Saturday, 9 April 2016

Elizabeth Charlotte d'Orléans and Madame de Maintenon

Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate had been established as Madame at the French court for some years when Madame de Maintenon suddenly usurped Madame de Montespan's place as royal favourite. To the courtiers this change marked the beginning of a gloomy time at court with no entertainment and little to do other than attending Mass. To Elizabeth Charlotte it was a catastrophe; she had never liked the strict and austere governess and was loath to see her rise so high.

It is mainly through her letters and memoirs that one finds Elizabeth Charlotte's honest opinion on the King's last mistress. Describing her mainly as "the old woman" the Duchesse d'Orléans does not shy away from naming her adversary even harsher terms - "the piece of filth" is another reoccurring name. On one occasion Liselotte (as Elizabeth Charlotte was nicknamed) writes on the death of an acquaintance that she would have been far more pleased if it had been Madame de Maintenon who had gone.

Madame de Maintenon

Madame de Maintenon herself was not any fonder of the King's sister-in-law. Whenever the royal family went to Marly she made sure that Elizabeth Charlotte never received an invitation to walks around the grounds with the King. This trick of keeping the King away from was one generally used by Madame de Maintenon. Whereas Louis XIV had hitherto liked his sister-in-law for her brash and honest ways his attitude towards her drastically changed for the worse when Madame de Maintenon came along.

One particular incident which permanently ensured that the two would never see eye to eye was the marriage of Elizabeth Charlotte's son. The German-born Liselotte was a very proud woman and knew what was due to both herself and her offspring. Consequently, when it was rumoured that the King intended to marry her son to one of his bastards, Mademoiselle de Blois, she was furious. Madame de Maintenon had always supported the King's illegitimate children and continued to do so in this case. It soon was obvious that the King's favourite was a great supporter of the match which nothing seemed to be able to prevent. In the end the marriage did take place but Elizabeth Charlotte never forgot or forgave Madame de Maintenon for her role in the matter.

Elizabeth Charlotte, Duchesse d'Orléans

Another thing that rubbed Elizabeth Charlotte the wrong way was the social standing of Madame de Maintenon. Liselotte was convinced - as was the general world-view - that the ranks were separated for a reason and for royalty to marry beneath themselves was an utter disgrace.

It has been suggested that Elizabeth Charlotte was in love with Louis XIV which could be another reason for her dislike of the favourite. However, there is little to suggest that Elizabeth Charlotte actually was in love with the King.

After the death of Elizabeth Charlotte's husband, the Duc d'Orléans, there was an attempt at a reconciliation between the two. Different sources varies as to exactly who initiated the meeting but nonetheless it was to happen. The meeting took place in the apartment of Elizabeth Charlotte where the two both sat down in the presence of Madame de Ventadour who witnessed the whole exchange. The interview went back and fourth and in the end the two agreed to forget the past and be friends from there on - however, it is unlikely that they became close.

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