Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Elizabeth Charlotte: the Animal Friend

While having pets at court was not a novel initiative but Elizabeth Charlotte, Duchesse d'Orléans, was fonder of animals than most.

The Princess Palatine - as she was also known - firmly believed that dogs possessed an immortal soul like humans. In her time this was a sentiment not shared by many people; the age is notorious for performing vivisection (surgery without any form of anaesthesia) on animals because it was thought that they did not experience pain like humans. She was particularly fond of Leibnitz who was the first philosopher to exclaim that animals indeed had souls. On the other hand she found Descartes "ridiculous" because he regarded animals as "machines".
It was a great comfort to Elizabeth Charlotte to think that when she died she would be greeted by her friends and family - and pets. Nevertheless, the loss of her pets always affected her. Such a sad occasion took place shortly before the birth of her grandson, the Duc de Chartres, when she lost her favourite dog.

She had also full empathy for the feelings of other people's pets. Following the tragic death of the Duc de Bourgogne in 1712 she was brought to tears by seeing the Duc's dog looking for him in the chapel since it had last seen him there.

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Elizabeth Charlotte with two of her dogs

Her pet of choice were so-called dwarf spaniels which were a type of English setters. She absolutely adored them and had at least a dozen living with her at all times. Her brother-in-law, Louis XIV, was not so keen on that particular type of dog; he considered them to be too "feminine".

Elizabeth Charlotte was rather indifferent to the King's opinion on this particular matter. Her vast correspondence with her German family shows how big a part of her life her dogs were. In one letter from 1709 she apologises for the blurring of a letter which was apparently caused by a dog jumping onto her table and stepping on the paper. She also notes that she named that dog "Robe" because she was born on one of her mistresses' velvet gowns - not that it bothered Madame.

Her letters are full of anecdotes relating to her beloved dogs. On one memorable occasion (letter written on 3 Maj 1715) she relates how she entertained her grandson, the Duc de Chartres, with a procession out of the ordinary. She had had a little cart brought in which was drawn by two of her dogs. A pigeon "held the reins" while a cat sat majestically in the cart.
That same letter also relates of a specific dog of her's - called Badine - who could fetch anything imaginable.

The Duchesse enjoyed walking in the royal gardens with her dogs. At one point she is alleged to have complained that she could not walk her dogs at Saint-Cloud without running into "a copulating male couple"! Whether she actually said it is unknown but it would surely be in tune with her usual frank expressions.

Reception of the Siamese Ambassador

In 1686 the King of Siam (Thailand today) sent his ambassador on his second visit to the court of France. The object of the visit was to form an "eternal alliance" between the two nations. Ambassadorial visits were not uncommon in Europe but it was rare that such exotic countries visited. As such it was a perfect occasion to demonstrate French power and prestige.

The ambassadors - of which there were three - were officially received by the King and his court on 1 September. They were accompanied by four gentlemen and two secretaries besides their private servants. They were fetched by the Marèchal de La Feuillade and rode in the carriages of the King and the Dauphine from their residence in Paris.

Once the carriages arrived at the courtyard of Versailles the ambassadors were met with by the sight of armed French and Swiss guards. From there they would proceed to the Ambassador's Staircase where they washed (a custom in Siam) and donned their "pyramid shaped" hats. These hats were adorned with rubies and thin leaves of gold.

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Louis XIV on his throne before the

The ambassadors were led through the King's Grand Apartment and to the Hall of Mirrors. Here they faced an intimidating spectacle. On the far end of the Hall of Mirrors were the throne raised on a dais with Louis XIV's silver furniture on display. The dais was adorned with a Persian carpet while a golden canopy backed the throne; the canopy were embroidered with gold and silver threads in delicate floral patterns. The steps of the dais were flanked by silver candelabras.
The King remained sitting on his throne while the ambassadors made their slow process towards the throne; they stopped three times to bow. The King was not alone though; standing nearest to him were his descendants including his legitimised sons.

1500 aristocrats lined the halls of Versailles in their finest clothes and their most expensive jewels. The King himself was splendidly dressed. According to the Marquis de Sourches he was wearing "a coat of cloth-of-gold, laced with diamonds". Despite his glorious appearance the King's health was not as good as it used to be. He had recently undergone a surgery for a fistula. Actually, this surgery was the reason for the delay in the reception of the ambassadors; they had arrived in France already on 18 June.

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This sketch clearly shows the layout of the reception

When the three ambassadors reached the throne they threw themselves on the ground; it was custom in Siam at the time never to look a sovereign in the eye. Louis XIV graciously allowed them to raise their eyes and stand before him. The Abbé de Lyon acted as interpreter; the Marquis de Dangeau noted that the ambassadors only moved from their place in front of dais once: when they handed the letter from their King to Louis XIV. Even then they only stepped on the first step to the dais. The Marquis also noted that while the three ambassadors had all removed their hats out of respect the King kept his on - he only lifted it a few times. The audience being over the ambassadors walked back the same way the had come - backwards, so as to not turn their backs on the King.

The ambassadors were then treated by the King to a tour of his palace and its gardens. Following the tour one of the ambassadors exclaimed that he had hitherto known three wonders: Man, God and Paradise but now he knew a fourth: Versailles.

During the following days the ambassadors paid visits to the Grand Dauphin as well as other members of the royal family. One of these visits took them to Saint-Cloud where they were received by Philippe, Duc d'Orléans and Madame. However, they were not permitted to visit the Dauphine since she had recently given birth and was still in confinement.

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It was custom to exchange gifts which was not ignored on this occasion. The ambassador brought exotic goods such as tortoise shell, woven fabrics, 1500 pieces of porcelain and pieces of lacquer furniture. The latter would become immensely popular in the following century. The King was even presented with two cannons which would be confiscated during the revolution to use in the storm of the Bastille. And then of course something that needed no translation: gold.

The ambassadors were deeply impressed with France and particularly the splendour of the court. No less than 4264 pieces of mirror was ordered to decorate the Siamese King's palace. As was 160 cannons, telescopes, glasses and two globes inscribed in Thai.

The ambassadors were not the only ones on a mission. Louis XIV had only recently concluded his war with the Netherlands and although the two powers were officially at peace they still kept an eye on each other. At the time the Netherlands made fortunes on trade with the Far East - trade that Louis XIV was eager to get his share off. So, the products ordered by the ambassadors were a part of an attempt to increase French trade with the Siamese King.
Not only trade was the object of the Sun King. Military support, too, were vital to the French King's foreign policies. However, the result was not quite as expected. Just two years later the Siamese King was overthrown and replaced by a man who closed all trade with westerners - except for the Dutch.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Trianon de Porcelaine

In 1670 Louis XIV was in the midst of his love affair with Madame de Montespan. He had already installed the luxurious bath suite underneath his own apartment in which they spent hours frolicking in. However, he wanted to bestow a more private setting for their rendez-vous which would be close enough to Versailles to reach easily but only accessible to those invited. The result was the Trianon de Porcelaine.

Louis le Vau - the King's architect - was entrusted with the task and he designed a cluster of five pavilions which were then built by Francois d'Orbay. The new construction gained its name from the white tiles used to adorn the exterior of the pavilions - this style was inspired by Asian influence, in particular the wonders of Nanking. As such it was the first royal building to be directly inspired by the Oriental fashions. In order to get the required tiles it was necessary to import some from Holland while others were created in Rouen, Nevers, Lisieux and Saint-Clement.

Plan of the Trianon de Porcelaine

As can be seen from the plan above the five pavilions were not directly connected. The King's house was the one in the top centre - what cannot be seen clearly is that the area was gated making the pavilions and their wonderful garden more private. 

What is known is that the pavilions were very intimate compared to the grandiose atmosphere of the King's usual residences. The King's pavilion was only 6,7 metres x 5,7 metres (19 feet wide by 22 feet long). The ceilings were decorated by Francois and Gilbert Francas while the floors were tiled in the style as the exterior. The main living room dominated the King's house flanked by two bedroom suites: Appartment d'Amour and Appartement de Diane.

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Pieces of porcelain from the Trianon

The stucco, the wood-work and the furnishing were all painted white and blue to match the Delft tiles. Very little of the original furniture survives to this day but thanks to drawings and sketches we are able to describe somewhat what they looked like. Both of the beds were sumptuously carved in intricate patterns and the on in the Appartement d'Amour was inlaid with mirrors from Venice. The wall panels reflects the idyllic ambience intended for the place; shepherds, birds and lovers were all motifs to be found on the walls. As the name of this apartment hints at this is where the King and his mistress spent their evenings.

The twin-apartment - that of Diane - was hung with Chinese tapestries while the furniture continued the colour theme of blue and white. The Dutchman, Pierre Gole, was in charge of delivering the furniture for the retreat.

View of the centre

The remaining four pavilions had one purpose: to prepare food for the King and Madame de Montespan. Both of them loved fine dining and in the Trianon de Porcelaine they found a place to indulge fully in their shared passion. One pavilion prepared soups, another jams, a third hors d'oeuvres and entrees and the last fruit. The location of the small kitchen meant that the couple could follow the process while preventing having to let in a continuous flow of servants from the palace.

The gardens of the Trianon de Porcelaine is the only bit of the former pleasure retreat that still exists. It followed the baroque ideal of strict lines and was divided into three parts.

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Reconstruction of the King's pavilion

The terrace had a fountain providing the water the King loved so much while Michel II de Bouteux came up with a new idea. Rather than planting flowers directly into ground he suggested that flower pots should be interred so that it was easy to swiftly change flowers. Thus, the King and his mistress could enjoy fresh flowers all year around with the hot-houses providing summer flowers in winter. It also spared the royal eyes from seeing dead flowers since they were simply removed.
On the occasions that the King did invite guests to his garden he could impress them by presenting one array of flowers on the first inspection and a completely different one on a second glance. It is no wonder that the place became known as the Palace of Flora; here springtime seemed to always reign.

In fact, the Trianon de Porcelain received the majority of the flowers imported. In 1683 just about 68.000 hyacinths, narcissi, tuberoses and jonquils were imported from southern France. Of these 18.000 were sent immediately to the Trianon de Porcelain while the park of the palace received merely 5.500.

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Table which is believed to have been a part of the furniture
of the Trianon de Porcelain

The garden sloped down towards the Grand Canal which provided perfect conditions for the orange trees so beloved by Louis XIV. Incidentally, Madame de Montespan and Louis XIV both enjoyed strongly scented flowers; consequently, the gardens were awash from the scents of orange blossom, tuberoses and the like. Not everyone shared the two's love of heavy scents and on one occasion the King was obliged to lead his courtiers out of the garden because "the scent of tuberoses hung so heavily in the air". The King used the gardens of the Trianon de Porcelaine as a showcase of his influence. Rare and exotic flowers were cultivated here with seemingly ease.

View of the gardens (photo by Gérard Blot)

In the lower garden - separated from the terraces by a wall - were two more attractions. One were a couple of removable greenhouses which provided shelter for the orange trees during the cold winters. The other was a testament to the couple's love of scents: a perfumery. Here the essences of the garden's flowers were extracted to create intoxicating perfumes for the lovers. Today, the Garden Salon of the Grand Trianon sits on this spot.

The entire construction of the Trianon de Porcelaine amazed even the French courtiers. André Felibien wrote that the court viewed it as an "enchantment" especially since the construction was done so quickly: "even though it had not been started at the end of winter it was found done at springtime, as if it came out of the earth with the flowers...".
Rumours had it that the houses were constructed with porcelain while in reality they were normal brick houses coated with tiles. In an effort to add to the idea of a world of porcelain the metal flower pots were painted to like as if they, too, were of porcelain. Those courtiers who were lucky enough to be invited there were mesmerised.

Sadly, the romantic retreat was not to last. When Madame de Maintenon had replaced Madame de Montespan she deemed the place "too cold" and advised her lover to have it torn down. This order was carried out in 1687. 

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Gabrielle de Rochechouart de Mortemart, Marquise de Thianges

Gabrielle de Rochechouart de Mortemart was born in 1633. Her family was of the old nobility and both her parents held high positions within the court. Her father was the First Gentleman of the Bedchamber and her mother was a lady-in-waiting to Anne of Austria.

Her life as a courtier began in a turbulent time; when she was eighteen she was placed in the household of Louis XIV. At this time the Fronde was in full swing and Gabrielle was planted in the middle of it. However, she never seemed to have been in any real danger. Later she was transferred to the household of the King's brother, Philippe. The two of them developed a close relationship which only strengthened after Philippe became Duc d'Orléans.

At the age of 22 she was married to Claude Leonor Damas de Thianges and thus became the Marquis de Thianges. Gabrielle herself was not pleased with the match. As a daughter of the house of Rochechouart de Mortemart she felt that she was entitled to a "better" husband. As a a married lady she could take her place as a proper court lady and remained in the close circles of the royal family. It is quite possible that she was the mistress of Louis XIV from time to time although their relationship was more "on-off" than an actual thing. It certainly never got anywhere close to that of her sister, Madame de Montespan, who became the King's most famous mistress. However, whenever her sister was pregnant with the King's child - which was often - she would "lend her favours" to the King.

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Gabrielle, Marquise de Thianges

She certainly was beautiful and well-aware of it. She would later describe herself to Madame de Sévigné as a "master-piece of nature". However, she was also obsessed with rank and the privileges that entailed. For instance she relished that she had been born into one of the finest noble families in France and spent her later years attempting to marry her own children into equally fine families.

Gabrielle and Athénais had a very close relationship which was somehow not particularly affected by the fact that they "shared" the King from time to time. Gabrielle took advantage of her sister's influence especially when it came to her children. Her favourite daughter, Diane, was married to the Duc de Nevers. However, she did not care much for her other daughter, Louise-Elvide, because she had not inherited the Mortemart good looks. Consequently, she was married to the sixty-year old Duke of Sforza.

Gabrielle had received a thorough education which had only brought out the infamous Mortemart wit. Her contemporaries praised her quick intelligence and her high spirits; one of these were Queen Christina of Sweden whom she met while travelling in France.

She also met another monarch, Charles II of England, when she accompanied Madame Henriette Anne, Duchesse d'Orléans on her way to meet her brother. Gabrielle went on well with the English King as well. It says something about her ability to charm that she could remain friends with the Duc d'Orléans who had done his uttermost to prevent his wife from leaving. Also, she was on good terms with Queen Marie Thérèse despite being both the sister of his maitresse-en-titre and occasionally his mistress herself. The Queen had become accustomed to the King's mistresses but the high humour of Madame de Thianges still endeared her to the Queen.

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Portrait presumed to be Gabrielle de Rochechouart

Whether she was with her friends at court or keeping court herself on her estate the Marquise de Thianges became notorious for her wild parties. Her's was a personality of spontaneity and would frequently stay up until four or five in the morning.

Her marriage was not so amiable although she had four children by her husband. The couple had been living apart for a number of years when Gabrielle followed her sister's lead and separated from her husband in 1674. It was not a divorce per se which was not allowed by the Catholicism of her country but a "separation of bed and board". Instead, she set herself up quite as a single lady with her servants wearing her personal livery rather than her husband's.
With the separation the Marquise de Thianges was paid back her dowry; still, her husband did not protest to the procedure. The two of them would never renew their relationship but it seems that they parted ways voluntarily - contrary to her sister's troublesome husband.

By the end of 1679 the favour of Madame de Montespan was waning and the two sister plotted to provide the King with a new mistress as well as keeping him "in the family". Gabrielle suggested her beautiful, young daughter, Diane, but the King was not interested in her. To both her mother's and her aunt's surprise Diane was not interested in the King either - she was deeply in love with her husband.

The years she had spent at court had turned her into an adept courtier. When her sister fell from grace most expected the Marquise de Thianges to follow her into "exile". However, not only did Gabrielle manage to preserve her spacious apartment at Versailles she made an ally of the new mistress, Madame de Maintenon. As such she continued to play her part at court. While there she kept an eye on her nephews and nieces who were the offspring of the King and her sister.


Louis XIV also appreciated her company and she was often summoned to his inner apartments for private soirees with only a few others. One likely reason that she continued in the King's good graces was that she knew how to ask for favours in a non-intrusive way. Despite having been a part of the vilified set of the Duc d'Orléans Gabrielle was actually a very devout person which only endeared her to Madame de Maintenon.

Unfortunately, her previous lifestyle had taken its toll on her and while she kept her beauty her health deteriorated. By the time she had passed her fiftieth birthday she had to be carried by her servants to her supper.
Gabrielle died on 12 September 1693 in Paris.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

The Duchesse de Berri & La Haye

The Duchesse de Berri was infamous for her reckless lifestyle and scandalised the court by taking lovers immediately after her wedding. One of these were thought to be especially unsuitable: a young man by the name La Haye. He was the equerry of her husband, the Duc de Berri.

The couple is said to have met in 1710. The Duchesse's passion for him grew so fervent - as illustrated by the intense letters they exchanged - that she suggested that they ran away to Holland. However, La Haye was well-aware that his mistress was far above his own standing and her father - the Duc d'Orléans - stood to become Regent. To put it simply, La Haye was afraid of what would happen if he complied.
He refused and had to endure the tantrums she threw as a consequence. Changing between fits of tears and overtures of love she tried to sway his mind but to no avail.

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The beautiful Duchesse de Berri

Instead, he went to the Duc d'Orléans and reported the Duchesse's proposal. Understandably, the Duc d'Orléans was not pleased but was also too fond of his daughter to severely punish her. He made it clear that her scheme was never going to materialise; then he turned his attention to keeping the scandal far from the King's ear.

It was not possible to keep it from her husband, though. The Duc de Berri was more than frustrated by his wife's countless infidelities and saw the choice of her new lover as another insult. He threatened to have her sent to a convent but never followed through - it would probably have been difficult considering that her father was soon to become Regent.

Exactly how many knew of the affair seem to be unknown. Saint-Simon reports that "everybody knew" since the lingering looks cast between the two at Marly left no one in doubt. Although, the affair inevitably cooled down after the revelation of the Duchesse's wild scheme it was not quite over. At least the Duchesse was said to have loved La Haye for a while after her husband's death. After that event she secured him a new employment since he could no longer be an equerry.

Louis-Marie-Athanase de Loménie, Comte de Brienne

Louis-Marie-Athanase was born on 20 September 1730 into a noble family from Limousin. He was a younger son, so it was quickly decided that he was to join the military. His elder brother became a minister to Louis XVI.
In the army he was made Lieutenant General of the King's armies and had command over the Artois regiment from 1747 to 1762. Here he impressed the King and was promoted to Colonel within the same regiment.

Louis must have wanted to acquire a title for himself for he married Etienette Fizeau de Clérmont who brought him the title of Marquis de Moy. However, at court he would still be known as the Comte de Brienne. The couple had adopted the three sons of his cousin but had none of their own. Sadly, all of his sons were guillotined during the revolution.

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When he was not away with the army Louis enjoyed improving his estates. One of these were the Brienne hôtel in the middle of Paris but he also purchased another house. Today, the hôtel de Brienne is the office of the Minister of the Army. He is also responsible for constructing one of the last castles built by the aristocracy before the revolution: the château de Brienne.

Here he established a "little court" for himself and his friends where they would enjoy theatres, hunting parties and discussions on philosophy. Louis also established quite an impressive collection of minerals and was often visited by natural scientists.

In 1787 he followed his brother's footsteps and became a secretary of state to Louis XVI - he remained in this position only for a year before he resigned. His appointment raised a few eyebrows but not because of his character. Instead, people wondered that he only joined the council after his brother -the Archbishop of Sens - had left it.

During the revolution the Loménie family was widely recognised as having embraced the new world order. Louis was rather popular and his success with the military only heightened that. However, Robespierre soon came to view his popularity as a threat and had him and his adopted sons arrested.
Louis was guillotined on 10 May 1794 alongside Madame Élisabeth, sister of Louis XVI.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Bleu de France

The Hope diamond is probably one of the most infamous diamonds in the world and its history is closely intertwined with that of the royal house of France.

The diamond is said to have been found in the mines of Kollur where it was purchased by Jean Baptiste Tavenier in 1642. Tavenier travelled to France where he sold it to Louis XIV in 1668 and it thus became a part of the French royal jewels. At the time the diamond was 115 carats before being re-cut into heart-shaped 67-carat; it was valued at 220.000 livres which is 1.421.000 pounds or 1.800.000 dollars today.

Drawings from the memoirs of Tavenier

Louis XIV had it set in gold and wore it around his neck on a ribbon on ceremonial occasions. In the records of his time it was referred to as the Bleu de France.

However, the diamond is rumoured to be cursed and if one judges merely on the fates of those at Versailles who wore it there is something about it. When it was not around the King's neck it was in the possession of Nicholas Fouquet; Fouquet would eventually fall dramatically from grace and the jewel returned to the King.

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Madame de Montespan was allowed to wear the diamond and soon after the Affair of the Poisons was revealed. Although she survived the royal favourite was removed from that title and saw her influence permanently disappear.
Louis XV wore it as a pendant and in 1749 he had it set in his personal insignia of the Royal Order of the Golden Fleece.

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Order of the Golden Fleece - reconstruction
drawing of the piece ordered by Louis XV

Louis XVI inherited the stone and he also lent to a loved one: Marie Antoinette. With both of them ending their lives on the scaffold it is hardly doing a favour to the stone.'
It was stolen during the French revolution along with the majority of the French jewels. To be exact it was stolen before the executions of the monarchs since it disappeared from the inventory list of the royal family in 1792.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

The Bourbon Branches

The Bourbon dynasty spread itself out in quite a few branches - like every other family - besides the royal family itself. This post is about the the families that also descended from the Capetian dynasty but were not members of the immediate royal family.


The name is derived from the main title held by the house; that of Prince de Condé. Originally, the family line began in 1557; since then the Princes and Princesses of Condé were:

Louis de Bourbon (uncle of Henri IV) married Eléanor de Roucy de Roye (1) and Francoise d'Orléans (2)

Henri I de Bourbon married Marie of Cleves (1) and Charlotte Catherine de La Trémoille (2)

Henri II de Bourbon married Charlotte Marguerite de Montmorency

Louis II de Bourbon (the Grand Condé) married Claire-Clémence de Maillé-Brézé

Henri Jules de Bourbon married Anne of Bavaria

Louis III de Bourbon married Louise Francoise de Bourbon (Daughter of Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan)

Louis IV Henri de Bourbon married Marie Anne de Bourbon (1) and Caroline of Hesse-Rotenburg (2)

Louis V Joseph de Bourbon married Charlotte de Rohan (1) and Maria Caterina Brignole (2)

The house died out two lines after the last mentioned here but since the last two lived after the ancien regime they are not included.
Both the sub-cadets of Bourbon-Soissons and Bourbon-Conti are descending from this branch.

The titles held by the House of Bourbon-Condé:
Prince de Condé
Duc de Bourbon
Duc d'Enghien
Duc de Montmorency
Marquis de Graville
Comte de Pézenas
Comte de Clermont

Besides these court titles the head of the family was the First Prince of the Blood which meant that he was addressed as Monsieur le Prince at court and his wife as Madame la Princesse. However, the title was transferred to the House of Bourbon-Orléans in 1710 and from then on the heads of the Bourbon-Condé house went by Monsieur le Duc.


This house was founded by the third son of Louis de Bourbon, Prince de Condé whose name was Francois de Bourbon. However, this line went extinct in the following generation and was not taken up again until 1626 when the new House of Bourbon-Conti was founded by the younger brother of the Grand Condé: Armand de Bourbon.

The Princes and Princesses of Conti were:

Armand de Bourbon married Anne Marie Martinozzi

Louis Armand I de Bourbon married Marie Anne de Bourbon

Francois Louis de Bourbon married Marie Thérèse de Bourbon

Louis Armand II de Bourbon married Louise Élisabeth de Bourbon-Condé

Louis Francois I de Bourbon married Louise Diane d'Orléans

Louis Francois II de Bourbon married Maria Fortunata d'Este

Titles held by the House of Bourbon-Conti
Prince de Conti
Prince de La Roche-sur-Yon
Duc de Mercæur
Comte d'Alais
Comte de La Marche


Founded by the first son of Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan, Louis-Auguste, who was legitimised and given the title of Duc du Maine. However, the title did not pass on to his children who were instead given other titles.

Louis-Auguste de Bourbon married Anne-Louise-Bénédicte de Bourbon-Condé

Louis-Auguste II de Bourbon never married

Louis Charles de Bourbon never married

The house died in 1775.

Titles held by the House of Bourbon-Maine:
Duc du Maine
Duc d'Aumale
Prince de Dombes
Comte d'Eu


During Louis XIV's reign there were two Bourbon-Orléans cadet branches. One was led by his uncle, Gaston, Duc d'Orléans while the other was founded by Philippe, Duc d'Orléans - brother of Louis XIV. The daughters of Gaston carried on his side of the Bourbon-Orléans branch but with Gaston's death in 1661 it was Philippe's branch that became dominant. With the deatb of Gaston's only male heir his side of the Bourbon-Orléans line was considered extinct.

Descendants of Gaston:

Anne Marie Louise d'Orléans - better known as La Grande Mademoiselle - who was Duchesse de Montpensier in her own right

Marguerite Louise d'Orléans married Cosomo II de Medici

Élisabeth Marguerite d'Orléans married Louis Joseph de Lorrane, Duc de Guise

Jean Gaston d'Orléans did not marry

Marie Anne d'Orléans did not marry

House of Bourbon-Orléans:

Philippe d'Orléans married Henriette of England (1) and Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate (2)

Philippe II d'Orléans married Francoise Marie de Bourbon (legitimised daughter of Louis XIV)

Louis d'Orléans married Joanna of Baden-Baden

Louis Philippe I d'Orléans married Louise Henriette de Bourbon (1) and Charlotte Béraud de La Haye de Riou

Louis Philippe II d'Orléans married Louise Marie Adélaide de Bourbon

This branch was the most powerful during the reign of Louis XIV and Louis XV because of their close relations to the crown. Should the royal family had died out - as it almost did in 1712 - the house of Bourbon-Orléans would have succeeded to the throne.
In 1709 the title of First Prince of the Blood was transferred to this cadet-branch.

Titles of the house of Bourbon-Orléans:
Duc d'Orléans
Duc de Chartres
Duc de Valois
Duc de Nemours
Duc de Soissons (bestowed in 1740)
Comte de Dourdan 
Comte de Romorantin
Marquis de Coucy
Marquis de Folembray


Founded by the son of the Comte de Toulouse (legitimised son of Louis XIV) whose name was Louis Jean Marie de Bourbon. During the Comte de Toulouse's life-time the branch was called Bourbon-Toulouse.

House of Bourbon-Penthièvre:

Louis Jean Marie de Bourbon married Marie Thérèse Félicité d'Este

Louis Alexandre de Penthièvre married Marie Louise of Savoy (better known as the Princesse de Lamballe)

Louise Marie Adélaide de Penthièvre married Philippe II d'Orléans

Duc de Penthièvre
Prince de Lamballe
Prince de Carignan
Duc de Rambouillet
Duc d'Aumale
Duc de Gisors
Duc de Châteauvillain
Duc d'Arc-en-Barrois
Duc d'Amboise
Comte d'Eu
Comte de Guingamp


The line began in 1566 when it was bestowed on another son of Louis de Bourbon, Prince de Condé whose name was Francois de Bourbon. At court they were known as Monsieur le Comte and Madame la Comtesse. In 1641 the male line died out and the title was passed on to a sister of the former holder who was married into the house of Savoy. As such the title came to be intertwined with that of the Savoyard royal family.

The Comtes and Comtesses de Soissons were:

Charles de Bourbon married Francoise d'Alencon

Jean de Bourbon-Soissons married an unknown woman

Louis de Bourbon (Prince de Condé - he was Jean's brother) married Eléanor de Roucy de Roye (1) and Francoise d'Orléans (2)

Charles de Bourbon married Anne de Montafie

Louis de Bourbon married Marie de Bourbon

Marie de Bourbon-Soissons (sister of Louis) married Thomas Francois of Savoy

Joseph-Emmanuel of Savoy-Carignano married an unknown woman

Eugène-Maurice of Savoy-Carignano married Olympia Mancini

The house went extinct in 1734 since Eugène-Maurice and Olympia had no issue.


The second House of Bourbon-Vendôme was founded by the legitimised son of Henri IV and Gabrielle d'Estrées, César de Bourbon.Once César had been made legitimate he was granted the title of Duc de Vendôme.

Ducs and Duchesses of Vendôme:

César de Bourbon married Francoise de Lorraine

Louis II de Bourbon-Vendôme married Laura Mancini

Louis Joseph de Bourbon-Vendôme married Marie Anne de Condé

Philippe de Bourbon-Vendôme did not marry

The house went extinct in 1727; after that it was used as a courtesy title by the Comte de Provence, brother of Louis XVI

Titles held by the House of Bourbon-Vendôme:
Duc de Vendôme
Duc d'Etampes
Duc de Beaufort

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Ducs in the Ancien Regime

Some of these were created before Louis XIV's ascension to the throne while others were created by him or his successors. As a duc you were normally also a peer of France.

Duc d'Aiguillon
Held by the House of Vignerot du Plessis

Duc d'Albret
Held by the House of Bourbon-Condé from 1641-1651
Held by the House of La Tour d'Auvergne from 1651-1771

Duc d'Amboise
Made a duchy in 1787
Held by Louis-Jean-Marie de Bourbon

Duc d'Antin
Made a duchy in 1711
Held by the House of de Pardaillan de Gondrin

Duc d'Arpajon
Made a duchy in 1650
Held by Louis d'Arpajon

Duc d'Aubigny
Made a duchy in 1711
Held by Louise-Renée de Kéroualle from 1684-1734
Held by Charles Lennox de Richmond from 1777-1790

Duc d'Aumale
Made a duchy in 1547
Held by the Houses of Lorraine and Savoy from 1547-1652
Held by the House of Bourbon from 1695-1790

Duc d'Aumont
Made a duchy in 1665
Held by the House of d'Aumont de Rochebaron

Duc de Beaufort
Made a duchy in 1597
Held by the House of Bourbon-Vendôme from 1598-1668

Duc de Biron
Made a duchy in 1598
Held by the House of Gontaut

Duc de Boufflers
Made a duchy in 1708
Held by the House of Boufflers

Duc de Bournonville
Made a duchy in 1652
Held by Ambroise-Francois de Bournonville

Duc de Brissac
Made a duchy in 1611
Held by the House of Cossé

Duc de Brunoy
Made a duchy in 1777
Held by Louis Stanislas Xavier, brother of Louis XVI

Duc de Châteauroux
Made a duchy in 1616
Held by the House of Bourbon-Condé from 1661-1736
Held by Anne-Marie de Mailly from 1743-1744
Held by Charles, brother of Louis XVI, from 1776-1790

Duc de Châteauvillain
Made a duchy in 1703
Held by the House of Bourbon

Duc de Châtillon
Made a duchy in 1736
Held by the House of Châtillon

Duc de Charost
Made a duchy in 1672
Held by the House of Béthune

Duc de Choiseul
Made a duchy in 1665
Held by the House of Choiseul

Duc de Clermont-Tonnerre
Made a duchy in 1571
Held by the House of Clermont-Tonnerre

Duc de Coigny - last peerage made before the revolution
Made a duchy in 1787
Held by Francois-Henri de Franquetot

Duc de Coligny
Made a duchy in 1643
Held by the House of Coligny

Duc de Crèquy
Made a duchy in 1652
Held by Charles de Bonne de Blanchefort

Duc de Damville
Made a duchy in 1610
Held by the House of Lévis from 1648-1661
Held by the House of Bourbon from 1694-1719

Duc de Duras
Made a duchy in 1668
Held by the House of Durfort

Duc d'Elbeuf
Made a duchy in 1581
Held by the House of Lorraine

Duc d'Enghien
Made a duchy in 1566
Held by the House of Bourbon-Condé

Duc d'Épernon
Made a duchy in 1581
Held by the House of Nogaret

Duc d'Éstrées
Made a duchy in 1648
Held by the House of d'Estrées

Duc de Ferté-Senneterre
Made a duchy in 1665
Held by the House of Senneterre

Duc de Fitz-James
Made a duchy in 1710
Held by the House of Fitz-James

Duc de Fleury
Made a duchy in 1736
Held by the House of Rosset

Duc de Fronsac
Made a duchy in 1608
Held by Cradinal de Richelieu from 1634-1642
Held by the House of de Maillé from 1642-1646
Held by Louis II de Bourbon-Condé from 1646-1674
Held by the House of de Vignerot du Plessis from 1674-1790)

Duc de Gesvres
Made a duchy in 1648
Held by the House of Potier

Duc de Gisors
Made a duchy in 1748
Held by Charles-Louis Fouquet de Belle-Isle from 1748-1761
Held by Louis-Jean-Marie de Bourbon from 1776-1790

Duc de Gramont
Made a duchy in 1643
Held by the House of Gramont

Duc de Guise
Made a duchy in 1528
Held by the House of Lorraine from 1528-1675
Held by the House of Bourbon-Condé from 1675-1790

Duc d'Harcourt
Made a duchy in 1709
Held by the House of d'Harcourt

Duc d'Hostun
Made a duchy in 1715
Held by the House of d'Hostun

Duc de Joyeuse
Made a duchy in 1581
Held by the House of Joyeuse from 1581-1608
Held by the House of Lorraine from 1608-1688
Held by Louis II de Melun from 1714-1724

Duc de La Force
Made a duchy in 1637
Held by the House of Caumont

Duc de La Meilleraye
Made a duchy in 1663
Held by the House of de La Porte-Mazarin

Duc de La Valette
Made a duchy in 1622
Held by the House of Nogaret

Duc de La Vallière
Made a duchy in 1667
Held by the House of La Baume de Blanc

Duc de La Vauguyon
Made a duchy in 1758
Held by the House of de Quelen de Stuer de Caussade

Duc de Le Lude
Made a duchy in 1675
Held by Henri de Daillon

Duc de Lavedan
Made a duchy in 1650
Held by the House of Montaut-Navailles

Duc de Lévis
Made a duchy in 1723
Held by Charles-Eugène de Lévis-Charlus

Duc de Lesdiguières
Made a duchy in 1611
Held by the House of dee Bonne de Blanchefort

Duchesse de Louvois
Made a duchy in 1711
Held jointly by Mesdames Sophie and Adélaide, daughters of Louis XV

Duc de Luynes
Made a duchy in 1619
Held by the House of d'Albert

Duc de Mercæur
Made a duchy in 1569
Held by the House of Lorraine from 1569-1649
Held by the House of Bourbon-Vendôme from 1649-1712
Held by the House of Bourbon-Conti from 1723-1770
Held by Charles, brother of Louis XVI

Duc de Montausier
Made a duchy in 1664
Held by Charles de Sainte-Maure

Duc de Montaut
Made a duchy in 1660
Held by Philippe de Montaut-Navailles

Duc de Montbazon
Made a duchy in 1588
Held by the House of Rohan (later combined to Rohan-Guéméné)

Duc de Montmorency
Made a duchy in 1551
Held by the House of Montmorency

Duc de Montpensier
Made a duchy in 1539
Held by the House of Bourbon-Montpensier from 1582-1627
Held by the House of d'Orléans from 1627-1790

Duc de Mortemart
Made a duchy in 1650
Held by the House of Rochechouart

Duc de Noailles
Made a duchy in 1663
Held by the House of Noailles

Duc de Noirmoutier
Made a duchy in 1711
Held by Louis de La Trémoïlle

Duc d'Orval
Made a duchy in 1652
Held by the House of Béthune

Duc de Penthièvre
Made a duchy in 1569
Held by the House of Lorraine from 1575-1608
Held by the House of Bourbon-Vendôme from 1608-1687
Held by the House of Bourbon from 1697-1790

Duc de Piney-Luxembourg
Made a duchy in 1581
Held by the House of d'Albert from 1620-1661
Held by the House of Montmorency from 1661-1790

Duc de Praslin
Made a duchy in 1762
Held by the House of Choiseul-Praslin

Duc de Rambouillet
Made a duchy in 1711
Held by the House of

Duc de Randan
Made a duchy in 1711
Held by the House of Bourbon

Duc de Retz
Made a duchy in 1581
Held by the House of Gondi

Duc de Richelieu
Made a duchy in 1631
Held by the House of Vignerot du Plessis

Duc de Roche-Guyon
Made a duchy in 1621
Held by Roger du Plessis-Liancourt

Duc de Rochefoucauld
Made a duchy in 1622
Held by the House of La Rochefoucauld

Duc de Rohan
Made a duchy in 1603
Held by the House of Rohan-Chabot

Duc de Rohan-Rohan
Made a duchy in 1714
Held by the House of Rohan-Soubise

Duc de Roquelaure
Made a duchy in 1652
Held by Charles de Bonne de Blanchefort

Duc de Rosnay
Made a duchy in 1651
Held by Francois de L'Hospital

Duc de Saint-Aignan
Made a duchy in 1663
Held by the House of de Beauvillier

Duc de Saint-Fargeau
Made a duchy in 1575
Held by the House of d'Orléans

Duc de Saint-Simon
Made a duchy in 1635
Held by the House of Rouroy

Duc de Sully
Made a duchy in 1606
Held by the House of Béthune

Duc de Thouars
Made a duchy in 1595
Held by the House of La Trémoïlle

Duc d'Uzès
Made a duchy in 1572
Held by the House of Crussol

Duc de Valentinois
Made a duchy in 1642
Held by the House of Monaco

Duc de Vendôme
Made a duchy in 1515
Held by the House of Bourbon-Vendôme

Duc de Ventadour
Made a duchy in 1589
Held by the House of Lévis

Duc de Verneuil
Made a duchy in 1652
Held by Henri de Bourbon

Duc de Vieuville
Made a duchy in 1651
Held by the House of La Vieuville

Duc de Villars-Brancas
Made a duchy in 1652
Held by the House of Brancas

Duc de Villeroi
Made a duchy in 1651
Held by the House of Neufville

Duc de Vitry
Made a duchy in 1650
Held by Francois-Marie de L'Hospital

The Queen's Hamlet

In 1783 Marie Antoinette ordered the construction of her personal hamlet where she would indulge in "rural" activities with her friends. Richard Mique designed the little hamlet with the assistance of Hubert Robert. The result was a little hamlet resembling a little Norman village complete with a working farm housing cows, pigs and chicken which provided the Queen with milk and cheese. Besides the farmhouse there was a dairy, a barn (burnt down during the revolution), a dovecote, a mill, a small house called the boudoir, a tower and a little house known as "the Queen's House". All the animals housed here were imported from Switzerland.

Note: the farm was placed somewhat outside the rest of the hamlet so it is not featured on the layout below.

Here is an aerial view of the hamlet to give you a clear idea of the layout:

1) The Dairy and the Marlborough Tower
2) The Guard's House
3) The Dovecote
4) Billiard Room
5) The Warming Room
6) The Queen's House
7) The Boudoir
8) The Mill

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

The Poor Health of Marie Anne Victoire

The Bavarian princess, Marie Anne Victoire, was not a great success when she arrived at court to marry the Grand Dauphin. Described as terribly unattractive she quickly gained a reputation for being boring - that was enough to keep her isolated at court. But what really angered her father-in-law, Louis XIV, and drove her husband mad was her constant complaints of illness.

Louis XIV was convinced that Marie was "faking" it and insisted that she performed her duties as the leading lady of Versailles (which she was after the death of the Queen).

It was said that the birth of the Duc de Berri had not gone smoothly; something had gone wrong which allegedly left the mother's figure slightly "deformed". It would seem that pregnancies did not generally go too well with Marie Anne Victoire; she had several miscarriages (three in 1685 alone and then two in 1687) which often rendered her terribly ill - however, she still managed to give birth to three living boys. The toll these pregnancies - and miscarriages - must have had on her already weakened body can only be imagined.

Billedresultat for la grande dauphine
Marie Anne Victoire

Madame de Caylus was convinced that the Grande Dauphine was slightly herself to blame. Always being "locked in" in her small cabinets without proper ventilation she was bound to suffer the consequences - or so Madame de Caylus argued. She went on and said that in her constant search for a cure for her ailments she subjected her body to all sorts of various "treatments" which eventually killed her. This opinion was shared by other members of the court but the autopsy would reveal that it was not quite so.

Marie Anne Victoire herself was well-aware that her family did not believe her complaints of illness. According to Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate (Monsieur's second wife) shortly before her death she said: "I shall convince them today that I was not mad in complaining of my sufferings". She was not always so stoic since her frustration of never being taking seriously led her to exclaim that she would have to die to justify herself. Eventually, she was right.

It is possible that Marie Anne Victoire's mental health attributed to her physical illnesses; she was depressed and as Madame de Caylus correctly reported preferred to lock herself away rather than endure the petty insults of the court.

Billedresultat for la grande dauphine

In 1689 the Grande Dauphine took to her bed again but was ignored by the court. As Madame La Fayette recalled: "No one believed in her illness". Voltaire was also of the opinion that she was "always dying" and undoubtedly many courtiers thought the same. Thanks to Madame La Fayette we also know that she had lost a great deal of weight and was swollen.

In the spring of 1690 she experienced another bout of intense illness - probably the same as the previous year - which left her doctors perplexed. They thoroughly examined her and found several abscesses in her abdomen that they could neither treat nor explain. She soon developed a fever, too. Consequently, poor Marie Anne Victoire was left to fend for herself in her apartment.

After her death an autopsy was carried out which revealed that she suffered from a "generalised infection spreading from her lungs to her intestines".


Culottes were the breeches worn by the nobility and upper gentry; they reached only to about the knee in comparison to the full-length trousers worn by the peasantry. To add to the class distinction the culottes were often made of silk rather than the coarse cloth affordable to the peasantry.

During the beginning of the 18th century the socks reached just above the hem of the culottes; this changed over the decades so that stockings eventually were tucked in underneath the culotte.
The hem of the culotte was fastened either by a buckle or by string to ensure that the breeches fit tightly to the wearer's legs.

The culotte was also equipped with a fly which was usually closed by buttons.

Billedresultat for 18th century breeches
Silk culottes

The upper classes' culottes had a slit at the side which was then fastened by a buckle; those of fewer means simply tied the culottes around the knee.
Over the 18th century the culottes became tighter as the waistcoats got shorter which meant that a man's silhouette altogether became slimmer. Those who insisted on wearing the tightest version occasionally had to be helped into them by their valets!

The culottes were part of the standard military uniforms in the 18th century. For riding the delicate silks were laid aside and the culottes were made of leather or other tougher materials.

Billedresultat for french nobility 18th century
French nobleman showing off his culottes in the park
of Versailles

Due to the connection with the aristocracy the term sansculotte - which emerged around the time of the revolution - implied a person without culottes (sans = without) and referred to a revolutionary.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Augustin-Joseph de Mailly, Marquis d'Haucourt

Augustin-Joseph was born on 5 April 1707 into one of the oldest noble families in France: de Mailly. As such he was guaranteed a place at the court of Versailles; here he was hired as a page in the King's stables which was reserved for boys of the nobility. Not much else is known about his childhood.

It was soon decided that Augustin-Joseph should join the royal regiments. In 1726 he was enrolled in the regiment named for his family (de Mailly) and two years later he was promoted to captain of the Scottish gendarmes. As most men of noble families he was soon sent abroad to fight in Flanders, Westphalia and Bohemia. Augustin-Joseph must have impressed his superiors because by 1734 he had risen to Master of Cavalry.
On one of the few occasions when he was actually home he was married to the grand-niece of Colbert, Constance Colbert de Torcy. The marriage was celebrated with Louis XV as a personal guest; Augustin-Joseph's success in the army had made him a popular man with the King. The two would have two children: both of them were girls but the first-born died young. It is possible that the two girls were twins since their mother died within the same year of the marriage.

Image illustrative de l'article Augustin-Joseph de Mailly

Since Augustin-Joseph's marriage had only lasted for a year he was remarried three years later to Michelle de Séricourt. With her he had his son and heir Louis-Marie de Mailly.

His military exploits earned him the Order of Saint Louis at the age of just 32; he was awarded a pension of 3000 livres for having lead a regiment of 150 Scottish gendarmes against the foe who had already defeated two French regiments. In 1745 he was awarded the title of Field Marshal which raised some eyebrows since he had hitherto only been in charge of minor regiments.
Augustin-Joseph proved the sceptics wrong; during the War of the Austrian Succession he defended Provence from invasion -  during this period he stood against a far larger foe but still managed to take 150 prisoners as well as capture 4 cannons.

Louis XV knew that without the Marquis d'Haucourt France would have been invaded and showered him with well-deserved honours. He was granted the governorship of Abbeville and was made Lieutenant-General of the King's armies in 1748. The following year he was made Inspector General of the royal cavalry.
He was put to the task of negotiating the borders with Spain in 1750; upon his return to France he founded - with the King's permission - an academy for young boys to be trained for the army.

Augustin-Joseph - now a general - was commissioned to establish a port for the French navy. Augustin-Joseph founded the port of Port-Vendres.

Billedresultat for Augustin-Joseph de Mailly

However, having so much success is bound to win you some enemies and that was what happened to Augustin-Joseph. The Marèchal de Noailles was in the midst of an argument with Augustin-Joseph had him removed from his military command and soon after Jean-Baptiste de Machault d'Arnouville succeeded in having him exiled from court in 1753.
It soon turned out that the King could not spare his talented general for long and Louis XV not only recalled him to court but charged him with bringing the new dauphine, Marie Thérèse Raphaëlle, back to France.

During the Seven Years' War he was wounded and taken prisoner by Frederick of Prussia. Now under his command Augustin-Joseph fought for Frederick of Prussia who awarded with him with several pieces of land for his successful efforts.
However, Augustin-Joseph gained his freedom and with the war over he could return to Rousillon (which he had been made governor of).

In 1778 he was widowed again and he married his third and last wife: Marie Blanche Félicité de Narbonne-Pelet with whom he had another son, Adrien.
Louis XVI finally awarded him the last honour missing, the title of Marèchal de France, in 1783 as well as giving him the title of Director-General of the armies in the Pyrenees.

Billedresultat for Augustin-Joseph de Mailly
Louis XVI and Augustin-Joseph inspecting
the guards of the Tuileries
When the revolution broke out Augustin-Joseph was 81 years old and refused to emigrate. To him the idea of the King being abandoned in Paris was horrendous. Louis XVI initially wanted to give him command of one of the four armies of the National Assembly but when they required him to take a civic oath he refused.
It was Augustin-Joseph who was given command of the troops of the Tuileries who defended the royal family when their prison was stormed in 1792. Augustin-Joseph himself escaped - barely.
He was not able to escape capture long and was put on trial. Due to his age he was spared being thrown in prison and instead he retired to his family estate of Mareuil-Caubert. However, it was thought that he was too much of a threat and eventually he was imprisoned with his family in 1793.

Augustin-Joseph was sentenced to death and faced the crowd without fear. His last words were "Long live the King! I serve him as my ancestors always has" - Augustin-Joseph was the oldest aristocrat to be guillotined. He was executed on 25 March 1794.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Louis, Duc de Bourgogne

Louis de Bourbon was the eldest son of the Grand Dauphin and as such was the direct grandson of Louis XIV. He was born on 16 August 1682 at Versailles which had recently been made the permanent residence of the court. Soon he was to be joined by two other brothers; the Duc d'Anjou and the Duc de Berry.

At the age of just eight years old he lost his mother; at this point he had only just been removed to the care of men which happened at the age of seven. Reports have it that he was a very difficult child who had fits of rage and never did as he was told. In an attempt to combat this behaviour Francois Fenelon was appointed as the young boy's tutor. This turned out to be a perfect match.

Hyacinthe Rigaud - Louis de France, duc de Bourgogne (1682-1712) - Google Art Project.jpg

Fenelon and Louis were fitted immensely well with each other. Fenelon soon learned that his pupil was intelligent and the best way to get through to him was by activating his mind. Louis immediately responded to this new approach and his character changed abruptly. Louis turned into a delightful young man according to the accounts of his contemporaries. He became pious, patient, attentive and his intellect was well-noted. Louis XIV was particularly pleased to see that his grandson was developing a keen interest in the army and enjoyed mock battles.
Fenelon was eventually exiled after his religious persuasion turned out to be a bit too Jansenist for the Sun King but Louis and Fenelon continued a firm friendship.

Louis XIV decided that Louis was to marry Marie Adélaide of Savoy (the Sun King's own great-niece since she was the granddaughter of Monsieur). They were married in December 1697 when Louis were 15 and Marie Adélaide just 12.
The first years of their marriage was uneventful due to their youth. Louis XIV had ordered that the marriage was not to be consummated until the bride was older which Louis naturally agreed to.

Louis XIV came to consider the Duc de Bourgogne as his true heir since the Grand Dauphin was basically useless when it came to politics. Known to happily spend entire days sitting in his chair and tapping his cane the Grand Dauphin seemed an unworthy successor to Louis le Grand. Consequently, Louis involved the Duc de Bourgogne far more in politics than the latter's father. For example Louis was allowed to sit in on the high council's meetings from the age of twenty - something his father would never be permitted to do.

Medallion of Louis, duc de Bourgogne by Ribou:

Louis himself was eager to prove his worth on the battlefield which he did quite well in the first campaigns. However, in 1708 the Duc de Bourgogne was sent to Flanders where he crossed paths with the Duc de Vendôme whom he was to share command with. The two were complete opposites and one disaster followed another. When Louis eventually was called back to court he was nevertheless received like a hero.

When it came to politics Louis was a supporter of a decentralised government which spread power out to the individual provinces. At this point in his life both he and his wife were considered adults and thus lived together. They had three children together; Louis was notoriously fond of his wife and seems to have been genuinely in love with him. While it is contested that she returned his feelings in such strong terms she always respected him and treated him with kindness and affection.

In 1711 the Grand Dauphin died and Louis and Marie Adélaide became Dauphin and Dauphine. However, they were only to enjoy that title for a short while. The following year Marie Adélaide contracted measles which the doctors could not get the better of. Louis remained by her side until he was forcibly removed due to concern for his own safety. Marie Adélaide died which plunged Louis into a state of depression.
Sadly, the fears of contamination turned out to be too little too late. While grieving for his beloved wife Louis himself fell ill. He died on 23 February 1712 at the age of just 29.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Monday, 28 November 2016

Marie Thérèse's Black Child

Louise Marie Thérèse was a nun of the Benedictine order who made quite a remarkable claim: she was convinced that she was the illegitimate daughter of Queen Marie Thérèse.

Illegitimate children were not uncommon for Kings but when it came to Queens there was a whole different issue. Since a Queen could give birth it was thought that any illegitimate offspring could potentially interfere in the line of succession - who was to know whether it was truly the King's child if the Queen was known to have lovers?

What really made the claim so scandalous was that Louise Marie Thérèse was black. The Spanish-born Queen was well-known to live in her own little world of Spanish attendants including several of African descend. Louise Marie was said to be the result of an affair between Marie Thérèse and a man named Nabo. After Louise Marie's claim became common gossip it was quickly suggested that perhaps the Queen had gotten depressed due to her husband's many affairs and had decided to have one of her own.

Billedresultat for marie therese black daughter
Louise Marie as a Benedictine nun

There is little to deny that Louise Marie had connections to the royal court but whether these were founded on blood is not certain. That she was welcomed at Versailles was astonishing enough in itself considering the time's attitude towards dark-skinned people. Nevertheless, Louis XIV was so impressed with her that he settled 300 pounds on her for her keep at the nunnery.

A remarkable number of memoirs from the period mentions the Benedictine nun. Saint-Simon was outraged when he allegedly heard her address the Grand Dauphin as "brother" - something that surely must have raised many eyebrows. There is little doubt that Louise Marie herself was convinced of her heritage - even if few others were.

There is one thing that must be kept in mind when dealing with such rumours and resources. What must first be kept in mind is that a Queen of France gave birth in public. When she delivered her baby she was not screened from view and quite a large group of people had the right to be present. This was meant as a security primarily against the swap of infants - a female child for a male child, for example. Marie Thérèse did indeed have a baby in 1664 which is the year Louise Marie was born. However, there are a lot of evidence suggesting that the two births were not related.

The sources usually claimed by those who support Louise Marie are Voltaire, Cardinal Dubois, Saint-Simon, the Princesse de Montpensier and Madame de Montespan - all of whom mentions her in their memoirs. But how reliable are their statements on this particular subject?

First of all, neither Saint-Simon nor Voltaire were even born at the time of Louise Marie's birth in 1664. The former was born in 1675 while the latter not until 1694. Consequently, neither was present at the delivery of the Queen.

The Princesse de Montpellier was the only one actually present and she recorded that the Queen had given birth to a still-born child which had been very dark in colour. This darkness of colour could very well be the result of either lack of oxygen or that the infant died some time prior to the birth. What is certain is that the princesse actually saw the infant and testified that it was deceased.

The Duchesse d'Orléans does not mention that the child was of a dark hue but that it was excessively ugly and that "the whole court had witnessed it die".

Another aspect must be taken into consideration: Marie Thérèse's character. While it is perfectly plausible that she would have become lonely at court and it is just as plausible that she could have fallen in love with one of her "Moorish attendants" there are two things that must be remembered. First of all Marie Thérèse was deeply in love with her husband. Actually, her love for Louis was a frequent theme of mockery among the courtiers who thought it amusing that the Queen absolutely adored the King while the King had a series of mistresses.
Secondly, Marie Thérèse was an ardent Catholic. As such the idea of adultery - while excusable in her husband - would not be accepted for her. Added to this is the fact that as a royal princess of her time she was brought up with the knowledge that she belonged to her husband.

Also, the Queen had been ill in the months leading up to the birth; so ill, in fact, that she was offered the last rites several times. Added to that is also the fact that the child was born one month prematurely which gave the infant very poor odds of survival with the medical means of the day.

There is one theory that seems rather more reasonable given the circumstances. Louis XIV had a "Moorish page" in his service whose wife was known to be remarkably pretty. The two had a daughter around the same time that the Queen gave birth. Sadly, both parents died not long after and Louis XIV and Marie Thérèse - who were god-parents to the child - had her placed in a convent. It is quite likely that this child was Louise Marie which would also account for her warm welcome at Versailles in her adulthood. It seems unlikely that the King would allow her to openly visit if he knew that she was the illegitimate offspring of the Queen - and at court the King knew everything.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Louis Philippe II, Duc d'Orléans

Born on 13 April 1747 at Saint-Cloud, Louis Philippe was the eldest son of the Duc d'Orléans and as such was a natural candidate for life at court. At the age of just 5 years old he became the Duc de Chartres when his grandfather died - the title was reserved for the eldest son of the Duc d'Orléans.

Now being a properly titled member of the Bourbon dynasty Louis Philippe was to fulfil his duty and ensure the next generation. For this purpose he was married to Louise Marie Adélaide de Bourbon who was the daughter of the richest man in France. This particular fact meant that after their wedding (in 1769) Louis Philippe suddenly enjoyed far more influence at Versailles since Louise was the heiress of her father.

Louis Philippe as Duc de Chartres, 1779

Surprisingly, Louis Philippe soon exhibited an attitude that worried both his family and the King; the Duc de Chartres seemed to be an adversary of the monarchy - apparently not worrying about the fact that his own power and influence came from just that. In 1771 he was sent into exile for openly opposing the plans of Maupeou which aimed at increasing royal influence at the expense of the Paris parlement.
When Louis XVI became King it was still rather openly supposed that Louis Philippe was anti-royal. He made sure that he would not return to court when he criticised Marie Antoinette for her lifestyle which the Queen in turn could only scoff at considering that Louis Philippe was not shy of living an extravagant life himself.

In 1778 he was shipped off to the front were he participated in the battle of Ushant. However, rumours soon started to flow claiming that he was incompetent. Following his outspoken critique of the Queen he was hastily recalled to France where he remained unwelcome at court.

On the family front Louis Philippe had five children by his wife; two girls and two boys. He became Duc d'Orléans in 1785 and was thus the head of the Bourbon-Orléans line. However, by this time the actual grasp on power by the Orléans was nothing compared to the influence wielded by the Regent during Louis XV's minority. This might just be the reason for why Louis Philippe's resentment towards the monarchs; he knew he would never have that power himself.
Louis Philippe had several affairs which resulted in a bunch of illegitimate children. One of his former mistresses - Madame de Genlis - became governess to his children thanks to her friendship with both Louis Philippe and Louise.

During the revolution Louis Philippe found a perfect venue for his old hatred of the King and Queen. He assisted the revolutionaries and achieved a major role in the political machinations of that period. In 1792 he committed the ultimate betrayal when he voted in favour of Louis XVI's execution.
His open support of the revolution meant that he was awarded with the title of Philippe Égalite.

In the end, however, not even the intrigues of Louis Philippe could save him from the bloodbath that unfolded in those years. As the senior member of the royal family he was high on the list of suspected enemies to the new world order - despite his support. Eventually, Louis Philippe faced the same fate that he had sentenced his relative to. On 6 November 1793 he was guillotined - his remains were never found.

Court Honours

Generally, there were two main types of court honours: honneur de cour or honneur de Louvre. Both were bestowed by the King as a sign of good favour or simply because the courtier was entitled to it. These were attainable for anyone at court whereas foreign princes had other honours exclusively reserved for them.

Court Honours
Was initially intended to totally rely on the lineage of the courtier and before they could be granted a courtier had to apply to the royal genealogist who would then scrutinise the application. If he did not find that the required certain centuries of noble pedigree was fulfilled it would be denied. As could be imagined courtiers had few scruples when it came to achieving honours which made the genealogist especially vulnerable. Eventually, the level of threats and physical intimidation became so immense that the genealogist requested Louis XV for a body guard!

Despite the initial intend three categories of courtiers could obtain the honours of the court:

  • The old aristocracy who could provide proof of aristocratic heritage dating back to - at least - 1400. However, some courtiers were denied the court honours despite fulfilling this demand if the King found that their family had not been sufficiently involved in military support of the crown.
  • Descendants of Marèchals de France, the ministers or knights of the King's orders
  • Anyone whom the King deemed worthy

Having court honours meant different things depending on the sex of the recipient. A lady was entitled to a formal presentation to the King and Queen.
A gentleman was permitted to follow the King on his hunt and to get into one of the King's carriages. For both sexes it included the right to be invited to royal balls.

According to Francois Bluche no less than 942 families were granted the honours of the court between 1715 and 1790.  Of these only 462 were able to proof that their family had noble roots dating back to at least 1400 - the majority of the remaining families received their honours as a reward for loyal service to the crown (primarily through military exploits).
A great deal of these families were not inhabitants of Versailles and thus had to make their way there from their estates in the provinces. The mere fact that they did so proves how important being able to style themselves with court honours was.

In 1760 Louis XV published a decree which declared that no woman was to be presented to the King unless she had proven that her husband's family had belonged to the nobility for at least three generations.
Interestingly enough, the King could change a decision by the genealogist whether the latter had approved or rejected the application. Louis XVI was very interested in who were admitted to the honours of the court. He would often read the applications himself and his own comments can still be seen scribbled in the margin on the surviving applications.

Honours of the Louvre

Only those with the honours of the Louvre had the right to ride their carriages into the inner courtyard at the Louvre (and by extension any other palace where the King resided) - everyone else had to dismount at the previous gate and either walk or hire a sedan chair.
It was rather easy for those already in the courtyard to see whenever anyone with these honours approached since the honours included the right to hang velvet from one's carriage with the family's coat of arms.

Unlike the court honours the honours of the Louvre was reserved solely for the elite of the French court. These included:

  • Members of the royal family
  • Ducs and peers
  • Marèchals de France
  • Officers of the crown and their wives
  • Foreign princes 
  • Cardinals created after 1700
  • The papal legate
  • The Chancellor of France
  • Grandees of Spain after 1705

The rights that came with the honours of the Louvre also included a cushion to kneel on for Mass - which could be long and strenuous - as well as the honour of a seat in the Queen's presence.  Those holding the honour could also be expected to be called "cousin" by the King.

During the most important ceremonies - coronations, baptisms, weddings etc. - those with the honours of the Louvre were entrusted with the most essential tasks; these included handing the King his sceptre at his coronation.

From 1700 this was considered the most prestigious of the honours obtainable at court since it showed a clear distinction of birth from the old nobility and the new - often non-aristocratic - noblesse de robe.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Take a Seat: Seating Etiquette

Sitting was considered a privilege when in the presence of royalty and as such was the privilege of the few. As with everything else at Versailles the rules became ever more complicated - some could sit near princes while others could only when no royal was present. Further than that was what type of seating one was entitled to.

The most discussed seating arrangement was the special privilege awarded exclusively to duchesses and princesses - princesses being allotted a chair with a back whilst a duchesse had to make do with a tabouret. They had the honour of a tabouret - a stool without a back - in the presence of the King and royal family. However, if the duchesse was with a grandchild of France she could have a chair with a back.

The French court was the epicentre of sophistication and of course every court in Europe knew what happened. The King of Poland, Sobieski, had married Marie Casimire Louise de La Grange d'Arquien (a Frenchwoman by birth) and he was all too aware of the hoops his wife had been willing to jump through in order to achieve her tabouret. He is alleged to have said: "To think how she longs for that miserable stool on which nobody can sit at ease!"

Billedresultat for versailles chair etiquette
This is a tabouret which duchesses had monopoly on

At fêtes and balls seating was arranged depending on two things: where the King was and the rank of the seated. The closer you were to the King, the higher rank you possessed. Then there was the question of the type of seat provided. All in all, the rank went from an armchair, an armless chair, a sofa, high stool, low stool or no seating at all.

The King and Queen was given the comfort of a decently padded armchairs. The only other people who were given such an honour were other monarchs. This included the exiled King James of England and his Queen as well as visiting royalty.
This has generally been seen as a sure sign of Louis XIV's secret marriage to Madame de Maintenon since the latter was often observed seated in an armchair in the King's presence - something the King would never allow had they not been equally supreme in rank. As a contrast, his greatest favourite, Madame de Montespan, never acquired a tabouret because her husband refused to accept it as a sign of spite of the affair. Consequently, she was obliged to stand although being widely recognised as the unofficial Queen of Versailles and the mother of several children by the King.
Likewise, the unofficial second wife of the Grand Dauphin (the non-aristocratic Mademoiselle de Choin) was seated in an armchair when her husband was present.

The children of the King could only claim a stool in their father's presence. Princesses of the blood were generally entitled to a chair with a back but not to one with arms.

Cardinals could sit on a sofa when a prince of the blood was in the room but if the Queen entered he had to move to a stool.

The only time a "gentleman of quality" could sit was when he was with princes and princesses of the blood.

Everyone who was not a part of these categories had to stand - regardless of age or condition. For most courtiers court life involved a lot of standing and walking but only very little sitting. The only other way to attain the honour of being allowed to sit at court was by being granted the honour of  the Louvre which in itself was quite a reward. As it happens the Prince de Salm made it a condition for a marriage to made between a member of his own family and a daughter of the Duc de Croÿ; the marriage was only to take place if the bride's father could obtain the right for her to be seated at court. The Duc de Croÿ immediately took advantage of his connection to Prince de Soubise - a favourite of Louis XV - who obtained the honour for his family. Duly, the entire Croÿ-family travelled to Versailles in order to witness the bride-to-be being seated for the first time.

Several serious disputes were caused over the rights of seating which we know about largely thank to the countless memoirs of the age.

In one instance the Duc de Lorraine was the source of the problem. At the French court he had the title of prince étranger or Foreign Prince but he had recently been travelling abroad. There - at the court of the Austrian Emperor - he had been offered an armchair. Once he returned he asked for one of Louis XIV who refused. As the King said the monarchs each had their own etiquette but the matter was not completely dropped. Philippe (Monsieur) proposed a middle-way by the way of a chair with a back which Louis agreed to. However, this was not enough for the Duc de Lorraine. The consequence was that the Duc and Duchesse d'Orléans' projected trip to Bar (where the Duc de Lorraine stayed) had to be cancelled to avoid further conflict.

Léopold duc de Bar et de Lorraine 00206.jpg
The Duc de Lorraine

Later, in 1699, the House of Lorraine was the cause of another row over seating. The Duchesse de Bourgogne was the hostess of a soiree at which the Lorraine ladies intentionally arrived too early. Thus, they could sit on the chairs closest to the hostess on her right side - reserved for the duchesses. However, there was one person who had arrived there before: a duchesse was already seated in her proper place. This only angered the Lorraine ladies further and in an aggressive attempt at fulfilling to scheme the Princesse d'Harcourt grabbed a hold of the Duchesse and force her away from the seat!

One of the few places of exception was at Marly where the King allowed his courtiers a far freer seating arrangement - another reason why an invitation was so coveted.

Since the honour of being allotted a seat was so great it was customary for the monarchs to give those who had recently received the right to a seat the chance to publicly show off that right. This would usually happen by the monarch either offering the "new-comer" a seat (normally this was the King's way since it was considered polite to let ladies sit) or taking a seat themselves. So, Marie Leszczynska received the Duchesse de Châtillon - who had recently been elevated to that rank - and promptly took her seat which enabled the new duchesse to also sit down.

Seating etiquette was not only a matter of entitlement but also of duty. It was the duty of everyone hosting a soiree at Versailles (which anyone with a decent apartment could) to make sure that the correct number of chairs were available - and the correct varieties.

Relateret billede
An armchair in Louis XIV's style

Not even the King's brother could be granted a decent seat in the King's presence. Philippe, Duc d'Orléans requested such an honour from his brother but was met with a refusal. Not only would it be a breach of etiquette but it would also serve in Philippe's own interest that things were not eased of; it would only diminish his position if the marks of honour were erased. As Louis XIV reasoned if everyone sat down then what was to distinguish a baron from a King?