Friday, 18 November 2016

Philippe II d'Orléans and the Comtesse de Parabère

The Regent during Louis XV's minority certainly had the Bourbon taste for women and amassed a great amount of varying mistresses through his life. One of his principal mistresses was of noble birth - Marie-Madeleine, Comtesse de Parabère.

The two were official lovers during the peak of Philippe's power: the Regency. It is generally thought that their relationship began in the winter of 1715 and two years later she is still mentioned as his "established mistress". Considering the speed with which the Regent usually switched mistresses this was quite a long while.

Marie-Madeleine was married to the Marquis de Parabère who was 30 years her senior and cared for little other than drinking and amusing himself. According to Cardinal Dubois Philippe met Marie-Madeleine shortly before the regency began at a ball he threw. Allegedly, the future Regent was so attracted to her that he immediately engaged in a long conversation with them which cannot have been easy since they were both drunk beyond measure.

Once introduced into each other's society it did not take long before a closer relationship was established. Philippe was completely taken in with Marie-Madeleine's beauty, her high humour, her seemingly disinterestedness in politics and her boldness. He quickly found that she was not so greedy as his earlier mistresses which definitely suited him.

Billedresultat for comtesse de parabère
Marie-Madeleine and Philippe
Philippe wished to have his beloved mistress situated in a house suiting her rank and consequently he bought an estate in Asnieres for her. As the couple grew closer he even moved the infamous suppers from between the Palais-Royal and her house.

When  the scandal with the financier Law was at its height Madame de Parabère was well into her affair with the Regent. She was so firmly established that she showed up - highly pregnant - at the opera (and other public places) where the Regent's wife was present without a murmur from Philippe.

Madame de Parabère was the only one of the Regent's mistresses who managed to have any political influence. Knowing full well that Philippe hated when his mistresses pushed their way into his business Marie-Madeleine gave an air of complete disinterestedness. By not wilfully forcing herself into her lover's affairs the Comtesse de Parabère actually achieved far more influence than she might otherwise have.
Her influence seemed enormous. Even the Duc de Saint-Simon acknowledged that she had full sway over Philippe; he also begrudgingly admitted that she had far more influence than he himself had.

Lasting testaments to the strength of their relationship are the portraits of the two which were commissioned.

Billedresultat for comtesse de parabère
Philippe and Marie-Madeleine as Adam
and Eve

The couple seemed not to have been exclusive one since both partners dallied in other liaisons. In 1720 Madame de Parabère took another lover, Beringhem, and Philippe was soon to follow suit. When the Regent's attention began to linger on a certain Duchesse de Phalaris everyone thought that it was a matter of time before Marie-Madeleine was history.
The Duchesse de Pharalis became a mistress to the Regent at the same time as Beringhem became Marie-Madeleine's. Philippe was not prepared to share Marie-Madeleine - despite not himself keeping from other women - and immediately had Beringhem exiled.

Although the Duchesse had in mind to become the Regent's principal mistress her dreams were dramatically smashed. It would seem that the Regent's feelings for the Comtesse de Parabère were stronger than people had expected. In the winter of 1720-21 the both Madames were actually his mistress at the same time.

As the year 1721 advanced it became apparent that Philippe and Marie-Madeleine were not done with each other. Suddenly, the Duchesse was booted out and the Comtesse was back in all her glory; although the reunited couple had a violent spat over several minor flings the Regent had had with some opera girls.

Relateret billede
Philippe in armour and Marie-Madeleine was Athena

For whatever reason the opera girls were too much for Marie-Madeleine. It seems unlikely that the infidelity should have been the trigger since Marie-Madeleine had been unfaithful herself and had accepted the brief winter-reign of the Duchesse de Pharalis. Exactly what caused the final break is lost to history but shortly after their reunion Marie-Madeleine left Philippe.
Desperate to get her back, Philippe employed a close friend, Nocé, as an intermediate but in vain. When that did not work Philippe went in person several times but Marie-Madeleine was adamant that their relationship was over.

Surprisingly enough, Marie-Madeleine entered a convent after her affair with Philippe but did not remain there long and took other lovers. Philippe never quite got over the Comtesse de Parabère and it is very likely that he was still in love with her when he died in 1723. Marie-Madeleine lived for another 32 years.

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