Monday, 26 October 2015

The Duchesse de Bourbon and the Duchesse d'Orléans

It was easy enough to find rivals at Versailles with countless factions and families betraying each other for minor favours. That is why it would seem quite odd that some of the fiercest rivals would be within the same family - unless there is a specific reason.

For an illegitimate child it was impossible to know exactly where you stood at court. There was no title to inherit and no official pedigree to lure in possible suitors. That was especially true for the King's illegitimate children. Two of his children by Madame de Montespan became fierce rivals already from their early adolescents and their competition ended only with their deaths.

Louise Françoise

Louise Françoise de Bourbon and Françoise Marie de Bourbon were both born on the wrong side of the sheet. Luckily for them their father was Louis XIV and he was determined to see all of his children succeed.
The two sisters' rivalry began with one of the most important alliances a young noblewoman could make: marriage. As the eldest, Louise Françoise was married off first at the age of 11; her bridegroom was Louis de Bourbon, Prince de Condé and later Duc de Bourbon. So far so good. Louise Françoise and Françoise Marie's relationship might have been a whole lot better had not Louis XIV decided to shock his court. Despite being a younger sister Françoise Marie was married to one of the most eligible bachelors at court: Philippe II d'Orlèans. As the son of the King's own brother he would one day become Regent.

To sum up Louise Françoise became the Duchesse de Bourbon and Françoise Marie became Duchesse d'Orlèans.

Daughters of Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan,Louise Francoise Princesse de Conde  the elder daughter is on the right with Francoise Marie Duchesse dOrleans on the left:
Louise Françoise (left) and Françoise Marie (right)

The latest match also meant that besides wounded pride there was a whole new sting of "insults" to Louise Françoise. First of all, their august father handed Françoise Marie a dowry twice the size of what had accompanied Louise Françoise into her marriage. Second, Françoise Marie now out-ranked her elder sister which meant that she took precedence at court.
To add salt to the wound it was well-known that Françoise Marie was Louis XIV's favourite daughter.

When Louise Françoise's father-in-law died in 1709 she stood to become First Princess of the Blood due to her marriage. However, the title was transferred from the House of Condé to that of Orlèans - in other words to Françoise Marie! Even though the latter never actually styled herself as Madame la Princesse it was a thorn in the side of Louise Françoise.

Françoise Marie as Duchesse d'Orlèans

Several years later another nail in the coffin of their relationship was firmly in place. Charles, Duc de Berry (son of the Grand Dauphin) was still unmarried and quite the catch. For a while it was rumoured - and practically expected - that he would marry the daughter of Louise Françoise. However, Françoise Marie quickly stepped in and snatched Charles up as a bridegroom of her own daughter!

As if the lucky star of Françoise Marie had not blinded Louise Françoise enough worse was yet to come. When Louis XIV died in 1715 Philippe II d'Orlèans was made Regent - consequently Françoise Marie was now the highest-ranking woman in France which was the closest thing to being Queen anyone could come.

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