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Louise Lévêque de Vilmorin

Louise Lévêque de Vilmorin

French writer
The basics
Quick Facts
Occupations Screenwriter Poet Salon-holder Writer Novelist Journalist
Countries France
A.K.A. Louise de Vilmorin
Gender female
Birth April 4, 1902 (Verrières-le-Buisson, canton of Bièvres, arrondissement of Palaiseau, Essonne)
Death December 26, 1969 (Verrières-le-Buisson, canton of Bièvres, arrondissement of Palaiseau, Essonne)
Father: Philippe de Vilmorin
Siblings: Olivier de VilmorinRoger Marie Vincent Philippe Lévêque de VilmorinAndré de VilmorinMapie de Toulouse-Lautrec
The details

Marie Louise Lévêque de Vilmorin (4 April 1902 – 26 December 1969) was a French novelist, poet and journalist.

Born in the family château at Verrières-le-Buisson, Essonne, a suburb southwest of Paris, she was heir to a great French seed company fortune, that of Vilmorin. She was afflicted with a slight limp that became a personal trademark. Vilmorin was best known as a writer of delicate but mordant tales, often set in aristocratic or artistic milieu.

Her most famous novel was Madame de..., published in 1951, which was adapted into the celebrated film The Earrings of Madame de... (1953), directed by Max Ophüls and starring Charles Boyer, Danielle Darrieux and Vittorio de Sica. Vilmorin's other works included Juliette, La lettre dans un taxi, Les belles amours, Saintes-Unefois, and Intimités. Her letters to Jean Cocteau were published after the death of both correspondents. She was awarded the recipient of the Renée Vivien prize for women poets in 1949.

Personal life

The birthplace of the author

As a young woman, in 1923, she had been engaged to novelist and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry; however, the engagement was called off, even though Saint-Exupéry gave up flying for a while after her family protested such a risky occupation. Vilmorin's first husband was an American real-estate heir, Henry Leigh Hunt (1886–1972), the only son of Leigh S. J. Hunt, a businessman who once owned much of Las Vegas, Nevada by his wife, Jessie Nobel. They married in 1925 (1924 according to other sources), moved to Las Vegas, and divorced in the 1930s. They had three daughters: Jessie, Alexandra, and Helena.

Her second husband was Count Paul Pálffy ab Erdöd (1890–1968), a much-married Austrian-born Hungarian playboy, who had been second husband to the Hungarian countess better known as Etti Plesch, owner of two Epsom Derby winners. Palffy married Louise as his fifth wife in 1938, but the couple soon divorced.

Vilmorin was the mistress of another of Etti Plesch's husbands, Count [Maria Thomas] Paul Esterházy de Galántha (1901–1964), who left his wife in 1942 for Vilmorin. They never married. For a number of years, she was the mistress of Duff Cooper, British ambassador to France. Louise spent the last years of her life as the companion of the French Cultural Affairs Minister and author André Malraux, calling herself "Marilyn Malraux".

Francis Poulenc literally sang her praises, considering her an equal to Paul Éluard and Max Jacob, found in her writing "a sort of sensitive impertinence, libertinage, and an appetite which, carried on into song [is] what I tried to express in my extreme youth with Marie Laurencin in Les Biches". (Ivry 1996)


Louise was the younger daughter of Philippe de Vilmorin (1872 - 1917) by his wife Berthe Marie Mélanie de Gaufridy de Dortan (1876 - 1937), daughter of Roger de Gaufridy de Dortan (1843–1905) and his wife, Adélaïde de Verdonnet (1853–1918).

Her siblings were:

  • Marie "Mapie" Pierre (1901-1972), who married, as her first husband, a cousin, Guy Marie Félix Lévêque de Vilmorin (1896-1984) in 1922 (div. 1932) by whom she had three children.

She married again in 1933, Guillaume de Toulouse-Lautrec-Montfa, comte de Toulouse-Lautrec (1902-1955), a relative of the painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec; by him she had further issue a son and a daughter. She became a popular food columnist in French magazines as Mapie de Toulouse-Lautrec.

  • Henry (born 1903)
  • Olivier (1904-1962)
  • André (1907-1987)
  • Roger (1905-1980), who was fathered by King Alfonso XIII of Spain.

Louise de Vilmorin's children, all by her first husband, were: a) Jessie Leigh Hunt (b. 3 February 1929, Hauts-de-Seine, Neuilly-sur-Seine not 1928 as misreported.

She married in 1951 (divorced by 1962) Albert Cabell Bruce Jr. (b. 11 August 1925), only son of Albert Cabell Bruce (nephew of William Cabell Bruce) by his wife, Helen Eccleston Whitridge (granddaughter of Gov. Oden Bowie), by whom she had issue, four sons: Cabell, Leigh, Thomas, and James, all born 1952-59 in Midland, Texas. She then married Clement Biddle Wood, an editor of The Paris Review, in 1965.

b) Alexandra Leigh Hunt (b. 1 April 1930 Hauts-de-Seine, Neuilly-sur-Seine) married Henry Ridgeley Horsey (b. 18 October 1924, Dover, Delaware, USA). Her children were Henry Ridgely Horsey Jr., Edmond Philip de Vilmorin Horsey, Alexandra Thérèse Leigh-Hunt Horsey, Randall Revell Horsey, Philippa Ridgely Horsey,

c) Helena Leigh Hunt (23 June 1931 Hauts-de-Seine, Neuilly-sur-Seine - 28 December 1995 Southampton Hospital, Long Island, New York, aged 64 a realist still-life painter. She was married (div) to John Tracy Baxter (b. 23 August 1926, Macon, Georgia), with whom according to the New York obituary, she had three daughters, Elizabeth Baxter, Etienne Baxter, and Leigh Baxter (Mrs Warre).

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