Saturday, 14 October 2017

Bathilde d'Orléans, Princesse de Condé

Born on the 9 July 1750 at Saint-Cloud Bathilde d'Orléans was the daughter of Louis Philippe d'Orléans and Louise Henriette de Bourbon. As such she was a descendant of both Louis XIV and his brother, Philippe. During the first eight years of her life she was a common fixture at court where she was known Mademoiselle being the eldest unmarried lady in the royal family. However, with the death of her mother in 1759 her father sent her to a convent.

Portrait of Bathilde d’Orléans.jpg
As a young woman

Convent educations were not unheard of - Louis XV's daughters all spent their young years in convents. What was unusual was that she remained in the convent until the age of 20. The reason for this long spell was that she was initially suggested as a bride for the Duke of Parma (favourite grandson of Louis XV) but this never amounted to anything. Consequently, she had to remain cloistered for a little longer until a husband was found. 
That husband happened to be Louis Henri, Duc d'Enghien (later Prince de Condé) who was six years her junior. They were married in 1770 at the chapel of Versailles. However, their marriage had a short honeymoon. After six months Louis Henri had apparently tired of his wife and turned his attentions elsewhere. Nevertheless, Bathilde was entitled to a place at court as the Duchesse d'Enghien. From then on the couple only saw each other sporadically. 

Bathilde d'Orléans, duchesse de Bourbon.png
While Duchesse de Bourbon

Despite their estranged relationship she managed to become pregnant and gave birth to the couple's only child: a son called Louis Antoine. Having thus fulfilled the purpose of their marriage the couple saw even less of each other. By 1780 Bathilde had had enough of her husband's very public and humiliating sidesteps. The one affair that turned out to be the final drop was with an opera dancer by the name of Marguerite Catherine Michelot. The couple separated and - as was usual for the time - Bathilde was blamed for the collapse of their marriage.

Being a separated wife she no longer had the right to appear at court. Undeservedly exiled, Bathilde went to her country estate Château de Chantilly. For a while she took up abode with her father and his new wife - the same woman who had allegedly insisted that Bathilde be sent to a convent. Her father died in 1785 which meant that her brother became the Duc d'Orléans. Since she could obviously no longer stay with her father she purchased house in Paris which she called the Hotel de Clermont as well as another estate, the Château de Petit-Bourg.

Billedresultat for bathilde d'orleans
By Drouais

Bathilde had no intention of accepting the role society would otherwise have her play of a celibate, discarded wife. She had an affair with the Chevalier Alexandre Amable de Roquefeuil with whom she had a daughter christened Adélaide-Victoire. She had little contact with her son since by law he was the "property" of his father so it is hardly strange that Bathilde did what she could to keep her daughter close. In order for this to happen she had to pretend that Adélaide-Victoire was the daughter of her secretary. 
By 1787 she made another purchase - this time directly from Louis XVI. This time it was the Élysée Palais where she had a small hamlet built. The hamlet was heavily inspired by that at Chantilly. While living at the Élysée Palais she began studying the occult. Hitherto, she had been a very spiritual woman (a remnant of her days at the convent). Astrology, magnetism of animals, dream interpretation and chiromancy all became subjects of interest to Bathilde. Painting became another - although more traditional - pastime of hers. 

With such an open mind it is hardly surprising that the salon which she hosted became renowned for its liberality. 

Once the revolution broke out she sided with her brother and his democratic tendencies. While her husband and son fled France she remained and donated her vast wealth to the revolutionaries. During these years she became known as Citoyenne Verité - Citizen Truth. However, the new state was not a grateful one. The remaining members of the Bourbon family were arrested and imprisoned - including Bathilde. After a year and a half her brother was guillotined and everyone expected her to be next. However, she was saved by the so-called Thermidorian Reaction and restored to her residence of Élysées. Sadly, since she had given her money to the state, which then betrayed her, Bathilde was forced to rent out most of the palace. 

By 1797 she was forced to emigrated with her daughter by the new government. They were sent to Spain under the watch of French guards. One of these became her lover and she kept in contact with him during her time in Spain. While there she founded a pharmacy and a hospital where those seeking aid could find it.

18th century Portrait of Bathilde d'Orléans by a member of the École Française.jpg

Surprisingly, she did not relinquish her republican views. Initially, she had admired Napoleon but that changed once she learned that he had had her son executed. The enmity between them was further exacerbated by Napoleon keeping her from returning to France for ten whole years. When the Bourbon dynasty was restored to power un 1815 her Élysées residence was exchanged for that of the Hotel Matignon. In her usual spirit she immediately gave the property to a nunnery and charged them to pray for those executed during the revolution.
Not long after Bathilde returned to France she was met with a request from her family. They wished her to return to her husband which she promptly refused. Rather daringly, she responded by resuming the affair with the guardsman who had escorted to Spain. Their romance was to last three more years before he died.

Bathilde herself died under rather dramatic circumstances. In 1822 she was taking part in the march towards the Panthéon when she suddenly collapsed. She was immediately taken to the house of a Sorbonne-lawyer where she died.

Surprisingly, Bathilde held four titles during her life: Mademoiselle before her marriage, Duchesse d'Enghien (1770-72), Duchesse de Bourbon (1772-1818) and Princesse de Condé (1818-1822).

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