Alcoforado, Sister Mariana

(1640-1723)
   A Portuguese nun living in the Convento de Nossa Senhora da Conceição in Beja who was the supposed author of the Letters of a Portuguese Nun, written to her lover the French officer Noel Bouton, Marquis de Cha-milly and later marshal of France. Alcoforado was the daughter of a wealthy Alentejano family. She was sent to the Convento de Nossa Senhor da Conceição to be educated. At 16, she took vows and lived the life of a nun until she purportedly met and fell in love with Noel Bouton, a French nobleman serving under the Duke of Schomberg, one of the mercenary captains fighting on the Portuguese side during the War of Restoration (1641-68). Bouton became acquainted with Mariana through her brother, also a soldier, and, taking advantage of the custom that allowed nuns to receive visitors, started an affair with her. When their affair became known, it caused a scandal, and Bouton deserted Mariana to return to France. Some literary scholars consider the letters she wrote to Bouton after he returned to France a work of fiction that was actually written by Gabriel-Joseph de La Vergne, the Comte de Guilleragues (1628-85). Nonetheless, a nun named Mariana Alcoforado did in fact live in the Convento de Nossa Senhora de Conceição during the period when the affair was suppose to have taken place.
   See also Literature.

Historical dictionary of Portugal 3rd ed.. . 2014.

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