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.


  1. Thank you for your blog.
    It’s so well written and I couldn’t stop reading it. I found your blog about two month ago and I think I read it completely. Please never stop!
    Thanks again
    I can’t wait for your next post ⚜️⚜️⚜️

    1. Thank you so much! I must say that I am pretty impressed you have been through it all!

  2. Interesting article; thanks.

    The article mentions "unfortunate pendant for brutality".

    I believe this should say "penchant", not "pendant".

  3. Hi Karl
    Thank you for spotting that! I swear auto spell is out to get me