Princess Dorothea of Courland

Princess Dorothea
Duchess of Dino, Duchess of Talleyrand, Duchess of Sagan
Born (1793-08-21)21 August 1793
Died 19 September 1862(1862-09-19) (aged 69)
Spouse Edmond de Talleyrand-Périgord
(m. 1809; separated 1818)
Issue Napoléon Louis de Talleyrand-Périgord
Dorothée de Talleyrand-Périgord
Alexandre Edmond de Talleyrand-Périgord
Pauline de Talleyrand-Périgord
Father Peter von Biron (official)
Aleksander Batowski (biological)
Mother Dorothea von Medem
Religion Roman Catholic,
prev. Lutheran

Dorothea von Biron, Princess of Courland, Duchess of Dino, Talleyrand, and Sagan, known as Dorothée de Courlande or Dorothé de Dino (21 August 1793 19 September 1862), was a Baltic German noblewoman. Her mother was Dorothea von Medem, Duchess of Courland, and although her mother's husband, Duke Peter von Biron, acknowledged her as his own, her true father might be Polish statesman Aleksander Batowski. For a long time, she accompanied the French statesman Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, whereas she was the separated wife of his nephew, Edmond de Talleyrand-Périgord.


Dorothea was born on Friedrichsfelde Palace near Berlin, the fourth and last daughter of Duchess Dorothea of Courland, who was by then separated from her husband, Duke Peter of Courland. Dorothea's paternity is disputed but generally assigned to Count Aleksander Batowski, a Polish envoy to the Duchy of Courland. Her biological father was a close associate of her uncle Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord during the Napoleonic period. Her three elder half sisters, all legitimate daughters of the Duke of Courland, were: Princess Wilhelmine, Duchess of Sagan; Princess Pauline, Duchess of Sagan; and Princess Johanna Katharina, Duchess of Acerenza. The Duke of Courland acknowledged her officially, which entitled her to be styled Princess of Courland. She was educated in Germany.

Princess Dorothea, c. 1810 (aged 17)


Looking for a wealthy heiress for his nephew Edmond, Talleyrand asked Tsar Alexander I of Russia to intervene with Dorothea's mother in favor of Edmond's marrying her. The marriage occurred on 21 and 22 April 1809 at Frankfurt amidst the Napoleonic Wars, presided over by Talleyrand's friend, Prince-Bishop Karl Theodor Anton Maria von Dalberg, and Dorothea thus became comtesse Edmond de Périgord and great-niece of then Count de Talleyrand-Périgord, prince of Bénévent. Educated in Germany, she was plunged into French society, where she represented the enemy. Her three sisters, also very anti-French, did not help her marriage and despite the birth of three children, the marriage became unhappy, with Edmond more concerned with gaming, war and other women than with his wife.

The fall of the First French Empire and the Congress of Vienna, at which Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand was designated to represent France, favoured a close friendship between him and Dorothea. During his time in Vienna she kept her household in the Palais Kaunitz and it was at this time that Dorothea began to play a major part in Charles-Maurice's life. She accompanied him to the Congress of Vienna, and it is even alleged that she became his mistress sometime after 1815. On 31 August 1817, Talleyrand was made a duke and peer of France by Louis XVIII of France, and on 2 December he was also granted the duchy of Dino (a 1.5 km by 1.2 km Calabrian island) by the king of Sicily in recognition of his services at Vienna. The duchy of Dino was immediately handed down to his nephew and his wife and so Dorothea also became duchess of Dino. On 24 March 1818 she and her husband separated, though this was only pronounced formally on 6 November 1824.

Her life with Talleyrand

On 3 July 1820 Talleyrand left Paris for Valençay accompanied by Dorothea, then pregnant with her third child, Pauline, whose paternity is sometimes attributed to Talleyrand. Despite having been his company (he was 39 years her senior) she took several lovers, gaining a reputation as a formidable seductress and bearing three illegitimate daughters (one of whom, born in 1816, was perhaps Božena Němcová, the great Czech writer, fathered by Count Karel Jan Clam Martinic, her lover at the Congress of Vienna; the two others, Julie Zulmé and Antonine Piscatory, were born in 1826 and 1827).

Dorothée, duchesse de Dino, c. 1830

She became duchess of Talleyrand on 28 April 1838. On 6 (or 8) January 1845, the king of Prussia invested Dorothea as duchess of Sagan (with the special privilege of the dukedom being able to descend via the female as well as the male line), with her son Louis-Napoléon, godson of Napoleon and Louis-Napoléon's grandson Boson de Talleyrand-Périgord immediately taking the title of prince of Sagan.

When Talleyrand became French ambassador in London in 1830, she accompanied him and felt more comfortable there than in Paris, which she detested and where the whole Faubourg Saint-Germain made her feel she was a foreigner. This was a theme throughout her life: in Prussia she was seen as too French, in Paris as too German.

After Talleyrand's death in 1838, she granted her Château de Rochecotte to her daughter Pauline de Castellane in 1847, having chosen in 1843 to live in state at her castle at Sagan in Silesia (made up of 130 buildings on an estate of 1,200 hectares, bought by her father and then by her sister Pauline de Hohenzollern). She reigned over this immense and rich duchy alone, until she had a carriage accident in June 1861 and died on 19 September 1862 at Sagan.

Despite the wish she had expressed to her uncle Talleyrand in a letter of April 1838 and in her will, that her heart should be placed in his grave at Valençay, she was buried in the Kreuzkirche at Sagan, with her sister Wilhelmine and son Napoléon Louis.


With Edmond de Talleyrand-Périgord

With Karel Jan Clam-Martinic

Unknown paternity

With Théobald Emile Arcambal-Piscatory


The young writer Françoise Quoirez (1935–2004), in reading a passage of Marcel Proust evoking a duke of Sagan around 1950, was seduced by its sonority and chose "Sagan" as her "nom de plume".

“(..) With large dark blue eyes, very beautiful, so burning that they appeared black to some people. There was in her something bold, wild, dauntless and burning one which held the gaze". (Casimir Ensconce, "Talleyrand amoureux", edition France-Empire, 1975).

The opinions she inspired are various; those of men, admiring her beauty and intelligence, praise her, but those of women, jealous of her position and wealth, are more venomous. It is strange that she had no close female friends but instead was a solitary figure, despite keeping up a wide correspondence with many personalities of her era. She was a true European, in an era where that word was unknown. Born between two cultures, speaking three languages, in contact with all the political personalities of Europe, she could have been, in another era, thanks to her intelligence, a scholar or politician. But in that era, only men had a career, and so she was unable to realize her numerous talents. As Guizot said of her: "une personne rare et grande". Greville noted in his diary on 20 September 1831 that Talleyrand described her as “the cleverest man or woman he ever knew”.[8]

The duchess of Dino also has a descendant in Touraine, a "calm and human region, of a pure, very poetic beauty", in the person of Béatrice of Andia, one of her great-great-great granddaughters, president of the association of the "Friends of Château d'Azay-le-Rideau", owner of Château de La Chatonnière.


Her properties

Her memoirs


See also


  1. "Person Page 8841". Retrieved 2012-11-19.
  2. Is speculated that she was the biological daughter of Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord.
  3. She was never recognized by Dorothea and her fate is unknown. Historians speculated that in fact this child was the famous writer Božena Němcová. Other sources ( and, however, pointed that Marie-Henriette was a real person who use this name, married with the musician Gustave Arnold Du Bousquet, had a son, Jean and died on March 11, 1905, in Paris, aged 88.
  4. Profile in (retrieved 16 June 2013). Her paternity is variously attributed to either Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord or Theobald Piscatory (see source).
  5. Full name Antonine Pélagie Dorothée Sabine.
  6. Profile in (retrieved 16 June 2013).
  7. A French-German destiny: From Dorothea of Courland to the Duchess of Dino [in French] (retrieved 16 June 2013).
  8. Charles C. F. Greville, A Journal of the Reigns of King George IV and King William IV, volume II (London, Longmans Green & Co, 1874), at page 195
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Dorothée de Courlande.
Preceded by
Princess Pauline of Courland
Duchess of Sagan
8 January – 19 September 1862
Succeeded by
Napoléon Louis de Talleyrand-Périgord
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