The novel takes place in the middle of the 16th century. Madame de Chartres, for many years after her husband’s death, lived away from the court, and her daughter comes to Paris. Mademoiselle de Chartres goes to the jeweler to choose jewelry. There she accidentally meets the Prince of Cleves, the second son of the Duke of Neverovsky, and falls in love with her at first sight. He is very. wants to know who this young lady is, and the sister of King Henry II, thanks to the friendship of one of her maids of honor with Madame de Chartres, the next day introduces him to a young beauty who first appeared at the court and caused general admiration. Having found out that the nobility’s nobility is not inferior to her beauty, Prince Clevesi dreams of marrying her, but is afraid that the proud Madame de Chartres will consider him unworthy of her daughter because he is not the eldest son of the duke.
The Duke of Nevers does not want his son to marry Mademoiselle de Chartres, which stings Madame de Chartres, who considers her daughter an enviable party. The family of another contender for the hand of the young person – chevalier de Giza – also does not want to be related to her, and Madame de Chartres is trying to find for her daughter a party “that would exalt her above those who considered herself above her.” She opts for the eldest son of the Duke de Montpensier, but because of the intrigues of the longtime mistress of the Duchess de Valantinea, her plans are wrecked. The Duke of Neverness suddenly dies, and the Prince of Cleves soon asks for the hands of Mademoiselle de Chartres. Madame de Chartres, after asking her daughter’s opinion and hearing that she does not have a special inclination for the Prince of Cleves, but respects his dignity and would have come out for him with less reluctance than anyone else, accepts the prince’s proposal, and soon Mademoiselle de Chartres becomes Princess of Cleves. Raised in strict rules, she behaves impeccably, and virtue provides her peace and universal respect. The Prince of Cleves adores his wife, but feels that she does not respond to his passionate love. This darkens his happiness.
Henry II sends Count de Randan to England to Queen Elizabeth to congratulate her on her accession to the throne. Elizabeth of England, heard of the glory of the Duke of Nemours, asks the Count about him with such fervor that the King, after his report, advises the Duke of Nemoursky
to ask the hands of the Queen of England. The Duke sends his approximate Linierol to England to find out the mood of the queen, and, encouraged by the information received from Linierol, is preparing to appear before Elizabeth. Arriving at the court of Henry II to attend the wedding of the Duke of Lorraine, the Duke of Nemoursky at a ball acquainted with the Princess of Cleves and penetrated her with love. She notices his feelings and when she returns home she tells her mother about the duke with such enthusiasm that Madame de Chartres immediately understands that her daughter is in love, although she does not realize it herself. Protecting her daughter, Madame de Chartres tells her that the Duke of Nemours was rumored to be in love with the wife of the Dauphin, Maria Stewart, and advised her to visit the Dauphin Queen less often, so as not to be involved in amorous intrigues. Princess Cleves is ashamed of her inclination towards the Duke of Nemours: it is fitting for her to feel a worthy spouse, and not to a person who wants to use it to hide her relationship with the Dauphin Queen. Madame de Chartres is seriously ill.
Having lost hope of recovery, she gives her daughters orders: to leave the court and to remain faithful to her husband. She assures us that leading a virtuous life is not so difficult as it seems – it is much more difficult to bear the misfortunes that lead to a love adventure. Madame de Chartres is dying. Princess of Cleves mourns for her and decides to avoid the company of the Duke of Nemours. Her husband takes her to the village. The Duke comes to visit the Prince of Cleves in the hope of seeing and the princess, but she does not accept him.
Princess of Cleves returns to Paris. It seems to her that her feeling for the Duke of Nemoursky has died out. The Dauphin Queen tells her that the Duke of Nemoursky has given up his plans to ask the hands of the Queen of England.