Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Auguste Marie Johanna of Baden-Baden, Duchesse d'Orléans

Born on 10 November 1704 to the Margrave of Baden-Baden and Sybille of Saxe-Lauenburg, Auguste was the only surviving daughter. Just three years after her birth Auguste lost her father and her mother became regent of Baden-Baden.
Generally, Auguste's childhood was a good one. Her mother had a great love of the arts and cultivated them at her court. Thus, Auguste grew up in an environment filled with not only beautiful exteriors but poetry, literature and music.

As the only daughter, it was necessary to find a suitable match for her. Eventually, two candidates emerged as the best possible choices: Alexander Ferdinand of Thurn und Taxis and Louis d'Orléans, Duc d'Orléans. The former would have kept her daughter in the German sphere and would have established her as a wealthy woman. The latter was also wealthy but came with the further advantage of making peace with France. Auguste's father had been opposed to Louis XIV which had resulted in the invasion of a French army. By marrying off her daughter into a house of France the two could establish a more lasting peace.
Meanwhile, in France, the prospective mother-in-law, Françoise Marie de Bourbon, was curious about this princess of Baden-Baden. According to the Duc de Richelieu, she sent a trusted servant to spy on her and report back. Apparently, he sent a good report and Françoise agreed to the match.
Auguste, however, was more inclined toward Alexander Ferdinand. The Duc de Bourbon would also have been pleased had she remained on German soil. This was not due to an aversion towards Auguste but rather that the Duc de Bourbon was not a friend to the Duc d'Orléans and sought to irritate his mother as much as possible.

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Auguste


In the end, her mother decided on the opposite candidate and Auguste was married off to Louis d'Orléans on 23 July 1724. Her dowry was not grand but the house of Orléans was already very wealthy and made no fuss. After all, it was not wealth that had decided in her favour but her appearance, behaviour - and Catholicism. 

Once she arrived at Versailles, Auguste found herself one of the leading ladies at court. There was no queen and no dauphine - consequently, she and her mother-in-law (Françoise Marie de Bourbon) were the highest-ranking ladies. Despite having originally been opposed to the match Auguste did not enter her marriage with an aversion towards either her husband or her new country. As it happened it would seem that the match was very lucky in that they were considered to be very well matched. Her charm quickly won her the popularity of her fellow courtiers and her wit and piety was praised by her contemporaries.

When Louis XV married Marie Leszczynska she had to step one step down in the hierarchy but this does not appear to have caused Auguste any vexation. Instead, she spent her time either at Versailles or at the Château de Saint-Cloud. Not long after having signed the marriage contract Auguste became pregnant. For her first accouchement she remained at Versailles where she gave birth to a son and heir expected of her in May 1725.


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Auguste with her son

Auguste had already done her duty and provided her husband with a son but quickly became pregnant again. Once more she had planned on remaining at Versailles but her mother-in-law had other ideas. Françoise Marie insisted that her daughter-in-law travel to Paris for her lying-in. Obediently, Auguste entered her carriage - while heavily pregnant. As it happened labour began during the journey which meant that she had to make a pitstop at Sèvres on 4 August. Nevertheless, she continued on to the Palais-Royal where she was delivered of a daughter.

It did not take long to realize that something was wrong. Auguste became violently ill following the birth and continued to deteriorate. It is possible that she suffered from puerperal fever - meaning that a part of the placenta had not come out. Whatever the cause the result was fatal; Auguste died on 8 August 1726 - at just 22 years old.

Her husband was distraught and refused to remarry; he entered into a long period of mourning. He was not the only one who mourned her loss; it was that her death was "the universal regret of France".


Monday, 25 June 2018

The Chemise

The chemise was the basic underwear worn by women for centuries; it was basically a white knee-length dress. It is also known as a shift or a smock. Interestingly, the undershirt worn by men was fundamentally the same garment just cut significantly shorter. Unlike the outer layers this was a rather democratic piece of clothing since they were always made from linen; of course, the quality varied but the basics were the same. Holland linen was preferred by ladies of quality but it could also be made from cotton.

Marie Antoinette used her chemises for bathing, too, although this was done primarily to avoid the stares of her entourage. 


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French linen chemise

In the world of Versailles the chemise could take on ceremonial meaning. It was considered a great honour to hand the queen her chemise at her morning levée and at the official presentation of young ladies at court, the new-comer's skin was compared with her chemise to establish if it was white enough.

The low-cut bodices of the 18th century gowns meant that the chemise would often peak up over the edge. A similar garment was used to sleep in but would be referred to as a "night-chemise". Occasionally a chemise would be embroidered but the day-time chemises were normally kept somewhat plain. Likewise, lace could be added to enhance the fineness of the garment. 
Unlike many of the more elaborate pieces of clothing, the chemise was often washed which must have been a relief. 

c. 1730: “Portrait of Madame de Chateaurenard” by Joseph Andre Cellony, oil on canvas.
Madame de Châteaurenard's chemise is fairly
visible here

Sunday, 24 June 2018

The "Horrible" Duc de Ventadour

The court of Versailles was obsessed with beauty and appearances; consequently, it could be very unforgiving towards those who had not been blessed by nature. One of these was Louis-Charles de Lévis, Duc de Ventadour.

According to the Duc de Saint-Simon Louis-Charles was not only ugly and deformed by debauched; the critical Saint-Simon claimed he had lived "the darkest life". Rather unflatteringly, the Duc de Ventadour was likened to a gnome on more than occasion. He is said to have been both hunchbacked and lame as well as suffering from stuttering. 

In contrast to his ugliness, his wife, Charlotte de La Motte Houdancourt, was considered to be very beautiful. One particular incident is related by Madame de Sévigné. The court was sojourning at Saint-Germain where the newly wedded Madame de Ventadour entered the queen's presence. As a duchesse she had the right to a tabouret but there were none available. It cause quite a disturbance until Madame de Sévigné turned to the Grand Master and exclaimed: "Oh, just give it to her. It has cost her enough."
No one argued or even raised an eyebrow which goes a long way to demonstrate the unattractiveness of the Duc de Ventadour. However, there were those who considered matters in a far more mercenary manner. The Comte de Bussy-Rabutin speculated in a letter prior to their marriage that even if the young Charlotte was so much handsomer than her prospective husband then he was still a far better match than many others. 

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Louis-Charles de Lévis

It would seem that nature had failed the Duc de Ventadour in more than one sense. His ungainly appearance may have been somewhat tolerated if he had at least behaved like a gentleman. Alas, he did not. His behaviour - especially to his wife - was noted to be coarse at best. At one instance he had invited his wife and a circle of gentlemen and ladies to his estate of La Motte when he was rejected. Apparently, this set him off so much that Louis XIV thought it necessary to have the poor Duchesse de Ventadour protected by guards.
It was hardly a surprise that the marriage turned sour and few people were astonished to find that the couple eventually separated. 

Despite his flaws in manners and appearance, his mind seems to have been solid. Even Saint-Simon acknowledges that he possessed great wit. At least on this front he was not lacking but it did nothing to alleviate the impression he left on those around him. He was certainly aware that his appearance left something to be desired. But as he put it to Louis XIV: "If I am ugly, Sire, is it my fault?"

Friday, 22 June 2018

Olympe Mancini vs. Louise de La Vallière

The dispute between Olympe Mancini, Comtesse de Soissons and Louise de La Vallière could be traced back to a plot on the former's behalf that happened to backfire. Olympe herself had been a mistress to Louis XIV but - to her great chagrin - had never managed to take the title of maîtresse-en-titre. Olympe had then allied herself with Henrietta of England, wife of Philippe, Duc d'Orléans. Rumour had to that the king and his sister-in-law were throwing glances at each other which deeply disturbed Anne of Austria. In a ploy to distract the queen mother from this relationship (which was likely not physical at all) Henrietta and Olympe placed three young women in the king's path: including La Vallière.

The plan was that one of these ladies would serve as a smoke-screen while Henrietta and Louis could continue their friendship. But something went wrong and Louis fell in love with the decoy. Olympe was furious; Louise had taken the very place that she had hoped to finally claim as her own. From the moment when Louise became the king's mistress she had made an enemy for life. 

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Louise de La Vallière

For Olympe it was a massive blow. She had always had a mind for intrigue and had quickly secured the prestigious post of superintendent of the queen's household for herself. This had given her considerable access to the king and it is not to be said what their relationship could have become if La Vallière had not "interrupted" them. 
Olympe set about finding new allies and did not have to search for long. The Comte de Guiche - a notorious womanizer (and "manizer") - had previously attempted to add Louise de La Vallière to his list of conquests but she had refused him. His ego was wounded and for this he sought revenge. Another was the Marquis de Vardes who - like Olympe - had a natural taste for intrigues.

The plan was to destroy the atmosphere of secrecy which had hitherto shielded the royal romance. The thing was that while the whole court knew about the king's first official mistress there was one very central person who did not: his queen. Marie Thérèse had lived a very sheltered life since she arrived at the court of France and was not included in her court's more private sphere. While she was not unaware of her husband's wandering eye per se she did not know that they had fixed themselves quite so steadfastly on another woman. 

Olympe and her clique hoped that by informed the queen of her husband's mistress it would create such discord that the affair would simply die out. The means of delivering such news was via an anonymous letter. H. Joel Williams claims that Olympe had gone so far as to steal a letter from the queen's mother in order to copy her handwriting. This would ensure that the letter reached the right recipient. Naturally, it was written in Spanish since the new queen of France did not master the French language. 
However, it failed. Rather than reaching the queen it ended up in the hands of one of her companions. Donna Molina had accompanied her mistress to France and was very close to the queen. She was also aware that the queen's father had been ill for some time and opened the letter to prepare her mistress for any ill tidings. When she read it she immediately sent it to the last person the conspirators could have wished to see it: the king. 


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Olympe Mancini

The plan had been a failure but Olympe was not one to be deterred. Instead, she came up with a new plan. If a new, beautiful woman could replace herself in the king's affection then surely another woman could do the same to La Valliére?

An ideal opportunity presented itself. Louise de La Vallière would be spending the summer at Chantilly whereas Louis XIV received the exiled-Queen of England at Saint-Germain and spent the time with Henrietta. It was a perfect chance since Louis was quickly looking for something to entertain himself with. 

Mademoiselle de La Motte-Houdancourt was a fille d'honneur to the queen and managed to catch the king's eye. What the king did not know was that the young mademoiselle was being used as a tool by Olympe Mancini. Olympe instructed the young woman to refrain from giving in to the king immediately and it worked. It should be said that Mademoiselle de La Motte-Houdancourt was not an innocent pawn; she had plenty of ambition and had dismissed a suitor in the shape of a Comte when the king came knocking. This plan seemed to work a great deal better than the previous one had. Mademoiselle de La Motte-Houdancourt was all but ready to give in when she delivered her one and only condition - as demanded by the Comtesse de Soissons: that Louise de La Vallière was to retire. 

At first the king was somewhat hesitant but Olympe Mancini realized that the strategy of denying the king his wishes had worked quite well so far. This prompted her to convince her protégée to hold on just a bit longer. It almost worked - almost.

Just when it seemed that the king was about to cave in and dismiss his mistress it all came crashing down. It would seem that neither the Comtesse de Soissons nor the Comte de Guiche or the Marquis de Vardes had taken the queen mother into account. Anne of Austria kept a close eye on her son and was not pleased with what was going on. She distrusted the young Mademoiselle de La Motte-Houdancourt and recognized her stark ambition; in contrast Louise de La Vallière was at least not greedy.

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The Comte de Guiche

Anne of Austria had her servants keep taps on the Comtesse de Soissons and her entourage and it paid off. A letter was apparently intercepted in which it became quite clear that the real architect behind the whole affair was Olympe. According to some sources the letters from Mademoiselle de La Motte-Houdancourt were not even written by her; they had been copied by a friend of Olympe's. The king was furious. He had been publicly led by the "nose" and immediately abandoned the would-be mistress, La Motte-Houdancourt.

Somehow, Olympe Mancini escaped the royal wrath in this round but she had lost all chance of ever getting the king back. As if that was not bad enough, just three years later the king found out that she as well as Vardes and Guiche had been behind the letter to the queen. As can well be imagined the king's perception of Olympe was not good. It was about to turn a great deal more dire for the Comtesse de Soissons.

By 1679 she faced a new challenge. The Chambre Ardente - the court set up to tackle the epidemic of poisoning at court - charged her with attempting to poison Louise de La Vallière. The result was an exile to Spain.

In the neither can really be said to have won. Louise de La Vallière had never had any personal grudge against Olympe but nevertheless found herself the target of a potentially lethal rivalry. While Olympe's attempts at dethroning La Vallière were unsuccessful, La Vallière's fate was not particularly good either. She would continue to struggle with her religious beliefs and how her behavior went directly against it. Further, she was soon to be replaced by Madame de Montespan whom she would be obliged to wait upon. 

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Quotes: Reign of Louis XVI

Since correct quotations are always somewhat obscure feel free to comment if you have heard that a certain quote has been attributed to someone else.

"It really pains me to see that Monsieur d'Orléans, my kinsman, has voted for my death"
MLouis XVI


"Courage! I have shown it for years; think you I shall lose it when my sufferings are to end?"
Marie Antoinette



"He will probably never have the strength nor the will to rule by himself"
Comte de Mercy-Argenteau (on Louis XVI) 


"How disagreeable! How tiresome!"
Marie Antoinette (on the levée ceremony)



"Maurepas does nothing, Turgot doubts nothing and I doubt everything"
Lamoignon de Malesherbes (on the ministers)


"I die innocent of all the crimes laid to my charge; I pardon those who have occasioned my death; and I pray to god that the blood you are about the shed may never be visited upon France"
Louis XVI's last words 

Friday, 15 June 2018

The Riding Accident of the Duc de Berry

Charles de Bourbon was the youngest son of the Grand Dauphin; like the majority of men in his family he enjoyed a good hunt. It was quite normal for foreign dignitaries and visitors to accompany the royal family on their daily excursions. In 1714 the Elector of Bavaria came to visit Versailles and the Duc de Berry went hunting as usual. 

However, during the hunt an accident occurred. Charles' horse slipped from underneath him and he immediately attempted to pull it back to its feet. Unfortunately, during this attempt Charles allegedly his body was slammed against the pommel. The effect was not long in coming. Soon after the Duc began spitting up blood and was immediately brought back to Versailles. On 30 April fever set in and he was overtaken by shivers. His grand-father, Louis XIV, paid him a visit and witnessed the doctors bleed him. Their opinion was that the blood was "bad"; at any rate it was darker than usual. Some attributed this to a portion of hot chocolate served earlier. 

What they did not know yet was that the impact had resulted in internal bleeding. According to the Saint-Simon they were quite far from the actual cause. One of the apothecaries, Boulduc, declared that he suffered from the same illness that had struck down the Duc and Duchesse de Bourgogne. However, the couple had died of a type of measles - quite different to what was then plaguing the Duc de Berry. It did have one direct consequence: the doctors were sceptic about his recovery from the start. One even went so far as to proclaim that he would not survive on the very first day.

While the doctors were sceptic, the Duc de Berry appeared to have retained some good humour at the end of this first day of illness. He remarked that his only wish was that he had been injured in the army rather than on a hunt. Several sources - including the Marquis de Dangeau - noted how patient and calm the Duc de Berry was during his misfortune. 

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Charles de Bourbon

The last night of April was not a pleasant one for Charles. His fever continued to rage and the doctors decided to bleed him again at 7 o'clock the following morning. Sadly for Charles, this second day was full of the "cures" the doctors of the day happily prescribed. Besides bleeding, he was given emetics twice as well as manna. It is hardly a wonder that the following night was not much better. 

On the second day of May the bleeding began again. The doctors reopened the wound on the foot and later opened another one on his arm. Meanwhile Charles continued to vomit up dark blood. The plan had been to administer the communion but since the vomiting seemed unending it was put off. According the Saint-Simon he was given something called Robel water but with little effect. While the Duc was suffering in his sick-room a rather amusing scene played out outside his doors.
His wife, Marie Louise Élisabeth d'Orléans, had arrived and asked permission from the king to go see her husband. The king found this rather irritating especially because the patient - not exactly fond of his spouse - had never asked for her. In the end, Louis XIV asked the Duc and Duchesse d'Orléans to prevent her from going.

For a brief while toward the end of the day the Duc's condition was briefly improved. However, once night fell it plummeted and vomiting continued worse than before. When the morning came the doctors conferred and reached the agreement that a vein in his stomach had burst. His condition was very unstable. One minute he was positively choking on his own blood and the next he was somewhat recovered and could utter his opinion that he would be well again. Sadly, this illusion only lasted a short while before he was taken so violently ill that his confessor urged him to think of nothing but god. 

On 3 May the confessor sent for the sacrament which had conveniently been prepared immediately following the accident. It was brought to the patient who received it in the presence of the king. There was no more talk of recovering.

The following day Charles had a brief conversation with his confessor; the latter could inform the anxious court that "his mind was beginning to wander". It would be the last conversation the Duc de Berry ever had. As the day progressed he lost the ability to speak entirely; he died at four o'clock in the morning of the 4 May 1714.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

A Fine Family of Twenty: The Prodigious Off-Spring of the Duc de Noailles

In an age with sky-high child mortality it was not uncommon for families to count large number of children - many of whom would never reach adulthood. The mortality rate often had the result that even though many children were born the survivors would be relatively few. However, there were some families who seemed to be rather more shielded from the curse of child mortality than others. A perfect example is Anne-Jules de Noailles and Marie-Françoise de Bournonville, Duc and Duchesse de Noailles.

The couple had no less than 18 children! Of these just five died in childhood which left the ducal couple with thirteen living heirs - quite impressive, indeed.

These are the children who filled up the nursery of the Noailles-couple:

Marie Christine de Noailles
She became the Duchesse de Gramont and became known as an immensely charitable woman. She had a genuine concern for the unprivileged Third Estate and became the benefactress of the Hospital of Vichy. 

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Marie Christine

Louis Marie de Noailles - died at age 5

Louis Paul de Noailles, Comte d'Ayen - died at age 8

Marie Charlotte de Noailles
She became the Marquise de Coëtquen upon her marriage to Malo-Auguste de Coëtquen

Adrien Maurice de Noailles
The first son who survived childhood, he became the third Duc de Noailles. He followed his father's footsteps and went on to have quite an illustrious military career; including no less than seven campaigns during the War of the Spanish Succession. However, he came very close to bankruptcy which was only barely avoided.

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Adrien Maurice

Anne Louise de Noailles - died at age 5

Jean Anne de Noailles - died at age 4

Julie Françoise de Noailles - died at age 16

Lucie Félicité de Noailles
She became the Duchesse d'Estrées and a friend to Madame de Montespan whom she accompanied on one of the former's trips to a spa. 

Marie Thérèse de Noailles 
She became the Duchesse de La Vallière and was made lady of honour to Marie Adélaïde of Savoy while Duchesse de Bourgogne. She lived to the impressive age of 99 - dying just a few months before her 100th birthday.

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Marie Thérèse

Emmanuel Jules de Noailles, Comte de Noailles
Despite being just nine years old he was made Lieutenant-General of Guyenne on order of Louis XIV. He, too, became a soldier but was killed following a battle at Strasbourg on 20 October 1702 where he had received a severe wound to his head. He died at just 16.

Marie-Françoise de Noailles
She became the Marquise de Lavardin but lost her husband when he was killed in the Battle of Spire. 

Marie Victoire de Noailles
She was first married to the Marquis de Gondrin, the legitimate son of Madame de Montespan and her husband. When he died in 1712 she remarried to the Comte de Toulouse - the illegitimate son of Madame de Montespan with the king. Interestingly, this second marriage was done in secret. She was a dame du palais to Marie Adélaïde of Savoy and described by Saint-Simon as very beautiful.
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Marie Victoire

Marie Émilie de Noailles
She became the Marquise de Châteauregnaud but died before she had any children.

Jules Adrien de Noailles, Comte de Noailles
He was made a Knight of Malta as well as maître de camp of a cavalry regiment; added to these honours were the title of Lieutenant-General. He died of smallpox at the age of 20.

Marie-Uranie de Noailles
She did not follow the example of her sisters but became a nun at the convent of the Visitation de Sainte-Marie.

Jean Emmanuel de Noailles, Marquis de Noailles
He inherited the title of Lieutenant-General of Guyenne when his brother died. He also held the position of Maître de camp of cavalry and brigadier. H died at 34 - same age as Marie Émilie.

Anne Louise de Noailles
She became the Marquise de Louvois when she married the grand-son of the famed minister, Louvois. However, she would outlive her husband by no less than 62 years!


These children were born in the span of 23 years. Between the birth of their first child in 1672 and that of their last child in 1695, there were only six years when the poor Duchesse de Noailles did not give birth: 1673, 1674, 1680, 1685, 1692 and 1694. It should also be noted that this list only concerns the children that were carried to term; whether she had any miscarriages is not known for certain but it is like considering the times. It is quite astonishing that the Duchesse did not fall prey to the dreaded puerperal fever.

Monday, 11 June 2018

The Princess Palatine's Antipathy Towards Doctors

Once Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate arrived in France she was confronted with a way of life quiet different than that she had left behind. The new Duchesse d'Orléans had grown up in the lush hills surrounding Heidelberg and had enjoyed a solid health which the French courtiers attributed to her German heritage (the Germans being considered of a generally robust health). 

The Princess Palatine would soon encounter the standard bouts of illness that were common at the age - both herself and her family were no more immune than anyone else. However, not long after her arrival Elizabeth Charlotte's initial distrust of French doctors grew into a down-right antipathy. She made no attempt at hiding that she was convinced that the court doctors often had no idea what they were doing - which was technically correct in the majority of the cases. Likewise, she was convinced that their methods of "treating" their patients more often than not had the adverse effect. 

For one instance when the Duchesse de Bourgogne - then Dauphine - fell ill the doctors initially declared that the Dauphine would recover. Madame agreed but then the doctors allowed the Dauphine to get out of bed while still ravaged by measles; once that resulted in a set-back they bled her foot. Madame was convinced that this is what caused the Dauphine's ultimate demise.


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Elizabeth Charlotte

While Madame was assured that the doctors knew little she was not untainted by her time's perceptions of medical treatments. Elizabeth Charlotte was convinced that the Duchesse de Berri - who died at just 23 years old - had caused her own death by "eating melons and figs and drinking milk in secret". In reality, the Duchesse de Berri's health had been severely weakened from a disastrous childbirth and she was finally carried off by a violent cold. 

Her attitude towards doctors was perfectly described in a letter :
"... I trouble myself very little with the impatience of doctors. As I have positively said to them before, they need not demand any blind obedience from me; they may speak their minds but need not be vexed if I do not always follow their advice. My health, my life is my own and I will govern it as I see fit. The doctors must talk about their art to make themselves appear necessary but I do not find them more learned than nature left to itself... the doctors can hardly cure illness, how can they prevent it?"

One particular point that Elizabeth Charlotte detested was the art of bleeding. Bleeding in itself was a fundamental part of the medical practice of the time but it hardly ever did much good. Madame herself was assured that she would have to be truly ill indeed to allow herself to be bled. 
Fresh air was among the best cures for many minor ails; this was a cornerstone of the Princess Palatine's beliefs. She attributed her own perfect childhood health to this very aspect of the German countryside and quickly pointed out the ill effects that the French overuse of perfume had. The Duchesse de Berri was not unlike many of her contemporaries when it came to filling her apartments with strong perfumes. According to Madame this practice caused the Duchesse to suffer fits of fever and depression.

Madame's attitude towards her medical staff did not improve over the years. The only thing that did was her willingness to put up a direct fight. Towards the very end of her life she confided in a friend that she did as the doctor bid but only in order to be left alone - her recovery or demise would be up to god. Clearly, her many years in France did not reconcile her to her adopted country's doctors.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

The Poor Hygiene of the Comtesse de Provence

When Marie Antoinette arrived at Versailles the court was pleasantly surprised by her lovely appearance; a few years later another foreign bride was set to arrive and hopes were that she, too, would be pretty on the eyes. However, once Marie Josephine of Savoy arrived the court was sorely disappointed. 

Unlike the perfectly white and rose skin tone of the Dauphine, the new Comtesse de Provence's hue was sallow. Louis XV was particularly appalled by her nose which was quite large; the king went so far as to label it a "villainous nose". Her eyebrows were large and bushy (they were giving the less than flattering comparison to "capillary hedges") and her face was described as "swarthy". She did have one redeeming quality according to Madame de Campan: her eyes but the otherwise kind-hearted companion to the Queen added that it was "the only praise that could reasonable be bestowed on her".
What was even more mortifying was that the new-comer had a little mustache which provoked quite a deal of snickering. Some remarked that it would be more welcome in a guardroom. 

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Marie Josephine

Her figure was not quite as elegant and slender as her Austrian-born sister-in-law. It was rather more robust but without being fat. Whereas Marie Antoinette indulged in frequent bathing Marie Josephine  was found to have a profound dislike of the activity. This was - unfortunately - coupled with an utter lack of interest in perfume and the resulting body odour can well be imagined. Her husband were not particularly interested in sharing her bed and this considered to be the reason.

However, there was a very practical reason for her initial lack of hygiene. Upon her arrival at Versailles her apartment was still under construction - including her bathroom. Thus, it was not possible for her to wash properly until the work was completed. This accounts for the initial uncleanliness but cannot explain away her later antipathy towards a bath.

It was not the first time an unattractive princess (or prince for that matter) had graced the halls of Versailles. Beauty could not be expected but the court definitely expected the new Madame to at least take care of the little beauty she had. Alas, it quickly turned out that the Comtesse had basically no sense of personal hygiene. Apparently, hints and admonitions were not quite enough. It eventually got so bad that the Savoyard ambassador was requested to write to the new bride's father. In the following correspondence the ambassador entreated his master to have a - written - word with his daughter - especially concerning her hair and teeth. As the poor ambassador observed: "Such things that are regarded elsewhere as minutiae are essential in this country".


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Her very upbringing could be a clue as to her inattentiveness to personal hygiene. As the ambassador rightly points out things were not quite as meticulous everywhere. The court of Savoy was known for having a rather laissez-faire attitude towards just such things. If Marie Josephine had never been accustomed to - or encouraged to - bathing it is hardly a surprise that she would not be a regular bather. 

One thing of these "minutiae" things were rouge. At the court of Savoy rouge was not considered to be in fashion; however, at Versailles it was still very much the hallmark of the aristocracy. It should be said that the Comtesse immediately applied the very circular red patches to her cheeks in an effort to blend in better. 
Sadly for her immediate entourage Marie Josephine never quite embraced the sense of hygiene so desired by the court she now inhabited.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Louise Marie Thérèse Bathilde d'Orléans & Louis Henri de Condé

Rather unconventionally, Louise Marie was the elder in the relationship. When the couple was wedded on 20 April 1770 she was twenty years old while Louis was just fourteen. Due to the bridegroom's young age he was not expected to consummate the marriage just yet. This meant that Louise Marie was sent back to the convent where she had been living for years. However, in a rather gallant move, the young Duc d'Enghien fetched his bride away from the cloister and took her back to his estate.

Such a romantic gesture might have foretold of a happy union but that was not to be. After just six months the young Louis was tired of his new wife. Nevertheless, the couple managed to conceive a child: a son, Louis Antoine Henri, who was to be their only child.


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Louise Marie


As Louis grew so did his interest for women - that is any other woman than his wife. He took mistresses from both court and Paris and did little to hide his escapades. One of Louis' primary mistresses was an opera singer by the name of Marguerite Michelot. He would have two daughters by her. Louise Marie was immediately blamed for her husband's unfaithfulness. As was custom for the time it was often thought that a husband's wandering eye was due to the wife's inattention or rejections. 

Louise Marie refrained from having any affairs of herself while married but she was not unaware of her husband's. She caused quite a scandal when she set up a play at court. This was not only a harmless pastime but a frequent one; smaller plays were often played in the private apartments of Versailles. What was unusual, however, was that Louise Marie's play strongly hinted and disapproved of her husband's adultery.
Apparently, this little jab at Louis was enough and he filed for a legal divorce in 1780. 

For Louise Marie this meant that her life would suddenly change. Separated women were not allowed at court; their male counterparts were still welcome. Thus, Louise Marie was forced to live away from court. To her relief it was not to be an existence of squalor. She retired to the Château de Chantilly where she spent her time quite contentedly. It was not until the couple had separated that Louise Marie decided to have an affair of her own with the Chevalier de Roquefeuil. There has been speculated that she had a daughter by him and passed her off as a daughter of a secretary. 

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Louis
The couple would never have a rapprochement. During the revolution Louis fled to England while Louise Marie remained in France. Once the monarchy had been restored in 1815 the families of the two long-separated spouses wished them to rebuilt their marriage. Louise Marie refused and Louis did not protest. By then they had not been living together as husband and wife for thirty-five years. 
Louis continued with a new mistress - an English prostitute named Sophia -  and Louise Marie took a new lover in the shape of a young gendarme.

Louise Marie died in 1822 and Louis followed her eight years later.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Henri III de Bourbon-Condé, Prince de Condé

Henri Jules de Bourbon-Condé was born in Paris on the 29 July 1643 to one of the most renowned generals France had ever produced: the Grand Condé. From the beginning of his life, Henri was at the very top of French society. His father's military prowess aside he was the nephew of Cardinal Richelieu through his mother, Claire-Clémence de Maillé-Brézé. Not only that but Henri was destined to inherit one of the largest fortune in France. 

So, the future looked bright for the new-born boy. With the ever-constant fear of the sky-high child mortality he was baptized immediately and granted the title of Duc d'Albret. Just three years later he rose again in the court hierarchy; his grand-father died which meant that Henri would become the Duc d'Enghien instead. Curiously, his position as son of Monsieur le Prince meant that he himself would possess two of the rare and simple titles throughout his life: first, Monsieur le Duc, second Monsieur le Prince. 

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Henri Jules

While Henri was blessed with money, position and land, it soon became apparent that something equally crucial was sorely lacking: mental health. His temper was completely uncontrollable and he would often fly into fits of rage. It was said that his temper was so extreme that it was "positively dangerous to contradict him". Coupled with his temper he had an unfortunate penchant for brutality which hardly can have endeared him to either soldiers nor servants. 
His physical appearance was equally unfortunate. Henri was considered to be short - even for the age - which could have been accepted but he was also terribly ugly.
It was not all bad, though. His exterior may leave the best of courtiers with little to say but his mind was not without merit. Even the ever-critical Duc de Saint-Simon acknowledged that Henri had a very keen mind whose intelligence spanned from art to mechanics. He appears to have had some political cunning as well. Being endowed with a large fortune made it possible for him to offer loans to members of the Parisian Parlement - favours that could be cashed in later. 

His actions were often drastic and quite unexpected. It would seem he suffered a good deal from restlessness. It would not be uncommon for him to suddenly uproot himself - and his entourage - and move to another of his residences in a moment's notice. This left his servants with the unsettling prospect of being constantly prepared. Consequently, every residence he owned would prepare supper for him in case he fancied a change of scenery.

Despite these unsettling character traits he was nevertheless destined to follow in his father's footsteps. For this particular purpose he was sent to the Rhine. However, it was very clear that the brilliant military mind of the father had not been passed on to the son. The nomination therefore became merely nominal. 

Still, he was expected to do very well on one other front: marriage. It could well be imagined that the bridegroom's character and appearance must have weighed heavily on the minds of potential brides; but in some cases the wealth and position was considered to outweigh such "minor" attributes. At first it was thought that he would marry Élisabeth-Charlotte d'Orléans, daughter of Gaston d'Orléans but she got away.
Anne Henriette of the Palatinate was not so fortunate. The daughter of the Count of the Palatinate Simmern, she was a rather risky choice. At the time of the marriage - late 1663 - the Fronde was not yet a distant memory and the mother of the bride (Anne Gonzaga) had been a notorious supporter of the uprising. Nevertheless, the couple was married at the Louvre.

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As could be expected, Anne Henriette fate as Henri's wife would not be a particularly good one. The courtiers remarked that the new Madame la Duchesse was very pious and good natured. It was also remarked that she was often beaten by her husband. 
The couple managed to have ten children. Henri dallied in extra-marital affairs as well - although it seems unlikely that he should attract many people with his behaviour. One affair with Françoise-Charlotte de Montalais resulted in a daughter by the name of Julie. She was legitimised in 1693.

He did manage to have another mistress: the Marquise de Richelieu. However, he broke with her once he found out that she was also flirting with the Comte de Roucy.

Henri took particular pleasure in gardening. By 1698 he had had a shipment of orange trees transported to the Hôtel de Condé in Paris. His contact in this endeavour was Hans Willem Bentinck with whom he had an extensive correspondence. The following year Henri is already discussing new gardening schemes to be carried out at the Château de Chantilly. This latter residence was a favourite of his and he hosted several large-scale parties here. 

As Henri grew older his fits of violence became more bizarre. Soon, they were overshadowed by a growing mental illness: lycanthropy. This disorder results in violent hallucinations often were the sufferer is convinced that he/she has been transformed into an animal. For more on his illness and the symptoms of it, read this post. It is hardly unnatural that such a strain on his health should have consequences. Henri died on 1 April 1709 in Paris.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Princes & Princesses of the Blood

Ranking immediately behind the royal family these were the most privileged courtiers at Versailles. The eldest were known by a simplified version of the rank: Monsieur le Prince, for example. But since the majority of these specifically honoured persons had more than one child. This would mean that there were a lot more princes and princesses of the blood than what could immediately be deducted from their titles.

So, here they are:

Monsieur le Prince

Henri II de Bourbon-Condé, Prince de Condé



Louis d'Orléans, Duc d'Orléans

Louis Philippe d'Orléans, Duc d'Orléans

Louis Philippe Joseph d'Orléans, Duc d'Orléans


Madame la Princesse

Claire-Clémence de Maillé-Brézé, Princesse de Condé


Françoise-Marie de Bourbon, Duchesse d'Orléans


Louise Henriette de Bourbon, Duchesse d'Orléans

Louise Marie Adélaïde de Bourbon, Duchesse d'Orléans


Monsieur le Duc


Louis I de Bourbon-Condé, Duc d'Enghien

Louis II de Bourbon-Condé, Duc d'Enghien

Louis III de Bourbon-Condé, Duc d'Enghien


Madame la Duchesse 


Marie Anne de Bourbon, Duchesse de Bourbon

Caroline of Hesse-Rotenburg, Duchesse de Bourbon

Charlotte Élisabeth Godefride de Rohan, Princesse de Condé

Louise Marie Thérèse Bathilde d'Orléans, Princesse de Condé


Monsieur le Comte

Louis de Bourbon-Soissons, Comte de Soissons

Joseph-Emmanuel of Savoy-Carignano

Eugène-Maurice of Savoy-Carignano

Louis Thomas of Savoy-Carignano

Thomas Emmanuel of Savoy-Carignano 

Eugène Jean of Savoy-Carignano


Madame la Comtesse


Olympia Mancini

Uranie de La Cropte de Beauvais

Maria Theresia of Liechtenstein 

Other princes and princesses of the blood: