Louise Bénédicte de Bourbon was born as a princesse du sang or princess of the blood - and very proud of it. However, soon after her birth it became apparent that something was not quite right about the young girl's arm. Some sources describes the arm as completely lame while others claim that it was very inflexible and could not extend completely.
When she was forced to marry the Duc du Maine (legitimized son of Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan) the courtiers got a new subject for jokes on the couple's expense. Since the Duchesse had bad arm and the Duc had a stunted leg, they were ironically referred to as the "beautiful couple". Louise Bénédicte herself was often called "the penguin" due to her arm. In her portraits the handicap has been delicately hidden by leaving one arm often by her side while the other is elegantly raised.
|Louise Bénédicte de Bourbon|
Her stature was very short; so short, in fact, that her sister called her the "doll of the blood". Madame estimated that she was not taller than a child of about ten years old. This shortness of stature ran in the family since her sister, Anne Marie de Bourbon, was equally short. According to the Duc de Saint-Simon it was the fact that Louise Bénédicte was about an inch taller than her sisters which finally made the Duc du Maine choose her - despite her not being the eldest.
It has been suggested that her portraits have focused so much on high hair-dos to take attention away from her tiny figure. However, this could simply be her following the fashions of her time.
Elizabeth-Charlotte of the Palatinate had more to say on the looks of the Duchesse du Maine. While Madame allowed that she had an even skin, fine eyes and fair hair she had terribly irregular teeth which were unfortunately shown whenever the Duchesse smiled since her smile was very wide. That her blue eyes were fine there was general agreement on. They had a lively expression and a good shape; their gleam was said to clearly show that she possessed a good degree of natural intelligence or shrewdness. Nevertheless, the Abbé de Chaulieu might have gone a bit overboard when he concocted the following verse in praise of those very organs:
Whoso can win a look from Madame du Maine and knows the power of her eyes, what need has he to seek other gods..?
Likewise, other songs compared her eyes to the stars in the sky.
|It is hardly a coincidence that her companions are|
children and thus shorter than her - the only adult
Unfortunately, the Duchesse does not seem to know how to take advantage of the good features she did have. More than one observer noticed that her beautiful skin was marred by too much rouge.
Unlike many of her counterparts Louise Bénédicte did not have a fondness for food which meant that she would keep her slim figure throughout her life.