Tuesday, 9 July 2019

The New Dukedoms of Louis XIV

From his majority in 1651 until his death in 1715, Louis XIV created or revived no less than 34 ducal titles.  Thus, he elevated a new group of people to the highest rank of the ability. There could be several reasons for why a family might be granted a dukedom - it could be faithful service, personal affections or even as a favour to a mistress. However, all of the families concerned were already well-established in the nobility. It should be noted that the title of duc did not necessarily mean that the holder was a Peer of France - that was another elevation. But how - and why - did the Sun King choose to bestow this honour on them?

These are the titles that were not bestowed on members of the royal family.

The Revived Titles

A title can become extinct if the family holding it dies out. In a society such as the French in the 17th century, Salic law was followed which prohibited females from inheriting titles. Therefore, aristocratic titles were considered to be extinct if there were no more male heirs. These did not necessarily have to be the sons or grandsons of the current title holder - they could just as well be a nephew, an uncle, a brother etc.

Still, once a title became extinct, it became available for the king to bestow on a new family. Louis XIV chose to do just that in these cases:

Duc d'Albret
Last held by: Henri IV (it merged with the crown when Henri became king)

Revived: 1651

Recipient: Frédéric-Maurice de La Tour d'Auvergne

Reason for revival:
Frédéric-Maurice had originally been on the wrong side in the Fronde during the minority of Louis XIV, but was convinced to switch sides. The bait used by Cardinal Mazarin was the dukedoms of both Albret and Château-Thierry - these would be granted if Frédéric-Maurice surrounded the strategically located Sedan and Raucourt to the crown.

Status: extinct in 1802


Duc de Bourbon
Last held by: Henri III of France
Revived: 1661
Recipient: Louis de Bourbon-Condé
Reason for revival:

Louis was better known as the Grand Condé and had stood on the opposing side during the second Fronde. Nevertheless, following his defeat, Louis was readmitted into the king's good graces and remained subordinated to the king. It is possible that Louis received this particular title partially due to his subordination and partially due to his lineage.

Status: was dormant from 1830 until 1950 but has been revived and is still in existence

Louis, Grand Condé.PNG

Duc de Château-Thierry
Last held by: Guillaume Robert de la Marck
Revived: 1651
Recipient: Frédéric-Maurice de La Tour d'Auvergne
Reason for revival: see Duc d'Albret
Status: extinct in 1802

Duc de Rethel
Last held by: Charles IV, Duke of Mantua (sold to Cardinal Mazarin)
Revived: 1663
Recipient: Charles de La Porte
Reason for revival: see Duc de La Meilleraye
Status: extinct 1738

Duc de Roannais
Last held by: Artus Gouffier
Revived: 1667
Recipient: François III d'Aubusson de La Feuillade
Reason for revival:

François could have gotten a title through military service, loyalty during the Fronde and the good luck of being born into a particularly well-connected family. However, he had actually bought the title in 1667 for the price of 400.000 livres as well as agreeing to marry the sister of the former Duc de Roannais (Artus Gouffier).

Status: extinct 1725

François III d'Aubusson.jpg


The New Dukedoms

Duc d'Aumont
Creation: 1665
Recipient: Antoine d'Aumont de Rochebaron
Reason for creation:

Antoine gained his dukedom through the battlefield; this included serving Anne of Austria during the Fronde. For this, he was also awarded with the title of Marèchal de France and later governor of Paris.

Status: still in existence 

Antoine d'Aumont de Rochebaron.jpg

Duc de Boufflers
Reason for creation:

Duc de Choiseul
Creation: 1665
Recipient: Caesar de Choiseul
Reason for creation:

Caesar was remarkably talented as a military commander. For that reason it was a blow when he joined the Grand Condé during the First Fronde. However, when conflict broke out again, he chose to remain loyal to the crown - and played an important role in turning the tide. It was he who defeated Turenne, for instance.

Status: this line is extinct but the title was revived in 1817 and changed to Duc de Marmier in 1839


Duc de Coislin
Creation: 1663
Recipient: Armand de Camboust
Reason for creation:

Armand might well have been rewarded for his services on the battlefield; he had risen through the ranks and became a lieutenant-general. It is also possible that he was personally liked by the king and his mother since he played an active part in Louis XIV's coronation ceremony.

Status: extinct 1732

Portrait d'Armand de Cambout, duc de Coislin.

Duc de Duras
Reason for creation:

Duc d'Estrées
Created: 1663
Recipient: François Annibal d'Estrées
Reason for creation

François had served as a diplomat in Rome and therefore the title could be a reward for the political skill he had shown.

Status: although the title lay dormant from 1771-1892, it was revived for the direct descendants of the last Duc d'Estrées under the Ancien Regime and is still in existence


Duc de Fitz-James
Creation: 1710
Recipient: James Fitz-James
Reason for creation:

Unlike the vast majority on this list, James was not a Frenchman. In fact - as his name states - he was the illegitimate son of James II of England. An Englishman at the French court could have had a hard time but he used his military skills to fight on behalf of Louis XIV.

Status: extinct 1967

James Fitz-James, primer duque de Berwick (Museo del Prado).jpg

Duc d'Harcourt
Creation: 1700
Recipient: Henri d'Harcourt
Reason for creation:

Henri had participated in every single one of the major wars of his period and would then turn to more diplomatic endeavours. He was made ambassador to Spain and served as such when the War of the Spanish Succession erupted. Although it is unknown exactly which role he played, Louis XIV awarded his efforts with a dukedom.

Status: still in existence 

Duc de La Meilleraye
Creation: 1663
Recipient: Charles de La Porte
Reason for creation:

Charles (a relation of Cardinal Mazarin) had served Louis XIII as a competent general for years and had then held the position of Superintendent of Finances. This in itself could be reason for a promotion but it was most likely prodded along by the fact that Charles remained loyal to Anne of Austria during the Fronde and thus aided Louis XIV in keeping his throne. Sadly for Charles, he died just a year after being made a duc.

Status: extinct 1738


Duc de Mortemart
Creation: 1663
Recipient: Gabriel de Rochechouart de Mortemart
Reason for creation:

Gabriel had been much favouritism of Louis XII and had served as First Gentleman of the Chamber. He, too, had been a friend of Anne of Austria as well as Cardinal Richelieu. He happened to be the father of Madame de Montespan although he did not owe his elevation to her liaison with the king since he was elevated before their affair began.

Status: still in existence 

Portrait of Gabriel de Rochechouart, Duke of Mortemart wearing the Order of the Holy Spirit (Versailles, unknown artist).jpg

Duc de Noailles
Creation: 1663
Recipient: Anne de Noailles
Reason for creation:

Anne had remained loyal to Anne of Austria and Louis XIV during the Fronde and had used his political acumen and military skill to their advantage. He had also become a close ally of Cardinal Mazarin.

Status: still in existence 

Noailles, Anne cropped.jpg

Duc de Poix
Creation: 1663
Recipient: Charles de Créquy
Reason for creation:

Charles had travelled Europe in the service of the French king; he had been ambassador to Spain, England, Bavaria and Rome. For instance, he had been sent to Spain to personally deliver Louis XIV's gifts and letters to his fiancée, Marie Thérèse, and served in the same capacity for the Grand Dauphin.

Status: extinct in 1687

Duc de Randan
Creation: 1663
Recipient: Henri-François de Foix de Candale
Reason for creation

This could very well have been a case of favourism at work. Henri-François' mother had been one of Anne of Austria's favourite companions so the elevation was not far off - besides, the family was already in the high-nobility.

Status: extinct in 1714

Duc de Saint-Aignan
Creation: 1663
Recipient: François de Beauvilliers
Reason for creation:
Status: extinct 1828

François was a rather odd figure to be made a duc. He had been disastrous as a military commander - so bad, in fact, that he was imprisoned following the Battle of Thionville. However, he appears to have been more politically astute and remained loyal to Anne of Austria during the Fronde. This earned him his dukedom.


Duc de Saint-Cloud
Creation: 1674
Recipient: François de Harlay de Champvalon
Reason for creation:

This particular title was created for the benefit of the Archbishop of Paris. Since the holder was a Catholic clergyman, it was not hereditary but came as a package deal with the office of Archbishop. 

Status: abolished in the revolution

François Harlay de Champvallon.jpg

Duc de Tresmes
Creation: 1663
Recipient: René Potier de Tresmes
Reason for creation:

René had served Louis XIII both militarily and politically; he continued especially in the former during the early years of Louis XIV. The title was later changed to Duc de Gesvres.

Status: extinct 1794 (last holder executed during the revolution)

René Potier de Tresmes.jpg

Duc de Verneuil 
Creation: 1663
Recipient: Gaston Henri de Bourbon
Reason for creation:

Interestingly enough, Gaston had been destined for the church and served as a cleric for the majority of his life before resigning. He was then knighted and later created Duc de Verneuil. It is possible that his ancestry had something to do with this drastic elevation. He was the illegitimate child of Henri IV which made him Louis XIV's half-uncle.

Status: extinct 1682

Gaston Henri
Duc de Villars
Created: 1705
Recipient: Claude Louis Hector de Villars
Reason for revival:

Claude excelled as a soldier which earned him the title of Marèchal de France and very likely contributed to his elevation to a dukedom. The title is not to be confused with the Duc de Villars-Brancas.

Status: extinct 1775

Hyacinthe Rigaud -Portrait of Claude Louis Hector de Villars (1704) - Palace of Versailles.jpg
Duc de Villeroy
Creation: 1651
Recipient: Nicolas V de Villeroy
Reason for creation:

Nicolas had close ties with Louis XIV since he had served as the young boy's governor which shows that he had enjoyed the favour of Anne of Austria. There is little doubt that Louis XIV also appreciated him; he was later admitted to the king's financial council.

Status: extinct 1794 (eradicated by the revolution)


Sunday, 30 June 2019

The Abducting of Mademoiselle de Roquelaure

The betrothal between Louis, Prince de Léon, eldest son of the Duc de Rohan and Mademoiselle de Roquelaure was considered a suitable - both bride and groom being the offspring of peers of the realm - but there was another advantage for the Duc de Rohan. Mademoiselle de Roquelaure was said to be the daughter of Louis XIV, although the king never recognised her as such. The marriage contract was all but signed when the mother of the bride-to-be suddenly changed her conditions and demanded that the Duc de Rohan gave his son a larger allowance.

Neither the Prince de Léon nor Mademoiselle de Roquelaure were allegedly pleased with this decision but to no avail. Interestingly, neither was the king. The Marquis de Dangeau relates that the king was eager to see the marriage concluded and even went so far as to pressure the Duc de Rohan to increase his son's allowance. 

Consequently, Mademoiselle de Roquelaure was shipped back to the convent where she had received her education. However, she was not to remain there for long. The Prince de Léon had not given up on marrying her and decided to abduct her. Abduction usually infers a sinister motive on behalf of the abductor but in this case it was quite the opposite: the Prince de Léon intended to honour the promises originally made between the two families. It was claimed that the would-be bridegroom had a carriage outfitted with his coat-of-arms and sent to the convent. There, a message was to be given to the Mademoiselle de Roquelaure that her mother was waiting for her. Instead, the carriage would take them to a house owned by the Duc de Lorges. He and Mademoiselle de Roquelaure were married on 6 March 1708.

Mademoiselle de Roquelaure

Infuriated, the Duchesse de Roquelaure - mother of the mademoiselle - went straight to the king to complain. However, the plan did not go quite as she had wished. Rather than being outraged, the courtiers (chief amongst them the Duchesse de Bourgogne) found the whole situation hilarious. The absurdity lay not in the disrupted marriage agreement but in far more personal attributes. Both the Prince de Léon and Mademoiselle de Roquelaure were known to be rather ugly. The latter was said to be hunchbacked and "very ugly" and her husband no better off. The court were accustomed to tales of such heroic romanticism but (then and now) heroes and heroines are always beautiful. Besides, the bride was 25 years old and was not considered likely to make another such advantageous match.

The Duc de Saint-Simon informs us that once the marriage rites had been performed, the couple was left alone for a few hours and the new Princesse de Léon was taken back to the convent where she informed her mother - via letter - of her recent nuptials.

The Duc de Roquelaure was just as furious as his lady wife. He demanded that the Prince de Léon be prosecuted as a criminal. Few took him seriously and those who reasoned that it could not possibly hold up since the bride had not been forced into the marriage.

The king ordered that the marriage be honoured since it had already taken place. In response both the families involved decided to reduce the money given to the newlyweds. The result was that the couple had severe financial difficulties during their first years of marriage. At the end of the day, the efforts of the Prince de Léon turned out to have been all but useless. Hénault relates that the couple were never on good terms.

Sunday, 9 June 2019

The Alcoholism of the Regent

Following the increasingly sombre mood at the court of Louis XIV, the Regency was characterized by excess. Philippe II d'Orléans took the role of Regent and he himself embodied the decadence of his time. The Regent and his entourage - referred to as the roués - were infamous for their excessive drinking. 

According to the Cardinal Dubois, Philippe's alcoholism was apparent to everyone. The Cardinal claimed that the Regent drank a minimum of five bottles a day. Naturally, such a massive consumption of alcohol would leave its mark. It was not uncommon for Philippe to attend mass while heavily intoxicated. On some occasions, his drinking would land him in rather undignified situations. Apparently, following one night of heavy drinking he was returning from Saint-Cloud when he exited his carriage - and fell directly into a muddy ditch. Unable to free himself of this predicament, he sent for his mistress to aid him.

Champagne appears to have been the drink of choice of the Regent. The drink became increasingly popular in his inner circle which was quickly copied both in Paris and abroad. 

Billedresultat for philippe duc d'orleans
Philippe II d'Orléans

Besides the more embarrassing episodes, the Regent occasionally found himself in, there was another aspect of Philippe's nightlife that brought concern to his court. Sometimes he would suddenly tire of the festivities at the Palais-Royal and would strike out with a few companions to roam about in the streets of Paris. Without bodyguards it was feared that he might get himself in serious danger. 

Only rarely did the binge-drinking affect the day-to-day management of the kingdom. Despite spending the majority of the night out and about, he always performed his duties as regent. However, once the Regent put away his work, he did little to nothing to check his impulses. During another drunken dinner with the Cardinal Dubois, the Regent's mistress and the Scottish John Law, someone approached the Regent with a document to sign. However, the Regent was way too intoxicated to actually put pen to paper which he himself remarked upon. 

As the saying goes, the apple does not fall far from the tree. Philippe's daughter, the infamous Marie-Louise-Élisabeth, Duchesse de Berri, was equally addicted to drink.

Sunday, 2 June 2019

The Robe Battante

The Robe Battante is an early version of the robe à la Française but a considerably more comfortable one than the tightly laced ones later favoured by Versailles. It was cut in the same fashion; hanging from the shoulders in pleats. However, a robe battante was unfitted both at the front and at the back - therefore, it was far more informal than a fitted one. In the early part of the 18th century the robe battante was popular as a maternity gown particularly because the stomach could easier be concealed - although the stomacher could still be visible. This was a matter of taste. It was not necessarily cut completely open but could be fastened with buttons or even sewn up for a more modest look.

When the style was still new, it was considered to give the wearer a look of innocence. For that reason it was sometimes nicknamed the "innocente".

Nevertheless, a corset was usually worn beneath it to keep an upright posture. In the case of pregnancy it could be dropped but it was often a matter of formality. Once Louis XV reached his majority, it was always worn with a corset. From around 1718, another piece of clothing was added to the ensemble: the pannier. The result was that the silhouette became even more bell-like.

Some claimed that Madame de Maintenon had created the gown partially because it suited her extraordinarily well and partially due to her frequent pregnancies by the king. It was said that she intended to hide her condition but it soon became almost an official symbol of her being pregnant. As Madame Palatine said: "Madame de Maintenon has put on her robe battante, so she must be pregnant".

Madame de Maintenon's legacy would be carried on by her grand-daughter, the Duchesse de Berri, whose scandalous lifestyle resulted in many pregnancies outside marriage. Even after, the Duchesse's premature death, the robe battante continued to be fashionable during the 1720's - 1740's.

Those who could afford it - like Montespan or the Duchesse de Berri - had their robe battantes made from silk or muslin. Because the stomacher was still on display, it was often made all the more elaborate. It can easily be imagined that some sought to outweigh the simplicity of the gown with a lavish stomacher.

Robe volante

Note that the robe battante is very similar to a robe volante.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Anne Poussard de Fors du Vigean, Duchesse de Richelieu

Anne de Richelieu was born in 1622 and spent the majority of her life at court of either Louis XIII or Louis XIV. She was the daughter of François Poussard du Vigean, Baron de Fors and Anne de Neufbourg.

She was first married to François-Alexandre d'Albret, Comte de Marennes on 16 October 1644. However, her husband died after a few years of marriage which left Anne once again on the marriage market. Her father was quick to arrange for a new match for her - and a very advantageous one at that. In 1649, Anne was married to the Duc de Richelieu.

The marriage was considered to be somewhat of a mystery. Anne was particularly young nor did she have a fortune. Her father's title was not very grand and Anne herself was not considered to be beautiful. As Madame de Caylus put it, the match was to "the astonishment of the whole court". 

Anne's years as a Duchesse earned her a position of privilege. On 21 November 1671, she was given her own official position at court when she was made Premier dame d'honneur to Marie-Thérèse. Prior to this, she had lived primarily at the Hôtel de Richlieu in Paris which is now destroyed. It was while she served the queen, that she made a new friend: Madame de Montespan. Despite being employed by the spouse of Madame de Montespan's lover, the two got on quite well. As it happens, Anne used her position near the queen to ease the relationship between La Montespan and Marie Thérèse.


As Madame de Montespan's reign progressed, the royal favourite would learn that her friendship with Anne de Richelieu was truly valuable. In 1675, Madame de Montespan and Louis XIV's relationship was interrupted and the two became temporarily estranged. While Madame de Montespan was absent from court, Anne worked behind the scenes and arranged for a meeting between the queen and La Montespan. The result was that the two were reconciled. Both Madame de Montespan and Louis XIV were well aware of the involvement of Anne and both remained grateful to her.

Meanwhile, in her own marriage, Anne encountered somewhat different troubles. Her husband, Armand Jean de Vignerot du Plessis, had his own established mistress in Françoise de Dreux. Such arrangements were far from uncommon but this particular one almost turned fatal. Françoise de Dreux dabbled in some sinister occult practices and apparently came to consider Anne to be in her way. Françoise attempted to poison Anne but failed. Françoise would later be convicted of the attempted murder as well as several successful ones in 1679.

Anne would never have children of her own. Neither of her marriages produced any known offspring and she does not appear to have had any affairs. 

Marie Thérèse died in 1683 which meant that Anne was without official employ. However, likely due to her favour with the king, she was transferred to the service of the Grande Dauphine. Here she made a new friend who would come to serve the same capacity as Madame de Montespan had: Madame de Maintenon. Apparently, Anne had a habit of making fast friends with the king's mistresses but without sacrificing her own position. Unfortunately for Anne, she would not live to reap the rewards of being the friend of Madame de Maintenon. Anne died on 28 May 1684 in Paris.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

The King's Blood?

It was common at executions of notable personages to attempt to get a momentum of the macabre event. Naturally, this was also the case with Louis XVI's case. A surviving report tells of how some spectators pushed to the front and dipped their handkerchiefs in the blood of the fallen monarch. Allegedly, one such handkerchief survived which belonged to Maximilien Bourdaloue. He kept the scrap of fabric in a gourd with the inscription "blood of Louis XVI, after his beheading".

The handkerchief itself has not survived but traces of blood within the blood made it possible to run DNA tests. Early on, it was found that the blood could very well have been Louis'. One of the main arguments in favour of the authenticity of the blood is the presence of a rare Y-chromosome. Henri IV's head provided a DNA reference which showed that Henri had had the rare Y-chromosome. Louis XVI was Henri's descendant (7 generations) and the sample showed traces of the same rarity. However, tests carried out in 2013 showed that the mummified head might not have been that of Henri IV at all - rendering it irrelevant in connection with identifying the blood in the gourd.

Billedresultat for louis xvi blood
The gourd

The scientific team involved determined that the sample was most likely to have originating from a person with brown eyes. Louis XVI - on the other hand - had blue eyes. As it happens, Professor Lalueza-Fox considers the possibility of the owner of the blood to have had blue eyes to be between 2.4 - 3 %. 

Furthermore, the test was able to conclude that the 76 % of the deceased's ancestry came from northern Italy. Louis' primary ancestry was French, Polish and German. Louis XVI was said to have been remarkably tall for his age at 185 cm. Yet, the person whose blood was tested was just a little taller than the average male which would have made him little more than 167 cm. 

So, while the blood is unlikely to have been that of the dethroned king, it is still likely that it did come from a person beheaded by guillotine during the French Revolution. Thousands of people were beheaded and the scaffold was not wiped down afterwards. It is possible that the blood belonged to someone beheaded before the king. However, it is also possible that the blood had nothing to do with the guillotine. It has been suggested that Maximilien Bourdaloue might have deliberately lied.

Le Duc d'Orléans: Frère de Louis XIV

Title: Le Duc d'Orléans: Frère de Louis XIV

Author: Christian Bouyer

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

The life of Philippe d'Orléans is interesting in itself which is why I chose this book. Unfortunately, once I had read it, I did not necessarily think that I knew a lot more about him. The book does a good job of telling the context of Louis XIV's court and the time but the life of Philippe is covered somewhat superficially. To be sure, it mentions the more important events of his life but it never seems to go beyond the surface.

I would recommend it if you are looking for a general idea of the period of Louis XIV from the perspective of Philippe. However, if you are looking for a more in-depth biography, then this is sadly not it.

Billedresultat for philippe duc d'orleans book

Saturday, 4 May 2019

The Final Resting Places of the Bourbons

Tradition had it that the kings and queens of France were buried in the cathedral of Saint-Denis in Paris. However, the tumultuous years of the French Revolution led not only to the end of the tradition but also resulted in the remains of the French monarchs being desecrated. Some were later returned to their final resting place but other were not. These are the fates of the mortal remains of the people who ruled France in the age of Versailles.

On the last day of July, 1793, it was decided to break into the tombs of the old kings and queens of France. The new republic was in dire need of cash and as it was assumed that royalty was buried with jewels, they were meant to pay for the party. There was a symbolic reason for the vandalism too. The tombs and their splendour represented an age of hierarchy which the revolution aimed to eradicate.

The coffins were opened on 15 October. Louis XIV, Anne of Austria as well as Marie Thérèse's graves were opened and the corpses stripped of any valuables. The following day - the day of Marie Antoinette's execution - saw the process repeated on the graves of Louis XV and Philippe d'Orléans (Louis XIV's brother).
The bodies themselves were not treated kindly either. A massive pit had been dug in the earth immediately outside the cathedral and the remains were tossed in there with abandon.

Relateret billede
Tomb of Louis XIV

Before the revolution, the cathedral of Saint-Denis had been filled with bronze and copper statues of the former monarchs. These - alongside with the lead coffins - were melted down and transformed into bullets, cannons etc. A great deal of the extravagant tombs were likewise destroyed but for no particular practical reason.

Not everything in the tombs of Saint-Denis was destroyed. Some pieces of the dead were taken as "trophies" or souvenirs. Louis XIV's heart was stolen - legend has it that it was eaten by the extremely eccentric William Buckland, although it seems unlikely.

However, not all royals were buried at Saint-Denis. The recently executed Louis XVI's corpse had been sent to the cemetery of the Church of the Madeleine were it was buried without pomp. There was not much respect afforded to the former king either. He was not given a burial stone and his head was placed between his feet before the body was covered with a layer of lime. Marie Antoinette's remains suffered the same fate; she was taken to the same graveyard and buried without a marker.  

Some of the Bourbons' bodies were not buried at Saint-Denis - instead, their hearts were. This is the case for Louis Ferdinand (son of Louis XV) whose body was laid to rest in the cathedral of Saint-Etienne in Sens. Marie Josèphe's body is also buried in that cathedral. 
One particular member of the French royal family was never buried in a cathedral. Madame Élisabeth was buried in a mass grave at the Errancis Cemetery. When the Comte de Provence became king, he attempted to retrieve her body but none of those in the mass grave could be identified. Instead, their remains were taken to the infamous catacombs. Somewhere down there, is the remains of the sister of Louis XVI - perhaps as part of the elaborate decorations made up of skulls and bones.

The poor Louis XVIII's remains were never identified either. After his death at age 10, his body was quietly buried at the Sainte-Marguerite graveyard. However, his heart - following custom - was removed. The heart would be buried next to his parents in 2004. Yet, his body has not been recovered. Only a skull of a teenager was found in the area where he was buried which could not be his.

Grave markers of Louis XVI and Marie

By 1815, the Bourbons once again sat on the throne. It was therefore decreed that the remains should be excavated from the mass grave and restored to the sanctity of the cathedral. However, the remains had been handled so roughly and had deteriorated so much, that they could not be identified. It must be remembered that even the well-conserved body of Louis XIV was without the protective environment it had enjoyed in the tomb. The remains were instead placed in an ossuary.

That same year, the bodies of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI were added to the ossuary and given a proper burial.

Monday, 29 April 2019

The Duc de Vendôme vs. The Duchesse de Bourgogne

Louis Joseph de Vendôme had proved himself as a very capable military leader prior to 1709. However, the campaign of that year saw him share command with the young Duc de Bourgogne, the king's grandson. The two did not get along very well; together they failed to prevent the French military defeat at the battle of Oudenarde. 

While the young Bourgogne was away at war, his wife, Marie Adélaide of Savoy, was kept well aware of her husband's difficulties with the Duc de Vendôme. Consequently, she came to loathe Vendôme. Marie Adélaide could not influence events on the battlefield but she was in a supreme position to damage the Duc de Vendôme's position at court. Louis XIV absolutely doted on his granddaughter-in-law and she could use that affection to undermine her husband's rival.

The way in which the Duchesse de Bourgogne handled the situation was a masterpiece of skillful maneuvering within the structure of the court of Versailles.

The winter break of 1708 that followed the disaster at Oudenarde, saw both the Duc de Bourgogne and the Duc de Vendôme return to Versailles. Prior to the latter's return, the seeds for his downfall had already been laid. Even though Louis XIV received his defeated general warmly enough, there was still a sense that something was about to happen. The first obvious sign came when the Duc de Vendôme offered a general invitation to his estate of d'Anet. However, those around him excused themselves which had not happened hitherto. Still, Louis Joseph went to the château d'Anet where he sojourned over the winter before returning to Versailles. Once he returned to Marly and the king's side, it was noted that the Duc de Vendôme failed to pay his respects to the Duchesse de Bourgogne who was officially the highest-ranking woman at court.

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Louis Joseph, Duc de Vendôme

Being invited to the private estates of Marly and Meudon was an immense privilege and one which  the Duc de Vendôme had enjoyed for years. The Duc de Saint-Simon gives us an insight into a situation in which the young Duchesse de Bourgogne used her influence to thwart the Duc de Vendôme. The Grand Dauphin were playing brelan with both the Duc and Duchesse de Bourgogne at Marly one evening and requested a fifth player. For this purpose, he sent for Louis Joseph. Marie Adélaide immediately implored her father-in-law not to make her play with Vendôme as it was already a trial to her to be in the same room. The Grand Dauphin obliged and filled the seat with someone else - however, no one informed the Duc de Vendôme. Once he arrived, he found his seat taken and had to make the embarrassing walk back through the room.

According to Saint-Simon, the Duchesse de Bourgogne sought to further prevent the Duc de Vendôme from being in her presence. She turned to Madame de Maintenon - also an enemy of Louis Joseph - who in turn asked Louis XIV to omit the Duc from their visits to Marly. By this time, several squabbles over military failures (not just with Bourgogne) had made Louis tired of Vendôme and he agreed. The message was delivered to Louis Joseph by a valet.

As could be expected, the Duc de Vendôme was furious at this snub. Yet, he knew that the Grand Dauphin was still a friend to him. Although being barred from Marly was a humiliation, he could try to safe face by spending more time with the heir to throne. His open invitation to Meudon also proved to be an opportunity to get back at Marie Adélaide.
The Duchesse de Bourgogne almost always visited her father-in-law while he was at Meudon. Knowing that the master of Meudon was the Grand Dauphin - and not the king - Louis Joseph made sure to be present as often as possible. Etiquette demanded that he presented himself to both his host and the Duchesse de Bourgogne. Consequently, he could irritate her by showing that while she had managed to ban him from Marly, she had not done so from Meudon - yet.

One day, the Grand Dauphin was at Meudon with the Duc de Vendôme when the king, Madame de Maintenon and Marie Adélaide paid him a visit. Louis Joseph took the opportunity to "present himself" to the king and his granddaughter-in-law. Apparently, Marie Adélaide did not expect him to be there and she turned her head away - a great insult. Despite this, the Duc de Vendôme tried his luck again that same evening by approaching Marie Adélaide but with the same result. As a result, he turned on his heel and left the room.

Marie Adélaïde of Savoy as depicted circa 1697 (wearing Fleur-de-lis as Duchess of Burgundy) by a member of the École Française.jpg
Marie Adélaide of Savoy

Marie Adélaide took advantage of his absence and complained to both the king and Madame de Maintenon. She appealed to both the hierarchy and the affection of the king. She pointed out that while the king had respected her discomfort and barred Vendôme from his private retreat, the Grand Dauphin had not done so.

Naturally - considering they were literally under the same roof - the Duc de Vendôme heard of this and immediately went to the Grand Dauphin. He complained that he was being prosecuted by the Duchesse de Bourgogne. He received little reassurance from his friend who would at most say that he could continue to visit Meudon but he must avoid the Duchesse while she was still at odds with him.

The very next day, the final blow was delivered by the Duc d'Antin. He had been sent from Versailles (where the king and his entourage had returned to) to inform Louis Joseph that the king had asked the Grand Dauphin to no longer admit Louis Joseph. In an absolute fury, Louis Joseph up and left Meudon immediately.

And that - as it happened - turned out to be the end of the Duc de Vendôme's career as a courtier. Understandably, he made himself scarce and even refrained from returning to Versailles. He was shunned by those who feared a similar fate and he would die three years later - ironically, the same year as the Duchesse de Bourgogne.

Sunday, 21 April 2019

The Sang Froid of the Marquis de Favras

Thomas de Mahy, Marquis de Favras had been attached to the Swiss Guards under the command of the Comte de Provence. Although he retired in 1775 (not being able to keep up the expenses of being an officer) and travelled abroad, he returned in 1789 to aid Louis XVI and the Comte de Provence.

Apparently, the Comte de Provence had hatched a plot to liberate his brother, Louis XVI, and the rest of the royal family from the Tuileries. However, the Comte was short of cash and asked the Marquis de Favras to obtain a loan. Thus, the Marquis de Favras became involved with the plot - but with fatal consequences. A couple of officers whom Favras entrusted with vital information betrayed him. Soon, a leaflet circulated Paris in which the Comte de Provence was accused of having around 30.000 soldiers ready to lay siege to Paris; it was rumoured that the Comte de Provence was to become absolute regent once the king and queen had been smuggled out of France. Furthermore, the leaflet claimed that the conspirators had planned to starve the Parisians into submission and kill the leaders of the liberal movement including Lafayette. 

Marquis de Favras

Both the Marquis and Marquise de Favras were imprisoned on the night between 24-25 December 1789 and the Comte de Provence denied having had anything to do with Favras for at least 15 years. The two were split up and he was taken to the Grand Châtelet. His trial was a remarkably lengthy one. It lasted for over two months and caused a great deal of controversy. The fact was that very little evidence existed that could prove his guilt of "planning against the people of France". Even staunchly revolutionary editors admitted that there was little to go on.

Thomas de Mahy could perhaps have been released. However, his fellow-Royalist supports attempted to free him from his captivity by force on 26 January 1790. This appeared to the Parisians to be only a confirmation of the validity of the charge and his trial was resumed on the 18 February 1790. He was found guilty by a majority of 32 to six despite proclaiming his innocence. The entire trial was a farce. It was an open secret that the Marquis was not guilty of the trumped up charges. Of the twelve witnesses brought before the court, only two "spoke to any serious facts" - and even these contradicted each other. Apparently, even one of the judges had the audacity to approach the Marquis and state that it was clear that he was innocent but his life had to be sacrificed to keep the public peace. Throughout it all, an angry mob had surrounded the courtroom and demanded the death of the Marquis. The Marquis de Favras was sentenced to hang on 19 February 1790.

Knowing that he had been abandoned by the Comte de Provence, the Marquis de Favras offered to give his captors a few names for a reprieve. However, they rejected a reprieve but still demanded the names. In turn, Favras refused to name the others involved in the conspiracy - even the Comte de Provence. 

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Execution of the Marquis

On 19 February 1790, the Marquis de Favras was taken to the Place de Grève on foot. He was dressed only in his breeches and shirt - no hat and no shoes. In true medieval fashion a plaque was hung from his neck proclaiming him to be a "conspirator against the state"; likewise the noose was draped around his throat. His execution would be the first in which a nobleman was hanged rather than being given a more "honourable" execution. Thomas showed little emotion during his final moments. When his death warrant was read aloud to him, he famously responded "I see you have made three spelling mistakes".

He then climbed the ladder to the gallows and addressed the crowd. Once again he proclaimed that he died an innocent man and bade the executioner do his duty. The Marquis was then hanged. It was only with considerable effort that the guards prevented the assembled crowd from tearing his body down and placing his head on a pike.

His widow and child were presented the following day to Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette who gave them a pension. The royal family had been following his trial and was deeply affected by the outcome; sadly they were not allowed to show their grief outwardly.

Sunday, 14 April 2019

The Failed Education of the Grand Dauphin

The turbulent childhood of Louis XIV made him determined to provide his son and heir with the best education possible. Jacques Bénigne Boussuet was appointed as Louis, le Grand Dauphin's tutor; the Grand Dauphin's education would be decided by him as well as his governor, the Duc de Montausier. However, before they took over, the basic education was formed by Louis' preceptor, Périgny.

Unlike what might be imagined, Louis was not alone in the school-room. Four boys of the highest ranking families were chosen to partake in his lessons with Périgny. They were taught the basics of writing and reading. Périgny - in his capacity as the Grand Dauphin's preceptor - focused heavily on the moral education of his pupil. For this purpose, he used the legendary fables by La Fontaine to highlight moral problems. He also began the Grand Dauphin's lessons in French and Latin. Louis appears to have enjoyed his lessons by Périgny but they were not to last. Périgny died in 1670 and Boussuet took his place.

Louis, le Grand Dauphin

The plan devised for his new education included a wide array of subjects: geography, history, philosophy,  classical literature, rhetoric, logic, anatomy and physics. Besides these were the more courtly pursuits of drawing, riding and dancing. But there was one more aspect that was necessary for a future king: lessons in warfare, jurisprudence and the day-to-day functions of government.

As for his political education, Louis XIV took that into his own hands. He wrote the book "Memoires pour l'instruction du Dauphin" which was meant to guide the Grand Dauphin when he ascended the throne. However, nothing else was done to further the young boy's political acumen. Even when he became older and could have benefited from listening in on his father and his advisors, the Grand Dauphin was barred entry into the Council Chamber. 

Louis was born with a natural desire for learning but his teachers were terribly ill-suited. The young boy would have benefited from a less rigid educational style - like his own sons would receive - but both Boussuet and Montausier were of the old school. They attempted to cram as much knowledge into Louis in as short a time as possible - and would mercilessly berate him if he made mistakes. The consequence was that Louis became terrified of new knowledge and avoided it at all costs. 

Boussuet himself stated that the education of the future king was very much a "public affair". Therefore, he dedicated the vast majority of his time to this goal. Unfortunately, his pupil did not have the same pedantic nature. Louis had an indolent streak which would only get more pronounced as he grew older. 


Nevertheless, Louis had the very best materials available for his personal use. France had some of the best cartographers of the time and the maps dedicated to the Dauphin were some of the best and most interestingly decorated. Montausier is generally credited with assembling the Delphine collection of classical works specifically for Louis' education - hence the name.

The Grand Dauphin's studies were divided into three parts throughout the day. The first was between 9 o'clock in the morning and 11.30. The second began at half past one and continued until supper only interrupted by quick playtimes such as fishing. Finally, after supper the third study period began which lasted a few hours. The Grand Dauphin would then have a little time before being put to bed. This schedule was the same - even on Sundays - and was only interrupted for major ceremonial events.

In a typical lesson, Boussuet would read and explain a text or a subject which the Dauphin was then to write down in French - what he remembered anyways. This was then to be translated into Latin. Louis' education would be officially terminated when he was married in 1680 - at the age of 19.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Film Fashion: Outlander

Plot: in the second season, Claire and Jamie Fraser travels to Versailles to scheme with Bonny Prince Charles.

Takes place: 1740's

NOTE: not all costumes are featured

Claire Fraiser

English-born Claire's wardrobe for her sojourn at Versailles is characteristically a mixture of luxurious fabrics but little adornment otherwise. Compared to Louise de Rohan, this difference becomes all the greater.

This mixture of yellow silk and an exquisitely embroidered petticoat would be more in the tune of fashion in the 1740's. Despite the lack of ruffles, bows etc. the dress would have been expensive enough due to the quality of the fabric and the work gone into the petticoat. 

This gorgeous emerald-coloured robe à la Françaose would have been very simple by Versailles-standards - the tiny amount of ruffles at the neckline would be just too little ornament. However, the colour - albeit a tad dark - would have played well into the love of exotic colours at Louis XV's court.

Want to dress like Claire? Find out where to get replications of some of our favorite Outlander outfits. #clairefraser #Outlander #thereddressOutlander Costume on Twitter: "@ssskkk111 @jongarysteele Season Two."

Georgian 18th century petticoat & sack back gown watteau | Etsy

While I have the impression that this red gown was a fan-favourite, it is completely wrong for Versailles. The main issue is the opening of the bodice. While the 18th century was a time when a woman's bossom was very much in focus (due to a combination of tight corsets and low necklines) this would have been too much. The gown is beautiful but an 18th century courtier would consider it to be an unfinished dress. Besides the cleft in the bodice it is also completely devoid of any type of ornament which would typically have been all the focus of the age.

Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe in Outlander (2014) - Click to expand

Outlander on Twitter: "Our incredible leading lady. #Outlander… "Claire red dress profile

Again, the costume is too simple compared to the time it is supposed to take place in. The cut is accurate, though, as it would have been the right length for a caraco or a pet-en-l'air.

I spent a lot of time looking at a LOT of 18th century French Costumes. The vast majority did not feel like Claire. They felt like Louise. They felt like any member of the French aristocracy, but n…

This maternity gown is not far from what a deshabille would have been - a looser bodice but still in valuable silk. However, the lack at the engagents would not have been dyed black. 

Claire, miscarrying Faith, in the Bois de Boulogne as she tries to stop the duel between Jamie and Black Jack Randall

While absolutely beautiful, there is something odd about this gown. It seems that the skirt has been sewn onto a jacket and the gloves are overlapping the sleeves. Nevertheless, the embroidery and the lovely Bergère-hat are definitely appropriate.

Outlander: Paris is always a good idea - except for the Frasers - Linda Merrill #outlander #paris #gabaldon #season2 #claire #jamie #versaillesOh yeah, he's basically a model. | The 38 Sexiest Pictures of Jamie on Outlander | POPSUGAR Entertainment Photo 26

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James Fraiser

Jamie - like Claire - tends to stick to the darker shades. This suit would probably have been a few shades brighter if it was a genuine 18th century suit. Still the heavy embroidery on the waistcoat is very true to form. The cravat is a bit "rustic" but would not have been that out of place.

Here are 40 NEW portraits of the cast of Outlander Season 2 More portraits after the jump!40 New Portraits of the Cast of Outlander Season 2 | Outlander Online

It is true that not everything worn by an 18th century courtier was made of silk; men's suits - especially the coats were often of velvet or rougher materials. However, the embroidery on this white coat would have been in a contrasting colour - the entire purpose was to show it off. The addition of the black belt is related to the story line, so there is no problem with that.


Speaking of contrasting embroidery, Jamie wears a good example - albeit somewhat colour-less - at a ball:

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Bonnie Prince Charlie

Having lived at Versailles, Prince Charles Stuart definitely took to the fashion trends of his hosts. Heavy embroidery, brightly coloured silks, large buckled shoes and detailed buttons are all a part of his ensembles. The flower embroidery is realistic since florals were very much in - both for men and women.

Outlander S2 Andrew Gower as "Prince Charles Edward Stuart"40 New Portraits of the Cast of Outlander Season 2 | Outlander Online

Portraits appears to have been a source of influence for the costume designers which is very clear in this tartan-suit. Note how even the lavish gold border is replicated - this attention to detail is irresistible.

New BTS pic of Andrew Gower from Outlander Season 3 | Outlander Online

Outlander Online                                                                                                                                                                                 MoreLearn about Outlander filming locations, places to visit in Scotland, including Castle Leoch and standing stones, find Outlander map and more.

These colours are a perfect example of what was favoured by Louis XV's court - bright and lustrous. Pink (or salmon depending on how you see it) was not reserved for females - it was a time before all that. 

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Louise de Rohan

A true French aristocrat, Louise de Rohan's dresses are very true to what real women at Versailles would have worn. Ostentatious and lavish, her wardrobe is primarily of silk and is decorated with an abundance of bows, ruffles and lace.

This robe à l'Anglaise depicts a silk gown with a large floral pattern - quite in mode at the time. The second photo beautifully shows of the engageants at the sleeve with the delicate lace underneath. Notice the row of bows at the bodice; this and the choice of colour resembles those worn by Madame de Pompadour in her portraits.

Outlander + Costume Details | ©️️Outlander - Louise de Rohan (4)

Once again, my name-sake brings all the ruffles to the bodice - and adds a golden trim. Especially interesting is the lace around the neck. The 1740's was a transition period when it came to accessories. Jewels were still popular but lace and pearls were increasingly worn - even at formal occasions. 

Claire Sermonne as Louise de Rohan in "Outlander" (2014-)

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Louis XV

Although his role is limited - and pretty unlike a gentleman - it was impossible not to include Louis XV. 

The golden suit is perfect for the king of France. Everything from the intricate lace in the cravat to the lavish gold-thread embroidery and the (apparently) diamond encrusted buttons are perfectly realistic. The only thing that stands out is how metallic the breeches looks - it almost looks a bit too modern.

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Considering the extravagance of the military uniforms, Louis' certainly lives up to his rank. The red and blue uniforms of his guards are equally true to form.

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The pattern of this banyan is slightly odd but could be imagined to be imported from the Far East - that was popular at the time. Notice that his shoes match the pale red of the banyan.

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Mary Hawkins

There is something violently English about Mary Hawkins (besides her name). Compared to her more flamboyant, French counterparts her gowns are of a far more subdued colour palette. This could also be attributed to the fact that she was unmarried for a good deal of the season.

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Although far more practical, this dress would hardly be approved at Versailles. It is far too simple but the bodice is strange. Rather than an actual bodice a scarf is merely held in place by two straps - I have never seen a gown from this period that looks anything like it. However, the straw hat is on mode.

Comte de Saint-Germain 

The Comte is portrayed (by a man who has previously played Louis XV) as a wealthy courtier and he would certainly have had to be to afford a wardrobe like his. Not only is his coat of silver silk brocade, it is also lined with fine lacing and his waistcoat is similarly silver lined. 

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The lighting in the photo below makes the coat look almost purple while it is in fact blue - which is obvious from the other photo. Still, there is no lack of gold embroidery or even a contrasting pattern on the waistcoat. The Comte has changed his waistcoat for a bright yellow one, too, in the second photo.

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and finally...

I could not resist including this gem. It reminds me a great deal of this genuine 18th century gown of the same period

 still screaming abt a book