Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Madame "How Much?"

Madame de Montespan was not just renowned for her beauty - apparently the maîtresse-en-titre was a very demanding woman with a taste for luxury.

Like all the other royal mistresses, Madame de Montespan occupied private apartments at Versailles during her affair with the King. These included her own personal gallery! Her apartments were always packed with flowers and her pets. As always, the courtiers knew that the King's favourite could be a way to gain favours from the King himself and consequently they swarmed around the favourite. Madame de Montespan had a fondness of jewels which she received plenty of. But Madame was not one to accept a jewel if she did not fancy it - actually she was known for her rude behaviour of returning gemstones if she did not think them of good enough quality!
The courtiers quickly gave her the nick-name "Quanto" which is Italian for "How Much?"

Madame de Montespan constantly had to flaunt her status in front of the Queen. The King's mistress demanded no less than twenty rooms to make up her set of apartments even though the Queen herself occupied ten. And it was custom that a page would carry the Queen's train through the gilded halls of Versailles; but Madame de Montespan wanted a wife of a Maréchal de France to do the same job.

The King decided to create a private château for Madame de Montespan when she was at the height of his affection. He decided on Clagny, a residence near Versailles, and called upon the young architect Mansart. When the King was presented with a plan for the small château he said "I can say nothing yet; I will first hear what Madame de Montespan thinks" - such were her power over him. In the end a magnificent little retreat was created and it was said to resemble Versailles itself. The total sum is estimated at about 17 million francs and it was finished in 1680. The Marquise was pleased but her time as royal mistress was running out.

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