Sunday, 31 May 2015

The Choiseul Faction

The Choiseul Faction grew around Étienne François, Duc de Choiseul, who acted as France's Foreign Minister. It was largely thanks to him that the marriage contract that would bring Marie Antoinette to the French court was arranged. Consequently, Marie Antoinette was one of his greatest supporters and worked constantly on bringing him back from exile.

The Duc de Choiseul
After the Duc de Choiseul successfully negotiated between Empress Maria Theresia and Louis XV, he became the centre of his fraction. Surprisingly quickly his supporters popped up at court and before long many found seats at the King's council. Among those who were a part of the Choiseul Faction were the nobles from Lorraine; Marie Antoinette's father had been of the Lorraine line and the Duc de Choiseul himself was of a Lorraine branch. Another prominent member was Madame de Gramont who happened to be the Duc's sister. Choiseul's rise had been largely thanks to Madame de Pompadour who was an avid supporter of him for as long as she lived.

Since the idea of the Austrian Dauphine had originated with the Choiseul Faction, they were absolutely anti-du Barry - a new mistress meaning new rivals.
It is said that the Choiseul Faction tried to sabotage Madame du Barry's official presentation at court by "hijacking" her hair-dresser and sending her carriage away. But, it went on as planned with a few alterations.

The main rival was the faction of the Duc d'Aiguillon who stood for pretty much everything that Choiseul was against. Where Choiseul preferred to see the end of the Jesuits, d'Aiguillon was prepared to help them. Choiseul supported the Parlements whereas d'Aiguillon was set on ruining them.

The Choiseul Faction suffered a severe setback when the Duc de Choiseul was dismissed from his position just six months after the wedding between Louis Auguste and Marie Antoinette. He never truly regained his former position and Marie Antoinette never succeeded in persuading her husband to bring him back. It can safely be said that the fall of the Choiseul faction was due to the Duc's inability to win the good graces of the future Louis XVI.

Later on when Louis XV became fatally ill, they pressured the King to confess and receive the sacrament as early as possible; that would effectively mean the removal of Madame du Barry from court. But once again, Louis XV went right till the last moment before finally dismissing du Barry.

While the Choiseul Faction had lost its front figure back in 1774, the Duc was not completely isolated. But ever since his all-but exile the Choiseul Faction never truly gained its' former glory.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Chemise à la Reine

Made famous by Marie Antoinette who preferred to wear at her retreat of Petit Trianon, it sparked a scandal when Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun painted the Queen wearing the informal dress since it was thought too plain for a Queen of France. Some critics said that it looked as if Her Majesty had been painted in her undergarments.

It became fashionable during the late 1770's to early 1780's and at the time most courtiers thought that it resembled more a chemise in the traditional sense - that is basically underwear. The public first came head to head with the style when the portrait of Marie Antoinette was hung in a Paris salon in 1783. However, the outcry became so great that the original portrait (seen below) was removed. The English paper, the Morning Herald, mentioned in 1784 the trend as a "state of undress" which they expected to become quite popular.

Marie Antoinette's portrait that caused such a fuss

The chemise à la Reine is made of several layers of white muslin which is loosely draped around the wearer's body. A coloured sash was bound around the bust and this was often the only colourful element in this dress. As for the shape, it was completely different from the elaborate dresses usually worn at court. Gone were the wide panniers and rustling silks with delicate embroidery.

The inspiration is believed to have come from dresses worn by washerwomen from the West Indies or from an increasing sense of Anglomania; the muslin was often imported from India. This in itself caused problems. Whereas silk had hitherto been a favourite when it came to court dress this new muslin had to be imported often at great costs. The French silk merchants were furious and quickly denounced the trend. Others had more patriotic reasons for disliking the trend. The casual style was a result of increasing English influence on fashion which had so far been all but monopolised by the French.

The Princesse de Lamballe following suit

Surprisingly enough, the Queen's fashion statement was equally detested by courtiers and commoners alike. For once they could agree on one thing: the Queen of France was the fashion symbol of the Western world as well as an outward symbol of the glory of France. She could not be seen wearing such a simple style.

The greatest affront to the older courtiers was that no corset was worn with the dress which for centuries had been an essential part of any woman's attire.

Still, the style spread through Europe and became popular among many a noble ladies. Marie Antoinette's personal friend, the Duchess of Devonshire, wore a chemise à la Reine for an official ball while Princess Louise Augusta of Denmark had her portrait painted in one. The latter portrait was also the cause for some scandal in Denmark when an observer noted that the Princess' legs could almost be seen through the fabric - even though it was merely on canvas. Promptly, more layers of white paint were added to keep the Princess' modesty intact.

Louise Augusta of Denmark

It is not hard to imagine that most fashionable ladies saw the style as an excuse for slipping out of the restricting court costumes and into something more comfortable.

It is rather ironic that the cut of the chemise à la Reine would later be associated with the post-Revolutionary France where a high waistline was the fashion.

Louis de Bourbon, Comte de Vermandois

Louis de Bourbon was born at the Château Saint-Germain-en-Laye on 2 October 1667 to Louise de La Vallière and Louis XIV. Louis was legitimised in 1669 at which point he was given the title of Comte de Vermandois.
It is very likely that he was brought up alongside his sister by Madame Colbert. His relationship with his mother was not strong and after she joined a convent, they saw as good as nothing of each other.

Louis, Count of Vermandois.PNGInstead, Louis moved to the Palais-Royal where he lived with his uncle, the Duc d'Orlèans. Here he struck up a relationship with an unlikely part: Elizabeth Charlotte, the Duchesse d'Orlèans who was otherwise known to despise Louis XIV's bastards. Despite this odd companionship their relationship remained strong.

During his stay at the Palais-Royal, Louis met the infamous Chevalier de Lorraine who was rumoured to be the lover of both Louis' uncle and aunt. Apparently, the young Louis fell under his charm as well and after their meeting it was whispered that Louis was now also homosexual.
Louis XIV was furious at the news; he had always treated his brother's sexuality with nonchalance without approving of it but the idea that his son - although illegitimate - had been "infected" by the Italian vice was too much.
Both Louis de Bourbon and the Chevalier was exiled.

It was suggested that Louis was to marry to draw attention from the scandal but it never came to anything. His exile brought Louis to Normandy in 1682. It was thanks to Louis' aunt that the King came to the conclusion that his son might benefit from a trip to the front. So, Louis was sent to Flanders where he was to participate in the Siege of Courtray.
While there, Louis became ill but was still so desperate to regain his father's affection that he insisted on fighting. That would become his death. Louis died on 18 November 1683 at the age of 16 years old.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Marie Anne de Bourbon, Princesse de Conti

Marie Anne de Bourbon was born at the Château de Vincennes on 2 October 1666. Her parents were Louise de La Vallière and Louis XIV - she was their eldest surviving daughter and was his favourite daughter. Marie Anne spent her childhood under the guidance of Madame Colbert away from the court of her royal father.

Marie Anne de Bourbon par Rigaud c.1706.jpgThe year after (1667) she was formally legitimised while her mother was finally bestowed with the title of Duchesse. Though she was not yet a part of court life, Marie Anne was known there as Mademoiselle de Blois. As she grew older her beauty only grew more apparent and she would become known as the King's most beautiful daughter (after the birth of the others, of course).

Perhaps her beauty had something to do with her cousin's, Louis Armand de Conti, infatuation with her. Luckily for him they were married in January 1680 which made Marie Anne the Princesse de Conti. Though the bridegroom was pleased enough with the match, he seemed to have been the only one. This was the first time that Louis XIV had married one of his illegitimate children to a Prince of the Blood and it was a scandal of immense proportions.
Despite her husband's fondness for her, their wedding night was a disaster and she would later cause another scandal when she openly exclaimed that her husband was not a good lover.

In 1685 Marie Anne contracted small-pox but she survived the ordeal. Her husband was less fortunate and died after having been infected by Marie Anne. Marie Anne - now the Dowager Princesse de Conti - had apparently lost her inclination to marry and would never do so again.

During the next couple of years Marie Anne had to contend herself with stepping behind two of her siblings (one a half-sister) in the line of precedence. First, Louise Françoise de Bourbon married the heir to the Condé-title and since the line of Conti was a younger branch, Louise took precedence. Then Françoise-Marie de Bourbon became a petite-fille de France and outranked them both. Marie Anne never really accepted this setback in position.

It was through Marie Anne that the Grand Dauphin met his second wife. Actually, the two of them were quite close and she often came to visit at his retreat of Meudon. Here she fell in love with an impoverished young nobleman but the romance ended when her father had him exiled. In 1710 Marie Anne inherited the title of Duchesse de La Vallière after her mother. With that title came a substantial fortune which was partially spent on purchasing the Hôtel de Lorges and the Château de Choisy. She would move into the former in 1715.

When the Regency began Marie Anne was put in charge of the young Infanta who were brought to France to marry Louis XV. However, that engagement when awry and when the Infanta was sent back to Spain, Marie Anne found herself without an employment. Deciding that she had had enough of court life she retired. Her retirement lasted 14 years until she died of a brain tumour on 3 May 1739.

Louis XV and His Bastards

Unlike his legendary great-grandfather, Louis XIV, Louis XV was not a dedicated father to his illegitimate off-spring. That in itself is quite strange since the King was an adoring father to the children he had by his wife, Marie Leszczynska.

Of the many illegitimate children fathered by the King, there was just one who was actually officially recognized: Louis Aimé de Bourbon. But not even he was to go on and have a brilliant court career - instead he became an Abbot.
Rather than living at court or being married into families of the nobility, a different kind of life awaited the children born on the wrong side of the sheet. The method adopted by Louis XV was to have the paternity listed as a non-existent person; occasionally both parents were made up. However, the King did make sure to at least give these imaginary parents somewhat decent ranks but never one that would arouse suspicions.

Another thing that is odd about Louis XV and his bastards is that he seemed to have had very few of them by his actual mistresses. Neither one of his most famous mistresses, Madame de Pompadour and Madame du Barry, had children by the King. From what we can tell most of his bastards came from women he never recognized as mistresses or perhaps even only had brief liaisons with.

Because Louis XV never had his children registered - officially or unofficially - it is unknown exactly how many he had. An estimated guess is around 15.

The Royal Bastards

Both Louis XIV and his successor Louis XV fathered a small regiment of royal bastards. Louis XIV would eventually officially recognize his illegitimate offspring which secured them a future at court or even secure them marriages into the most illustrious families of France - to the mixed consternation and joy of his courtiers. 

However, Louis XV was reluctant to recognize his illegitimate children which meant that they would never gain the same influence and status at court as their fellow-bastards. This is also why - as you will see in the following - that few of their lives are as well-known as their counterparts. 

Read more on the Royal Bastards here.

Louis XIV's Illegitimate Children 

By Louise de La Vallière:

Charles de La Baume le Blanc 
      Born: 19 December 1663
      Died: 15 July 1665

Philippe de La Baume le Blanc
       Born: 7 January 1665
       Died: 1666

Louis de La Baume le Blanc
        Born: 27 December 1665
        Died: 1666

       Born: 2 October 1666
       Married: Louis Armand, Prince de Conti
       Died: 3 May 1739

       Born: 2 October 1667
       Died: 18 November 1683

By Madame de Montespan:

Louise Francoise de Bourbon:
        Born: 1669
        Died: 1672

Louis Auguste de Bourbon, Duc du Maine
        Born: 31 March 1670
        Married: Anne Louise Bénédicte de Bourbon
        Died: 14 May 1736

Louis César de Bourbon, Comte de Vexin:
        Born: 1672
        Died: 1683

Louise Francoise de Bourbon, Mademoiselle de Nantes
        Born:1 June 1671
        Married: Louis, Prince de Condé
        Died: 16 June 1743

Louise Marie Anne de Bourbon, Mademoiselle de Tours:
        Born: 1674
        Died: 1681

Francoise Marie de Bourbon, Mademoiselle de Blois:
        Born: 4 May 1677
        Married: Philippe II, Duc d'Orléans
        Died: 1 February 1749

Louis Alexandre de Bourbon, Comte de Toulouse:
        Born: 6 June 1678
        Married: Marie Victoire de Noailles
        Died: 1 December 1737

By Claude de Vin:

Louise de Maisonblanche, Baronesse de La Queue
        Born: 17 June 1676
        Married: Bernard de Prez, Baron de La Queue
        Died: 12 September 1712

Louis XV's Illegitimate Children

By Pauline Félicité de Mailly:

Charles Emmanuel Marie Magdelon de Vintimille, Marquis du Luc
          Born: 2 September 1741
          Married: Adélaide de Castillane
          Died: 24 February 1814
          Status: recognized by Pauline's husband but was generally considered to be the son of Louis.   
          His appearance was so like the king's that he was called Demi-Louis

By Jeanne Perray:
Amélie Florimonde de Norville
          Born: 11 January 1753
          Married: Ange de Faure
          Died: 27 December 1790
          Status: Her registered father was a non-existing person while the royal paternity was later   

By Marie-Louise O'Murphy:

Agathe Louise de Saint-Antoine de Saint-André, Marquise de La Charce
          Born: 20 May 1754
          Married: René Jean de La Tour du Pin
          Died: 6 September 1774
          Status: Certainly Louis' daughter but not officially recognized. She was given an official 
          recognition of nobility so she could marry into the aristocracy 

Marguerite Victoire Le Normant de Flaghac, Comtesse de Chousy
          Born: 5 January 1768
          Married: (I) Jean-Didier Mansard, Comte de Chousy, (II) Constant Lenormant d'Étiolles
          Died: 1814
          Status: Officially recognized by Marie-Louise's second husband but most likely the king's 

By Francoise de Châlus, Duchesse de Narbonne-Lara:

Philippe Louis Marie Innocent Christophe Juste de Narbonne-Lara, Duc de Narbonne-Lara
          Born: 28 December 1750
          Married: Antoinette-Francoise-Claudine de La Roche-Aymon
          Died: 10 May 1834
          Status: Recognized by Francoise's husband 

Louis Marie Jacques Amalric de Narbonne-Lara, Comte de Narbonne-Lara
          Born: 23 August 1755
          Married: Marie Adélaide de Montholon
          Died: 17 November 1813
          Status: Recognized by Francoise's husband

Note: Louis is believed to have been the father of both boys mainly because the Duc de Narbonne-Lara had been wounded in battle in such a manner as would render him "unable to produce offspring". Meanwhile, the Duchesse was the king's mistress for a brief period.

By Marguerite Catherine Haynault:

Agnès Louise de Montreuil
          Born: 20 May 1760
          Married: Gaspard d'Arod de Montmelas
          Died: 2 September 1837
          Status: Paternity officially attributed to a non-existing person

Anne Louise de La Réale, Comtesse de Geslin
          Born: 17 November 1762
          Married: René Guillaume Paul Gabriel Etienne de Geslin, Comte de Geslin
          Died: 30 April 1831
          Status: Paternity also registred to a non-existing person

By Lucie Madeleine d'Estaing:

Agnès Lucie Auguste, Vicomtesse de Boysseuilh
          Born: 14 April 1761 
          Married: Charles de Boysseuilh, Vicomte de Boysseuilh 
          Died: 4 July 1822
          Status: Paternity placed with non-existing person

Aphrodite Lucie Auguste
          Born: 8 March 1763
          Married: Jules de Boysseuilh (her step-brother!)
          Died: 22 February 1819
          Status: Paternity placed with non-existing person

Note: Louis XV left both an annual sum of 24.300 livres as well as a capital of 223.000 livres. Louis XVI would later give them both official recognition of nobility

By Anne Coppier de Romans, Baronne de Meilly-Coulonge:

Louis Aimé de Bourbon, Abbé de Saint Vincent de Metz
          Born: 13 January 1762
          Died: 28 February 1787
          Status: Only illegitimate child to be recognized by Louis XV

By Jeanne Louise Tiercelin de La Colleterie, Madame de Bonneval:

Benoît Louis le Duc
          Born: 7 February 1764
          Married: unknown
          Died: 1837
          Status: Both registred parents did not exist