Tuesday, 26 March 2013

The Kings' Favourites

Unlike what might be supposed being the king's mistress was a privilege which granted the lady in question direct access to the king. Having a mistress was expected of the king; when Louis XVI did not take one he broke a centuries old tradition. Generally, the mistresses of the kings of France are divided into three categories: maîtresse-en-titres, petite maîtresses or simply liaisons.

The first category, the maîtresse-en-titre was the most coveted one. They were occasionally referred to as the "maîtresse declarée" which translated to the king's declared mistress. In other words this was a mistress whom the king openly admitted to being in a stable relationship with. These mistresses were often by the king's side for years - if not decades - and had enormous influence.

The petite maîtresse was just that "a minor mistress". If the king fancied a lady but had no desire to abandon his maîtresse-en-titre he would often take a petite maîtresse whom he would amuse himself with. This was particularly popular when the maîtresse-en-titre was pregnant and thus unavailable.

Finally, there were the liaisons. Given the prestigiousness of the position of maîtresse-en-tite it is hardly a wonder that noble women would vie for the "honour". However, some managed to capture the king's attention only for a very short while and consequently never posed a threat to the reigning mistress. But in an age without birth control even such indiscretions could result in royal bastards.

Mistresses of Louis XIV:

Being the most powerful monarch in Europe had its advantages - including a rich choice in women. Louis XIV never quite lived up to the church's marital ideal of fidelity but he certainly had little trouble fulfilling the expectations of a king.

For a chronological list of Louis XIV's mistresses click here.

Marie Mancini, 
Princesse de Colonna

Catherine Bellier,
Baronesse de Beauvais

Marie Angélique de Scorailles,
Duchesse de Fontanges

Charlotte Catherine de Gramont,
Princesse de Monaco

Isabelle de Ludres,
Marquise de Ludres

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Louise de La Vallière,
Duchesse de La Vallière

Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart,
Marquise de Montespan

Olympe Mancini,
Comtesse de Soissons

Anne de Rohan-Chabot,
Princesse de Soubise

Claude de Vin de Oeillets

Françoise d'Aubigné,
Marquise de Maintenon

Mistresses of Louis XV

Historically, Louis XV's reign has always been considered to be a shadow of the former glory of the Sun King. Some has even claimed that the mistresses of Louis XIV were similarly of lesser quality - something we can only speculate at. Unlike his predecessor, Louis XV preferred to keep his petites maîtresses a secret whereas he never attempted to hide his maîtresses-en-titre.

For a complete list of Louis XV's mistresses click here.

Louise Julie de Mailly,
Comtesse de Mailly

Pauline Félicité de Mailly, 
Marquise de Vintimille

Diane Adélaïde de Mailly,
Duchesse de Lauraguais

Marie Anne de Mailly,
Duchesse de Châteauroux

Jeanne Poissons,
Marquise de Pompadour

Jeanne Bécu,
Madame du Barry

Marie Louise O'Murphy

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