Monday, 17 June 2013

Louis Armand, Prince de Conti

Louis Armand de Bourbon was born within the walls of the Palace of Versailles and - as his surname indicates - was of royal birth which resulted in the title Prince de Conti. His parents were François Louis (Prince de Conti) and Marie Thérèse de Bourbon; the couple had seven children but Louis Armand was the only son to survive past the age of five.

Louis Armand - there is no hint
of a hunched back in this portrait
Louis Armand de Bourbon became the Prince de Conti in 1709 when his father died; Louis was thirteen years at the time. His inheritance was not bound to land areas but to a large fortune and an influential name. Two years later on New Year's Day the title of Knight of the Order of the Holy Spirit was added to his name. On July 9, 1713 Louis married his first cousin Louise Élisabeth de Bourbon as a part of a double marriage pact. Louise Élisabeth might have been considered to be unfortunate with her new husband since he was considered very unattractive - rumours had it that he was hunchbacked. The marriage was not quite stable. Louis' wife had an openly acknowledged affair but the marriage was not without affection. When Louis contracted smallpox in 1716 it was his wife who nursed him through his illness even at the price of her catching the disease herself.

But then it went wrong. As said, Louise's affair was well-known to most of the courtier - but not to Louis Armand. He discovered the affair and became so enraged that he physically attacked his wife to such a degree that a doctor had to be called twice. Louise would then live at her mother's house in Paris. So far the marriage had resulted in a son and another one would be born in 1717 but the newly born boy was not received well by either parents. Louis Armand proclaimed that he would not acknowledge the child because it could not be his own while Louise Élisabeth said that she too had denounced the child because it was his. At court Louis was popular with Louis XIV who liked the Prince and even with the Regent Philippe II. Louis would expand his already large fortune by working with John Law.

The marriage was so stormy that the couple was called to several court hearings in Paris. In 1725 Louise Élisabeth agreed to return to her husband and consequently Louis sent her away in "exile" to the Château de l'isle-Adam. He would only let her back to Paris when she was to give birth to the couple's only daughter. As a sign of his good standing with the Regent, Louis became a member of the Regent Council and the Council of War. To this was added the title of Governor of Poitou that came with an annual fee of 45.000 livres. When the War of the Spanish Succession broke out Louis was to be found on the battlefield but he had not inherited the skills of his father.
In 1727 Louis Armand died at the Hôtel de Conti at 31 years old.

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