Friday, 31 July 2015

Louis Auguste de Bourbon, Duc du Maine

Louis Auguste was born at the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye on 31 March 1670; he was the bastard child of Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan. As such he was brought to the care of a certain Madame Scarron (later Madame de Maintenon) who took charge of all the couple's illegitimate children.

Louis Auguste as a child

Since he rarely saw his mother, Louis Auguste came to see Madame Scarron as a maternal figure. It quickly became clear that Louis Auguste was slightly different from his brothers and sisters having one leg that was slightly shorter than the other. In an attempt to cure this, Madame Scarron first travelled with him to Antwerp and later to Bareges - naturally neither worked.

When Louis Auguste was three years old his life suddenly took a turn for the better when his father legitimised him and his siblings through letters patent. Consequently, Louis Auguste received the title of Duc du Maine.
In 1674 the King decided that he wanted his (now) legitimate children near him at Versailles, so Louis Auguste was brought there and officially presented to the court. Despite being just four years old, he was also honoured with the position of Colonel-General of the Swiss Guard.

Louis Auguste was singled out as his father's favourite son and was showered with gifts and attentions. Louis XIV made sure that his son had all the best that money could buy from tutors to playthings. However, some speculated whether Louis Auguste was even the King's son at all. The main voice of this doubt was the Duchesse d'Orlèans who would become Louis Auguste's greatest enemy at court.

In 1695

Everyone had expected Louis Auguste to go into the army and make a dazzling career for himself there but despite having the Marèchal de Luxembourg (distinguished soldier himself) as mentor, Louis Auguste never amounted to anything more than a mediocre soldier. Instead, his father decided to increase his fortune and offered him several estates; these were taken from La Grande Mademoiselle in exchange for some lenience towards her lover, the Duc de Lauzun, who was imprisoned.
This blackmailing also led to Louis Auguste receiving the titles of Comte d'Eu, Duc d'Aumale and Prince de Dombes. At the age of 14 he was sent to Savoy where he was tasked with representing the King at the Duke of Savoy's wedding.

When it came to matrimony, it was expected that the King would take care to make an excellent match for his favourite son. First, his cousin (daughter of the Duc d'Orlèans) was suggested but since she happened to be also the daughter of his enemy, the Duchesse d'Orlèans, who loudly protested her daughter's marrying a bastard, it came to nothing.

Duc du Maine2.jpg
Louis Auguste - notice the walking stick
which was necessary for him to walk around
and not just a fashion accessory
On the other hand, the Grand Condé was willing to overlook such technicalities and offered Louis Auguste the pick of his three granddaughters. Louis Auguste chose Louise Bénédicte, Mademoiselle de Charolais. They were married at Versailles on 19 May 1692; on the occasion Louis Auguste received 2 million livres while his bride received 100.000 livres in cash as well as jewels and clothing worth another 200.000.

The match was not a happy one. Louise Bénédicte was ashamed of having married a legitimised son which lead to her having a lot of affairs. One would have thought that the couple would have come together if not due to anything else then because of their mutual drawback: they were both disabled. Louise Bénédicte had a bad right arm while Louis Auguste's left leg was lame.
Despite the unhappiness of the union it still produced 3 children.

In 1707 his mother died, but Louis Auguste did not seem to feel it much; unlike his siblings who had grown attached to her. He had always considered Mme. de Maintenon his real mother and had no bond of affection for his actual mother.
To the astonishment of the court, Louis XIV declared in 1714 that both Louis Auguste and his brother, the Comte de Toulouse, would be raised to the rank of Princes of the Blood. When Louis XIV died the following year, it was announced that the regency was to be shared between Louis Auguste and the Duc d'Orlèans.

However, the Duc d'Orlèans swiftly moved in and secured his place as sole Regent leaving Louis Auguste on the sideline. Consequently, Louis Auguste decided to join the Cellamare Conspiracy which aimed at transferring the regency to the King of Spain. But it was discovered and Louis Auguste was imprisoned and stripped of his rank as Prince of the Blood.

Both he and his wife - who had been exiled - were pardoned in 1720 and allowed back to court. It would seem that they preferred living a more private life at the Château de Sceaux where they tried to establish a proper marriage. Here, Louise Bénédicte created a salon for literary thinkers and here Louis Auguste died on 14 May 1736.

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