NEW YORK — She was only 16 in 1798, but the young French aristocrat Adèle d’Osmond had already realized that her exiled parents were in a difficult financial situation, and resolved to do something about it. The Comte de Boigne was a wealthy 49-year-old (the equivalent of about 75 today). Originally from a lower-middle-class family, he had made a fortune in India, then bought a title, and he was visiting friends in England when he met and took a fancy to Adele. He proposed, and she accepted on the condition that he guarantee her parents an ample income. They were married 12 days after they met.

She describes her gambit in “Memoirs of the Comtesse de Boigne,” edited by Anka Muhlstein and published in two volumes by Helen Marx Books. The Comte thought he was getting a gentle, shy, well-brought-up girl. The new Comtesse was well-bred, but also extremely well-educated since, as she noted later, while in exile, her father had the time to tutor her. She had read widely, spoke several languages and was no shrinking violet. The marriage proved so stormy that the pair separated after just 10 months. A few months later, they were reunited, but they continued to quarrel and to separate over the years until they set up discrete establishments in 1812.

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