Monday, 11 April 2016

A Royal Mésalliance

Of the four marriages arranged by Louis XIV to the advantage of his illegitimate children the one that brought on the greatest scandal was that of Françoise Anne de Bourbon. Known at court as Mademoiselle de Blois, she was the natural daughter of Louis XIV by Madame de Montespan and had been legitimised at the age of four. Her bridegroom, Philippe II d'Orléans, had no stain of illegitimacy which caused quite a scandal. Not only was he a member of the royal family, Philippe II was the only legitimate nephew of Louis XIV and therefore one of the most eligible bachelors at court.

It was clear from the beginning that one of the greatest opponents of the match was the mother of the bridegroom, Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate.

Elizabeth Charlotte, "Madame"

Louis XIV realised that he could not persuade his sister-in-law to accept the match and began a tactic meant to coax her instead. The method adopted by the Sun King can only say to be undignified: as the new year of 1690 was celebrated the King neglected to pay Elizabeth Charlotte's pension which she was totally dependent on. Even this trick could not sway the proud German-born Princesse.

As to the father of Philippe II, the King's brother (Philippe I or simply "Monsieur"), he was no less displeased with the match. Here, however, Louis knew who to turn to. Monsieur's affair with the infamous Chevalier de Lorraine was well-known and the King had no scruples turning to his brother's lover. Consequently, the Chevalier suddenly received a far better treatment by the King which prompted Madame (Elizabeth Charlotte) to write in a letter to her aunt that she was sure the Chevalier had promised the King to persuade Monsieur.

Françoise Anne - the bride who caused all the

The bridegroom himself was not pleased with the match. He had always been partial to his prospected wife's sister which definitely complicated matters. Here, too, Louis XIV was convinced that he could apply pressure to the right source and achieve his desired goals. The tutor of Philippe II was Abbé Dubois who acted as that very source. Added with the pressure of his tutor, Louis XIV himself laid in a word. With the war going on it was impossible for the King to find a suitable bride abroad and so Philippe II should be honoured that he was offering his own daughter.

Eventually, Philippe II answers the King that it is not up to him but rather his parents to make the final choice. Monsieur realises that he cannot win against his august brother and relents but not without showing his displeasure. Now the problem of Madame remained to be solved and that can easily be said to be the hardest one.

If anyone had doubted the Duchesse d'Orléans' feelings on the subjects those doubts were cleared away when she slapped her son across the face in the middle of the hall of mirrors and then turned her back on the King as he bowed to her. The courtiers could only watch in utter astonishment at the spectacle but there was nothing to be done. Once the papal dispensation had arrived (the couple being cousins) the wedding took place.

Elizabeth Charlotte never forgave her brother-in-law this match which she thought so demeaning. To her daughter-in-law she was equally resolute in avoiding a close relationship.

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