Voltaire Residence

This page shows people who were in the life of Emilie du Châtelet.

Marquis Jean François de Saint-Lambert by an unknown artist Marquis Jean François de Saint-Lambert

Saint-Lambert was a captain in the military of the Duchy of Lorraine. This tall, handsome, and somewhat aloof officer caught the eye of the Marquise du Boufflers, mistress of King Stanislas, and for a while they were lovers. Saint-Lambert was a member of the Academy, and wrote acceptable poetry about nature. He didn't have the gay attitude so prized in a courtier; he never laughed, never flattered anyone, and still women found him terribly attractive.

In 1747 Saint-Lambert went to the wars, and upon his return found that Mme du Boufflers had replaced him with another lover. When Emilie du Châtelet arrived at Lunéville, Saint-Lambert saw this as an opportunity to make Mme du Boufflers jealous, and began a game of flirtation with Emilie. Instead of becoming jealous, Mme du Boufflers just laughed and encouraged the relationship. Saint-Lambert's plan didn't worked, and his parlor game quickly turned into a love affair he hadn't expected.

Emilie, excessive in everything she did, behaved like a like a schoolgirl in love for the first time. She wrote notes on lace-edged papers and left them in Mme de Bouffler's harp for Saint-Lambert to find during the evening party. The affair went on for several months and Voltaire either was, or pretended to be, ignorant of the situation.

As a result of the affair, Emilie became pregnant. In the 18th century, few women survived childbirth when past age forty; Emilie truly did not expect to survive this pregnancy. A plan was made that the child would be born at Lunéville where Emilie could have access to the court's doctors. Then Emilie began to work as much as seventeen hours a day to complete her translation of Newton's Principia. She was determined to leave a monument to her fame. Emilie and Voltaire went to Paris late in 1748 and Alexis-Claude Clairaut proofread her manuscript and mathematical calculations.

In June of 1749 the couple returned to Cirey and stayed for two weeks while Emilie arranged her papers.

Emilie gave birth to a baby girl in September at the chateau of Stanislaw in Lunéville. Emilie died several days later on September 10, 1749; and the child died shortly thereafter. Stanislas gave Emilie a state funeral and she is buried in the cathedral at Lunéville.

Saint-Lambert's affair with Emilie had been a game that ended tragically. Voltaire returned to the Chateau Cirey, gathered his papers and belongings and went to Paris to join his niece.

Return to People in Emilie's Life