Saturday, 24 November 2018

Madame de Maintenon's Appearance

That it should be Madame de Maintenon who should take the place as Louis XIV's second wife has baffled people for centuries. Louis XIV could take his choice amongst the most beautiful women at his court and had for years enjoyed the famed beauty of Madame de Montespan. In comparison, it was not Madame de Maintenon's looks that attracted the greatest attention but rather her strict sense of religion. Still, the Françoise d'Aubigné was not exactly ugly either.

The Duc de Saint-Simon guesses that she must have been beautiful in her youth - despite not knowing her then. However, in the years he did "know" her he mentions more her mental capacities rather than her physical ones. 

One person who did know her at the time was Madame de Scudéry. She has left us a rather good description of her friend at the time. According to Scudéry, Françoise was "tall (although others disagreed), smooth beautiful skin, light chestnut hair, a well-shaped nose, a clean-cut mouth ... and the finest eyes in the world".
Her eyes were generally considered to be one of her greater features. The portraits of Françoise reveal dark, sparkling eyes - they appear to have been a slightly more elongated almond-shape. Even Elizabeth-Charlotte of the Palatinate - Madame de Maintenon's great enemy - admitted that the royal mistress possessed very fine eyes.

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This close-up shows both her dark eyes as well as her - by then -
very dark hair

Françoise's hair was a deep chestnut; it took a remarkably long time for it to start greying. However, it is interesting that her hair appears to have become a deeper brown over the years. The "light chestnut" of Madame de Scudéry had become a good deal darker by the time she was married to Louis XIV.

Her figure, too, was considered "full" - that is it was the ideal of the age. At that time a woman's body was considered to be most beautiful when it was curvy or voluptuous. Madame de Maintenon knew that overindulging could result in her body becoming a bit too "voluptuous". That had happened often enough to her predecessor and the diet of Versailles made it hard to maintain the weight considered beautiful. Madame de Maintenon's cheeks were described as a bit "too fat" but still with the appropriate glow.

Madame de Motteville described her as a bit too short and her teeth were not very good. However, she noted that the king's last maitresse had a remarkably good complexion. Pearly white skin with no obvious scars from either smallpox or acne. The darkness of her eyes - described by Madame de Montespan and others as "black" - contrasted greatly with the whiteness of her skin; the result was that they seemed very deep.
In comparison to the rosy mouth of Montespan, Madame de Maintenon had a rather slim upper lip and an unfortunate tendency to purse her lips - apparently this was especially the case when she met someone whom she did not like.

As for her nose, one source described her nostrils as "extended" but otherwise well-made. Her way of dressing was different than her predecessor in that she preferred simpler garments but of the richest material available. This often gave the impression that her style was more modest without her having to give up any comfort.

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This later portrait shows that the royal mistress has gained
some weight

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

The Introduction of the Bourgeoises Mistresses

Louis XV broke with the century-old tradition of choosing his mistresses from the nobility in spectacular fashion. Both Madame de Pompadour and Madame du Barry were from the middle-class although many considered them to be from far further down the social ladder. As was custom, they were introduced at court where they would be officially introduced to the royal family. However, not everyone was equally pleased - especially the latter lady caused quite a stir at her presentation.

The presentation included three formal curtseys as well as a "tour" to each of the members of the royal family starting with the king. An already presented lady would do the honours and introduce the new-comer to the individual royals. For these women, the presentation had a wider significance than merely being seen by the courtiers. It was only when they were formally introduced that they could be recognised as the king's official maitresse-en-tître; otherwise, they would not have been able to partake in the day-to-day life at court or even live there.

Madame de Pomapdour
Madame de Pompadour was set to be presented on 15 September 1745 at six o'clock in the evening; she was taken to court in a rather anonymous closed carriage. Such events were not just a court event; Parisians rushed to Versailles for two reasons: one, they wanted to see the new favourite and second they wanted to see how the queen would react. To her great credit, Marie Leszczynska behaved cordially towards the woman whom she knew was her husband's mistress. Madame de Pompadour - undoubtedly relieved at this - responded in the same kind appearance. 
The two ladies' example was not followed by all that day. According to the Duc de Richelieu the courtiers who filled the chambers made little attempt at hiding their distaste at what they considered an upstart. Richelieu claimed that their behaviour even made the king blush.

Tradition claimed that an already presented lady do the honours which left Madame de Pompadour in quite a pickle. There were few women who would want to associate themselves with a woman born as lowly as Pompadour. However, there were those whose principles could be swayed - at a price. The Princesse de Conti was not a wealthy woman despite being very high in the court hierarchy. She had managed to amass a considerable amount of debt which she could not get rid of. She had previously made it very clear that she despised the king's choice but soon realized that the presentation could prove lucrative. So, she met with the king and made a bargain: she would assist his beloved if he would settle her debts. The deal was struck and Madame de Pompadour was set for her great event.

She was first taken to the king's chamber were she - in a rather ironic twist considering their relationship - was introduced to him. More than one contemporary noted how uncomfortable the king seemed. From there, she made her way down the hierarchy in the royal family: the queen, the dauphin, the dauphine and the king's daughters. It must have been a formidable sight; besides the countless spectators each royal person was accompanied by his or her closest retinue.

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Madame de Pompadour

Her three ceremonial curtseys went smoothly; her natural talent as a stage-performer - so well utilized later on - served her well. Margaret Trouncer suggests that Madame de Tencin had lend her own experiences in coaching the nervous Pompadour. The same author reports that the young dauphin showed a bit of naughtiness; allegedly, he stuck out his tongue when she curtsied to him.

The queen - as mentioned - was amiability itself. The plan had been to merely mention something about Madame de Pompadour's gown but when the time came the queen showed her tactful side. She had heard of a relative of Pompadour's husband who happened to be known to some in the queen's circle. Striking this common ground, the queen politely inquired after that particular person. This rather stunned Madame de Pompadour who might have expected hostility. Nonetheless, Jeanne-Antoinette thanked her and replied that she earnestly wished to serve Marie Leszczynska. Undoubtedly a rather disappointing result for those who had hoped for a cold clash.

Madame du Barry
The situation was different when Madame du Barry was to be presented. For one, the new favourite was not even married. Tradition demanded that the king's mistress should be a married woman; for this reason a quick marriage was set up with Guillaume du Barry. Even after that. there was some doubt as to whether the ceremony would even take place. The Duc de Choiseul - du Barry's enemy and Louis XV's close advisor - had attempted to dissuade the king from the presentation and had initially thought himself succesful. Consequently, a great part of court did not even think the presentation would take place even though the king had set a date for it.: 21 April 1769.

There was another reason for the king's hesitation. Madame de Pompadour may have been a bourgeoisie but she was still a respectable married lady whose company was already sought by members of the court. In contrast, Madame du Barry was found lower down the social scale and her enemies did not hesitate to bring up her past of semi-prostitution. To make such a woman - no matter her personal charms - the official mistress would leave a stain on the king's legacy. To modern observers it might seem slightly off but the king's premonitions were right. Not long after her presentation, Madame du Barry found herself the scapegoat of the common people. She would eventually become the symbol of the king's debauched old age until he died - after that, Marie Antoinette took over the gig as national scapegoat.

Madame du Barry was also faced with the issue of finding a suitable noblewoman to introduce her. This time, there was no Princesse de Conti to come to the rescue which meant that for an awkwardly long period no one volunteered. Finally, the duchesse d'Aiguillon made an offer: one of the ladies in her retinue - the Comtesse de Béarn - could do it. The Comtesse was poor just as the Princesse de Conti had been before her and was duly rewarded for her efforts.

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Madame du Barry

When the day arrived their doubts seemed to have been justified at first. The scheduled time came ... and went. Madame du Barry was no where to be seen.
The Duc de Richlieu - rival to Choiseul - was with the king in the latter's chamber and described the king as very agitated when Madame du Barry did not show. The court waited with baited breath when the carriage finally rolled up. Apparently, the favourite's coiffeur was not quite aware of the importance of keeping an appointment on time and spent a great deal of time on her client's hair. Their diligence paid off. Madame du Barry was splendid; "even the people who felt despair at this presentation, were forced to admit that if beauty and elegance entitle one to approach the throne, Madame du Barry ought to enjoy that privilege".

The Maréchal de Richelieu had been tasked by the king with the job of commissioning a gown for the king's mistress - as well as handing over a sumptuous gift of diamonds estimated at 100.000 livres. The Marèchal did not disappoint. The gown he had chosen was fit for the king's consort rather than his mistress; huge panniers held up silver and gold fabric completely studded with diamonds. More than one commentator noted that she literally glowed due to the light reflecting off of the precious stones. Some sources claimed that even her shoes were studded with diamonds.

Like her predecessor, she held a brave face when confronted by the less-than-friendly courtiers whose gazes told their clear opinion of her. Nevertheless, Madame du Barry managed the three curtseys (as demanded by etiquette) with surprising elegance and grace.

Once the ceremonies were over, both Mesdames de Pompadour and du Barry were officially fully fledged members of the court. This did not prevent the more blue-blooded courtiers from scoffing at their backgrounds but not all did. Some saw an opportunity to gain advantages by befriending them while others were genuinely charmed by the two women.

Saturday, 20 October 2018

The Search For A Husband For Mademoiselle

Philippe d'Orléans had had two daughters by Henrietta of England and both had made very good marriages. The eldest, Marie Louise d'Orléans, had married Charles II of Spain and thus became queen. The youngest, Anne Marie d'Orléans, had been shipped off to Savoy where she became the duchess of Savoy.

So, when Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate gave birth to another daughter in 1676 the race was on to find yet another suitable husband. The young girl was duly named after both her parents with the names Elisabeth Charlotte Philippine. As the only remaining daughter of the Duc d'Orléans she was known at court simply as Mademoiselle d'Orléans - and she was a very good match.

As could be expected there were very divided opinions on whom the eligible lady should wed. Even the Grande Dauphine (who otherwise never mingled in such matters) pitched in. She offered her younger brother Joseph of Bavaria. It was rather odd that the Grande Dauphine should even have suggested him. Joseph was the third son of the Elector of Bavaria and thus not expected to marry. In fact, he was intended for the church and he did eventually become Archbishop of Cologne. While the Grande Dauphine's suggestion does show considerations for her family connections it also shows that she was not quite realistic about such affairs.

The mother of Mademoiselle d'Orléans was the notoriously opinionated Elizabeth Charlotte or Madame. She had envisioned a match that would make her daughter a queen. William III of England had become a widower in 1694 and was therefore available. There was one matter that needed to be solved. William III was a Protestant and Mademoiselle d'Orléans was a Catholic. Usually, such matters were not considered to be of much importance since the bride was expected to convert to suit her prospective husband. In other instances they were even allowed to keep their own religion. This had been the case with the last French-born English queen but it had become a major problem  in the years up to the civil war. These recent religious turmoil in England meant that the English were adamant that the bride must convert - and this was rejected by the French.
It is possible that Elizabeth Charlotte had chosen William III with this particular point in mind. Besides the obvious prestige of becoming queen, Elizabeth Charlotte had herself been a Protestant before being obliged to convert for her marriage. At the court of Versailles the new Madame had not been overwhelmingly warm to her new faith; so, it is worth considering that she hoped her daughter would marry a Protestant. 

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William III of England

One of the most likely candidates was the Holy Roman Emperor, Joseph I. This match would have been groundbreaking for the entire political scene. The French Bourbons and the Hapsburgs had been enemies for centuries and a match would thus have mended bridges - at least in theory. Also, if Mademoiselle d'Orléans had become the Holy Roman Empress it might have smoothed the way for Marie Antoinette. Perhaps if there had already been such a recent match between France and the Hapsburgs, the future doomed queen's nationality might not have been such an issue.
The match eventually fell through. It was not just the French who had their reservations when it came to a match with a long-standing enemy. The mother of Joseph, Eleonor Magdalene, was dead-set against uniting her son with a French-woman. Her animosity towards France went so far that when the final two candidates for her son's hand were determined on - two German princesses - it was the fact that one of them had a French grand-mother that decided against her.

Others were unwilling to search across the borders at all. The Grand Dauphin had become a widower in 1690 which would have poised Elisabeth Charlotte Philippine to become the next queen of France. This might also have been the case if she had married another French candidate: the son of the Grand Dauphin - the Duc de Bourgogne. He was six years younger than his cousin but still eligible. According to the Duc de Saint-Simon both Madame and Monsieur were willing to consider Bourgogne's younger brother, the Duc de Berri. However, considering the high hopes of Madame it seems unlikely that she would consent to a match to a younger son.

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Joseph I

What is interesting is that Saint-Simon refers to the reluctance of Louis XIV to unite his grandson with his niece. Ever since his childhood, Anne of Austria had installed the fear of a power-struggle between her sons in Louis XIV. It is not unlikely that Louis XIV was indeed worried that such a union would bring the Orléans-family too close to the throne. 

There were other matches that caused the proud heart of her mother to skip a beat. Louis XIV's legitimized sons were initially thought to be off-limits - their having been born bastards were simply considered too great a hindrance. However, Louis XIV was determined to have the best matches for his children by his mistresses and began marrying them into the best families in France. 
This naturally put Mademoiselle d'Orléans directly in the spotlight. She was undoubtedly one of the best matches and it was considered for a while to pair her with the Duc du Maine. Madame was horrified but knew that she could do nothing if the king decided on the match. It was therefore an immense relief when the Duc du Maine married Louise Bénédicte de Bourbon instead.

All these matches came to nothing and by the age of 20, Mademoiselle d'Orléans was still unmarried. The Treaty of Ryswick was to change that and the match became less grand than her mother had hoped. Rather than a king or an Emperor, the chosen man was Leopold de Lorraine, Duc de Lorraine. 

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Dark, Delicious Chocolate

Chocolate became a part of French court life before Louis XIV was even born; his mother - Anne of Austria - hailed from Spain whose colonies in South America had already introduced Europe to chocolate. 

Like her mother-in-law, Queen Marie Thérèse was also passionately fond of chocolate. She drank it as often as possible; Elizabeth-Charlotte of the Palatinate wondered whether the queen's bad teeth were due to her excessive use of chocolate. Madame herself never indulged in the same taste since she claimed that her system did not digest "these exotic drugs" (including coffee) very well.
The very exotic nature of chocolate also led to it getting a somewhat mixed reputation. On one side it was said to be beneficial to one's health but others claimed it to be a major health risk. While Madame de Sévigné acknowledged that chocolate was in fashion in the 1670's she certainly had her reservations. In a rather memorable moment she relayed the story of the Marquise de Coëtlogon who gave birth to a black baby - the cause was based on chocolate. Despite the more obvious reasons for why the infant may not resemble to husband it was noted that the poor child died shortly afterwards - perhaps it was ill or had not gotten enough oxygen.

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A chocolatière from 1707

One of the other risks associated with chocolate related to the theory of the bodily humours. This well-known theory (that I will not go into further depth in here) led the doctors to fear that excessive intake of chocolate could change a person's natural "humour". To those born with a "hot humour" this could be dangerous but some born with a "cold humour" could use it to their benefit. Madame de Pompadour's libido was notoriously low and she used chocolate in an attempt to seem more passionate - not necessarily in a sexual manner. This led her companion - Madame du Hausset - to remonstrate with her mistress that it might be dangerous to her health. 

Louis XV certainly did not need encouraging when it came to drinking chocolate. He loved the drink and would often enjoy making it for himself in his private apartments.

The chocolate of Louis XIV's reign was much richer and heavier than the store-bought products we are used to today. Louis XIV quickly noticed that it had the ability to "trick" the appetite and the Sun King was not the only one who took note of this. Philippe II d'Orléans would - according to his mother - often drink a cup of chocolate rather than having a meal since he believed that one vast meal a day was sufficient. 
The Spanish tradition had it that chocolate could be mixed with chili and as the 18th century went on other spices were added too. Vanilla, cinnamon and even cloves were favourites; others added orange blossom, sugar or sweet almonds.

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One of the more famous paintings of the time including chocolate
- the Duc de Penthièvre and his family.
In the very centre is the Princesse de Lamballe who married Penthièvre's
only son.

Despite that chocolate was not a completely new concept at Versailles it was nevertheless popular - and exotic. As such it was dutifully served at the appartements thrice a week along with pineapples, peaches and other exotic wares. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that chocolate was a privilege reserved for the upperclass. This did not change throughout the remnants of the French ancien regime - in comparison it was available to those of fewer means in London.

As an exotic ware it did not take long before the rich beverage was linked to life's more sensual pleasures. Plenty of rumours and gossip has arisen when it comes to the use of chocolate in this manner. Both Madame de Pompadour and Madame du Barry were said to use chocolate in their intimate life with Louis XV; the former because she was said to have been a "cold fish" and the other because she allegedly had an "insatiable lust". Neither are exactly to the women's credit and whether they are true can only be guessed at. It is, however, typical of the slander at the time to target women's sexuality and especially the king's mistresses (for obvious reasons).

When Marie Antoinette set sails towards France she brought her own chocolate-maker with her; he was duly given the official title of "Chocolate-maker to the Queen" with an annual wage. The Austrian-born queen had grown up in a court where chocolate was often consumed for breakfast. This trend had spread across the courts of Europe and she could continue the habit there.

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The chocolatière from the set  given to Marie
Leszczynska by her husband

As chocolate was embraced in the higher echelons of society it gave rise to a new line of luxury items. One of the best preserved from the age of Versailles was Louis XV's gift to Marie Leszczynska following the birth of their son. She received a full service which accommodated all the "exotic drugs": coffee, tea - and chocolate. In the previous century, Louis XIV, Marie Thérèse and the Grand Dauphin had each received "chocolatières" from the king of Siam. According to the Mercure Galante Philip d'Orléans had entered two chocolatières in the prizes for a lottery he held in July 1689. One was of porcelain and the other of silver - the pair was won by a Madame de Maré.

Initially, the sale of chocolate was monopolized. Louis XIV gave David Chaliou the right to sell chocolate in France. During the 18th century the increase of production in colonies - as a result of the slave trade - meant that cocoa beans were more available. However, this did not mean that the French commoners suddenly had free access to the delicious drink. It remained a reserve for the wealthy. According to Massimo Montanari it was not until the 1770's that chocolate became a part of a downright industry.
Wendy Sutherland reports that the first chocolate house in France was opened in 1675. Presumably, this café was linked to Chaliou since his monopoly only ran out in 1693. After that the chocolate market opened up for other entrepreneurs.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

The Demands of Madame de Châteauroux

Before Marie Anne and Louis XV even became an item Madame de Châteauroux had her reservations about jumping into the royal bed. This is hardly surprising given that royal mistresses tended to be discarded literally on a whim. Therefore, she drew up a list of demands to be met before she gave in to the king's advances.  The court was absolutely scandalized; Versailles had never witnessed so brazen an approach from a woman who had not even been formerly recognized. Madame de Montespan's greed had been infamous but she was already established and had given Louis XIV seven children.

Her demands were as follows: 

A duchy
The demands posed by Marie Anne were significant and extensive. First, she wanted to be granted the title of duchesse with all its privileges and splendour. This was possible due to the fact that she had been widowed prior to meeting the king; thus, the monarch could bestow the honour on her without risking making a potentially problematic husband a peer (which was exactly what prevented Louis XIV from doing the same to Madame de Montespan). This wish was fulfilled on 22 October 1743 when she was given the title of Duchesse de Châteauroux - the duchy came with an annual income of 80.000-85.000 livres.

At court the title gave her the right to sit on a tabouret - a stool without a back - in the presence of the royal family. Hitherto, she had been obliged to stand since her married title was the Marquise de La Tournelle. The annual income alone gave her a far greater freedom than before since the only way women at court could earn money was through official posts.

A château
According Louis Thérèse Latour her exact demand was for a house "as sumptuous as Madame de Montespan's had been". This was some demand indeed. The Château de Clagny had been truly grand and was greatly admired at the time. It might eventually have become reality but for the time being she was instead presented with the apartment of the royal favourite. Perhaps, if she had lived for longer she would have been granted her own domain.

Dismissal of her sister
Louise Julie de Mailly had been the king's official mistress before Marie Anne supplanted her. Not unsurprisingly, Marie Anne feared that Louis XV might be tempted to go back to his former lover if she remained at court. The would-be favourite therefore acted in a rather ruthless manner considering that she was dealing with her sister. Marie Anne demanded that Louise Julie was sent from court into exile and that Louis XV broke contact with her. This Louis XV agreed to but granted Louise Julie one final dinner before they parted.

Marie Anne further stated that if the king ever resumed his contact with his former mistress then he would forego Marie Anne's company. At this point her influence over the king appeared to have been very strong; he agreed and never admitted Louise Julie into his confidence again - not even after Marie Anne's untimely death.

Recognition of children
Louis XIV's children by Louise de La Vallière and Françoise-Athénais de Montespan were famously legitimized and given both prestigious marriages and key positions at court. However, the sun king's successor was less enthusiastic about acknowledging the fruits of his extra-marital affairs. Therefore, Marie Anne stipulated that should she bear the king any children they would be formally legitimized. This was particularly important since Marie Anne was unmarried; thus any children by the king could not fall back on the paternity claim of her husband.

Nevertheless, the two never had any children. This might have been due to the fact that their union was cut short by her death but it is also possible that Marie Anne could not become pregnant. She had  no children by her late husband and there is no evidence that she ever conceived at all.

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Madame de Châteauroux

Due to the advantages connected with the title of maîtresse-en-titre there was no particular need for the king to woo his mistresses. However, Marie Anne had no intention of merely slipping into the king's bed and risking becoming a "one-night stand". Rather she would be courted - and publicly, too.  There were those who thought it beneath the king to put himself in such a position.

Formal recognition 
Finally, Marie Anne wanted formal recognition of her status as maîtresse-en-titre. This would serve as another shield against public humiliation; after all, it was better to become the king's official mistress than to be counted as another woman who failed to interest the king for more than one night.

This was a minor claim but one nonetheless. Marie Anne had no carriages of her own and was apparently loath to use those of the king. In itself this was not an extravagant demand since most high-ranking courtiers had their own carriages emblazoned with their coat-of-arms. Louis XV was happy to oblige and did so promptly. Being himself a great horseman he immediately sent her six magnificent horses as well as a berlin for them to pull.

The Suspicious Death of Madame de Châteauroux

Marie Anne de Mailly, Duchesse de Châteaueoux's reign as Louis XV's mistress appeared to be all but over in 1744 when the king fell dangerously ill at Metz. Since religious rites demanded that the king dismiss his mistress in order to receive absolution for his sins, she was initially sent away. However, to everyone's surprise the king rallied and returned to Paris. What was even more surprising was that he broke the hitherto accepted practice of not returning to a mistress who had been formally dismissed.

By November 1744 he was back by her side and Marie Anne received an invitation to return to her former splendid state at Versailles. This sent shivers across the gilded halls of the palace where the triumphant mistress had made her fair share of enemies. Considering that she now stood in the king's good graces again it was not unlikely that she would exact her revenge on those who had worked against her. 

But then, she herself fell mortally ill. Cramps and convulsions racked her body and she was convinced that she had been poisoned. On 8 December Marie Anne died - just 13 days after returning to Versailles.

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Marie Anne de Mailly

The question was whether Marie Anne's suspicions were correct - had she been poisoned?

The duchesse herself believed that she had been poisoned by her chief enemy, the Marquis de Maurepas. Their enmity went back a long while and upon returning to court Marie Anne had demanded that the king dismissed Maurepas from his duties as minister. However, Louis had refused and instead offered his beloved a chance to gloat over her enemy. The minister was duly summoned and placed before the king and his mistress where he attempted to pass their previous enmity off as misunderstandings. It did not work.

Marie Anne continued to insist that Maurepas had poisoned her either at Reims where she had indeed been taken ill and were administered medications or through a letter.

It would not have been unprecedented if the king's mistress had been killed. However, one must remember the medical practices of the day. According to the Duc de Richelieu, Marie Anne was bled no less than nine times during her illness. This undoubtedly weakened her body further. Richelieu notes that once she had died it was observed that her "blood vessels were found to be dilated and swollen with blood".

To the medical practitioners of the day such symptoms were inconclusive. Thus, they never declared that she had been poisoned - but it was not denied either. One of those who joined the now late mistress in her suspicion was Mouffle d'Angerville who described her death as a "mere act of vengeance".
To be sure, Maurepas did have his reasons for wishing to get rid of her. Not only Marie Anne attempted to remove him from his ministerial post but she had also treated him with obvious contempt. One source mentions a time when she dismissed him with a wave of the hand and the words "Off with you". These were hardly an incentive to make friends but insults does not necessarily lead to murder.

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The marquis de Maurepas who was long accused
of having poisoned her

David Smythe - in his book "Madame de Pompadour: Mistress of France" - bluntly dismisses the claim. His theory is that she suffered from typhus. To be sure, there are some credence to this theory. Marie Anne suffered from several of the symptoms usually associated with typhus including abdominal pain, head aches and fever. More than one source note that she was delirious in some periods which can also be a symptom. Also, epidemic typhus has a tendency to appear rather suddenly. It should also be remembered that Marie Anne had followed the king to the army camp at Metz - such an environment is a perfect breeding ground for disease.

However, there is the possibility that Madame de Châteauroux's health was already on the decline. Edmond de Goncourt refers to a situation fifteen days prior to the mistress' death when she was confronted by a friend of hers who warned her about her health. Apparently, there was some concern that she did not sleep nor had any appetite; her eyes were not sparkly and they worried that she might have contracted a sort of fever. Yet, Goncourt also notes that her autopsy revealed nothing but the before-mentioned blood vessels.

It is interesting to note that even those of her friends who steadfastly held that she had met with foul play did not press for any action to be taken. Actually, few of the memoirs and correspondence of the time mentions any further considerations on her final illness. Given that she had been delirious - which even her friend Richelieu admits - when she made her claims of poison it is not unlikely that few others actually gave her suspicion credence. 

The king - at least - did not. There is nothing to suggest that Louis XV believed his mistress to have been poisoned and he had no investigation initiated. Thus, that came to an end and the suspicion remained unproven. 

Sunday, 7 October 2018

The Irregular Beauty of the Princesse de Lamballe

Marie Thérèse Louise had one of those faces that were not considered to be dazzlingly beautiful but not without charm. The Baronne d'Oberkirch said of her that she was "very pretty but with irregular features".

One of her most winning features was undoubtedly her hair. Long, golden locks which fell in thick tresses around her remarkably long neck were admired by all around her. Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun noted that she had "the most beautiful blonde hair imaginable". During the revolution her hair kept her thickness. When she was brutally murdered a letter from Marie Antoinette was found concealed in her tresses. It says something that even when her head had been mounted on a pike, passers-by noticed how beautiful her locks were - although covered in blood. 

The princesse de Lamballe's complexion was almost unnaturally white - quite the fashionable trend at the time. At the same time her skin was clear of any pockmarks or even regular scars from acne. Her skin kept its youthful freshness during her twenties which often led people to believe that she was younger than she actually was.

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Court portrait from 1776

She was not a tall woman but had a shapely figure which she moved with some elegance. However, the generally snarky Prince de Ligne thought that her hands were rather too large. Another feature that was considered somewhat out of the ordinary was her very long neck. This might have become an object of criticism at court if the princesse had not been endowed with a particular sense of grace.

Her nose was considered to be a little too long but her eyes were large and blue. Some described them as rather "expressionless" while others found them to portray pure innocence.
It was her mouth that greatly added to the opinion of an irregular beauty. Her mouth was small and - according to Raoul Arnaud - somewhat irregular; she rarely smiled which only further enhanced the almost mysterious expression that quite a few of her contemporaries ascribe to her.

With such pure features, the Savoyard princess looked rather strange in the full make-up of the French court. The heavy rouge contrasted greatly with her pearly white skin which caused her to look ill. Fortunately for Lamballe, during the 1780's Rousseau's ideal of "back to nature" led to a far simpler style being adopted by particularly Marie Antoinette. Thus, Marie Thérèse Louise looked her best when she strolled in the gardens of the Petit Trianon.
In contrast, the rosy cheeks resulting from a sledge-ride with Marie Antoinette only enhanced her beauty. During one of these excursion she was likened to spring itself since her rosy, youthful face peeped out through the heavy white furs she was covered in.

Billedresultat for princesse de lamballe portrait vigée le brun
Portrait by Vigée le Brun

Friday, 5 October 2018

Pineapple: The King of Fruits

The exotic pineapple - named "king of the fruits" - found its way to the French court during the reign of Louis XIV. As it happens, Madame de Maintenon had tasted the fruit during her childhood in Martinique where her father had relocated following his release from prison. According to her, the pineapple tasted like a mixture of melon and an apricot.
It would not be surprising if it was on her suggestion that the had the plant cultivated at Choisy-le-Roi in 1702. However, according to Tonelli and Gallouin, the cultivation proved too costly so it was quickly scrapped. It should be said that this was not the first time that Louis XIV's gardens had yielded such fine specimens. In 1642 one of the first French pineapple was grown by Jean-Baptiste La Quintinie but he never succeeded in producing more than one. 

One story has it that when Louis XIV was first presented with a pineapple, he was so eager to taste it that he bit straight through and hurt his upper lip quite badly. True or not remains speculative though.

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By 1690 Louis XIV had concluded a new treaty with Charles II of Spain; the result was that the island of Hispaniola was transferred to French ownership and renamed to Saint-Domingue (today it is Haiti). This proved to be another possibility to bring the pineapple to France. When the king sent Charles Plumier to examine the flora of his new possession, Plumier returned with several specimens - including pineapples.
The problem was partly that the seedlings had a hard time surviving the journey back to France; once they arrived the colder weather quickly killed off those that survived. The few that did manage the journey were put to exquisite use in the king's kitchens. The weekly appartements often featured ices and sorbets - another feat of engineering - and pineapples were soon added to the flavours.

The French gardeners struggled with the pineapple but did not give up. Finally, on 28 December 1733, the gardeners of Versailles were successful and presented Louis XV with two perfect pineapples. Quickly, it became one of the king's favourite fruits and a new hot-house was promptly erected. According to Eugene Walter the king spent 1000 francs a year on that hot-house alone. Actually, the plants that produced that pineapple later provided samples which were sent as diplomatic gifts. 

As the 18th century passed it was not just the king of France who had the opportunity to cultivate the delicious yellow fruit. According to Louis-Sébastien Mercier (writing in 1782) pineapples were grown by the Duc de Bouillon whose passion for them exceeded even Louis XV's. Mercier claimed that no less than 4000 pots were reserved solely for growing pineapples. 

Billedresultat for 18th century pineapple
"Ananas" by Oudry

The botanists of the time continued to be fascinated with the "king of fruits". During Louis XVI's reign, Jean-Baptiste Oudry produced a series of botanical illustrations - including one of the pineapple. Marie Antoinette chose to hang that particular one above the door in her Cabinet of the Meridian. Some time during Louis XV's reign the cultivation of pineapples at Choisy-le-Roi had been taken up again and this continued right up till the dawn of the revolution. At this point, the gardener (a man by the name of Edi) was considered to be the foremost specialist on pineapples.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

"Wounded in the King's Service"

With two monarchs who shared a love for women it is hardly odd that Louis XIV and Louis XV fathered their fair share of bastards. However, not all pregnancies went to plan. The poor hygiene of the age and a lack of basic knowledge about the female reproduction system meant that childbearing was a dangerous thing. While some experienced miscarriages, others succumbed either during or after delivering. 
Such subjects were not welcome in polite society - although "polite society" also consisted of women who knew all about it - certain terms were invented to spread news of the like. Thus, whenever a woman had miscarried a child by the king it was said that she had been "wounded in the king's service". However, this would also be used in other senses; "the king's service" could mean more than that of sharing his bed. Most royal women were considered to have one primary purpose: to bear children. So, when a woman married to an heir to the king miscarried the same term could be applied. For example, when the Duchesse de Bourgogne miscarried it was said that she had been thus "wounded". In this instance there was a certain reason for dragging the king into this: he had insisted that the heavily pregnant duchesse travel with him to Fontainebleau.

It is possible that Louise de La Vallière suffered a serious miscarriage. In 1670 it was noticed that her body was becoming slimmer and she looked more "haggard". Some attributed this change to the strain of living with the king's new favourite - Madame de Montespan - while others pointed at the likelihood of a miscarriage.

Mademoiselle de Fontagnes came close to replacing Madame de Montespan although her reputed stupidity probably prevented that. She had fallen pregnant by Louis XIV in late 1679 or early 1680. After she failed to be present at the wedding of Mademoiselle de Blois (Louis XIV's illegitimate daughter) courtiers started speculating if Madame de Montespan had finally gotten rid of her. However, it was soon leaked that she had suffered a miscarriage - some sources claims that she suffered two. She would never recover from the ordeal and died shortly afterwards.

Madame de Pompadour suffered two miscarriages (1746 and 1749) which may have hastened the end to her physical relationship with Louis XV. It is possible that she suffered a third miscarriage in 1747. The last one could have had far more dire consequences but eventually she rallied. According to the Marquis d'Argenson, Louis XV remained by her side during her recovery.

Marie Louise O'Murphy came close to paying the ultimate price "in the king's service". She fell pregnant by her royal lover in 1753 only to suffer a severe miscarriage. For a while her life was in the balance and most courtiers thought she would die. However, she lived only to be ousted two years later.

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Pauline Félicité who paid the ultimate price in the king's

Much the same fate befell Pauline Félicité de Mailly, Marquise de Vintimille, who had fallen pregnant by Louis XV in 1741. Unlike many others of the time she carried the baby to term but the birth proved to be difficult. About a week following the delivery she was suddenly seized by convulsions and died. It is not unlikely that her death was caused by complications at the delivery or by a lack of hygiene. The Marquis d'Argenson claimed that she died of so-called military fever but notes that it seems to afflict women recovering from their confinements rather than others. This could very well be a result of lack of hygiene.

Monday, 24 September 2018

Anne Henriette Julie of Bavaria

Anne Henriette Julie was born on 13 March 1648 and was destined from birth to make an advantageous marriage. Her aunt (on her mother's side) was the Queen of Poland while her father was the Prince Palatine. That she would eventually be married off to a Frenchman was not surprising; her mother had been a resident of Paris for a good portion of her life.

The bridegroom chosen for the 15-year old Anne was the sole male heir to the Grande Condé: Henri Jules de Bourbon-Condé. The French royal family attended their wedding ceremony at the Louvre in December 1663. Upon her marriage Anne assumed the title of Duchesse d'Enghien; when her father-in-law died she would become the Princesse de Condé or Madame la Princesse. 
Anne's marriage may have been prestigious in title but would not be an easy one. Her husband had inherited a streak of madness from his mother; today we know that he suffered from the mental illness clinical lycanthropy. This meant that he would suffer violent hallucinations - on occasion, he would direct that violence towards Anne.

Anne de Bavière par Gobert.jpg
Anne by Pierre Robert

Despite being beaten by her husband - even in the presence of other people at times - Anne understood that his temper was not due to a "bad" personality. Although mental illness was not understood quite as well at the time, she did what she could to ease his sufferings. This was quickly noticed by the surrounding courtiers who recognized a genuine caring soul in Anne.
Her husband's illness did not prevent him from fulfilling his dynastic duties. Anne fell pregnant for the first time in 1666; she would have a total of ten children. Sadly, the Condés were not immune to the dangers facing infants and they lost half of theirs. 

Perhaps it was due to the loss of so many of her children that she took a careful interest in their lives. When her daughter, Louise Bénédicte, fell out with her husband, the Duc du Maine, Anne brought her daughter to see her husband in an attempt to reconcile them.

She would - like her mother - reside in Paris in the Petit Luxembourg. Actually, the current Rue Palatine is named after her. She also held the Château de Raincy in her own name. According to the Duc de Saint-Simon one of her most constant companions was an unnamed dwarf. However, Saint-Simon does not leave us with a very flattering image of Madame la Princesse. He described her as ugly, foolish but virtuous. According to him no one really considered her to be important and she herself had no interest in furthering her standing at court - instead, she focused on god. 
Although fashion did not take up much of her time Julien Scavini attributes the parasol's entry into fashion to Anne.

As for her looks, Saint-Simon might not have been kind to her but no one else described her as ugly. The portrait of her by Pierre Gobert at the age of 22 shows a young woman with curly, thick dark hair, equally dark eyes and a thick lower lip. Of course, the artist may have added something as a compliment but if the portrait is somewhat accurate, the description of Saint-Simon is far off. 

While Duchesse d'Enghien

It was thanks to Anne's mother that she would soon be joined at the French court by another Princess Palatine: Elizabeth Charlotte. As it happens, Anne and Elizabeth Charlotte were first cousins. The appear to have had a good relationship. Elizabeth Charlotte described her cousin as the only one in the house of Bourbon-Condé much worth anything. Madame attributed this to the portion of German blood in her cousin's veins.

Anne inherited the title of Princess d'Arches when the male line died out in 1708. Loss was not uncommon for Anne; she had already lost five children in their infancy and would lose her husband in 1709. A year later, the new Prince de Condé - her son - died as well. Over the years Anne would see the demise of another child: the Duchesse de Vendôme. Anne herself died on 23 February 1723 in Paris.

Saturday, 22 September 2018

House of d'Estrées

Originating from the region of Boulonnais at the very northern edge of France, the family first really made their advance at court with Gabrielle d'Estrées. The infamously beautiful Gabrielle caught the eye of Henri IV and became his mistress. Through their liaison her family was showered with riches and favours. The original family of d'Estrées separated into three branches: the seigneurs of Boulant, the Marquises de Cæuvres (and Ducs d'Estrées) and the Comtes (later Ducs) d'Estrées. The former branch died out in the male line in the 16th century. Therefore, only the latter two branches are explored beneath - however notice that the third patriarch is numbered as the fourth; that is because the last holder of the seigneurship of Boulant was Antoine III.

Marquis de Cæuvres and Duc d'Estrées 

1. François Annibal I d'Estrées and (I) Marie de Béthune, (II) Anne Habert de Montmort, (III) Gabrielle de Longueval

François Annibal was originally destined for a life in the church but began a military career instead when his elder brother died. Until then the patriarch of the family was known as the Marquis de Cæuvres but Louis XIV had the family elevated to the title of Duc d'Estrées. Furthermore, he was granted governorship of Soissons, Laon and Île-de-France. François died at the ripe age of 98 (!) on 5 May 1670.

Marie Béthune had married François Annibal in 1622 and had three children by him. However, she died suddenly at the age of just 26 years in 1628. Their children were:

  • François Annibal, Duc d'Estrées
  • Jean, Comte - later Duc - d'Estrées
  • César d'Estrées, Cardinal

Anne Habert had been married once before to Charles de Thémines when she married François Annibal. She died at Nanteuil in 1661 but before that she had two children by her second husband:

  • Louis d'Estrées, Marquis d'Estrées (courtesy title)
  • Christine d'Estrées, Comtesse de Lillebonne

Gabrielle was married to François Annibal in 1663 and died in 1687 - however, she had no children.

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François Annibal I

2. François Annibal II d'Estrées and Catherine de Lauzières-Thémine 

Besides the titles he inherited from his father François Annibal II was made ambassador extraordinary to Rome. As it happens this is where he died of apoplexy; in his honour pope Innocent XI treated his corpse with the honours usually reserved for princes. His body was transferred to France and buried next to his father.

Catherine married François II in 1647 and had three children by him:

  • François III d'Estrées, Duc d'Estrées
  • Louis Charles d'Estrées, Marquis de Thémines
  • Jean d'Estrées,  Duc and Archbishop of Laon

3. François Annibal III d'Estrées and (I) Madeleine de Lionne, (II) Madeleine Diane Bautru

François Annibal III added a knighthood of the Order of the King to his already impressive list of titles as well as Master of Cavalry Camp.

Madeleine was the daughter of a minister of state and married to François Annibal III in February 1670. Apparently, her behaviour earned her somewhat of a reputation. She died in 1684 The couple had five children:

  • Louis Armand d'Estrées, Duc d'Estrées
  • Constance Léonore d'Estrées, Comtesse d'Ampus
  • Marie Yolande d'Estrées
  • Felicité Perpétue d'Estrées, nun
  • Louise Hélène d'Estrées, nun
Madeleine Diane was the daughter of the Marquis de Vaubrun; she was twenty years younger than François Annibal when the two married in 1688. She outlived her husband by 55 years! The couple had three children:
  • César François Annibal d'Estrées, Comte de Nanteuil
  • Diane Françoise Thérèse d'Estrées
  • Marie Madeleine d'Estrées

4. Louis-Armand d'Estrées and Diane Mazarini-Mancini

Louis-Armand was further granted the governorships of Noyon, Domme and Soissonais.

Diane was related to cardinal Mazarin and married Louis-Armand in 1707. However, the couple had no children and both died relatively young.

Comte d'Estrées and Duc d'Estrées 

5. Jean II d'Estrées and Marie Marguerite Morin 

Jean was the second son of François Annibal d'Estrées and Marie de Béthune; he was granted the titles of Comte d'Estrées, Comte de Nanteul le Haudouin and Comte de Tourpes amongst others. He was also made a knight of the Order of the King and Viceroy of New France.

Marie Marguerite was the eldest daughter of a secretary of state; she married Jean in 1658. She found herself the enemy of Madame de Coulanges, a friend of Madame de Sévigné, because the two disagreed on whether the play "Esther" was any good. The couple had six children:

  • Victor Marie d'Estrées, Duc d'Estrées
  • Jean d'Estrées, Abbé de Villeneuve
  • Jean César d'Estrées
  • Marie Anne d'Estrées, nun
  • Marie Anne Catherine d'Estrées, Marquise de Courtanvaux
  • Elisabeth Rosalie d'Estrées

Jean II d'Estrées
Comte d'Estrées

6. Victor Marie d'Estrées and Lucie Félicité de Noailles

Victor Marie was virtually showered in titles. Besides the dukedom of d'Estrées, he was a Grandee of Spain, Duc de Cæuvres, held seven seigneurships, Viceroy of New France, knight of the Order of the King etc. etc. He was even chosen by Louis XIV as a member of the regency council and led the council of the Navy. He certainly had seen his fair share of fighting; he partook in the campaigns of Holland, the League of Augsburg and the War of the Spanish Succession.
Victor was also an avid art collector and amassed quite an impressive collection. Such a rounded man was bound to attract some attention; when Peter I of Russia visited Paris in 1717 he made it a point to seek out the famous Vice-Admiral.

Lucie Félicité was married to Victor Marie by contract in 1698. The couple had no children.

Victor Marie d'Estrées
Victor Marie 

When Victor Marie and Lucie Félicité had no children the title went to Louis Charles César de Le Tellier. His mother was Marie Anne d'Estrées, daughter of Jean II d'Estrées.

Titles held by the family:
Duc d'Estrées
Duc de Cæuvres
Duc and Archbishop of Laon
Marquis de Thémines
Marquis de Cardaillac
Comte d'Estrées
Comte de Nanteuil le Haudouin
Comte de Tourpes
Vicomte de Soissons
Vicomte de Pierrefonds
Baron de Gourdon-Labouriane
Baron de Boulonnais

Interesting facts:

  • Jean d'Estrées, bishop of Villeneuve was made ambassador to Spain when he accompanied Cardinal d'Estrées (his uncle) there in 1701
  • Marie Yolande d'Estrées died just two months after her marriage to a captain 
  • A great deal of the family were buried in the convent of Feuillants in Soissons
  • Father Anselm claimed that François Annibal I had had an illegitimate child whom he later legitimized 
  • Jean d'Estrées, bishop of Laon was raised a companion to Louis XIV

Family portraits:

Billedresultat for François Annibal III d'Estrées
Antoine d'Estrées - the founder of the first ducal

Jean d'estrées abbé de conches bm 116 par Randon.jpg
Jean d'Estrées, bishop of Laon

Image illustrative de l’article César d'Estrées
Cardinal César d'Estrées

The Frailty of Madame de Pompadour

Although Madame de Pompadour cemented her position as the most influential of Louis XV's mistresses, her health was far from strong. Such frailty might have gone somewhat unnoticed if she had not been catapulted into the all-seeing court of Versailles.

One of her most constant complaints was that of migraines. On more than one occasion her head-aches became so severe that she had to retire from her beloved performances in her theatre. Such an incident occurred when the company were about to perform "Le Merchant"; she had to refrain from taking her part and it took her well over a month to be fully herself again. Apparently, these bouts were both frequent and well-known; a letter from her friend the Comtesse de Baschi of 1760 asked of the Marquise what she spent her days doing - when not suffering from migraines or bad company. 

These attacks of migraine did lessen in either frequency or intensity as she grew older; one time at Choisy she experienced such a horrible migraine that according to her attendants, she did not know where she was.

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Madame de Pompadour

Furthermore, the position as the king's mistress naturally enough raises some expectations of illegitimate children. But those who foresaw another Madame de Montespan were sadly mistaken. Through her life, Jeanne-Antoinette had only two living child: a boy and a girl who died in their childhoods. As she grew more secure in her position she could afford to eschew the king's more intimate advances but before that she, too, had to fulfil the more essential part of being a mistress - with the consequences that entailed.
Her problems had become evident already in 1741 when she became pregnant for the first time (by her husband, mind you). She quickly experienced bouts of fever but managed to cure them with plentiful quantities of quinine. 

Once she became the king's mistress her pre-natal problems returned. Twice she suffered miscarriages  - in 1746 and 1749 - but it is likely that she had more than these. For instance, the Duc de Luynes (a friend of hers) attributed a migraine as the result of another miscarriage; however, he lists it as her third.

As if these two were not damaging enough to her health, the Marquise appeared to have suffered from anaemia too. This was unfortunate in itself but even more so considering that the go-to cure for most doctors when it came to complaints such as a headache was to bleed the patient.
Several sources - including Emile Campardon - mentions that she suffered from a heart condition. Unfortunately, given the limited knowledge of that particular type of disease in the 18th century it is hard to say exactly what this entailed.

It is only natural that a person suffers bouts of ill-health throughout their life but what is interesting in Madame de Pompadour's case, is that these minor illnesses were often described as "fevers". It should be mentioned that the doctors of the day were more liberal with the word than we are today, so it can often be hard to know what exactly ailed the Marquise. What is more certain is the effect of these small periods spent in the sickroom. Since Jeanne-Antoinette and Louis' relationship ceased to be physical rather early on she relied on her talent for dispelling the king's natural melancholy. However, if she was ordered to remain in bed she obviously could not do so - but someone else might. The stress and fear that she might lose her position seems to have done its share to damage her health even further. 

Billedresultat for docteur de quesnay
François Quesnay, Madame de Pompadour's
doctor. He was ennobled for his continuous
services to the king's dear friend

Although the king did have other mistresses during his liaison with La Pompadour, it was still her company he sought. The king became so dependent on her that his need for her would occasionally outweigh his consideration for her health. The Marquis d'Argenson - who did not believe Madame de Pompadour was always really sick - tells of a time when the court was at Choisy and the maitresse-en-tître did not join the company due to illness. When the king asked if her absence was due to fever he was answered in the negative and immediately ordered her to come down - she did.

More than one of her contemporaries - both friends and foes - argued that she had sacrificed her health for her station. While her natural talents for amusing the king were plain for all to see, they took their toll on her bodily well-being. The thing was that Louis XV suffered from a rather melancholy temper which sometimes descended into downright depression. It was a full-time job keeping him distracted and thus in a better mood. Full-time and exhausting. To name a few, Madame de Pompadour had to stay up very late with theatricals, dinners or coach-rides and be up again early to resume a full day of often physically draining exercises. The lack of rest did little to alleviate her complaints.

In her final years, her ill-health had done away with most of her formerly famous beauty. Only her eyes was still widely held to be very beautiful. Her position was still intact though which was largely due to the dependency the king had on her. So, she might have fatally weakened her health - but she retained her position to the end.

No autopsy was performed on her body following her death in 1764 which might otherwise have given an insight into why she suffered so continuously. 

"Caca du Dauphin"

The 1770's and 1780's saw the emergence of ever more shades of colours and each had to have a fetching name. One of the more bizarre colours was "caca dauphin" - to put it politely, the shade took its inspiration from the colour of the newly born dauphin's soiled diapers. Believe it or not it did become quite the rage for a while.

The magazine on fashion, Toilette des Dames, attested to the colour's popularity despite its vulgar name: "the colour adorned all the ornaments and this word - that I recall today with repugnance - was on the lips of all the fashionable ladies."

Some attribute the original spreading of the colour as a fashion statement to the Marquise de Senteur who had allegedly been present at the changing of the little prince's linen when she spotted the "distinct" tone. Apparently, in an effort to spark a trend, she appeared in a satin gown of the same  yellowish-brown shade! Others claim that the term was coined by Rose Bertin, the haute couture provider to many a fashionable lady.
For a while the shade became the colour to dress new-born boys in - one can only wonder how long that lasted.

A floral print on top of
"caca du Dauphin"

It was not just ladies and infants who became attracted to the rather grotesque colour; gentlemen joined in as well. The 1874 "Musée Historique du Costume" refers to a man's silk suit in the colour of "caca dauphin" from the age of Louis XVI. According to the book by Gustave Desnoiresterres on Louis-Sébastien Mercier, the dramatist, Mercier, ordered a silk suit of the same hue from his tailor although he appears to have had some reservations as to whether he actually liked it. But, as he said,: "I do not want to depart from the slightest nuance of the prevailing fashions in either Paris or Versailles...". Apparently, he planned to wear it at the opera and expected a good reaction from his fellow on-lookers.

When a baroness was introduced at court she had ordered a new gown for the vital occasion; the soon-to-be courtier had ordered silk from Lyon in the caca-shade which was combined with a moss green. Some went even further and ordered new curtains in celebration of the newborn.

Once the revolution began such colours - and all others referring to the ancien regime - were very much out of fashion. Instead, those elderly ladies who still dared to show up in their dresses of that shade found themselves likened to "dead leaves".

Friday, 14 September 2018

A Match For Madame Seconde

Madame Henriette - also known as Madame Seconde - had partaken in her twin sister's wedding celebrations in 1739 and for a while it was expected that Henriette would follow her sister down the aisle. However, the match envisioned for Henriette was one of the heart rather than a political match. 

Madame Henriette and Louis-Philippe I, Duc de Chartres had developed warm feelings for one another. By November 1739 the Marquis d'Argenson noted in his journal that a "determined effort was made to marry le Duc de Chartres to Madame Henriette." According to d'Argenson, Louis XV - Henriette's father - was initially inclined to let the match take place. 

It was noted that the following spring the young Louis-Philippe was invited to accompany the king for his beloved hunts. During one of these outings the would-be bridegroom approached the king and brought up the matter. According to Imbert de Saint-Armand the Duc de Chartres had a good reason to hope for a positive outcome; in the author's words the Duc d'Orléans (the father of Chartres) had already been given an affirmative. 
Nevertheless, the king clapped Louis-Philippe's hand and declined. Why the apparently sudden change?

Madame Anne-Henriette de France, The Fire, by Jean-Marc Nattier, detail, 1751, oil on canvas - Museu de Arte de São Paulo - DSC07181.jpg

One theory is that the king feared the rising power of the Orléans-family. By 1739 the king had only one son and child mortality was still a risk. Louis XV himself barely survived the epidemic that killed off his father, mother and older brother. Should his heir die without issue the crown would go to the House of Orléans. By linking his daughter to the heir to that house it would only strengthen their claim to the throne.
There was also the matter of the Spanish Bourbon branch to be considered. France had already dealt their southern neighbours a harsh blow when the Infanta Mariana Victoria was sent back to Spain and Louis XV married Marie Leszczynska instead. Should the dauphin die without a male heir two families would be the most likely to succeed to the French throne: the Spanish Bourbons and the Orléans. If Louis XV agreed to marry off his own daughter to a young man who might become king of France it would seem that he was throwing his support behind the Orléans-family. Considering the snub already endured that would surely have soured relations further.

More than one courtier pointed the finger at the Cardinal de Fleury. Louis XV had almost infinite trust in his close advisor and a great majority at court believed that it was the Cardinal who had managed to convince the king of the evils of the match.

The couple was devastated but had little to do but resign themselves. Louis Philippe joined his father in the military campaign in Germany while Henriette threw herself into more feminine pursuits - such as music.

Billedresultat for Louis Philippe I, Duke of Orléans
Louis Philippe

In 1743 Cardinal Fleury died which might have raised the hopes of the two separated lovers. However, Louis XV's mind appears to have been made up for no new consideration was given to the match. Instead, the Duc d'Orléans found another suitable bride for his on. Louis-Philippe was married off to Louise Henriette de Bourbon, daughter of the Prince de Conti. In a cruel twist of events, Henriette's status meant that she had to be present at the wedding ceremony. Her bravado was noticed by those around her; allegedly she kept a smile despite everyone knowing how unhappy she was.

As time went on no similar match was made for Henriette. The king had considered several candidates for his daughter including the Duke of Savoy and even the Habsburg Emperor. But in the end none of the prospective marriages ever materialized.
When Henriette fell ill in 1752 it was believed by the more romantic at court that her constitution had been severely weakened by a broken heart. Whatever the cause, her health was certainly not good. Henriette died that year at the age of just 24 years.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

The Princesse de Condé's Mental State

Claire-Clémence de Maillé-Brézé's lot in life had not been a fortunate one. Although she was born privileged she was married at the tender age of 13 to Louis II de Bourbon-Condé who despised her. He would continually bully and abuse her over the course of their marriage; he even went so far as to accuse of her having had several affairs which - in that day and age - justified his locking her away.

Nevertheless, she remained loyal to her husband but never came to return her civility. As the years droned on it became clear that all was not right with the Princesse de Condé's mental health. 

By 1664 there is some evidence to suggest that her mental health was failing. A letter from her husband - who was away from the family estate - demanded that his secretary keep him informed of any new "transports"..
It was noted that she was never at court except for when her rank absolutely demanded it. Furthermore, both her husband and her son "seemed embarrassed" if asked about how she was.

One account states that Claire-Clémence suffered from violent hallucinations. One of these was that she was made of glass which caused her to shriek with fright when approached - apparently, she feared that she would break. 
These appeared to have worsened once she was all but imprisoned by her husband. It is not unlikely that the years of marital disappointments had taken its toll and once she was installed in her fortress her conditioned worsened. She would begin to hallucinate that her husband was a monster who sought to bury her alive or kill her. Theoretically speaking he had already buried her alive in a social sense since he barred her from not only court but general company or a free life. It was noted that she was so rarely from her fortress that society began to "forget her".

Billedresultat for claire clemence de maillé-brézé

Her fear of her husband became so great at times that she was convinced he was trying to poison her. She would often refuse to eat if the dish had been sent back to the kitchens since she feared that something could have been done to it.

There is another aspect that should be considered. The dislike of her husband was evident and following a close relationship with a valet it is possible that he saw the opportunity to get rid of her. Her son did nothing to aid her which could explain why the both of them seemed "embarrassed" when asked about her. Then again, it is equally likely that she was insane. Insanity was often considered to be shameful to a family in those days so it is possible that the immensely proud Grand Condé was ashamed.

Interestingly enough, her mental issues seems to have been hereditary - this definitely supports the theory that she did indeed have mental issues. Several of her children and grandchildren - most notably her son, Henri Jules, were plagued by similar mental issues. If we take a look at her own parents her mother was for quite a while considered to be "eccentric" which eventually became madness.