Sunday, April 19, 2009
Pitt and Mademoiselle Necker
Lauren's post on Mme Necker reminded me of yet another amusing incident in the life of William Pitt the Younger. While on his one vacation to the Continent, William Pitt the Younger visited Paris with William Wilberforce and his brother-in-law to be, Edward Elliot. Pitt's father, the Earl of Chatham, was extremely popular and Pitt met with a number of French officals, including Jacques Necker, the Finance Minister to Louis XVI. Pitt made quite an impression. Mme Necker became dead-set on having Pitt as a son-in-law, since Pitt had become an MP at 21, the Chancellor of the Exchequer at 23 and looked to be the Prime Minister at 24.
Mademoiselle Germaine Necker, was not quite so impressed. Mlle Necker, later Mme de Stael, was said to have refused because it would have meant being away from, what were at the time, the two great loves of her life (aka Paris and Papa)-- a fate worse than death.
William Pitt the Younger either brushed off this rejection or refused the idea of marrying Germaine Necker by saying, "I am already married to my country." The Amateur Historian reads this as a sign of Pitt's workaholic nature, his recognition that Germaine Necker was far too much for him a handle, a possible sign that he was quite piqued at Germaine Necker's total dismissal of his suit and his usual self-awareness and self-knowledge, as Pitt later refused to marry in 1797 because he didn't think it fair on any woman to be married to a man "who could not give a proper share of time to his wife, for how would it be if he was always at the House, or in business, and she always at the opera, or whiling about in her carriage" (from Lady Hester Stanhope's Memoirs, vol. 1, p. 180).
Other historians, however, have taken this to be a sign of Pitt's homosexuality. History is a strange field.