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behalf of the abductor but in this case it was quite the opposite: the Prince de Léon intended to honour the promises originally made between the two families.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.

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