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His wife, Marie Mottley

The marriage

Portrait of Marie Mottley

Portrait of Marie Mottley, anonymous; Département des Estampes
© BNF

It was when he was assistant magistrate au tribunal de Versailles that Alexis de Tocqueville met Marie Mottley for the first time; she was an Englishwoman who had been raised in France by her aunt, Mrs. Belam. Although their relationship appears to have been established at this time, Alexis had to overcome his family's reluctance before being able to consider marriage. It should be pointed out that in addition to being English and Protestant, Marie Mottley was older than him and was far from being well-off. None of these characteristics made her the ideal aristocratic spouse that Alexis's family and friends desired for him. He nevertheless attempted to convince them by assuring them that Marie possessed everything to make him happy   play sound extractlire l'extrait sonore   and, resolute in his choice, he married her on October 26, 1835 at the Saint-Thomas-d'Aquin church in Paris, after which she converted to Catholicism.

« If I haven't made a mistake as to the woman I want to marry, I have no doubt that I am happy. »
(Letter to Camille d'Orglandes,
October 14, 1835)

Although Louis de Kergorlay et Gustave de Beaumont finally agreed to serve as witnesses, Alexis's mother did not attend the ceremony, and it is not clear whether it was her poor health or her disapproval of the marriage that kept her away. We do know for certain, however, that relations between Marie and her husband's family - who particularly resented her difficult character and fiery temper - remained fairly strained.
For his part, Alexis de Tocqueville never appeared to have regretted the marriage, and he was the first to acknowledge that differences in culture and station, which might have kept them apart, were never able to affect their relationship.
Even if their life together was not without difficulties, Marie Mottley forever remained Alexis's soul mate and his greatest support.

A dress or Body of Clothed Woman, without head, frontal view, hands clasped by Théodore Chassériau

A dress or Body of Clothed Woman, without head, frontal view, hands clasped, Théodore Chassériau; Paris, Musée du Louvre
© RMN/Gérard Blot

The Saint -Thomas d'Aquin Church, Histoire de Paris

The Saint -Thomas d'Aquin Church, Histoire de Paris, plate 45 by Reville/Civeton/Couche (Fils); Paris, Musée Carnavalet
© PMVP/Briant

Archives

Marriage contract between Alexis de Tocqueville and Marie Mottley

Marriage contract between Alexis de Tocqueville and Marie Mottley
© CHAN

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