Friday, 14 June 2013

Louise Marie Adélaïde de Bourbon, Duchesse de Chartres

Born on March 13 1753, Louise Marie Adélaïde was the daughter of the Duke of Penthièvre and the Princess of Modena. As it was custom with noble-born daughters, Louise Marie was sent to a convent - in this case the Abbaye de Montmartre - where she would spent twelve full years. However, her status would change when her brother died in 1768 which left her the richest heiress in France; a suitable bride for any nobleman.

One of the suitors was Louis Philippe Joseph d'Orlèans, Duc de Chartres. The match was made in spite of Louis XV's insistent warnings that Louis Philippe would make a poor husband; the King described him as a "libertine" with a bad temper. After her presentation to the King on December 7 (1768) Louise Marie was married to Louis Philippe at the chapel within Versailles. She was a beautiful girl (of 15 years old!) who charmed the courtiers with her good, decent behaviour. Even her husband liked her and the marriage was a success - or at least for the first few months. After this Louis Philippe returned to his earlier lifestyle.

Louise Marie gave birth in 1772 to a stillborn girl and shortly afterwards her husband began an affair with one of her ladies-in-waiting. Strangely enough, this betrayal did not alter Louise Marie's warm feelings of friendship for her lady-in-waiting who would become a good friend to both Louise and Louis after her affair was over. Louise Marie would give birth again in 1777, this time to twin girls. But it was not to remain in this way; it went wrong when her former lady-in-waiting was made governess to Louis and Louise Marie's children. Louis' former lover gave the couple's children a very liberal education which Louise Marie was unhappy with. Meanwhile the liberal thoughts had spread throughout France.

Louise Marie was horrified when her eldest son - Louis Philippe - joined the Jacobin Club which was infamous for its revolutionary ways. Also, the relationship between Louise Marie and her husband had deteriorated and the couple could only communicate through letters. Finally, on April 5 1791, Louise Marie travelled to the Château de Bizy - without her husband. In Paris her husband (now the Duc d'Orlèans) had been given the noble name of Philippe Égalité and enjoyed remarkable popularity despite his royal origins. But this change when the couple's eldest son (who had become the Duc de Chartres when his father became Duc d'Orlèans) decided to seek asylum with Austria. This resulted in the arrests of every member of the Orlèans family that had remained in France; the only exception was Louise Marie who was put under house arrest due to her poor health. In November 1793, Louise Marie became a widow when her husband was guillotined.

During her imprisonment at the Luxembourg Palace something extraordinary happened to Louise Marie: she fell in love with Jacques-Marie Rouzet. They were separated though when Louise Marie came dangerously close to the guillotine herself but was instead transferred to the Pension Belhomme which was known as a "prison for the rich". But Jacques-Marie had not forgotten about her. When he was released he became a part of the Council of Five Hundred and managed to release not only Louise Marie but her two surviving sons as well.
Louise Marie was released in 1796 on the condition that she went into exile in Spain - Jacques-Marie accompanied her to the Spanish border. Some way or another the couple was reunited in Barcelona where Louise Marie succeeded in bestowing the title of Comte de Folmont on her lover. The couple remained in Spain until the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy in 1814 when they travelled back to France. Back in France, Louise Marie decided to fight for her inheritance (her enormous legacy had been confiscated by the revolutionaries) and actually managed to restore most of her family's fortune. Sadly, Louise Marie had suffered from what turned out to be breast cancer - she died on June 23, 1821.

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