Ninon de Lenclos
1623-1705. Scholar, libertine, wingwoman of Louis XIV.
Ninon de Lenclos was incomparable. If you paid attention during AP European History, you’ll remember that Louis XIV - the Sun King, “L’état, c’est moi” Louis XIV - notoriously enjoyed ignoring the advice of his many ministers and advisors. And yet, whenever he considered taking up with a new mistress, he would inquire: “What does Ninon say?”
Ninon was renowned for her intelligence; at a young age, she became attached to her libertine father, who rebelliously gave her a boy’s education. She predated the Enlightenment and Feminist movements, stating at points that “...religions are nothing but inventions,” and that, since men enjoyed “a thousand privileges that women do not enjoy,” she “would turn [herself] into a man.” She fucked like a man — and lived the Sex and the City lifestyle far before Carrie and co. graced our screens. Her rule was: a love affair had an expiration date of three months, which was an opinion not shared by her legions of heartbroken paramours.
Ninon de Lenclos, later in her life, opened one of Paris’s most celebrated salons; Molière credits her for inspiring Tartuffe. She was a patroness of artists and philosophers such as de la Rochefoucauld, Racine, Chapelle and Lully. She also started a school, and was a mentor to many young aristocrats of the time, including Madame de Maintenon, who shocked the French court by secretly marrying Louis XIV at the breathtakingly ancient age of 48. A woman before her time, she was incredibly respected by almost all who met her… and the devout rest of them were appropriately scandalized.
So, in 2017, just remember: it’s imperative to know the world like Ninon… but just as important to share it.