Aurelia was born in 1620 in Genoa. She was the daughter ofLuca Spinola, son of Gaspare who was the son of Gioffredo, Prince of Molfetta, and of Pellina Spinolawho was the daughter of Giovanni Battista Spinola, 1st Duke of San Pietro, and of Maria Spinola, daughter of Filippo who was the son of Ambrogio, sister of the great commander.
Luca Spinola, her father, was an influential figure, accustomed to receiving princes and popes; Patrizio Genovese, was a sweet and generous man that possessed many palaces, one located in Piazza San Luca and the other was the Palazzo today known as Spinola Pessagno, situated on the hill of Santa Caterina. She was the heir of part of the great heritage of her paternal uncle Gio Stefano Doria and brother of Brigida Spinola, who Rubens made immortal in 1606.
Pellina, her mother, was a woman of strong character considered to be the one who directed the Spinola House.
Aurelia grew up in a rich aristocratic atmosphere, open to Europe and very cosmopolitan, a life made up of salons, receptions, banquets and meetings. Thanks to her parents she knew the worldly life and had a refined education. She knew how to read, write and count and thanks to her mother she learned singing, music, dance and embroidery. Only later did she approach religion and prayer which always served as comfort in the dramatic moments of her existence. She had a particular devotion to the crucifix and even if she wanted to take her vows, she knew she was destined for a good marriage. On the occasion of a trip of her parents to Naples for the management of the dominion of Molfetta, Aurelia obtained to temporarily stop in the Convent of San Silvestro in Pisa where a maternal aunt, Sister Maria Serafina, lived.
When Ercole Grimaldi, son of Onorato II of Monaco, asked for her hand, Luca and Pellina were happy, preferring a good marriage to a life in a convent for their daughter.. Aurelia accepted the will of the family, respectful and obedient despite being attracted by monastic life.
The innocent Aurelia was the promised bride in the marriage much desired by the Prince of Monaco, Onorato II and her parents. In 1640, Onorato secretly referred to Cardinal Richelieu to ensure that the Spanish garrison based in Monaco was removed, while shifting the balance of the Principality’s alliances toward France. The goal of the marriage of his son to a Genoese aristocrat belonging to an openly philosophical family was, for Onorato, in order to deceive the Spaniards, demonstrating an unshakable alliance.
The marriage was celebrated in Munich on July 7, 1641 and the celebrations lasted three days. On November 17, 1641, Onorato succeeded with a coup d’état in removing the Spanish garrison and on November 24 a French garrison occupied Munich. The position of Aurelia was already delicate, seen at Court as a spy and a possible traitor of the Monaco’s pro-French politics, she soon assumed as her own, the customs and uses of her new homeland.
Although Ercole did not have an easy character, often impulsive and jealous, Aurelia loved her husband and together they had 7 children: Louis, born on 25 July 1642; Hippolyte Marie, in1644; Marie Jeanne in 1645; Dévote-Marie-Renée in 1646; Luc-François-Marie-Charles, known as “Le Petit Chevalier” in 1648; Maria Teresa in 1650; Marie Pelline in1651.
La Duchessa di Valentinois
In 1651 Ercole Grimaldi died. Aurelia, against the will of her parents, decided, for the sake of her children, to remain at the Monegasque Court where, despite having received letters of condolences and affection from the French court, especially from the regent Anna of Austria, she soon found herself isolated and unarmed. Relations with her father-in-law deteriorated despite an apparent façade of courtesy, especially because of the intrigues ordered by the court favourite of Onorato II. Aurelia had always been seen at the court as an ally of the enemy ready to favour a pro-Spanish party and the return of the Spanish garrisons to Monaco.
To satisfy the wishes of her mother, who wanted her to remarry, Aurelia left Monaco and went to Genoa with some of her sons, Luc, Marie Pelline and Marie Jeanne. Louis, the oldest, stayed with his grandfather Onorato II. On the occasion of the stopover of the galleys in Savona, Pellina organized a large reception, officially announcing the intention to remarry her daughter. Meanwhile Luc, her younger son, fell ill and was brought to Genoa by his grandfather Luca Spinola. Luc died in Genoa at the age of 4 and was buried there. Onorato considered his daughter-in-law responsible for Luc’s death. Negotiations were entered into by Luca and Pellina Spinola with Onorato II, in order to consider a new marriage for Aurelia. She found herself once again in the midst of the intrigues of her father-in-law, who wanted her to take care of her children in Munich, and her mother, Pellina, who wanted her to be married again. At the end her freedom was the subject of a contract, Onorato proposed and obtained to pay 10.000 escudos a year for Aurelia to remain a widow and continue to take care of her children at his court. Aurelia’s parents accepted and she felt betrayed. Kind-heartedly she accepted to return to Munich and reunite with her son Louis, alternating prayer with cultural amusements.
In 1656 Luca Spinola, father of Aurelia, died of the plague In the same year, Onorato II exiled Aurelia, moving her away from Munich and stripping her of her titles, accusing her of “betraying” the fidelity due to the Court of France. Aurelia left for Paris with the intention to assert her rights directly in the presence of the King. In Paris she remained for 26 months continuing to seek justice for the recognition of her rights as Duchess of Valentinois against the actions of Onorato II.
In 1661, the first grandson of Aurelia Spinola, Antoine, was born. A year later Onorato II died, which allowed Aurelia to move closer to her son Louis, well introduced to the Court of France due to his marriage to Charlotte De Gramont, strongly desired by his mother. This allowed Aurelia to appeal again to seek justice for her denied rights.
The life of an heiress
The death of Onorato represented the beginning of a period of tranquillity for Aurelia, after a tormented life. In 1663, Pellina Spinola died in Genoa and despite the deep pain, Aurelia found herself to be a rich heiress to whom her only sister Veronica remained. In 1664, after moving to Genoa to the Palazzo of Via Garibaldi, Aurelia found herself facing yet another obstacle: A litigation against her sister for the distribution of the movable and immovable property of the inheritance of her parents. Veronica prevented Aurelia, on her return from Paris, from physically entering the Palazzo di Strada Nuova (today Via Garibaldi) and forced her into a costly lawsuit.
The last years
In 1666 Aurelia finally had her titles, her land, her businesses, but in 1667 she began to suffer from abdominal pain. In search of relief and care, a long journey began to Provence, Montpellier, Marseille and Monaco, where she was warmly welcomed. She remained for a short time in Aix en Provence and then returned to Genoa to follow her affairs, then again to Aix. While being surrounded by friends and continuing her treatment and despite the pain, she continued to attend masses, ceremonies, violin and organ concerts. Even in the last days of her life, her character was put to the test and, resisting the insistence of Cardinal Grimaldiwho wanted to force her to change her will in favour of her only son Louis, now head of the Grimaldi family of Monaco, she pushed him away with a “you annoy me!”.
She died in her home in Aix en Provence on September 29, 1670. Her heart and brain were offered to the church of La Celle, while her body was transported to Genoa and buried in thechurch of Santa Teresa, watched over by two of her daughters who were nuns, in the Convent of the “Carmelitane Scalze”. She divided her patrimony equally among her children, whether they had married or chosen a religious life.
From the inscription at the church of Santa Teresa in Genoa “HIC Aurelia Spinola DUX VALENTINENSIS plumbea cauditur Arca : Noblitate exuberans, piate fervens, Virtutibus florens”(here rests in the lead coffin Aurelia Spinola, Duchess of Valentinois: Exuberant by nobility, fervent in piety, flourishing for virtues).) .
“…In Genoa, on the high ground of Monte Galletto (we are in the district of Via Balbi that dominates the city and the port), near the current Porta Principe Station, a barracks of the Guardia di Finanza, the glorious “Santa Teresa”, once home to the Royal School of Marina of the Reign of Sardinia, is still active today. In fact, “Santa Teresa” was not born as a
military barracks, but it was a monastery of the “Carmelitane scalze” nuns, with annexed church dedicated to Saint Teresa of Avila, the inspiration for the reform of the order (instituted in 1452), decreed by Pope Pius IV in 1562. According to some historical sources, the origins of the monastery date back to 1635…” (interamente tratto da http://museostorico.gdf.it/articoli-e-monografie/Argomenti%20a%20cura%20del%20Magg.%20Gerardo%20Severino/La_Caserma_Santa_Teresa_di_Genova.pdf/view).
News about the life of Aurelia Spinola is taken fromLE DESTIN D’AURELIA SPINOLA, UNE ARISTOCRATE DU XVIIème SIECLE PARTAGEE ENTRE GENES, MONACO ET LA FRANCE, première and deuxieme partie, by Raffaella Noero, in Annales Monégasques n 32-2008, n 33-2009 .