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Colette was married three times in all. Her first husband was the author known as "Willy"—real name Henry Gauthier-Villars—whom she married in 1893. Henry greatly encouraged a reluctant Colette to pursue a career as a writer. Indeed, Colette later said that she wouldn't have been a writer had it not...

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Colette was married three times in all. Her first husband was the author known as "Willy"—real name Henry Gauthier-Villars—whom she married in 1893. Henry greatly encouraged a reluctant Colette to pursue a career as a writer. Indeed, Colette later said that she wouldn't have been a writer had it not been for Henry.

Henry was very much a man of the world, a notorious rake and libertine, who introduced Colette into the world of the avant-garde. Despite his unconventional attitude to art, ideas, and sexual relationships, Henry was perfectly conventional in the control he exercised over his wife and her burgeoning literary career, as a husband would've been expected to do at that time. As Colette was a free spirit, it was almost inevitable that the marriage wouldn't last, and she formally separated from her first husband in 1906, four years before their divorce was finalized.

Despite dabbling in a number of lesbian relationships, Colette married again, this time to another Henry, Henry de Jouvenal, a newspaper editor. The marriage lasted twelve years, during which time Henry indulged in a number of extra-marital affairs, and Colette conducted an illicit liaison of her own with her stepson.

Soon after the collapse of her second marriage, it was third time lucky for Colette as she married Maurice Godeket, with whom she spent the rest of her life. After the Nazis occupied Europe, Godeket, who was Jewish, was arrested by the Gestapo, but fortunately released after the German Ambassador's French wife interceded on his behalf. Nevertheless, Colette and her husband lived in constant fear of a late-night knock at the door so long as the Germans occupied Paris.

Perhaps as a way of avoiding trouble, Colette contributed articles to a number of pro-Nazi newspapers during this time. Despite this unfortunate collaboration with the cultural and political agencies of Nazi Germany, her reputation as one of France's most gifted writers remained undimmed in the post-war period, and when she died in 1954, she was given a state funeral, the first French woman of letters to be granted such an honor.

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