By Susan K. Foley, Charles Sowerwine (auth.)
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Extra resources for A Political Romance: Léon Gambetta, Léonie Léon and the Making of the French Republic, 1872–82
This gesture suggests that Léon’s relationship with Hyrvoix was an exclusive one. However, neither Hyrvoix nor Léon was listed on Alphonse’s birth certificate: Léon maintained throughout her life the fiction that he was her nephew. 35 In 1867, Hyrvoix was dismissed. 36 In fact, Hyrvoix’s dismissal was part of a broader battle between court factions. He had made a number of reports to the Emperor about the Empress’ extravagances and his reports infuriated Eugénie’s faction. 37 Léon could hardly have accompanied Hyrvoix as his mistress to a small provincial town, even had she wished to, but his departure left her in difficult circumstances.
31 It is likely, too, that Léon’s work as a courtesan brought her to Hyrvoix’s attention. 34 From their liaison came a son, Alphonse Léon, born on 5 February 1865 in Bordeaux. There is no doubt about the child’s paternity. Two ‘The unforgettable day of 27 April’ 23 months later, Hyrvoix made a will leaving 30,000 francs to the child: a generous gesture that would have been unthinkable unless Alphonse was undoubtedly his son, since he had no legal obligations to either mother or child. Hyrvoix’ legitimate son was in no doubt, either, about Alphonse’s paternity.
They had a particular interest in the education of the ‘ruling classes’. Their rule encouraged them to ‘inspire in their students the desire to learn’ and the textbooks they themselves produced – for classes in French language, history, and mythology – suggest serious scholarship. Léon’s letters reveal a well-read young woman with a broad general knowledge of history, literature and music. 20 20 A Political Romance The illness and sudden death of Colonel Léon destroyed such hopes. Diagnosed insane in September 1860, he refused to eat and died a month later in the asylum at Charenton, near Paris, the institution made famous by the Marquis de Sade.
A Political Romance: Léon Gambetta, Léonie Léon and the Making of the French Republic, 1872–82 by Susan K. Foley, Charles Sowerwine (auth.)