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
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.
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. Everyone believes that only a love for another woman could force him to do it. When the princess of Cleves suggests that the duke is in love with the Dauphin queen, she answers: the duke never showed any feelings to her, except secular respect. Apparently, the duke’s chosen one does not reciprocate him, for his closest friend to the species de Chartres – the uncle of Princess Cleves – does not notice any signs of a secret connection. Princess Cleves guesses that his behavior is dictated by love for her, and her heart is filled with gratitude and affection for the duke, who, for the love of her, has forfeited hopes for the English crown. The words,
In order not to betray her feelings, the Princess of Cleves diligently avoids the duke. Mourning gives her a reason to lead a solitary way of life, her sorrow also does not surprise anyone: everyone knows how much she was attached to Madame de Chartres.
The Duke of Nemursky steals a miniature portrait of Princess Cleves. The princess sees this and does not know what to do: if you demand publicly to return the portrait, everyone will know about his passion, and if you do it face to face, he can explain to her in love. The princess decides to remain silent and pretend that she did not notice anything.
In the hands of the queen-Dauphin, a letter appears, allegedly lost by the Duke of Nemours. She gives it to the Princess of Cleves, so that she reads it and tries to determine from the handwriting who wrote it. In the letter, an unknown lady blames her lover for infidelity. Princess Klevskaya is tormented by jealousy. But there was an error: in fact, the letter was not lost to the Duke of Nemours, but to the views of de Chartres. Fearing the loss of the reign of the reigning queen Maria de ‘Medici, who demands total surrender, de Chartres asks the Duke of Nemourski to recognize himself as the addressee of a love letter. In order not to incur the reproach of his beloved with the Duke of Nemoursky, the species gives him an accompanying note, from which you can see who wrote the message and to whom it is intended. The Duke of Nemourski agrees to help Vida de Chartres, but goes to the Prince of Cleves, to consult with him, how to do it better. When the king urgently calls for a prince, the duke remains alone with the Princess of Cleves and shows her a note indicating his innocence to the lost love letter.
Princess Klevskaya leaves for the castle of Colomiers. The duke, unable to find a place of longing, goes to his sister the Duchess de Merker, whose estate is located next door to Colomiers. During the walk, he wandered to Kolomie and accidentally overhears the conversation between the princess and her husband. The princess confesses to the prince that she is in love, and asks permission to live away from the world. She has not committed anything reprehensible, but does not want to be tempted. The prince remembers the loss of the portrait of the princess and suggests that she gave it to him. She explains that she did not give it at all, but was a witness of the theft and did not say anything so as not to cause an explanation in love. She does not mention the name of the person who awakened such a strong feeling in her, but the duke realizes that it is about him. He feels immensely happy and at the same time immensely unhappy.
Prince Cleves is eager to find out who owns the thoughts of his wife. By cunning he manages to find out that she loves the Duke of Nemours.
Dazed by the act of the princess, the Duke of Nemours tells of him to the Vidam de Chartres, without naming names. Vidam guess that the duke has to do with this story. He himself, in turn, tells his mistress Madame de Martigues “about the extraordinary deed of a certain person who admitted to her husband in the passion she felt for another” and assures her that the object of this passionate passion is the Duke of Nemours. Madame de Martig retells this story to the Dauphin queen, and she tells the Princess Cleves, who begins to suspect her husband that he has entrusted her secret to one of his friends. She blames the prince for divulging her secret, and now she is known to everyone, including the duke. The prince swears that he kept the mystery holy, and the spouses can not understand how their conversation became known.
At the court, two weddings are celebrated at once: the daughter of the King of Princess Elizabeth with the King of Spain and the sister of King Margarita of France – with the Duke of Savoy. The king arranges a tournament for this occasion. In the evening, when the tournament is almost finished and everyone is going to disperse, Henry II summons Count Montgomery to a duel. During the fight, a fragment of the spear of Count Montgomery hits the king in the eye. The wound is so serious that the king soon dies. The coronation of Francis II should take place in Reims, and the whole courtyard goes there. Learning that the Princess of Cleves will not follow the court, the Duke of Nemours goes to see her before she leaves. In the doorway, he encounters the Duchess of Neverness and Madame de Martigues, coming out from the princess. He asks the princess to accept him, but she passes through the maid, that she felt bad and could not accept it. The Prince of Cleves becomes aware that the Duke of Nemoursky came to his wife. He asks her to list all those who visited her on that day, and without hearing the name of the Duke of Nemourski, she asks her a direct question. The princess explains that she did not see the duke. The prince suffers from jealousy and says that she made him the most unhappy man in the world. The next day he leaves without seeing his wife, but still sends her a letter full of sorrow, tenderness and nobility. She answers him with assurances that her behavior was and will be impeccable. The prince suffers from jealousy and says that she made him the most unhappy man in the world. The next day he leaves without seeing his wife, but still sends her a letter full of sorrow, tenderness and nobility. She answers him with assurances that her behavior was and will be impeccable. The prince suffers from jealousy and says that she made him the most unhappy man in the world. The next day he leaves without seeing his wife, but still sends her a letter full of sorrow, tenderness and nobility. She answers him with assurances that her behavior was and will be impeccable.
Princess Klevskaya is leaving for Kolomie. The Duke of Nemursky, under some pretext, asked the king for a vacation for a trip to Paris, sent to Kolomie. Prince Cleves guesses about the plans of the Duke and sends a young nobleman from his retinue to watch over him. Having made his way to the garden and went to the pavilion’s window, the duke sees how the princess knots bows on the canes that used to belong to him. Then she admires the picture, where he is depicted as one of the other military men who took part in the siege of Metz. The Duke takes a few steps, but touches the window frame. The princess turns to the noise and, having noticed it, immediately disappears. The next night, the duke again comes under the pavilion window, but she does not show up. He visits his sister Madame de Mercker, who lives in the neighborhood, and deftly brings up the conversation, That the sister herself offers him to accompany her to the Princess of Cleves. The princess makes every effort not to be alone for a minute with the duke.
The Duke returns to Chambord, where the king and the court are. The prince’s messenger arrives in Chambord even before him and reports to the prince that the duke spent two nights in a row in the garden, and then he was in Colombe along with Madame de Merker. The prince is unable to endure the disaster that has fallen upon him, he begins fever. Upon learning of this, the princess hurries to her husband. He meets her with reproaches, because he thinks she spent two nights with the duke. The princess swears to him that she did not have to change in his thoughts. The prince is glad that his wife is worthy of the respect that he felt for her, but he can not recover from the blow and dies in a few days. Realizing that she is the culprit of her husband’s death, the Princess of Cleves feels a burning hatred for herself and for the Duke of Nemours. She bitterly mourns for her husband and intends to act the rest of her life only in such a way, as it would have been nice to him if he had been alive. Mindful that he expressed his fears, however much she might marry the Duke of Nemours after his death, she firmly decides never to do so.
The Duke of Nemoursky reveals to Vida de Chartre his feelings for his niece and asks him to help him see her. Vidam willingly agrees, for the duke seems to him the most worthy contender for the hand of Princess Cleves. The duke speaks to the princess in love and tells how he learned about her feelings for him, having witnessed her conversation with the prince. Princess Cleves does not hide that she loves the duke, but resolutely refuses to marry him. She considers the duke guilty of the death of her husband and is firmly convinced that marriage with him is against her duty.
The Princess of Cleves leaves for her distant possessions, where she is seriously ill. Recovering from the disease, she moves to a holy abode, and neither the queen nor the vida can convince her to return to court. The Duke of Nemours goes to her alone, but the princess refuses to accept him. She has been living in the monastery for part of the year, the rest of the time – in her possessions, where she prefers occupations even more pious than in the most strict monasteries. “And her short life will remain an example of a unique virtue.”