søndag den 20. december 2015

Madame de Montespan: the Real Queen of France?

Even though Louis XIV never permitted his mistresses to openly insult his wife, the Queen, he himself did nothing to prevent his consort from feeling miserable. The most dominating of the King's mistresses was Madame de Montespan whose magnificence was never matched by any other mistress at Versailles.

But how differently was Marie Thérèse treated from Madame de Montespan?


The long-suffering Marie Thérèse

The King spent most of his time in the apartment of Madame de Montespan where he would do everything from meeting his ministers to dining with their children. Meanwhile the Queen had to be contend with seeing her husband when he decided to fulfil his conjugal duties.

Usually when travelling the Queen had once been reduced to sitting with both Madame de La Vallière and Madame de Montespan. This had been the case in 1673 when Louis XIV dragged the entire court to the front-line - at this time Madame de Montespan was heavily pregnant. But when Madame de Montespan had finally gained complete ascendancy she travelled with the King in his carriage. The Queen was from then on travelling alone or with her ladies in her carriage - behind the King's.

Once Versailles was finally completely finished the difference once again became painstakingly obvious. The Queen was given eleven rooms to make up her apartment on the second floor. Meanwhile, Madame de Montespan could dance around in no less than twenty rooms on the first floor.


Madame de Montespan

Whenever the Queen and the maitresse-en-titre was out promenading their elaborate gown made it necessary to have someone carry their trains. The Queen had to make due with a simple non-titled page but Madame de Montespan had the honour of having her's carried by the Duc de Noailles.

It did not take long before Madame de Montespan even to take control over the Queen's closest circle. Marie Thérèse had been allowed 12 ladies-in-waiting when she became Queen of France. Madame de Montespan worried that having 12 beautiful ladies swirling beneath the King's eyes would be too great a temptation. The ladies-in-waiting were transformed to 12 dames du palais and Athénaïs soon made it possible to dismiss all twelve of them if only one transgressed.

At one point Marie Thérèse was reduced to imploring the favourite to not send a Spanish attendant of the Queen's home to Spain. As it happens, it had been Athénaïs who had had the attendant dismissed in the first place since she had insulted the mistress. Madame de Montespan agreed to letting the Queen keep her friend but the signal was obvious: the mistress outranked the Queen.

Despite these obvious humiliations the Queen never complained to the King. Her complete submission to the King's infidelities resulted in an odd kind of respect from Louis. Although he never treated her with more respect than a Queen should deserve upon her death Louis remarked: "This is the only trouble she has ever caused me".

lørdag den 19. december 2015

Splendour of the Crown: Royal Gifts

As an addition to my other post on New Year's festivities at Versailles I have gathered some examples of the sort of presents that were exchanged within the gilded walls of Versailles. These include presents given in all sorts of occasions.
Gifts of cold hard cash was common too but I find that these represents the splendour of the court of France. Also, posts and positions were frequently given away, especially at weddings.


Presents
When the Duchesse de Bourgogne gave birth to the future Louis XV she received an oriental casket from Louis XIV. It opened via a secretly hidden spring and once the Duchesse found it she discovered a perfect set of pearls and 4.000 louis d'or.

Louis-Philippe received two horses from the royal stables when he first met Louis XV at the age of fourteen

Marie Antoinette sent a chemise à la Reine to her friend, the Duchess of Devonshire. Once the Duchess had been seen sporting the new trend it immediately became all the rage.


Wedding Presents

Marie Thérèse sent Louis XIV a beautiful chest filled with chocolate - a treat that had not yet established itself at the French court.

Louis XIV gave jewellery worth 73.000 livres to Mademoiselle d'Orlèans when she married the Duc de Berri. The groom was given jewels worth a staggering 300.000 livres!

When the King's brother, Monsieur, married Louis XIV bestowed on him the vast palace of the Palais-Royal. It would remain in the hands of the Orlèans family.

Madame de Montespan arranged the marriage of one of her sons to the eldest daughter of the Duc d'Uzès, Julie-Françoise. She then proceeded to give the bride a necklace of diamonds and emeralds worth 40.000 écus and a basket filled with scents, ribbons, fans and gloves.

Marie Antoinette received the diamonds and pearls that had belonged to the previous Dauphine as well as a single-row pearl choker brought to France by Anne of Austria. A fan encrusted with diamonds was also a part of the King's wedding gifts; so was bracelets with her cipher written on the blue enamel clasps. As a gesture of good faith Madame Adélaïde gave the new Dauphine a key that would allow her to use the private corridors. 

It was common - especially during Louis XV's reign - to give the ladies attending a wedding (such as maid-of-honour) fans as presents.

New Year's Presents

When Madame de Montespan's career as the King's maitresse-en-titre was coming to an end Athénaïs decided to grant her (soon-to-be) former lover a present in her typical splendid style. Athénaïs paid 4000 pistoles to have a book illustrating the sieges of the campaign in Holland in 1672 created. Not only was the book bound with gold it contained verses by Racine and Boileau. Louis XIV was thrilled with his present.

The first son of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI was gifted with a set of dominos made from the same stone and marble used for the Bastille.

Marie Lescszynska received a golden snuff-box from the King; however, what the Queen did not know was that the box had originally been intended for the King's new mistress, Madame de Pompadour's mother.

Diplomatic Presents

Louis XIV received the speciality wine of Transylvania called Tokaji from Francis II Rákóczi. That actually resulted in wine becoming rather popular with the French court.

In 1668 Louis XIV received an elephant from the King of Portugal. The elephant had originally come from Congo and died in 1681.

In 1686 the King of Siam sent a substantial amount of gifts to the entire royal family. These gifts were as exotic as one would expect from the King of Siam since they all related to the relatively new trend of drinking hot chocolate. The King received two silver chocolate pitchers; similarly the Dauphin was also given two pitchers but these were decorated with elaborate floral motifs in gold. The Queen received a smaller but golden pitcher.

Two porcelain vases, a centrepiece and two smaller ewers were sent from Saxony to France as a part of the plan to have the Dauphin married to Marie Josepha of Saxony. In that same period another set was made for the Duc de Richelieu who had been sent to Saxony for the proxy wedding in January 1747.

In 1758 Louis XV sent the first diplomatic set of Sèvres-porcelain to King Frederik V of Denmark. It consisted of 72 plates and 164 hollow ware pieces; the cost was 34.542 livres. The set was in response to a stallion of the Frederiksborg breed sent by the Danish King earlier.

Plate from the set sent to
Frederik V


Madame de Pompadour played an essential role in getting Louis XV closer to a reconciliation with Austria and for that Empress Maria Theresia (Marie Antoinette's mother) sent the royal favourite two lacquer boxes from the Empress' own collection. The boxes were personally selected and sent from Vienna. The gift truly was magnificent since the mounts were not of ormolu as was usually the case but of solid gold and a portrait of the Empress was incorporated into the design. 

Louis XVI received two large eagles for the royal menagerie from the Governor of Kamchatka

Estate Presents

Louis XIV gave Madame de Montespan the estate of Clagny in response to the golden book mentioned earlier in 1682

In 1769 Louis XV gave the château de Louveciennes to Madame du Barry

A month after ascending to the throne in 1774 Louis XVI handed over the keys for the Petit Trianon to Marie Antoinette.

Madame Élisabeth received the estate of Montreuil - where she had spent a great part of her childhood - as a present from her brother.

torsdag den 10. december 2015

The Battle for the Throne: The Princes vs. the Legitimised Bastards

In the early years of the 1700's the King was old and everyone had their eyes both on the still all-powerful Louis XIV and on who were to succeed him.
After Louis XIV had legitimised his sons by Madame de Montespan the French court was primarily divided into two opposing factions: that of the Princes and that of the legitimised sons.

The Princes' faction was made up of the old garde of the French nobility; these were the proper noble families whose birth was not stained by bastardy. That last part was especially easy to publicly demonstrate since the legitimised children of the King were obliged to display a clear bar on their coat-of-arms indicating their dubious ancestry. That was not required of those born on the right side of the sheet.


Portrait of Philippe d'Orléans, Duke of Orléans in armour by Jean-Baptiste Santerre.png

Especially the houses of Orlèans, Conti and Condé were the frontrunners of the Princes' faction. The Legitimised party was headed by the Comte de Toulouse and the Duc du Maine - referred to as "the bastards" by the Duc de Saint-Simon - but had the support of the other children of the King - most of whom had been married into the noble families of France. Another supporter was Madame de Maintenon whose patronage can probably be traced back to the support from the King's natural children to see her recognised as Queen of France.

Everything depended on who were to rule France once the King was dead. Since the Dauphin was just a few years old the Duc d'Orlèans was entitled to the regency. To prevent this from happening the Legitimised faction launched an attack on the would-be regent. When the Duc and Duchesse de Bourgogne suddenly died the rumours of poisoning swept through court. Thanks to the combined efforts of the legitimised sons and the King's confessor (another supporter of "the bastards") it did not take long to point out the suspect. Soon after the public took hold of the idea as well and the Duc d'Orlèans had to put up with being shouted after when he went to Paris.


Duc du Maine2.jpg
The Duc du Maine

After considering the case news reached the Duc d'Orlèans at his estate of Saint-Cloud that the King had found him to be entirely innocent. Just like that everything changed once again for the future Regent - and the bastards.

In 1715 on the first day of September Louis XIV died and all hell broke lose. However, since the Duc d'Orlèans had been publicly cleared of the charges made against him he stood in a strong position to claim the regency. But the will of the late monarch disappointed him; rather than naming the Duc d'Orlèans as Regent, Louis XIV had established a regency council - with the Duc du Maine and Comte de Toulouse. Although the Duc would still be presiding over the council he would have no actual power.

Portrait painting of Louis Alexandre de Bourbon, Count of Toulouse by Hyacinthe Rigaud.jpg
The Comte de Toulouse
The end to the bitter feud came swiftly and dramatically. Already on the day after the King's death the Duc d'Orlèans swept into Paris and declared that he had law and tradition on his side (which was true). The "bastards" could only sit and watch as the Duc d'Orlèans easily gained the approval of the gathered parlament. By the end of that day it was settled. The Duc d'Orlèans became Regent while the King's legitimised sons quickly went into an embarrassing retreat.

tirsdag den 1. december 2015

The South Wing - First Floor of 1775-80



A) Duchesse de Tallard (Governess of the Children of France until she was replaced by the Princesse de Lamballe)

B) Apartments of Mesdames Tantes

C) Unknown

D) Mademoiselle de Roche-sur-Yon

E) Comte d'Estrées

F) Grand Prior

G) Comte de Toulouse

H) Governor of the Dauphin

I) Marèchale Berwick

J) Madame de C.

K) Unknown Monsieur

L) Duchesse de Duras

M) Prince de Rohan

N) Captain of the Guard

O) Duchesse de Luynes

NOTE: Apartments D and E were given to the Princesse de Lamballe when she became Governess of the Children of France