Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly in his novel “Le chevalier Destouches” [The Knight Of The Keys] called his heroine Aimée-Isabelle de Spens and said about him in chapter III:
“As beautiful as she had been, she was no more than charming: for she had been a famous beauty in her province and even in Paris, when she came there with her uncle, Colonel Walter de Spens, around 18, and when she monopolized, by showing herself at the edge of a box, all the glasses of a performance hall. Aimée-Isabelle de Spens, of the illustrious Scottish family of that name, which carried in its shield the rampant lion of the great Macduff, was the last offspring of this ancient race, which came to France under Louis XI and whose various members are known to have been born and were established, some in Guyenne and others in Normandy. Coming from the former counts of Fife, this branch of Spens, which to distinguish itself from the others, added to its name and to its arms the name and arms of Lathallan, died out in the person of the Countess Aimée-Isabelle, that we simply called Mademoiselle Aimée.”
Everything that Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly wrote about the origins of the Spens family is true. He writes “As for de Spens, I will show it to my master (once is not customary), because there is no name more Caledonian than this one. It was the name of the mother-in-law of my White Angel, whose genealogy I know ad unguem ”(in Trebutien, December 17, 1854, volume IV, p. 137).
He invented: the Norman branch which never existed, the character of Aimée-Isabelle who is a play on words from the surname Agathe Desme du Buisson who was the wife of the Field Marshall and Regiment Colonel Jean, Baron de Spens d’Estignols, and who married as a second wedding the former president in mortar of the Parliament of Bordeaux and emigrated Mathieu de Spens d’Estignols, Marquis de Lancre and de Laage. The colonel’s branch did not die out, but that of Mathieu de Spens d’Estignols, Marquis de Lancre and de Laage died out with him.
Colonel Walter in the novel is of course Jean, Baron de Spens d’Estignols, who had a son Emmanuel who continued the line.
Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly met in 1851 Françoise Emilie Sommervogel, Baroness of Bouglon who was widow of Baron Rufin de Bouglon. Baroness de Bouglon was nicknamed “the White Angel”, she was the friend of Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly and largely inspired him. These are the sources of inspiration for the character of Aimée-Isabelle de Spens.
Source: Spens.info Website – Literature: http://www.spens.info/litterature.php