Lost Letters From 1679 – Travels To Spain

I have learnt, since this little Adventure, that ’tis the Custom in Spain, when any thing is presented to one, if he likes it, and kisses your Hand, he may take it with him.

Madame d’Aulnoy

A guy took her expensive mechanical watch to have a look(Tompion’s) and then took her hand in his and kissed it. As soon as he did it, he put the watch in his pocket, which she describes would have been bigger than someone’s travel sack, and walked away.

One such Tompion’s mechanical hand watch from 1708, sold for GBP 25,000 at an auction. One of Tompion’s table clocks sold for GBP 2M in 1999.

We arriv’d in good time at St. John de Luz: nothing can be pleasanter than this Borough, which is the greatest in France, and the best built; there are several smaller Cities : its Port lies between two Mountains, which Nature seems to have expressly placed to defend it from Storms ; the River Nivelle disgorges it self therein ; the Sea comes up very high in it, and the greatest Barks come up commodiously to the Key. The Seamen here are very skillful at catching Whales, and other large Fish.

Madame d’Aulnoy

I felt this was very interesting. The fact that in 1600s, there were fishermen skillful and crafty enough to catch whales.

Makes me wonder what did they exactly do with a whale they caught. Not all parts are going to be edible.

What did they use the whale teeth for?

Born to Nicolas – Claude Le Jumel, who was said to have served in the armies of Louis XIV for a long time. Her father Nicolas, was related to a few of the best families in Normandy, and her mother worked to provide special services to the Spanish Court.

Marie-Catherine Le Jumel de Barneville, Baroness of Aulnoy, was a french fairy tale writer who became famous to the family for her works done in the late 17th century among other female fairy tale writers.

Her notable works included La Chatte Blanche, La Grenouttle Bien-complaisante, Le Prince Lutin, L’Oiseau Bleue

Baroness of Aulnoy
Baroness of Aulnoy

She got married at the age of 16 to Francois de La Motte who was 52 at the time. This fact really tells something about marriages and society of those times.

If the Contes des Fees of Madame Aulnoy have had a remarkable vogue, not so fortunate has been the lot of some of the historical endeavors of this lady. Her Memoires de la Cour d’Espagne (1679-1681) and Memoires de la Cour d’Angleterre (1695) have been quietly laid aside, together with the Histoire d’Hippolyte, Comte de Douglas (1690), and the Histoire de Jean de Bourbon (1692), for, though always interesting, the qualities of imagination which combine to the writing of a fairy tale are not quite those needed for the making of history, and unfortunately for the clever lady, it is in the field of “delicate frivolity that she has been placed.”

Most Faithful Servant

She traveled with little mules, her banker, and servants. She tells various stories in her letters out of which a couple I have highlighted.

Gateway Of Fuenterrabia
Gateway Of Fuenterrabia

Some who came to feed me, brought little little Sucking Pigs under their Arms, as we do little Dogs: it’s true they were very spruce, and several of ’em had Collars of Ribbons, of various Colours: However, this Custom looks very odd, and 1 cannot but think that several among themselves are disgusted at it: When they danced, they must set them down, and let these grunting Animals run about the Chamber, where they make a very pleasant Harmony.

Madame d’Aulnoy

She wrote this in her first letter, written to her cousin. She had to travel through France into Spain, her journey included riding with the litter through multiple mountains, then to cross the sea to finally come to a junction where you had to pay toll to enter Spain.

Both Spain and France had decided that at this toll, the two countries would split the collection irrespective of the political situation. To come to a conclusion like that feels a big deal to me, as it would be but natural for one country to want all the money collected during 1600s.

Medina Del Campo
Medina Del Campo

She explains in great detail the events that took place throughout her journey through Spain in 1679 through these long letters she wrote.

Her words resonate very well, seems like she is writing a fairy tale to take you through the towns, castles, and people she encountered on her long journey.

Definitely a great but lesser known storyteller.

She traveled a lot, wrote a great deal about her experience and died in her house in the Rue Saint-Benoit in January, 1705.

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