Sunday, 10 April 2016

Marrying a Royal Bastard

Although the courtiers of Louis XIV had grown accustomed to the King having his own way there was one particular decision (or rather several) that send a wave of indignation through his court. One thing was that the King had had his illegitimate children legitimised - that had been done before - but it was a whole other thing to have them married into the most powerful families.

A marriage suggested by the King was more of an order than an actual suggestion. No one could successfully deny the King's marriage plans no matter how demeaning a match may seem. In total Louis XIV married four of his legitimised children into the power-elite at court:

Marie Anne de Bourbon was the daughter of Louise de La Vallière and was known as Mademoiselle de Blois. She was married to Louis Armand, Prince de Conti in 1680 but the marriage remained childless and she was widowed at a young age.

Louis Auguste de Bourbon received the title of Duc du Maine when he was legitimised. In 1692 he married Anne Louise Bénédicte de Bourbon which proved to be a disaster. Anne Louise Bénédicte was deeply ashamed of being made to marry a bastard and was never faithful to her husband.

Louise Françoise de Bourbon, known as Mademoiselle de Nantes, was married to Louis de Bourbon, Duc de Bourbon in 1685. As compensation for marrying beneath his rank the Duc de Bourbon received not only a dowry of one million livres but also the promise of the post of surintendante of the King's household after the death of his father.

Françoise Marie de Bourbon or Mademoiselle de Blois undoubtedly won the marriage lottery. In 1692 she married the King's only legitimate nephew, Philippe II d'Orléans, who would rule as Regent during the minority of Louis XV. As it turned out the greater the match, the greater the scandal.
The bridegroom's mother - Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate - was far from pleased when she heard of the betrothal; she slapped her son in full public and even turned her back on the King when he saluted her. Many would probably have done the same, had they dared, since "the bastards" as the Duc de Saint-Simon used as a reference for the King's children were little liked and their elevation was widely detested.

One way that Louis XIV attempted to compensate for the lack of actual legitimacy was through his daughters' dowries. Each of his daughters received an immense dowry: Louise Francoise's hand was given with the sum of 1.000.000 livres while her younger sister was sent off with twice that sum.

Madame de Maintenon was another driving force behind the illustrious matches of the King's bastards. Never having any children of her own, she had been governess to the children of Madame de Montespan by the King and had grown very attached to them. Consequently, she dedicated her life to their advancement and especially the marriage between Françoise Marie and Philippe II is considered to be her doing.

Another attempt at raising the prestige of the ceremonies was the presence of the exiled King of England. At both the weddings of Mademoiselle de Blois and the Duc du Main the English King was present and even handed the latter his chemise at the bedding ceremony.

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