, the May “donation” discloses elements of the story that had been kept under wraps during his lifetime. Only now does Mme d’Aulnoy state openly that it was her husband who “had compelled her (l’avoit obligé)” to hand over Barneville and Pennedepie to Marie-Anne. She also asserts that he failed to adequately provide for their other daughters, who had to renounce his succession because it would be onerous and detrimental to them. (François seems to have been burdened with debt for most of his life.)

What’s more, in 1701 Mme d’Aulnoy explains that she had not realized before that the marriage contract of 1685 contravened article 434 of Norman customary law (la coutume de Normandie), which prohibits parents from giving preferential treatment to one child over the others. (Legally, this argument seems rather weak, as the marriage had been concluded according to the coutume de Paris with express rejection of other coutumes, in particular that of Normandy.) The agreement in favor of Marie-Anne should therefore be deemed null and void and be replaced with a donation that benefits all four daughters equally, compensating for the lack of a paternal inheritance. In return, their mother would receive from the four of them a combined annuity of 1100 livres.

Thérèse-Aimée (married since 1698) and Françoise-Maxime-Angélique accept the donation with most humble thanks and promise to procure the formal consent of their sister Judith-Henriette, who lives in Spain with their grandmother. Will Judith-Henriette indeed sign on to the deal? And what will Marie-Anne and her husband say about all this? We may find out in a future episode – stay tuned!

Volker Schröder

August 8, 2022


1. “The White Cat,” translated by John Ashbery, in Wonder Tales, ed. Marina Warner, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1996, p. 20 and 62.


10 may 1701


Fut presente dame Marie Catherine Le Jumel de Barneville veuve de François Delamotte ecuyer seigneur et baron D’Aulnoy d’avec lequel elle estoit separée quant aux biens dem.te a Paris rüe de Bourbon quartier St. Germain des Prez parroisse St. Sulpice;

Laquelle considerant que led. feu Sr. Daulnoy son mary l’avoit obligé par le contrat de mariage de dame Marie Anne Delamotte D’Aulnoy leur fille aisnée avec Claude Denis Deheere chevalier seigneur de Souint passé devant Desforges et Arouet no.res a Paris le vingt neuf novembre mil six cens quatre vingt cinq de donner et dellaisser a lad. dame Deheere sa fille en avancement de sa succession future les terres et seigneuries de Barneville et Pennedepie, heritages et herbages en deppendans, scituez en Normandie pres la ville d’Honfleur avec les herbages appellez le Champ de Foire, de Reux, St. Ymer scituez proche Pont-l’evesque qui sont tous les biens que lad. dame Daulnoy possedoit dans la province de Normandie, a la charge d’une pension annuelle de mil livres pendant sa vie qu’elle s’est reservée sur les fruits et revenus desd. terres, ainsy qu’il est porté par led. contrat de mariage;

Et que par un acte particulier passé le mesme jour et a l’instant dud. contrat de mariage pardevant Drouet et led. Desforges notaires led. deffunct Sr. Daulnoy auroit promis et se seroit obligé envers lad. dame Daulnoy, en consideration delad. donnation par elle faite a lad. dame Deheere desd. terres, heritages et herbages en dependans, de luy bailler et payer aussy sa vie durant deux cens livres de pension, outre lesd. mil livres de pension par elle reservéz sur les fruits et revenus desd. Terres;

Et outre de prendre le soin dud. jour en avant de l’entretient et education de leurs autres enfans issus de leur mariage, et de fournir a cet effet a toutes les depenses necessaires en sorte que lad. dame Daulnoy n’en soit aucunement chargée;

Mesmes led. Sr. Deheere se seroit encore obligé envers lad. dame Daulnoy par un autre acte passé ce mesme jour pardevant lesd. Drouet et Desforges notaires de luy payer pour les mesmes considerations cent livres aussy de pension viagere a commencer du jour du deceds dud. Sr. Daulnoy par augmentation a lad. pension de mil livres,

Laquelle donnation faite par lad. dame Daulnoy est entierement nulle comme ayant esté par elle faite contre la disposition de l’article quatre cens trentequatre de la coustume de Normandie qui deffend aux peres et meres de faire avantage a un de leurs enfans plus qu’a l’autre, soit de meubles ou d’heritages, ce que lad. dame a ignoré jusqu’a present;

Et considerant d’ailleurs que led. Sr. Daulnoy est deceddé depuis huit mois et plus, sans avoir laissé de biens suffisans pour satisfaire au payement des conventions matrimonialles de lad. dame, ny pour subvenir a la nouriture et entretenement de ses autres enfans qui ont esté obligés de renoncer a sa succession;

Et voullant lad. dame Daulnoy observer entre lad. dame Deheere et ses autres enfans l’egalité prescripte par lad. coustume de Normandie, et leur donner les moyens de trouver leur subsistance dans les biens qu’elle a abandonnez a leur sœur aisnée, puisqu’ils sont hors d’estat de la trouver dans la succession de leur pere;

Elle a, nonobstant et sans avoir esgard a lad. donnation par elle faite a lad. dame Deheere qui ne peut subsister, et qu’elle pretend nulle comme estant contraire aud. article quatre cens trente quatre de la coustume de Normandie, volontairement donné et donne par ces presentes en advancement de sa succession future: a dame Terese Aymée Delamotte Daulnoy epouse separée de biens de Edme De Preaulx chevalier Seigneur Dantigny, La Voulte, St. Marc et autres lieux; et a dam.lles Judith-Henriette et Françoise-Maxime-Angelique Delamotte Daulnoy filles majeures jouissantes de leurs droits ses filles; lesd. dame de Preaulx et dam.lle Françoise Maxime Angelique Delamotte Daulnoy dem.tes a Paris avec lad. dame Daulnoy leur mere susd. rüe et parroisse a ce presentes et acceptantes tant pour elles que pour lad. dam.lle Judith Henriette Delamotte Daulnoy leur sœur absente estant en Espagne, dont elles se font fortes conjointement et de laquelle pour plus de validité des presentes a son egard elles promettent de rapporter une procuration en bonne forme specialle pour accepter pour elle la presente donnation dans trois mois prochains, sans neantmoins que le deffaut d’acceptation de la part de lad. dam.lle leur sœur puisse empescher a leur esgard l’effet et execution desd. presentes; les parts et portions qui peuvent appartenir a lad. dame De Preaulx et ausd. dam.lles ses sœurs du chef et a cause de lad. dame Daulnoy leur mere dans lesd. terres et seigneuries de Barneville et Pennedepie, heritages et herbages en dependans, et autres biens scituéz dans la province de Normandie qu’elle auroit donnéz et dellaisséz a lad. dame Deheere par sond. contrat de mariage;

Pour en faire des a present le partage esgal avec lad. dame Deheere leur sœur aisnée, et jouir par chacune d’elles en toutte proprietté du lot qui luy sera escheu;

A la charge de payer et continuer a lad. d.e Daulnoy par chacun an sa vie durant en sa maison a Paris ou au porteur par lesd. dames Deheere, De Preaux, et dam.lles Daulnoy esgallement lesd. unze cens livres de rente et pension viagere, pour le payement de laquelle pension elle aura privilege sur tous lesd. biens par elle abandonnéz; sans neantmoins que lesd. dames Deheere et de Preaulx et lesd. dam.lles leurs sœurs les puissent vendre, aliener ny engager en tout ny partie d’iceux du vivant de lad. dame leur mere, laquelle lesd. dame de Preaulx et d.lle Daulnoy a leur esgard remercient tres humblement de la presente donnation qu’elles ont acceptées a leur esgard aux charges, reserves et conditions susd.

Et pour faire insinuer ces presentes par tout ou besoin sera lesd. parties ont fait et constitué leur procureur le porteur d’icelles, auquel elles en donnent tout pouvoir et d’en requerir tous actes necessaires;

Et pour l’execution des presentes et depend.ces lesd. d.e D Preaulx et d.lle Daulnoy ont esleu leur domicille ou elles sont dem.tes susd. auquel lieus Nonob. Promettans Obligeans Renonçans

Fait et passé a Paris en la maison de lad. dame Daulnoy le dixiesme jour de May mil sept cent un apres midy et ont signé

Marie Catherine Le Jumel de Barneville Daulnoy

Therese Aimée de lamotte Depreaulx

Françoisse Maxime Angelique de la Motte




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This entry was posted on August 8, 2022 in Archives, Biography and tagged , , .