Thursday, 28 March 2013

Madame de Maintenon

Madame de Maintenon - or Francoise d'Aubigné - was born in 1685 on November 27. It would later be rumoured that she had been born at the Niort prison but her origins remains a mystery. When her father died she was sent to her aunt and uncle - these days would remain a happy memory for Francoise. But her new family was openly Protestants which resulted in an order that Francoise must be brought up in a convent. Francoise was not happy about the life at the convent but she made a friend in the nun sister Céleste. Francoise was eventually brought to Paris where she was introduced to influential men and women who would be essential for her further life.

In 1651 she married Paul Scarron - a man 25 her senior. He was a poet and also had the patronage of Marie de Hautefort who was the King's maîtresse-en-titre at the time. This connection meant that Francoise now had access to the high Parisian society which continued for nine years until Paul's death. Thanks to Anne of Austria who continued his pension with his wife and even raised it, Francoise was able to keep her place in the high society. However, when Anne of Austria died in 1666 Louis XIV cancelled her pension and she was on her way to the court of Portugal to be a lady-in-waiting to the new Queen. But before she set off she met Madame de Montespan (who was already the secret mistress of Louis XIV) who immediately liked Francoise and convinced the King to reinstate her pension - and Francoise could remain in Paris.

Madame de Montespan had the King's child in 1669 and arranged for Francoise to raise the child in a house with a staff of servants. Francoise would do a great job especially with being discreet about the parentage of the child and she even performed the domestic duties herself. The King was grateful to her and awarded her with a large amount of money which enabled her to buy a property at Maintenon. Madame de Montespan's bad temper was beginning to tire the King and in 1678 he made Francoise Scarron the Marquise de Maintenon. Just four years later she was raised to the post of lady-in-waiting to the Dauphine. Shortly
afterwards Madame de Montespan left court and Francoise was in high favour with the King.

Apparently, she was secretly married to the King in 1683 but the marriage was neither announced nor admitted. Despite the fact that no evidence of the marriage exists it is widely believed to be true. Politically she possessed some influence but the King would not always consult with her in political matters. She would use her influence for personal patronage but her position was rather vague: she was not officially recognized as the Queen and therefore had limited influence at court. She founded a school for poor girls of noble families just 5 kilometres from Versailles and was thought to be the perfect teacher. When Louis XIV died in 1715, she retired the Saint-Cyr where she would die on April 15 1719.

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