Monday, 16 September 2019

The Education of Mesdames

Despite being the daughters of the king of France, the education afforded to Mesdames varied greatly. The eldest daughters of the king - Louise Élisabeth, Henriette and Adélaïde - were given a thorough education at court but as the birth of one princess succeeded another, it became necessary to reevaluate the situation. Financial concerns eventually prompted Louis XV to send his four youngest daughters - Victoire, Sophie, Thérèse (died at the age of 8) and Louise - to the Abbey of Fontevrault. 

Of all the king's daughters, Madame Adélaïde was the one who was the most eager to learn. She threw herself enthusiastically into her musical education and acquired the ability to play on a large variety of instruments "from the horn to the Jew's harp". She certainly had the opportunity to excel in that area; Beaumarchais was appointed as her music teacher. Besides French, she was taught Italian. 

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Madame Adélaïde, whose wish to learn was the greatest


At Fontevraud, the education of the royal children was apparently not considered too much of a priority. Madame Campan relates that Madame Louise could not recite the alphabet at the age of 12 and that she had only really learned to read after her return to court. However, there was certainly a degree of exaggeration to Madame Louise's claim. Casimir Stryienski points to the fact that documents exists from their time at the abbey which appears to have at least been signed by Madame Louise. Nevertheless, there is quite a leap from being able to write ones own name to being completely literate.

The complete lack of devotion to the young ladies' education was typical of the time. Most people - royal and commoner alike - believed that females did not require the same level of education as their male counterparts. Instead, they were to focus on more courtly virtues such as dancing, good manners, hunting and religious studies. Cardinal Fénelon - one of Louis XV's closest advisors - openly shared this view which can only have contributed to the neglectful education of the royal daughters. This point of view is clearly illustrated in the small entourage that was dispatched to the benefit of Mesdames. It only included a doctor, a music teacher and a dancing master. Consequently, the arts of dancing and music were the only ones that the three surviving princesses were said to have been properly instructed in.

The nuns at Fontevrault were probably not able to provide what was lacking in their charges' education. Their lives focused on religious devotion and as such - including their being females - they were not given extensive educations themselves.

Once they were all back at Versailles, Victoire, Sophie and Louise endeavoured to correct their faulty education. Luckily for them, their brother - Dauphin Louis Ferdinand - was more than willing to share his extensive knowledge with them. According to Madame Campan, the three spent hours and hours improving themselves and succeeded. Before long, they could all write French without mistakes which was not necessarily a given for a woman of the nobility. More subjects were added to their self-imposed syllabus: Italian (probably aided by Adélaïde), history, mathematics, some sciences and even English!

It is certainly to the credit of Mesdames that they wished - and did - improve themselves. Their fellow courtiers definitely noticed their initial lack of instruction. With biting irony, the Marquis d’Argenson recalled that the princesses had gone to Fontevrault where they "received their excellent education".

Madame Louise, who may have exaggerated her own
illiteracy

Once Mesdames had mastered the art of reading, they found it to be a true passion. When they were given the Château de Bellevue, they established an impressive library there which counted several thousand volumes in different languages. The inventory of Madame Adélaïde's personal books was drawn up in 1786 and accounted for over 5000 books.

It has been argued that Mesdames opposed Madame de Pompadour, not only due to the moral aspects of her relations with their father but also because she was a very well-educated woman. It is definitely  not unlikely that the royal Mesdames felt something of an inferiority complex when faced with a bourgeoisie woman who - besides her social standing - had received a far better education than they.

Friday, 13 September 2019

The Bloody Fall of Mademoiselle de Fontanges

At the age of 18 years, Marie Angélique de Scorailles served Madame as a lady-in-waiting at Versailles. While she was there, she caught the eye of Louis XIV and became one of his unofficial mistresses in 1679. As could be expected, Madame de Montespan was intensely displeased at this new development and it certainly did not help that Marie Angélique soon found herself with child.

However, the pregnancy did not run smoothly. By January 1680, she was prematurely delivered of a still-born son. The king was informed of her condition in the usual terms; the lady was said to have been "wounded in his service". If Marie Angélique had expected to fall back into her position as a rival to Madame de Montespan, she was sadly mistaken. As the maîtresse-en-titre had predicted, Louis' passion for her was already cooling.

The king's next action corresponded perfectly with the usual custom for dismissing a mistress. Mademoiselle de Fontanges was elevated to the rank of Duchesse de Fontanges and given a handsome pension of 80.000 livres - after all, she had been wounded in the king's "service".

The birth of her son appears to have taken a greater toll on her body than at first feared. Throughout 1680, her health became increasingly worse; during the birth it seems that she had hemorrhaged considerably and the extensive blood-loss continued to have an impact on her health. It should be remembered that this was long before blood-transfusions, so there was no way of replacing the blood she had lost in this manner. The doctors almost certainly aggravated the situation by bleeding her on several occasions. 

It was clear to everyone that something was terribly wrong with the young lady. Her previously much-admired looks faded fast - and with them, the king's affection. Her perfect complexion had become ashen and her eyes had completely lost their sparkle. She also became increasingly apathetic and complained frequently of fatigue. Furthermore, she swelled up. Her lovely face became puffy and she became quick to tears.

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Marie Angélique, Mademoiselle de Fontanges

When her condition did not improve, Marie Angélique decided to remove herself from Versailles and went to the Abbey de Chelles. It was said that she had chosen to retire because the king's behaviour made it clear that her time was already over. Once she was out of sight of the royal court, rumours began circulating. Some insisted that she had conceived a second child by the king and that she had gone to the abbey to give birth. 

Whether she was pregnant again is not known for certain; those in favour of the theory argued that she had given birth to another stillborn child (this time a girl) sometime in March 1681. What is known is that she contracted a high fever while at the abbey in 1681. Not long after, it became obvious that she would not survive. Louis XIV granted her request and agreed to see her at the abbey. While there, the two shared a last meeting before the king returned to Versailles - and Madame de Montespan. Marie Angélique never recovered and died on 28 June, at the age of 19 years old.

The young Duchesse de Fontanges had not even been buried, when rumours once more sprung up at court. This time they pointed a vicious finger at Madame de Montespan who was accused of having poisoned her young rival. Considering the long-lasting illness of Mademoiselle de Fontanges and the subsequent autopsy, it seems unlikely, but the Affair of the Poisons was in full swing.

Some said that the plan had been to entice Mademoiselle de Fontanges to buy a certain luxurious fabric which would have been coated with poison. Even if that plan had actually been thought of, it would not have worked. The poison would at most have resulted in a rash but would not have been fatal. It was even said that Marquise de Brinvilliers - interrogated during the Affair of the Poisons - had confessed to this plot having been hatched. However, even the Marquise admitted that she only knew of it because she had overheard fractions of a conversation between her mother and a man by the name of Romani. 

The gossipers pointed to the fact that two servants of Mademoiselle de Fontanges had been poisoned - whether that was actually the case or if they died of natural causes is unknown.

As Jacques Levron and Gérald van der Kemp asked in their book "Versailles and the Trianons": what would Madame de Montespan have gained by poisoning Mademoiselle de Fontanges?". There was no guarantee that Louis XIV would suddenly regain the former passion he had had for La Montespan. It could even be argued that Louis would have been more likely to turn from Madame de Montespan if another instance of poisoning was laid at her door.

Louis XIV declared that he would not have an autopsy performed on his former mistress. However, her family disagreed and the autopsy was carried out. The result was disappointing to the enemies of La Montespan. Her stomach was in good health and it was generally believed that poison would show in the stomach. However, her lungs were severely affected - one was said to be "full of pus". This has led later physicians to attempt a diagnosis. The most plausible is that during the delivery of her son, a part of the placenta remained in the uterus. This would result in infections which could account for the large amount of pus in her lungs. Even at the time, there were some who pointed the finger at the miscarriage rather than poison including Primi Visconti.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to conduct an investigation into the remains of Mademoiselle de Fontanges. Her remains were destroyed during the revolution.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

The Royal Gemstones of 1791

When the revolution had swept the royal family forcibly from Versailles to Paris, an inventory was made over the content of the royal treasury - including the jewels and precious stones owned by the royal family. These were the accumulated stones gathered over centuries and worth a staggering fortune. The treasury housed every imaginable gemstone - and lots of them. Below is an illustration of what the French Crown Jewels could boast of in the very last decade of the 18th century. For a full description of every stone see gallica.bnf.fr.

Since the full inventory is several hundred pages long, I have focused on the sheer numbers of each type of gemstone. It should be noted that these were "loose" stones and therefore does not account for gemstones mounted on jewellery such as necklaces, brooches, aigrettes, earrings etc.

Diamonds

A total of 367 diamonds were accounted for; these included "the Regent" and other very famous diamonds. The majority of the diamonds were clear diamonds or white diamonds but some were of a more exotic colour such as pink.

Their estimated worth: 16.730.403 livres.

Pearls

No less than 204 individual pearls were identified and assessed. Most pearls were categorized as "Oriental". Their shape varied a lot; some were described as beautifully shaped while others were simply said to be "ill formed". Some pearls were arranged in rows of at least 28 pearls each.

Their estimated worth: 996.700 livres

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"The Regent"

Rubies

The inventory recorded 146 rubies in the royal treasury. Their colours varied from deep red, to pale rose and even a so-called "vinegar" colour. The largest was a massive, rectangular-cut Spinel ruby of 56 carats and worth 50.000 livres.

Their estimated worth: 126.422 livres

Emeralds

The crown possessed 139 emeralds by 1791. Of these 109 were described as having flaws where the stones had been cut. The largest single emerald was 16 carat and was apprised at 12.000 livres. It had been cut in a square shape and was of a remarkably beautiful colour. 

Their estimated worth: 32.020 livres.

Sapphires

There were 52 sapphires to be found in the royal treasury. Their colour varied greatly; some were described as "beautiful" and "strong" in hue while others were "weak". The collection featured a massive sapphire weighing no less than 132 carats! That particular stone was estimated at 100.000 livres alone. Every single sapphire was noted as originating from "the Orient".

Their estimated worth: 152.930 livres

Topazes 

69 topazes were accounted for. A great deal of them were labelled as being yellow rather than the more common amber-like tone. The biggest stone in the collection was a rectangular topaz of 27 carats.

Their estimated worth: 41.850 livres

Amethysts

Just 3 amethysts were recorded and all were described as being of a "weak colour". The largest was 13,5 carats which is considerably larger than the other two which were only 3 and 2 carats respectively.

Their estimated worth: 6.800 livres

Garnets

8 garnets completed the inventory. Among them, the so-called "Syrian" garnets are the most prominent. The collection included a square-shaped Syrian garnet of "fine colour".

Their estimated worth: 3.100 livres



The total worth of the inventory was estimated to be 18.090.225 livres.

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

The Would-Be Husbands For Mesdames

Eight daughters did not secure the line of succession in a country ruled by Salic law. However, it did provide plenty of opportunity for securing alliances across Europe - much like Maria Theresia of Austria-Hungary did with her plentiful offspring. Therefore, it is quite odd that only one of the daughters of Louis XV and Marie Leszczynska was married off. France was generally unwilling to marry off one of her princesses to a Protestant king or prince which already limited the marriage market - nevertheless, there were still plenty of suitable suitors to choose from.

The question is why were none chosen? One reason could be Louis XV's occasional apathy towards the policies of his state. He might not have considered it absolutely necessary for France to forge an alliance with a foreign state. This seems somewhat unlikely given that the days of Louis XIV's glorious military years were long gone. Perhaps the king had no inclination to force his daughters into matrimony; the majority of them outright declared that they would rather remain unmarried than marry beneath their rank. But then again, Louise Élisabeth - the daughter who was married off - was not particularly eager to wed either. It could be that the king wished to spare himself and his family from the unpleasantness of an abrupt separation that a foreign marriage would inevitably occasion. 

The reasoning aside, it is worthwhile to take a look at who the king and his ministers had in mind before rejecting them. Two of the eight daughters born to Louis and Marie died in their childhood and one was already married. This left five young princesses on the marriage market.

Madame Henriette
Surprisingly enough, few. candidates were seriously considered for Madame Henriette. The only one who came close to a downright betrothal was not even a foreigner: Louis Philippe d'Orléans, heir to the duchy of Orléans. However, Louis XV was wary of letting his cousins too close to the throne and dismissed it.

Sadly, Madame Henriette died at the age of 24 without having ever been betrothed. 


Madame Adélaïde
Timing and taste appears to have been the factors behind Madame Adélaïde's marital status. She became a teenager - the normal age for marriage for a female - in the 1740's but no Catholic thrones were in the need of a queen. The king of Spain was married and so was his heir, Ferdinand. The Holy Roman Emperor was likewise married (to Marie Antoinette's mother) and Russia was ruled by a woman. 

But there actually was one suitable match: Charles Emmanuel III, King of Sardinia and Duke of Savoy. He had been born in 1730 and was therefore just two years older than she. Furthermore, while he had been married three times, his third wife had died in 1741. Sardinia was indeed a small nation but Madame Clothilde (Adélaïde's niece) was married to a Sardinian king so it cannot have been thought too demeaning. Also, Savoy had long been strategically important due to its location and Adélaïde's own grandmother had been a princess of Savoy.

Charles Emmanuel III of Sardinia

Others pointed to the duchy of Saxony where there was a young, Catholic prince by the name of Francis Xavier. Like the king of Sardinia, he had been born in 1730 but remained unmarried until the age of 35. Perhaps the marriage between Adélaïde's brother, Louis Ferdinand, and Marie Josèphe of Saxony made the alliance seem redundant. 

Some at Versailles argued for a French match, in particular Louis François, Prince de Conti. He was fifteen years older than Adélaïde (and a widower) which was not considered to be too much at that time. He could have been king of Poland but the attempt to place him on that throne went awry. 

At the age of 28 it was suggested that she marry Charles III of Spain. It is doubtful whether this was genuinely considered since a woman - especially a royal one - was thought to be past the age of a first marriage at this point. Nevertheless, it did go so far that a portrait of the Spanish monarch was dispatched to Adélaïde. The potential bridegroom was 45 years old and had recently become a widower after no less than 19 years of apparently marital bliss. It is alleged that Madame Adélaïde considered the proposal until she saw a portrait of the king. 

Once Adélaïde had rejected Charles II (if she did, that is) marriage suggestions seems to have dried up. Given that the princess was known for her resolute opinions it is not unlikely that she requested it.

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Charles III of Spain whose portrait allegedly
put Madame Adélaïde off the prospect of
marriage

Madame Victoire
Madame Victoire was expected to become queen of Spain by a marriage to Ferdinand VI. There was just one minor problem: he was already married to Barbara of Portugal. The Spanish queen was seriously ill and nobody thought she would recover - but she did. It says about the contemporary view on a woman's marital age that Victoire was considered a very likely candidate to marry at the age of twenty but just five years later - when Barbara actually died - the match was no longer spoken of. 

Ferdinand VI himself died just a year after Barbara but his son - Charles III (same one thought of for Adélaïde) - was unmarried. Besides her age, there was another possible reason for why the match with Charles III was never attempted. The driving force behind the attempted match-making with Ferdinand IV was Victoire's eldest sister, Louise Élisabeth. Louise Élisabeth had married the Duke of Parma who was the brother of Ferdinand IV and would therefore have brought a bit of France to Louise Élisabeth. 

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Ferdinand VI

Madame Sophie
Much like Henriette, few - if any - matches were seriously considered for Madame Sophie. Madame Campan described her as excessively ugly but that had rarely prevented royal matches. It is more likely that no suitable matches were available. Also, it should be kept in mind that seeing her two older sisters living happily and unmarried at Versailles, Madame Sophie might have had little interest in marrying at all.

Madame Louise
Finally, Madame Louise was the only one of the royal daughters to enter a nunnery. However, since this was her own choice, there had been some speculation as to whom she could marry. It was rumoured that she was to be engaged to Charles Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) who laid claim to the English throne. He was 17 years older than Louise when their marriage was contemplated. Madame Louise herself was not thrilled at the prospect; she already had her eyes on a religious life but if her father had decided otherwise, she would have had no say in the matter. 

The match was eventually dismissed when Charles failed in obtaining the English throne. If he had succeeded, it is quite likely that Madame Louise would have become his wife but as it happened, he was not a very favourable match. It was certainly a plus to France that he was a Catholic but without the English crown, he had no real title to boast of. Louise quickly took advantage of the situation and became a nun.

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Charles Stuart

Madame de Pompadour's Apartments at Versailles

Reshuffling of the apartments in Versailles was a common occurrence. Apartments within the château proper were reserved for the king's immediate family, nobility serving in the royal households and the  absolute elite of society - and an army of servants. Therefore, it was not uncommon for people to move in and out of different apartments as they advanced or retired from royal service. This was also the case for a royal mistress.

First apartment (1745-49)
This is the most famous of Madame de Pompadour's apartment and is the one that has been restored in Versailles today. Its proximity to the king's meant that it was usually used by the king's mistress - Madame de Châteauroux had inhabited it before her.

Her apartments were located immediately above those of the King and spanned some of the King's Grand Apartment too. The apartment passed to Madame de Pompadour's consisted of eight rooms - not counting her servant's apartments: a wardrobe, two studies, a living room, two antechambers (now gone), a water closet and large room. These faced the North Parterre and due to their location had a lovely view of the Marly forest which meant that the apartment had the luxury of being flooded by sun-light.

These were soon changed to fit the new favourite's taste better which caused the number of rooms to grow to ten rooms and a few very small cabinets. Here is the layout:

Apartments: 1 - bath, 2 - antechamber to bath, 3 - wardrobe, 4 - interior cabinet, 5 - old cabinet, 6 - chaise percée (toilet), 8 - second antechamber, 9 - first antechamber, 10 - new bedroom
The bath and its antechamber were only added later. The wardrobe is almost devoid of decoration since it had a purely functional purpose: to store Madame de Pompadour's gowns. Thus they were not used for entertaining company and the Marquise would rarely had gone in there herself.

The new bedroom was decorated with Verbeckt woodwork and designed by Gabriel. The Marquise's bed was moved into the snug alcove between two discreet doors crowned by the arms of the favourite. Here the Marquise would receive guests at her public toilette "like a Queen".

Previously (until 1748), Madame de Pompadour had slept in what later became her living room (7 in the illustration above); this had also been the bedroom of Madame de Châteauroux. The Marquise's new bedroom is characteristic with its green silk furniture. However, these pieces were not owned by Madame de Pompadour; the panels were a part of her apartment, though. Her new bedroom was decorated with woodwork from Verberckt. It is also in this apartment that Louis XV's "flying chair" leads up to which enabled his mistress in gliding discreetly from her apartment to his. The furniture has most likely been chosen due to their dating back to her era and happen to be of the same colour as the varnish - called Martin's varnish - used to break off the otherwise white walls. This happened to be one of the Marquise's favourite colours.

The second antechamber (8) contains a marble fireplace and was used by Jeanne to receive guests and partially to keep some of her books.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to say exactly what pieces of furniture Pompadour filled her apartments with. She was not supplied by the Garde-Meuble since she was not an official member of the royal family and there are no inventory list in existence of her apartments 1745-50. Furthermore, she was notorious for continuously moving furniture from one place to another, so the décor had almost certainly changed over the years.

Madame de Pompadour loved perfume and a visitor to her apartment described how her rooms were always scented - it is said that her choice of scents could still be smelled twenty years after she had left the rooms.

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Madame de Pompadour sporting two of her
favourite shades: green and pink. These two
colours would be to find everywhere throughout
her apartment

Second apartment (1749-1764)
Once Madame de Pompadour's physical relationship with the king had ended, she entered into a very different role: that of confidante and even advisor. Rather than sending her from court, Louis XV gave her new apartments on the ground floor. The apartment was located immediately next to those of Mesdames (the king's daughter) which must have been awkward considering the open hostility shown by them to the royal mistress. Previously, the Duchesse de Penthièvre had occupied this apartment.

Before Jeanne Antoinette could move in, the apartment had to be renovated. This task was given to Charles Lécuyer who provided this floor plan in 1750 (modified by myself): 

1) First antechamber, 2) Second antechamber, 3) Grand Cabinet, 4) Bedchamber, 5) Inner cabinet, 6) Red Cabinet, 7) Bath

Besides the Marquise de Pompadour, members of her entourage were given smaller apartments on the entresol: her physician, M. Quesnay, and her lady-in-waiting, Madame du Hausset. Besides these two, rooms were allocated for the use of her wardrobe and her lesser-known servants.

Madame de Pompadour herself was delighted with the change. Although the apartment in the attic might be more suitable for intimate pillow talk, the new apartment was more formal and far more dignified. Besides, there were several practical advantages. For one, her guests no longer had to climb a mountain of stairs to visit her. As it happens, Jeanne Antoinette was only the second royal mistress to be housed in this particular part of the palace which was usually reserved for the king's immediate family. The former had been Madame de Montespan. 

The new set of rooms certainly served to cement her place close to the king's heart. It was entered via Cour Royale (Royal Courtyard) and had a lovely view overlooking the Parterre du Nord. The decoration of the bedchamber took full advantage of this location by placing the bed in the alcove so that the lady would lie facing the windows. Her inner cabinet (no. 5 in the illustration) served as her private office where she would receive dignitaries and even ambassadors.

The Red Chamber (no. 6) was the most intimate place in her apartment. It was named due to its exotic décor of red Chinese lacquer which adorned the walls. It was here that she would consult with Louis XV and ultimately it would be where she died in 1764.

Finally, her bath (no. 7) was not just a tiny room kept out of sight. Of course, it included the essentials but also boasted a boudoir immediately connected with the bath.

As could be imagined, Jeanne Antoinette took the opportunity to put her own special touch on the interior design of her new abode. The walls were coated with delicate pastel shades (pink and green in particular) which matched the silk furniture perfectly. The abundance of space meant that she had plenty of rooms for her beloved porcelain figurines and flowers.

Sadly, nothing of her personal taste survives to this day. Once she died, the rooms were given over the Mesdames who quickly stripped the rooms of any trace of her. The walls were painted over with a sober white varnish and the furniture swapped. Even the red lacquer walls were removed when that particular chamber was handed over to Madame Adélaïde.



The first apartment has been restored by Versailles to imitate the style that Madame de Pompadour imposed while she lived there. The result is as follows:

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Photo by Christian Milet
Antechamber





The Oddity of Madame Louise

The youngest daughter of Louis XV and Marie Leszczynska - Madame Dernière - was known as Madame Louise. Although few of the royal princesses were considered to be downright beautiful, Madame Louise was remarked as being somewhat odd looking and she certainly suffered from several disabilities. 

From birth, Madame Louise's spine had been slightly curved which gave her a little hump on the back. Her figure was further damaged by a notable limp and a remarkably short stature. Madame Campan relates how the Mesdames would alert each other when Louis XV came for a visit in Madame Adélaïde's apartments. Each would ring a bell which alerted the other and so on until they all headed to greet their father. However, Louise's apartment was the last in line and as such she would have to run to reach her sisters in time - often considerably slowed down by said limping.

Illustration.
Madame Louise at 11 years old

Perhaps in an effort to hide her disability, she would wear very high heels. Once she joined the Carmelites, she took to wearing their characteristic flat slippers which allegedly made her legs swell up. There was another reason why she might wish to don the heels; she was the only one of Louis XV's daughters who was distinctly short.

At court, there was a theory as to why Madame Louise never reached the stature of her sisters. When she was young, Louise had a severe fall from a balustrade which left her unconscious for a while. The surgeon declared that she would not be affected by the fall but ever since then it was noticed that she leaned slighted to the left and that she grew very little afterwards. Another difference between her and her sisters was her skin tone; apparently, Louise was not quite as pale as the other Mesdames. 

According to the Duc de Luynes, Louise's head appeared to be "too big for her body". Louise appears to have been aware of her large head but she took it with an ounce of humour. Once she was asked to sketch out her portrait to which she allegedly replied: "big head, big forehead, black eyebrows, grey eyes, crooked nose, forked chin and hunchbacked". Given that no account of her - by courtiers as well as family - describes her as unattractive, it is possible that she was being a tad hard on herself when describing herself as she did.


Louise as an adult but before entering the
convent

Oddly enough, the features of Madame Louise were not ugly. According to Madame de Pompadour, her own father summed up her appearance as follows: "very small ... features bad rather than otherwise but with an expression which pleases much more than if she were beautiful". Her mother was convinced that her youngest daughter was the epitome of sweetness and had an air of spirituality.  She was not the only one to notice the inner fire of Madame Dernière. Edmond Jean François Barbier and the Duc de Luynes both noted that she was very lively and her inner spark made her pretty.

The portraits of Madame Louise certainly does not portray an unattractive woman - but then again, they wouldn't. Nattier painted her at the age of 11 and already at this point her eyes have that spark that drew attention from several contemporaries.

Monday, 9 September 2019

The Perfumes of Versailles

Previously, I made a post about the favourite scents of Louis XVI's court but I wanted to expand a bit on that subject. These are therefore popular scents throughout the reigns of all three kings at Versailles and what they were made from.

Aqua Angeli 
Agarwood, nutmeg, cloves, storax, benzoin and rose water

Aqua Mirabilis or Eau de Cologne
Neroli, bergamot, lavender, rosemary, grape spirit 

Celestial Water or Aqua Coloestis 
Cinnamon, lemon peel, sandalwood, gith, zedoary and calamus  

Eau de Câpres
Solely made from buds of the Caper tree

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18th century set of four perfume bottles

Eau de Chypre
This was a term which covered a lot of different variants. One consisted of jasmine, neroli, white rose, Angelica, nutmeg and iris

Eau aux Herbes de Montpellier
Not necessarily a perfume but a toilette water with a scent of thyme

Eau de La Reine d'Hongrie
Rosemary, marjoram, pennyroyal, lemon, lavender, bergamot, jasmine, amber and orris

Eau à la Maréchale
Iris, rosewood, benzoin, eau d'ange, nutmeg, bark from a lemon tree, orange, jasmine, marjoram, coriander, lavender, rose 

Eau de Mélisse
Several different recipes were used in the 18th century. One consisted of nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, coriander, lemon and Melissa leaves which would be steeped in white wine and "eau de vie". Another called for Melissa, lemon, Angelica, nutmeg, coriander, clove and cinnamon. This was used more as a tonic rather than a perfume. 

Eau de Mille Fleurs
Lavender, lemon, cassis, orange, rose, geranium, jasmine, orange blossom, orris root, violet, vanilla, vetiver, ambrette seed - the name was not completely off!

Eau de Portugal
Neroli, orange, bergamot, lemon, geranium and benzoe


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Perfume bottles c. 1750

Eau du Roi
Was centered around orange blossom

Huile de Venus
Iris, sandalwood and rose

Jardin Secret
Cardamom, bergamot, jasmine, sandalwood, vanilla, patchouli, rose, incense, amber and tonka bean.

Parfum du Trianon
Rose, orange blossom, lavender, violet, jasmine, iris, galbanum, jonquil, tuberose, cedar wood, sandalwood, amber, vanilla and musk

Sillage de la Reine
Tuberose, jasmine, iris, cedar, orange blossom and sandalwood 

Friday, 6 September 2019

Scented Gloves

Perfume always played a part in the court life of Versailles and as the 18th century progressed, new techniques emerged to add individualized scents to items of clothing. At the court of Louis XVI, one particular favourite item to subject to such a treatment was the glove. The craze for perfumed gloves was not new - it had been fashionable for at least two hundred years. In France, Catherine de Medici was credited with making the items fashionable. 

The Marquis de Frangipani, a courtier of Louis XIII, was said to have been the first to apply scented grease to gloves so the scent would last longer. Others quickly caught on and the commodity spread like wildfire. To the joy of the perfumer-glove maker, gloves were a unisex item of clothing. 

French silk gloves, 1700-1725

In the age Louis XIV, the glove-maker was often a perfumer as well. An illustration of just how close these two spheres had grown is shown by the fact that Louis XIV granted the so-called gantiers-perfumiers (glove- and perfumer) a charter in 1656. The range in prices depicts both the quality of the gloves and of the perfume used. Louis' own perfumer, Martial, sold his precious gloves for 30 sous which was exorbitant prices - in comparison, gloves scented with jasmine were just 5 sous. During the reign of the Sun King, strong scents were generally preferred - and not to everyone's delight. Madame (Elizabeth-Charlotte) wrote to her aunt Sophia of Hannover:

"Madame, had I not been able to stand perfumes, I should long since be dead, for when I am ill, Monsieur comes to me with scented Spanish gloves!"

Even the severe Madame de Maintenon was taken in by the love of perfumed gloves. According to Madame, she also chose jessamine for her gloves. However, the fascination with perfumed gloves came with certain suspicions in the 17th century. More than once was a person suspected to have died from poisoned, scented gloves and they were considered to be dangerous to those of delicate health. Cardinal Dubois, for one, wonders if the Grande Dauphine had succumbed to a wound sustained during childbirth or because the "Princesse de Conti had approached her with perfumed gloves".


Billedresultat for 18th century gloves pastel
French gloves from 1750

Louis XV - himself a fan of perfumes - imposed a tax on French-made, scented, leather gloves in 1759. The result was that perfumed gloves once again became a luxury only available to the wealthy upper classes. Another consequence was that the 1760's saw a definite low in the use of those very items which was only revived with Louis XVI. 

The tax serves to show that the production of perfumed gloves had now entered the French market. Prior to this, scented gloves were imported from either Italy or Spain - just look at Monsieur's Spanish gloves that made such an impression on Madame that she wrote to her friends about them.

Marie Antoinette's personal perfumer - Jean-Louis Fargeon - gained the attention of Marie Antoinette by presenting her with a pair of scented gloves. The perfume he chose for these kidskin gloves was a mixture of hyacinths, violets, musk jonquils and carnation. One particular aspect that undoubtedly attracted Marie Antoinette was the choice of lovely pastel colours. White had long been the colour of choice for the aristocracy's gloves but the Queen of Fashion preferred the softer tones - conveniently, they would match her dresses.

costumist-gloves-2.jpg
Madame de Genlis wearing green gloves -
scented, perhaps?

Élisabeth de Feydeau gives a very good description of how kidskin glove would be infused with perfume. The gloves would be placed in case between two layers of the chosen flowers. After eight days, Fargeon would retrieve the gloves and add a special touch. Rather than creating simply gloves that had a lovely scent, he wanted to go the extra mile. Therefore, the gloves were prepared with a mixture of rose water, white wax and sweet almond oil. The result was that the hands would be moistened and protected while worn. Unsurprisingly, Marie Antoinette was delighted with the invention and ordered several pairs to be given as presents.

By the late 18th century, scented gloves were a common feature in most ladies' wardrobe. Madame du Barry even received a pair from the King of Sweden as a Christmas present. The style had clearly changed from the time of Louis XIV. Whereas gloves had then been heavily embroidered and adorned with laces or even gemstones, the court of Louis XVI preferred simplicity.

The Violence of the Prince de Conti

Louis Armand II was the son and heir of the Prince de Conti and Marie Thérèse de Bourbon and was born in 1695. Throughout his life, Louis Armand would struggle with his temper and would often burst into violent fits.

His behaviour did not improve when he inherited the title of Prince de Conti. The person who bore the brunt of his fury was his wife, Louise Élisabeth de Bourbon. He was known to beat her and she had to seek medical aid on at least two occasions - one of these assaults was the result of his discovering her affair with a Monsieur de La Fare.

Cardinal Dubois described the Prince de Conti as having "fits of mad brutality". The Cardinal relates the tale of how the Prince once again lost his temper at a ball at the Opera in Paris. For some unknown reason, Louis Armand had become enraged with a masked lady whom he grabbed a hold of and "ruthlessly mistreated". According to the Cardinal, he repeatedly beat her, pinched her arms and even tearing at her eyes. The unknown lady was only saved because John Law (the financial adventurer) passed by and rescued her - meanwhile the Prince was continuously laughing. 

Elizabeth-Charlotte of the Palatinate refers to a similar situation which may very well have been the same incident. She informs us of the following:
"... he seized a poor, little girl ... and placing her between his own legs, amused himself by slapping and filliping her until he made her mouth and nose bleed. The young girl, who had done nothing to offend him, wept bitterly; but he only laughed, and said: "Cannot I give nice fillips?"

The reaction by those witnessing the scene gives a clear indication of how the Prince de Conti was perceived by his contemporaries. Madame admits that while everyone felt terribly sorry for the poor girl but no one intervened because they were too afraid to have "anything to do with this violent madman".

Billedresultat for Louis Armand ii de Bourbon
Louis Armand II

It would not be completely out of the question that Louis Armand actually was mad. After all, he shared a great-grandfather with the notoriously mad Prince de Condé. Madame gives us another indication that Louis Armand's mind was not quite right. The Prince de Conti was said to have his whimsies which might be innocent enough in itself. However, she also mentions that he is not only aware of his whimsical tendencies but unable to control them.

The appearance of the Prince de Conti appears to have matched his vile temper. He was described as being "hideous" and had a distinct hunched back. Madame certainly had little to say in praise of him; she painted a picture of a "horridly made little man, and is always absent, which gives him a distracted air, as if he were really crazy". 

Thursday, 5 September 2019

The Weight of the Crown: Bourbon Obesity

Living like kings necessarily means eating like kings which is never beneficial in the long run. The Bourbons certainly had a taste for good dining but a good deal of them suffered the consequences. Several of the main personages of the dynasty at Versailles were overweight - some to a disturbing degree.

Some of the children of Louis XV were afflicted by issues with their weight. Madame Victoire had been quite a slender, young woman but over the years, her weight escalated. Her over-indulgence in food became so bad that she went to take the waters in Lorraine with her sister, Madame Adéläide in 1761 for "over-consumption of food". Their father even nicknamed her "sow"; Louis XV had several odd nicknames for his daughters none of which sound very flattering today.

The king's only son, Louis Ferdinand, was also said to be on the plump side. It was only towards the end of his life, in 1762, that he lost weight. However, this was not due to a sudden change of lifestyle - he was dying from tuberculosis.

Jean-Marc Nattier, Madame Victoire de France (1748).jpg
Madame Victoire

The children of Louis Ferdinand and Marie Josèphe of Saxony appears to have been particularly inclined towards obesity.

Louis Stanislas Xavier, Comte de Provence quickly gained weight in his early teens. At the age of 16, when he married Marie Josèphine of Savoy, he was so large that he had to waddle rather than walk. Nevertheless, he would still indulge in his passion for the dining table. It was not just at Versailles that Louis Stanislas would enjoy the best French cuisine. When he travelled throughout France, his wife complained that he became "fat as a barrel". Unlike his brothers, Louis Stanislas could not partake in the favourite exercise of his family: hunting. The Comte de Provence suffered from some sort of deformity, he could not ride on horseback and found no other exercise. His weight and handicap almost certainly contributed to his marriage remaining without children and that it took a while before it was consummated.

Louis XVI himself had issues with his weight. Although he was not as obese as revolutionary propaganda would later claim, he was said to have had a pot-belly by the age of twenty. It is likely that he would have been larger if he had not been such an avid horseman. Another factor in keeping his weight down could have been his wife, Marie Antoinette. She allegedly advised him to indulge less in his fondness for sweets and he did comply - to some extent.

Louis Stanislas

Their sister, Clothilde, also gained a considerable frame which prompted several crude jokes. She was generally referred to as "Gros-Clothilde" or Fat Clothilde. Madame Campan relates an anecdote in which a young Clothilde was called that (to her face) by a playmate who promptly received a scolding from the princesse's governess. However, Clothilde does not seem to have taken it too much to heart because she sent her friend a note forgiving the indiscretion.
When she was betrothed to the heir to the Sardinian throne, Charles Emmanuel, it was viciously whispered in the corridors of Versailles that he had gotten two brides rather than one. As for her future father-in-law, he was concerned that her weight might prevent her from carrying children - this alone shows that she must have been considerably over-weight. To his credit, Charles Emmanuel merely stated that he had been given "more to love". It is disconcerting that Clothilde already had such a heavy frame especially considering that she was just 14 years old.

Lady Antonia Fraiser (whose book on Marie Antoinette I heartily recommend) considers whether the Bourbon branch was inflicted by a glandular issue. It could certainly be the case - especially when the physiques of relatives to the Comte de Provence, Louis XVI and Madame Clothilde are considered. It should also be kept in mind that few people were in a position to (or brave enough) to keep the royal children from over-eating.

Drouais - Clotilde of France - Versailles MV 3972.jpg
Madame Clothilde

The dinner tables of Versailles certainly did not make it easy to resist temptation. Diverse dishes were served for the royal family although it is a mistake to believe that they ate all of it - often they would taste bits and pieces of the various dishes rather than consume everything. That being said, the Bourbon kings were notorious for eating enormous amounts of food.

Naturally, not every member of the Bourbon dynasty were over-weight. Louis XV - for one - kept a slender figure throughout his life, as did his grandson, the Comte d'Artois. The latter is interesting considering that three of his siblings suffered from issues with their weight. Likewise, Madame Élisabeth does not appear to have been plagued by weight issues much like her aunts Madame Adélaïde, Madame Louise and Madame Sophie.

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Louis Stanislas Xavier de Bourbon, Comte de Provence

Born on 17 November 1755, Louis Stanislas Xavier was fourth in line to the throne of France. As a child, he was educated alongside his brother - the future Louis XVI - and showed himself to be a remarkably intelligent boy. By the age of 12, he had lost both his parents and suddenly became second in line to the throne. Just three years later, Louis Stanislas had his own personal household established - and quite a considerable one at that. At the same time he was granted several titles including that of Comte de Provence which he became known as at Versailles.

Considering that he was now a fully educated young man, the question of his marriage naturally arose. A Savoyard princess was found for him and on 14 May 1771 he married Marie Josèphine. The union was not a particularly joyous one. Marie Josèphine was considered to be both ugly and boring while Louis Stanislas might have been impotent and was already obese. As a result, the marriage was not consummated for a long while. In an attempt to save face - and get under the skin of his elder brother - he would often taunt Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette with his prowess in the bedchamber. It was considered quite a joke at Versailles since it was an open secret that Louis Stanislas' own marriage was unconsummated. Louis Stanislas would never have children by Marie Josèphine although she did have at least two confirmed pregnancies.



Louis Stanislas Xavier

Louis Stanislas was an ambitious man who harboured a certain jealousy that his brother had ascended the throne rather than himself. When Louis XVI became king, the Comte de Provence - now Monsieur - was not given more political influence. Perhaps the frustrations he faced at court resulted in his trips across France. Either way, he spent considerably longer time travelling through his family's dominions than his brothers and sisters.  

Whenever he was at court, Louis Stanislas experienced a turbulent relationship with the king and queen. He had little in common with his brother and they often quarrelled; likewise, him and Marie Antoinette did not see eye to eye. Nevertheless, as long as the king and queen had no children he stood to inherit the throne. These hopes were dashed in 1781 when a Dauphin was born and further diminished when another was born in 1785.

Cut off from his passion for politics, Louis Stanislas threw himself into his love of books. He amassed a collection of more than 11.000 books. Meanwhile, his relationship with is wife suffered a final blow when he fell in love with a lady-in-waiting of hers by the name of Anne Nompar de Caumont, Comtesse de Balbi. As a true prince of France, he had expensive tastes and quickly amassed a huge debt of 10.000.000 livres - paid off by his brother.

When the revolution broke out, Louis Stanislas advocated a strong resistance to the demands of the National Assembly. While his younger brother, the Comte d'Artois, emigrated with his wife, Louis Stanislas remained at Versailles and advised his brother not to abandon Versailles. He was not imprisoned alongside the rest of the royal family but lived at the Palais de Luxembourg with his wife. They lived there until 1791, when the attempted flight to Varennes decidedly soured life for royalty in Paris and the Comte and Comtesse de Provence escaped to the Netherlands.

He would later proclaim himself Louis XVIII but the period following 1793 is outside the scope of this blog. Louis Stanislas died in Paris on 16 September 1824.

The Jewels of Marie Leszczynska

The Polish-born Marie Leszczynska died in 1768; she had been the longest serving queen-consort of France with 43 years in the role. Like every other royal lady, she had her own personal collection of precious pieces of jewellery - these were hers and therefore were not counted amongst the Crown Jewels of France. Consequently, they give us an insight into her personal tastes and relationships. She was also entitled to bestow them on whomever she wished through her last will and testament whereas the Crown Jewels passed to the next queen.

Aigrettes / Hair Adornments

1 aigrette of diamonds (described as being in "sultane" style, so perhaps inspired by Ottoman jewellery?) 

Bracelets

1 pearl bracelet with a portrait of the king framed by diamonds mounted on five rows of 66 genuine pearls and some artificial

1 bracelet of pearls and a diamond

2 gold bracelets

1 gold bracelet containing the hair of the queen of Poland (her mother)

1 gold bracelet with a portrait of the queen of Poland 

1 gold bracelet with a portrait of the king of Poland 

1 bracelet with the monogram and hair of the king of Poland 

1 bracelet with the hair of Louis Ferdinand, her late son

2 gold bracelets containing the portraits of her eldest daughter, Louise Élisabeth, and her son-in-law, Philip, Duke of Parma

Earrings

1 pair of girandole earrings in the following pattern: two brilliants formed a loop with a square diamond in the middle - six brilliants made up pendants completing the girandole

1 pair of earrings consisting of a total of 66 brilliants including four larger brilliants

Necklaces

1 necklace in choker-style with a bow of pink diamonds at the centre and twelve prominent diamonds surrounding them. The remainder of the necklace was made up of smaller diamonds.

1 necklace with a wooden cross, eight smaller crosses and rings or hearts of gold (apparently Marie was particularly fond of this necklace as she was said to be "always" wearing it)

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Marie Leszczynska

Parure / Sets

1 parure intended to be worn for mourning. It was made from black jet and consisted of a necklace, earrings, girandoles and individual pieces to be attached to clothing.

Pendants

1 diamond-covered cross

1 crystal cross containing wood from the alleged "True Cross" surrounded by 44 diamonds and mounted on a base of 83 diamonds

1 pendant of a large oval-shaped diamond

Rings

1 ring with a large, pink diamond

1 ring with a likeness of the king of Poland (her father)

1 ring with a portrait of the king of Poland and three diamonds

1 golden ring with braided locks of hair 

1 ring which used to belong to her eldest son, Louis Ferdinand

1 ring depicting Saint Népomucene 

2 silver rings

1 diamond ring

1 ring with a large diamond

Miscellaneous 

1 Saint Népomucene of six principal diamonds, eighteen brilliants, seven smaller diamonds and four rubies

1 ribbon (possibly to be worn as a necklace) with a total of 162 pink precious stones and 60 brilliants

A number of pearls (probably to be attached to clothing)



As can be seen, Marie Leszczynska seems to have preferred rings and bracelets but were less inclined towards necklaces.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

The Crown Jewels of 1774

The following pieces of jewellery were added by 1774 but is not a complete list of the entire royal collection; these pieces were added to those already in the treasury which are accounted for under the inventories of 1666 and 1691. Depending on when the individual pieces were purchased they would have been available to the Marie Leszczynska and later to Marie Antoinette.

Necklaces

1 necklace of 45 diamonds

1 pearl necklace (possibly of pearls with a pink hue)

Parures / Sets

1 set of 120 diamond buttons (meant to be attached to clothing)

1 set consisting of a bejewelled belt and epaulettes; the stones used are colourful, so not "just" white diamonds. This particular set is specifically said to have been made for Louis XV.

1 diamond set consisting of: 1 large diamond, 2 diamond necklaces, 3 pieces made up of small diamonds (unspecified nature), 2 diamond bracelets, 1 diamond pendant and 1 cross with 5 diamonds.

1 diamond and ruby set consisting of a necklace, earrings, pendants and several other pieces


Earrings

1 pair of earrings with two pearls each

1 pair of girandole earrings of diamonds and pearls


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Marie Leszczynska wearing several diamonds
attached to her stomacher as well as a double-
row of pearls in her hair

Buttons

120 diamond buttons (meant for vests)

128 buttons of diamonds and pearls


Epaulettes

1 pair of epaulettes adorned with pink diamonds

1 epaulette of diamonds and rubies 


Aigrettes / Hat Adornments

1 hat adornment of 7 diamonds

1 hat adornment of eleven diamonds and seven pearls

1 aigrette of nine pear-shaped diamonds



Brooches

7 large diamond brooches

14 smaller diamond brooches


Miscellaneous 

19 pieces of jewellery intended to be attached to or around the buttonhole - almost like a brooch; each consisting of three diamonds

1 row of twenty-one pearls

1 row of twenty-five pearls with a pendant of one large, round pearl

9 pear-shaped diamonds (to be attached to a stomacher or a justaucorps)

1 pendant consisting of a yellow diamond

1 Golden Fleece of gold and coloured gemstones

1 Golden Fleece of four large diamonds, eight medium-sized diamonds and several brillants

1 Saint-Esprit cross of eighteen diamonds and several small diamonds and rose-coloured gems

1 Saint-Esprit cross with sky-blue sash


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Louis XV is wearing a Saint-Esprit cross
with a blue sash - possibly the one mentioned
in the inventory

The inventory glosses rather easily over "several precious stones and pieces of jewellery - of diverse colours - acquired during the reign of Louis XV" but does not specify exactly what jewellery it is. It does mention, however, girandole earrings and bracelets as being amongst the pieces.

The Crown Jewels

The collection of French Crown Jewels was initiated by Francis I in the 16th century and only grew over the centuries. Sadly, during the revolution, the majority of the Crown Jewels were sold off and thus were scattered throughout the world. Even those pieces of jewellery that was successfully smuggled out were rarely in the same condition as prior to the revolution; many had been broken up - probably in order to enable the smuggling - and later resembled in a different design.

Still, the Crown Jewels of France were amongst the most magnificent in the world during the years of Versailles. Below, individual gemstones as well as entire inventories gives an insight into the glittering treasury of the French royal family. 

The Crown Jewels


Inventory of 1666


(new additions to the collection)

Inventory of 1791
(individual stones)

The Individual Gemstones



"The Sancy"



The Individual Pieces (1660-1715)




The Individual Pieces (1716-1774)



The Individual Pieces (1775-1789)






The Personal Collections


Monday, 2 September 2019

The House of Caumont

Originating from Gascony, the House of Caumont had split into two different branches by the reign of Louis XIV. One was headed by the Duc de La Force and the other Duc de Lauzun. It is estimated that the family had been among the nobility for several centuries prior to the Grand Siècle. However, there was one remarkable thing about the branch of Caumont La Force: they were Protestants.

The Ducs de La Force

1. Jacques Nompar de Caumont and (I) Charlotte de Gontaut-Biron, (II) Anne de Mornay, (III) Isabelle de Clermont-Gallerande

Being Protestant, Jacques became a target during the St. Bartholomew's Days Massacre but managed to survive. Initially, he had joined forces with Henri de Rohan against Louis XIII but later reconciled with him and served the king on the battlefield, earning himself the title of Marèchal de France. After successfully capturing several Italian towns and driving the Spaniards back, he was elevated to the title of Duc de La Force.

Charlotte was the daughter of the Baron de Biron.

They had ten children:
  • Armand, Duc de La Force
  • Henri, Duc de La Force
  • Jacques - killed in battle
  • Charles, Seigneur de Maduran
  • Pierre, Baron d'Aymet
  • Jean, Seigneur de Montpouillan
  • Jean-Jacob, Marquis de Tonneins
  • François, Marquis de Castelmoron
  • Jacqueline 
  • Isabelle

Anne de Mornay had been married once before to the Seigneur de La Tabarière with whom she had had seven children.

Isabelle de Clermont-Gallerande was another widow; she had been married to the Dutch ambassador 

Jacques Nompar de Caumont maréchal de La Force.jpg
Jacques


2. Armand Nompar de Caumont and (I) Jeanne de Rochefaton, (II) Louise de Belzunce

Like his father, Armand became a Marèchal de France - as it happened, he would often accompany his father on the battlefield. He was renowned for his bravery during his military campaigns of Italy and Spain; for instance, he had two horses killed from under him during the siege of Hondarribia in 1638. At court, he served as Grand Maître of the King's Wardrobe for five years.


Jeanne de Rochefaton was Dame de Saveilles in her own right. She died in 1667.

The couple had two children:
  • Charlotte, Marèchale de Turenne
  • Jacques, Marquis de Masgezir

Louise de Belzunce married Armand the same year that Jeanne died. She was the daughter of the Vicomte de Macaye. At the time of her marriage, Louise was 17 years old while Armand was 87! She had no children by Armand and died from small-pox after 13 years of marriage. 

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Armand
Billedresultat for Jeanne de Rochefaton
Louise de Belzunce



3. Henri Nompar de Caumont and Marguerite d'Escodeca

Henri was the second son of Jacques Nompar de Caumont and therefore the brother of the former Duc de La Force. He also followed his father into battle and killed the Duc de Mayenne in battle while fighting the troops of Louis XIII. Once the family had reconciled with the king, he became a valued asset in the king's army, where he obtained the rank of Marèchal de camp.

Marguerite was Dame de Boësse and the daughter of the Baron de Boësse. The couple had nine children:

  • Jacques - killed in battle
  • Henri - died young
  • Pierre, Marquis de Cugnac
  • Armand, Marquis de Montpouillan
  • Charlotte, Comtesse de Lauzun
  • Diane, Marquise de Montbrun
  • Jeanne, Marquise de Navailles
  • Jacqueline, Comtesse de Panjas
  • Henriette, Demoiselle de Castelnau

4. Jacques Nompar II de Caumont and (I) Marie de Saint-Simon, (II) Suzanne de Beringhen

Jacques was the grandson of the former Duc de La Force - his father and namesake, Jacques, had been killed in battle. Marie de Saint-Simon was the daughter of the Marquis de Courtomer. They had three children:

  • Louise Victoire, Comtesse de Roure
  • Jeanne
  • Marguerite
Marie died in 1670 and Jacques remarried three years later to Suzanne de Beringhen. They had seven children:

  • Henri-Jacques, Duc de La Force
  • François
  • Armand
  • Charlotte
  • Suzanne
  • Jeanne, Comtesse de Courtomer
  • Magne

5. Henri-Jacques Nompar de Caumont and Anne Marie Beuzelen de Bosmelet 

Henri-Jacques did not manage to become a Marèchal de France but was a colonel of a regiment which bore his own surname. He became a member of the Académie Française and served as a financial councillor to the Regency council under Philippe d'Orléans. His interests included science had it was he who (amongst others) founded the Académie Nationale des Sciences

Anne was the daughter of the Seigneur de Bosmelet. She had four children by Henri-Jacques but none of them survived infancy and only one of their names is known: Marie Jeanne Antonine who lived and died in 1699.

Billedresultat for duchesse de la force
Anne Marie


6. Armand Nompar II de Caumont and Anne-Elisabeth Gruel de Boismont

Armand was the younger brother of Henri-Jacques and assumed the title in 1727. Anne-Elisabeth was a widow when she married Armand in 1713. They had four children:

  • Jacques III, Duc de La Force
  • Olympe
  • Antonin
  • Armand
Armand must have abdicated his title because his son, Jacques, became Duc de La Force despite dying before his father. 

7. Jacques Nompar III de Caumont and Marie Louise de Noailles

Jacques was intended to create the next generation but he died at the age of just 41 years old and his marriage to Marie Louise had not produced any offspring. 

8. Bertrand Nompar de Caumont and Adélaïde Luce de Galard de Brassac de Béarn

This couple happened to be both descending from the House of Caumont. Bertrand appears to have been a relative to the Duc de La Force while Adélaïde was a granddaughter of Armand II. Bertrand served as a guardsman to Louis XV and a Gentleman of the Bedchamber. 

The couple had 12 (!) children:
  • Anne, Marquise Piovera
  • Jacques Armand, Marquis de La Force (died at 3 years old)
  • Catherine, Comtesse de Pille
  • Alexandre
  • Renée Philiberte
  • Anne Philiberte
  • Louis-Joseph, Duc de La Force
  • François Pierre Bertrand, Marquis de La Force
  • Josephine Louise, Comtesse de Béthune
  • Marie, Comtesse de Bram
  • Catherine
  • Louise Josephine, Comtesse de Mesnard 

9. Louis-Joseph Nompar de Caumont and Sophie d'Ossun

The final Duc de La Force (during the Ancien Regime) had close connections to the royal family during the last decade before the revolution. His godparents had been the Comte and Comtesse de Provence (brother and sister-in-law of Louis XVI) and his marriage contract was signed by the king and queen. He served in the army from 1780 and later became a Grandee of Spain.

Sophie was a friend of Marie Antoinette and was given her tabouret in 1788.  The couple had just one child: Adélaïde Olympe.

The couple emigrated during the revolution and the family still holds the title today.

Louis-Joseph Nompar de Caumont
Louis-Joseph

The Duc de Lauzun

1) Antoine Nompar de Caumont and Geneviève Marie de Durfort

Antoine is known particularly for being the love interest of La Grande Mademoiselle whom he may or may not have married in secret. He was known as a bit of a troublemaker - having been imprisoned several times - and he moved to England in 1685 in the hope of gaining favour with James II. He would later return to France where he continued to be out of favour with Louis XIV. When La Grande Mademoiselle died, he married Geneviève.

Geneviève was just 14 years old when she was married to the 63-year old Duc de Lauzun. She was the sister-in-law of the Duc de Saint-Simon. The couple never had any children.  


Antoine had no children, so the title went to husband of his niece and therefore passed on to the House of Gontaut.

Antoine-Nompar-de-Caumont-duc-de-Lauzun par Belle.jpg
Antoine




Interesting facts:
  • Charlotte-Rose de Caumont La Force (granddaughter of the first Duc de La Force) became a renowned novelist who converted to Catholicism 
  • The Ducs de La Force must have been made of sturdy stuff - several died at remarkably high ages
    • Henri died at 96 years old
    • Armand died at 95 years old
    • Jacques died at 93 years old
    • Armand II died at 83 years old
  • Besides La Grande Mademoiselle, the Duc de Lauzun enjoyed the favouritism of the English Queen, Mary of Modena 
  • The father and brother of the first Duc de La Force were killed during the St. Bartholomew's Days Massacre
  • The Paris residence of the family - the Hôtel de La Force - became the notorious La Force prison during the revolution

Titles held by the House:
  • Duc de La Force
  • Duc de Caumont
  • Marquis de La Force
  • Marquis de Boësse
  • Comte de Mussidan