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.
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.
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.
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.
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.