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.

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