Hi Marci! Welcome back to Let Them Read Books!
Thanks so much for having me again on your fantastic blog!
How were you first introduced to Marie Mancini, and what motivated you to write her story?
I actually learned about Marie Mancini while doing research for GIRL ON THE GOLDEN COIN. In most sources Marie is mentioned as King Louis’ first love, someone he might have married if not for his duty to his country. But a deeper study revealed a story far more complex, full of conspiracy, corruption, passion…I could’t resist writing about her!
Is there any evidence to suggest she was involved in the occult, as depicted in your portrayal?
Contemporaries said Marie Mancini’s father practiced two arts of divination; necromancy and astrology. He did read an evil star in Marie’s horoscope. Necromancy was the art of conjuring and commanding spirits, which was not considered evil, but dangerous and therefore illegal for anyone other than an ordained priest to perform. Marie herself was an accomplished astrologer, publishing two complex astrological almanacs in her lifetime. Two of Marie’s sisters were accused of employing witches during the Affair of the Poisons in Paris. In her memoir, Marie claims to have had a sense, what she calls “presentiments,” about upcoming events. She often dressed herself as a sorceress for pageants in Rome. However, I do not know the extent to which she believed what we now call the occult. She remained firmly in the Catholic faith until her death.
What kind of sources did you use to research the occult in seventeenth-century France?
Beware of ever asking me about my historical research, as I tend to do too much! Sources I used to research seventeenth century occult practices include:
Heptameron by Peter de Abano
Merlini Anglici Ephemeris 1659 (an astrological almanac) by William Lilly Christian Astrology by William Lilly
Culpeper’s English Physician & Complete Herbal with Their Medicinal and Occult Properties by Nicholas Culpeper
Christians, Blasphemers, and Witches: Afro-Mexican Ritual Practice in the Seventeenth Century by Joan Cameron Bristol
From Bishop to Witch: The System of the Sacred in Early Modern Terra D’Otranto by David Gentilcore
Strange Revelations, Magic, Poison, an Sacrilege in Louis XIV’s France by Lynn Wood Mollenauer
Did you come across anything in your research that surprised you?
With regards to the occult practices in seventeenth century Paris, the sacrilegious activities of an underground ring of witches and renegade priests outright shocked me. For more on this, I suggest reading Strange Revelations (listed above).
But a more pleasant surprise was Marie Mancini herself. Each Mancini sister is fascinating in her own right, and I’d love to write more stories about them. I can not resist historical women who struggled against the established order. Marie simply fought a more dramatic battle than her sisters (with the exception of Hortense). Marie’s stout belief in true love and her refusal to comply with her greedy uncle, Cardinal Mazarin, nearly got her killed. There is every indication that King Louis was truly in love with her. I just became fascinated by her personality - you might even say she enchanted me!
The people who have heard of Marie Mancini before now may only know her as the woman King Louis did not marry. But Cardinal Mazarin died before she was married-off in Rome, and King Louis wanted her to stay in France. People don’t realize that Marie had the opportunity to refuse her marriage and stay with King Louis as his mistress. In studying her life, I believe she rejected King Louis because he failed to use his own power and stand up for her when he had the chance. King Louis learned his lesson. He not only came to utilize his own power, he expanded it, and then he kept everyone around him under his strict control.
I was surprised at how different the French royal court was from the English court in the seventeenth century. The primary difference is religious. France was firmly Catholic, while England had been dealing with the aftermath of their protestant reformation for generations. The difference in religions make the power structures different in each court. Some Catholic aristocrats in the French court still held to a number of superstitious beliefs that drove them to seek the services of an underground ring of witches and renegade priests dabbling in the occult arts. The majority of the English court hated Catholics and were ever on-guard against plots of a Catholic take-over.
If you had to choose a favorite, which would it be?
King Louis learned to be a powerful man with Marie Mancini’s help, and only seized power of his own kingdom when his corrupt advisor died. After this, Louis was emotionally distant, politically skilled but not particularly pleasant to be around. Charles II inherited his throne while his kingdom was losing a terrible war. After a period of exile, his countrymen Restored him to power because they believed in him. Charles was easygoing, witty, and a master at balancing factions. King Louis spent his energy enforcing Catholicism and expanding his boundaries. Charles spent his energy keeping the peace and enforcing the need to be tolerant of other religions. For these reasons, I prefer King Charles II.
What are you working on now?
My novel in progress is top secret at the moment! But I can tell you about a short story I have coming out in March, 2016 in the anthology titled A Fall of Poppies, Stories of Love and the Great War along with fellow authors Jessica Brockmole, Hazel Gaynor, Evangeline Holland, Kate Kerrigan, Jennifer Robson, Heather Webb, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig.
The Great War has ravaged Europe, leaving devastated landscapes and scarred psyches in its wake. In spite of the peace treaty signed on November 11, 1918--Armistice Day--war still rages within. Men and women, those who fought and those who watched from the sidelines, pick up the pieces of their shattered lives: widows dream of revenge, nurses withhold their secrets, prisoners plan for escape, lovers reunite, and the product of violence brings an innocent war-child. The guns have stopped, but courage and resolve are still tested. In the deep silence of the ceasefire, peace does little to hinder the emotional battles still to come. Yet on the scorched battlefields, a fall of poppies brings hope.
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About the Author
Years after graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University, immersing herself in a Quality Assurance nursing career, and then having children, Marci realized she’d neglected her passion for history and writing. She began traveling, writing along the way, delving into various bits of history that caught her fancy. The plot for GIRL ON THE GOLDEN COIN evolved slowly after a trip to London, where she first learned about the Stuart royals. Marci is a member of the Historical Novel Society. She resides in the Midwest with her husband, making hair-bows for their daughter, trying not to step on their son’s Legos, and teaching a tiny Pacific Parrotlet to talk.