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. 

Louis II de Bourbon-Condé, Prince de Condé

The boy who would become known as the Grand Condé was born on 8 September 1621 into the elite of French society. Once he became old enough he was sent to Bourges where his education was entrusted to the Jesuits. Here, in the midst of France, he was given the best education possible. He would later enroll in the Royal Academy in Paris.

Louis began his official duties at the age of seventeen when he acted as governor of Burgundy since his father absent. He would also soon have his first experience with love; the young Duc d'Enghien (as he was titled before his father's death) fell in love with Marthe Poussard, Mademoiselle du Vigean. Sadly for Louis, the object of his interest was not quite so grand a match as was expected and his father intervened. Instead, Louis was made to marry Claire-Clémence de Maillé-Brézé who was just thirteen years old at the time. Despite the protests of Louis the couple was married and he joined the army soon afterwards.

While in the army it soon became clear that he had a natural talent for warfare. When the Thirty Years' War broke out, Louis was put in charge of the French troops in northern France. This meant that he would be face-to-face with experienced Spanish generals and one of the finest armies in Europe. However, Louis' military genius shone through on 19 May 1643 when the Battle of Rocroi was fought. With a decisive victory the 21-year old Louis began his string of military successes which saw him making a triumphant entry into Paris.

On the homefront things were less idyllic. The match had not been one of love and would continue to be strained at best. Nevertheless, the couple managed to have three children to carry on the family line. The thought of Mademoiselle du Vigean had never quite left him and once his wife's uncle (Cardinal Richelieu) died he attempted to have his marriage annulled. His request was denied and he was forced to finally give up his sweetheart in 1647 when she entered a Carmelite nunnery. 

Billedresultat for grand condé portrait
Louis at Rocroi

Although he lost the battle of his love-life, his military career was far more promising. By 1644 the king once again had need of his prowess and sent him to Germany where he would join forces with Turenne. One after another he took strategically important fortresses and could spent the winter period in Paris with ease. Louis was seriously wounded in the Battle of Nördlingen but recovered to the relief of both his country and his king. He would go on to take Philippsburg and was left in charge of the Duc d'Orléans' troops the following year which enabled him to take Dunkirk as well.

That same year - 1646 - saw him elevated from Duc d'Enghien to Prince de Condé with the death of his father. By this time the atmosphere at the French court was under serious strain. Anne of Austria and in particular Cardinal Mazarin was worried at the immense influence he had - especially since his military renown made him popular amongst both the people and the soldiers. With Louis XIV still only a child it was feared that he might try to overthrow the child-king. Despite attempts to lessen his popularity his victory at Lens only further raised his star.

The Fronde was soon in full action and Anne of Austria managed to secure the services of the Grand Condé. Once again he proved that even with insufficient forces he could achieve considerable victories. When peace was finally declared at Rueil he was set to become a bright star at court.

However, Louis' personality was not likely to recommend him to the courtiers and he made few - if any - friends. The result was that he became estranged from the Louvre and found himself in icy water with Anne of Austria. The Regent was not unaware of the danger he still posed and had him arrested along with the Prince de Conti on 18 January 1650. Interestingly enough, he would be saved by the very wife he has scorned for years.
The final release came when those who had been opposed to the crown during the Fronde suddenly joined forces with the party of the Grand Condé. By February 1651 Louis was released but was not about to experience easier terms at court. Court factions shifted quickly and the Grand Condé was soon facing a new alliance made up of his former allies - the "old" Frondeurs - and the Regent.

Louis, 1662

Louis' choice was action was considered treason by many at court. Realizing that he was in a precarious situation he instead made peace with the Spanish king and offered his military services to Spain instead. This saw the inflammation of the Fronde once again and Louis found himself head to head with his previous ally, Turenne, at the Battle of Faubourg St. Antoine. Turenne would have won the day if La Grande Mademoiselle had not opened the gates of Paris to admit le Grand Condé and his army.

The Fronde eventually came to an end and once again Louis discovered that he was at a disadvantage. Trapped at the Spanish court his only chance of ever returning to France was to completely submit himself to the victor of the Fronde: Louis XIV and his mother, Anne of Austria. The Grand Condé bowed his head and duly submitted. Nevertheless, it would be years before he was placed anywhere near an army and during this time he was primarily living at his Château de Chantilly. While he could not exert himself in the military he maintained his mind by the company of some of the great of the day: Molière, Bossuet, La Fontaine etc. 

One could think that the actions of his wife might do something to make their relationship better. Unfortunately, this was not so. Louis had never forgiven Claire-Clémence for being his social inferior  which had mortally wounded his enormous pride. Furthermore, it is possible that Claire-Clémence suffered from mental issues. He accused her of having had many affairs - although this was widely disbelieved - and used his power as her husband to lock her up. 

Louis, Grand Condé.PNG

His first reentry into grace came when a new king of Poland was to be elected and he was sent to conduct negotiations. Louis XIV was still wary of his relative and became even more so when the Prince de Condé attempted to intervene on behalf of Nicolas Fouquet in 1664. However, there was a chance of coming back into the king's good graces and the means were his ever-present military genius. When Louis took control of Franche-Comté he was once again appreciated. 
By 1673 he was once again deployed in the Low Countries where he would have the final of his great military successes. The place was the Battle of Seneffe and the opponent was William of Orange. Despite having no less than three horses killed under him he secured a victory. Having finally repelled the imperial forces in 1675 he was ready to hang up his spurs.

Louis was no longer a young man and was increasingly suffering from ill health. Gout had been his great opponent lately and he returned to the Château de Chantilly. Here he lived out his retirement in the company of some of the masters who had previously paid him court there. It was during a visit to Fontainebleau that Louis finally breathed his last on 11 November 1686.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

An Unpleasant Mistress

Due to the infamous memoirs of the Duc de Saint-Simon we are left with an image of the Princesse d'Harcourt as an ugly and mean creature. As is usually the case with such memoirs they are biased by the author - and there was no love lost between the Princesse and the Duc. However, one thing mentioned in Saint-Simon's memoirs concerning the Princesse appears to have a greater ring of truth: her treatment of her servants.

It is hardly a surprise that life as a servant was tough enough as it was - long days, hard work and occasionally unpleasant masters. According to Saint-Simon the Princesse d'Harcourt was in a habit of beating her servants; he describes one servant girl who was "slapped and boxed on the ears". This accusation is backed up by Madame (Élizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate) whose apartments bordered those of the Princesse. The gilded walls were not very thick and as a consequence Madame Palatine could often her the Princesse chasing her staff, beating them with sticks and shouting abuse at them.
Madame de Caylus also testified to the mistreatment servants suffered at the hands of the Princesse d'Harcourt.

As if daily slaps and verbal abuse was not enough the job security was extremely low in the household of the Princesse. Apparently, she had a habit of changing her staff on a very frequent basis.  Those who remained in her employ were not guaranteed a fair wage either. Not only was the Princesse notorious for underpaying her servants but some were not always paid.

The work itself could be exhausting enough as it was but could be rather disgusting as well. Unfortunately for those around her - servants and aristocrats alike - the Princesse d'Harcourt appears to have retained the habits of early Versailles of people relieving themselves wereever convenient. Perhaps this was due to health problems but her generally poor hygiene could be a sign that she simply did not consider it an issue. However, her servants undoubtedly thought differently when they cleaned up her "droppings" or washed her linens.

Relateret billede
Princesse d'Harcourt

If Saint-Simon is to be believed the servants were not always willing to simply take the abuse - and who could blame them? He mentions several times when her staff simply abandoned her while she was running an errand leaving her to make her own way home. One such instance happened on the Pont Neuf where she found herself addressed in a manner far from the demanded respect and then ditched. Apparently, this happened more than once. Madame de Saint-Simon reported that she had witnessed the Princesse d'Harcourt trudging through Paris in full court dress with her train over her arm - quite abandoned by her domestics. 

On occasion, the vengeance could be more physical. Again we must look to Saint-Simon for this particular anecdote of a peasant woman who had recently come into the employ of the Princesse d'Harcourt. Within days of her arrival she was beaten but did not intent to merely accept it. Instead, she one day retaliated in a quite spectacular way.  She approached her mistress in the latter's chamber and quietly locked the door. Knowing her new mistress' temper she spoke to her in a way sure to "bring down a punishment" and when the first slaps were administered the chambermaid pounced. Allegedly, she beat, kicked and "mauled her from head to feet" and eventually left the undoubted shocked Princesse all disheveled on the floor. It says something that none of her other servants came to her rescue.

Such a case of self-administered justice was bound to have severe consequences. Not only would it be considered violence but another factor must be kept in mind: the social hierarchy. It was seen as common for masters (and their female counterparts) to once in a while use physical punishments on their servants. But if the violence went the other way it was almost unnatural. Society at the time was deeply rooted in social castes and the lines were sharply drawn; such a rebellion could be seen as an attempt to go against the norms of the day. Little wonder that the chambermaid fled.