main menu - summary - content - site map - politique d'accessibilité

Portraits


His wife, Marie Mottley

Life together

Portrait of Alexis de Tocqueville dedicated to his wife in 1844 by Théodore Chassériau

Portrait of Alexis de Tocqueville dedicated to his wife in 1844 by Théodore Chassériau; Paris, Musée Carnavalet
© PMVP/Ladet

Although Marie Mottley kept her character a secret - in particular by destroying those of her letters to Alexis that he had kept - we know a few things about the considerable role she played in Alexis's life. She looked after all of the practical aspects of their life together, and it was she who held the purse strings, to the point that her husband referred to her as a particularly strict "finance minister". It was also Marie who oversaw all of the renovation work done at the chateau de Tocqueville, where she often spent more time than Alexis, when he had to go to Paris because of parliamentary duties. Nevertheless, Marie Mottley bore their lengthy separations with difficulty, which made her fear, sometimes with reason, her husband's infidelity, and which fed extreme crises of jealousy in her.

« Oh! That is your great talent, Mary: you always reconcile me with the world and with myself. »
(Letter to Mary Mottley, July 1832)

To protect herself against such risks, she often accompanied her husband in his various travels; this was the case during his second trip to Algeria. Over time, the couple appeared more and more united, and the absence of children did not seem to undermine this relationship that was founded on a deep complicity.

« You alone have the key to my soul, and without you I truly would not want to live. Without you the world would be a wasteland, in which I would find myself as lonely as the first man. There would be no one left who spoke my language, and I would be forced to live alone with myself. »
(Letter to Mary Mottley,
August 8, 1844)

Both of them had fragile constitutions, and watched over one another with tenderness and patience, redoubling their precautions and attentions, as can been seen in the tenderness which fills every letter that he wrote her. Although this tenderness was sometimes meant to temper her difficult nature, the few lines addressed to her in his will suffice to convince us that she was absolutely his most faithful and continuous support that he had ever known.

La confidence, plaster sculpture, Jean-Baptise Carpeaux

La confidence, plaster sculpture, Jean-Baptise Carpeaux; Valenciennes, Musée des Beaux Arts
© RMN /René-Gabriel Ojéda/ Thierry le Mage

Study of the bust of a woman, head three quarters to the right, arms crossed, Théodore Chassériau

Study of the bust of a woman, head three quarters to the right, arms crossed, Théodore Chassériau; Paris, Musée du Louvre
© RMN/Michèle Bellot

Archives

Will of Alexis de Tocqueville

Will of Alexis de Tocqueville
© CHAN

Top of page