Saturday, 23 November 2019

The Syphilis of the Duc de Vendôme

Louis Joseph de Bourbon, Duc de Vendôme earned his reputation as a capable general to Louis XIV; at court, he enjoyed the privileges of being a duke and peer. However, he would suffer throughout most of his life from a devastating disease: syphilis.

The British Journal of Dermatology and Syphilis has characterized his particular type of syphilis as bone syphilis. Twice did he undergo a severe mercury and heat treatment which left him horribly disfigured - without curing the disease. The Duc de Saint-Simon relates in horror how Vendôme publicly announced that he was leaving court to seek out treatment at the hands of the doctors - the memoirist makes it very clear that he feels such a disease should have prompted the general to leave quietly in shame. The treatments he underwent took place between 1698-1700 - three times in total. 

The first time he returned to Versailles, the mercury had already taken its obvious toll. Again, according to Saint-Simon:
"... (he) returned to the Court, with half his nose, his teeth out, and a physiognomy entirely changed, almost idiotic"
The doctors at the time thought him to be cured - at least temporarily. In sympathy for his altered looks, Louis XIV gave secret orders that no one was to mention or even allude to the physical effects of the treatment. Alas, the trials of the Duc de Vendôme were not done.

Louis Joseph had spent some time at his estate of Anet before returning to Versailles. However, as time went on, it became clear that the syphilis was slowly but certainly resurfacing. To the even greater outrage of Saint-Simon, Louis Joseph took another public leave but with no better success. As could be expected, his face was even worse off than the first time. 

Duc de Vendôme, 1706.jpg
Louis Joseph - the painter has tactfully
omitted the facial disfiguration 

His contemporaries did not hesitate to determine on the cause of Louis Joseph's illness. He was known to openly carry on homosexual affairs which (at the time) was thought to be tell-tale sign of a debauched lifestyle. A great deal of people believed that the disease was a consequence of it - and therefore not to be pitied. However, there is something to suggest that Louis Joseph did not come by the disease through a love affair: both he and his brother suffered from the disease. While the illness was not uncommon at the time it is worth considering whether their mother may have been infected.

Claude Quétel - author of A History of Syphilis - supports the explanation of contraction through sexual activities.

The disease had an impact on every aspect of his life. Besides the disdain he had to endure through the likes of Saint-Simon, his military career suffered too. During his campaign in Spain, Louis Joseph was granted permission to return to France to undergo further treatment. Despite his numerous attempts, the Duc de Vendôme would never be completely rid of his disease. 

The Court at Sceaux

With the reign of Madame de Maintenon, came an era of unprecedented dullness at Versailles. The glorious fêtes were long passed and grand balls were reserved for weddings. Even the weekly, Appartement was only seldom visited by the king himself who instead spent his evenings with Maintenon. The combination of the new mistress' influence over the king and the disastrous finances (as a consequence of several military failures) meant that Versailles had little attraction for the young aristocrats who could not claim a position in a royal household.

Anne Louise Bénédicte de Bourbon-Condé was amongst those who had had enough of the austere atmosphere at the king's court. She had been married to the king's illegitimate son, the Duc du Maine, and was therefore known at court as the Duchesse du Maine. By 1700, her husband purchased the Château de Sceaux which Louise Bénédicte immediately took for her own residence. 

Once she had properly refurnished the château (at a cost of 80.000 livres), she set about creating her own little court.

The Philosophers

The nature of life at Sceaux baffled people. On one hand, the Duchesse du Maine gathered free-thinkers in large numbers. For anyone interested in 18th century philosophy, the company was an absolute treasure trove: Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Hénault, Cardinal de Bernis and the Comte de Caylus were frequent visitors. Hénault himself enjoyed his trips there. As he put it:
"If the court is less brilliant, it was not any less agreeable; persons of consideration and wit made up its society"

Future salonnieres were found amongst the guests as well. Madame de Deffand was a guests there in her youth which could have given her some inspiration for her own, later salon. This could give the impression of an impressive salon where great ideas were discussed. However, Sceaux had another side to it - one that included lavish and seemingly ceaseless parties.

Anne Louise Bénédicte de Bourbon.jpg
Anne Louise Bénédicte

The Parties

The luxurious surroundings provided amble opportunity for entertaining both indoors and outdoors. Inside, balls and theatricals followed each other in hot succession. Even Voltaire's own plays were performed there; in 1750, he wrote the play "Zaire" while at Sceaux and it had its premiere there. Famous actors and actresses were equally induced to take part in the theatricals. The celebrated Mademoiselle Desmarets would travel to Sceaux, where she would partake in plays - despite being officially retired. Similarly, dancers from the Académie de Danse were summoned on a regular basis.

Anne Louise Bénédicte herself was fond of taking to the stage. Despite the very talented, professional actors and dancers, she insisted on playing the principal parts - to the despair of her husband. This was a time when private theatricals were perfectly acceptable but to perform in front of commoners (such as the professionals) were shameful. 

Outside, the park and the château could be illuminated to spectacular effect. If that was not enough to entertain the guests, then elaborate firework displays certainly would.

Anne Louise Bénédicte understood the importance of spreading the word of the exclusive society she kept. In 1712, ordinary Parisians could indulge their imaginations by reading about the "Divertissements de Sceaux". Certainly, these divertissements were many and lavish. Besides the countless balls and plays, there were regular gambling parties, poetry readings, feasts, ballets and even demonstrations of new inventions.

It was not uncommon for the hostess to add something spectacular to her entertainments. The feasts could be given a specific theme; as a result, various odd figures appeared. For instance, Druids, knights, cyclops and even planets were included in the festivities. These fantastical elements were chosen on purpose by Anne Louise Bénédicte. It was intended that life at Sceaux should be almost like living in a fairy-tale. 
Much like the early fêtes at Versailles, those at Sceaux aimed at using mythology and history to create allegories which would celebrate Anne Louise Bénédicte herself. It worked - she would soon be known as the "divinity of Sceaux".

The festivities often continued throughout the night. Anne Louise Bénédicte herself suffered from insomnia which has led many subsequent authors to claim that any type of rest was looked upon with disdain. It was this idea which gave birth to the Grandes Nuits de Sceaux: night time celebrations which were met with a mixture of applause and ridicule - and exhaustion by those present with a normal sleep schedule.

It says something about the society at Sceaux, that it managed to survive the arrest of Anne Louise Bénédicte in 1719. While her political ambitions cooled following her release, she would continue to hold court until her death in 1753.

Billedresultat for chateau de sceaux"

The Politics

As any proper court with respect for itself, Sceaux became a hotbed of political intrigue; this only increased towards the last years of Louis XIV. The Duc du Maine was the favourite of Madame de Maintenon and she used her influence to heap as many favours on him as possible. It was widely expected that when the king died, he would share the regency with the Duc d'Orléans - which was originally the plan, envisioned by Louis XIV. As such, Louise Bénédicte would be one of two leading ladies in France. Furthermore, as the Duchesse d'Orléans was another illegitimate child of Louis XIV,  Anne Louise Bénédicte (herself born legitimate) would - in the eyes of many courtiers - be the leading lady.

It is hardly surprising then, that the other illegitimate children of Louis XIV gathered at Sceaux and planned for a future without their august father. As could be expected, the opposition to the legitimised princes kept well away from Sceaux and viewed life there with ridicule. For instance, if the Duc de Saint-Simon is to be believed, people "laughed at" the Duc and Duchesse du Maine - but considering his own deep-rooted hatred of the Duc du Maine, he is bound to have a negative perception of them.

In 1715, the hopes of her husband - and herself - were dashed when the Duc d'Orléans received the required support from the Parlement and the Peers of France, to take the Regency himself. Following this blow, the couple attempted to oust the Duc d'Orléans by the infamous Cellamare-conspiracy. Once it was discovered they were arrested but soon released again. Whatever hope they may yet have had of obtaining power was completely gone.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

The Scandalous Beauty of the Duchesse de Berry

The favoured daughter of the Regent, Philippe II d'Orléans, had been married to the third son of the Grand Dauphin as thus became the Duchesse de Berry. Marie Louise Élisabeth would soon prove herself to be quite unmanageable and caused scandal after scandal. Soon, everyone knew of the escapades of the Duchesse de Berry - but what did this lady, fated to the die young from her excesses, look like?

Prior to her marriage, Marie Louise was on the heavy side. It is said, that once she heard that Louis XIV had objected to her frame, she immediately began - and completed - a diet. It should be said that she was 14 years at this point. The king's concern was not cosmetic. He was more worried that a young girl who was already over-weight would become more so and thus find it harder to conceive a child. Once she reached adulthood, her figure was noted to be good but her large appetite - a characteristic of all Bourbons - caused her to sometimes gain a little too much weight.

Still, this was an age that - much unlike our own - considered the female form to be "prettier" if more voluptuous. The Duc de Saint-Simon remarked that she was "tall, handsome and very well made".  It should be noted that other sources describe her as rather short - perhaps the Duc de Saint-Simon was not the tallest man himself? 

Billedresultat for duchesse de berry"
Detail of a portrait from 1710

This grand-daughter of Madame de Montespan, had dark, sparkling eyes with perched eyebrows. She had inherited her grandmother's blonde hair and otherwise "light complexion". Some described her forehead as "bulbous" which could perhaps be attributed to her shifting weight. 

Her obliging bridegroom is said to have claimed that she was the "prettiest person in the world and the Helen (of Troy) was not half so beautiful". Others completely disagreed. Madame (Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate) had little praise for the appearance of Marie Louise:
"... she is thick-set, with long arms and short hips; she walks badly ... is marked by small-pox; has red eyes - light blue in the iris, a ruddy complexion and looks much older than she is..."
However, even Madame had something good to say about her as well. She admitted that Marie Louise did have perfectly white and well-formed hands, arms and throat. It would seem that the Duchesse de Berry was well aware of her assets. She is said to have used her arms and hands to gesticulate - often dramatically - when she spoke. Strangely enough, from the critique Madame gives it sounds almost as if Marie Louise's eyes were like those of an albino. Yet, no one else mentions these "red eyes" so perhaps it was in the eyes of the beholder.

That she had scars from small-pox was inevitable. She had caught the disease at the age of 10 but had managed to survive. As all survivors, she was left marked by her ordeal but exactly how much is uncertain. It does seem unlikely that she was completely disfigured by smallpox scars. Not only Saint-Simon but the celebrated actor and singing teacher, Cauchereau, praised her "beautiful, white complexion".

Billedresultat for duchesse de berry"
This portrait by Gobert shows a fine complexion indeed

Marie Louise's lips were thick and quite red which was admired. Unlike many others at the time, her teeth were remarkably good. Madame described them as being like "pearls" in 1718 - consequently, Marie Louise must have been able to keep most of her teeth up until her death. Her feet and ankles were admitted to be admirable as well. It was therefore her good fortune that she loved to dance which gave an excellent view of her feet.

It is interesting to note that Madame mentions the Duchesse de Berry's walk. There can be more than one explanation for this "bad walking". One could be traced back to the prodigious drinking of the Duchesse. Again according to Madame, she was often tipsy which would definitely impact her walk. However, it could simply be a matter of defying the then-reigning fashions. The "Versailles-glide" was known throughout Europe as the effortless way ladies went through the gilded hall; they did not seem to walk, but rather glided. This was not the case with Marie Louise Élisabeth. She was constantly in a hurry and would walk with "flurried steps" - in the eyes of a rather old-fashioned observer (such as Madame) this would have been very unbecoming of a lady.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

The Courtiers' Lodgings (III)

Louise Maclovie de Coëtquen, Duchesse de Duras
Louise was housed on the first floor of the Aile du Midi; she was a neighbour to Monsieur Herault and the Marèchale de Berwick. The Duchesse de Duras left these rooms in 1741.

Apartment of the Duchesse de Duras


Louise-Jeanne de Durfort,  Duchesse de Mazarin
The Duchesse de Mazarin was housed in a spacious apartment on the first floor of the Aile du Midi. Her apartment must have been interesting to inspect; she was known as one of the great art collectors of her day. Her neighbours were the Marquis de Livry and the king's physician, Monsieur Chicoyneau.

Jean-Marc Nattier - Madame de La Porte - Google Art Project.jpg

Louis Hector Honoré Maxime de Sabran, Bishop of Laon
The Bishop of Laon's presence at court was required on a regular basis; he was the Grand Almoner of Marie Antoinette which meant that he was also responsible for the ecclesiastical household of the queen. He was housed in the attic of the Corps Central - more specifically, right above the Salon of the Grand Covert. As can be seen, he enjoyed a fairly large apartment. Three large chambers and several smaller cabinets made up his lodging.

Apartment of the Bishop of Laon

Marie Victoire de Noailles, Comtesse de Toulouse
The large apartment occupied by the Comtesse de Toulouse was entered mainly through the large antechamber which she shared with the Duc and Duchesse de Penthièvre. The Comtesse de Toulouse served as a dame de compagnie to Marie Josèphe in the 1760's. Prior to this, she had gained the favour of Louis XV by helping to facilitate his affairs with all four sister of the Nesle-family. This apartment was occupied by Marie Victoire in 1744 and was located on the ground floor of the Corps Central. The reason for why she was lodged in this prestigious part of the château was that she had married the Comte de Toulouse, legitimized son of Louis XIV.

The shared antechamber is to the far left - following that was
a private antechamber, flanked by two wardrobes

The House of Durfort

Originating from Guyenne, the House of Durfort was condensed into four branches by the time of Louis XIV: the first was headed by the Duc de Duras, the second by the Duc de Lorges, the third by the Duc de Civrac and the final by the Comte de Durfort. The family is quite large, so the focus is primarily on the main "players".

The one family that planted the seed for the branches below began with Guy Aldonce I de Durfort, Marquis de Durfort & Élisabeth Charlotte de La Tour d'Auvergne. These were the parents of:
  • Jacques Henri, future Duc de Duras
  • Frédéric Maurice, Comte de Rozan
  • Armand, died in infancy
  • Guy Aldonce II, future Duc de Lorges
  • Élisabeth, future Comtesse de Roye
  • Henriette, future Marquise de Malauze 
  • Louis, raised and lived in England
  • Charles Henri, Comte de Montgomery 
  • Henri, Baron de Pujols
  • Godefroy, Comte de Rozan (killed in battle)
  • Louise Marie Madeleine, died in infancy
  • Marie, Mademoiselle de Duras

From these numerous children sprang the branches of the Durfort family which existed in the Ancien Regime.

Duc de Duras

1) Jacques Henri de Durfort & Marguerite Félice de Lévis

During the Fronde, Jacques initially fought under the Grand Condé but changed sides to that of Louis XIV. His military skills were largely the reason for the conquest of the region Franche-Comté; in recognition, Louis XIV made him governor of this province. More importantly (in a courtier's eyes) he was elevated to the rank of Duc de Duras although his status as a Peer of France was not officially registered until 1689. Once the king was firmly in control of France again, the rewards were rained down upon Jacques for his contributions. Besides a ducal title and the governorship already mentioned, he was made Captain of the king's bodyguard, a Marèchal de France and a knight of the Saint-Esprit.

Marguerite was the sister of the Duc de Ventadour.
  • Jacques-Henri II, Duc de Duras
  • Jean-Baptiste, Duc de Duras
  • Louis (died in infancy)
  • Charlotte Félicité, Duchesse de Meillerais
  • Louise Bernardine, Duchesse de Lesdiguières

Image illustrative de l’article Jacques Henri de Durfort
Jacques Henri I

2) Jacques Henri II de Durfort & Louise-Madeleine Eschalart de la Marck

Jacques Henri II died at the age of just 27 and very little is known about his life. Yet, it can reasonably be presumed that he was being groomed for a military career. 

Rather surprisingly, Louise-Madeleine was 11 years older than Jacques - she would also outlive him by 20 years. She was the daughter of the Comte de La Marck. The couple had two daughters:
  • Henriette Julie, Comtesse d'Egmont
  • Jeanne Henriette Marguerite, Princesse de Lambesc

Salic law prevented females from inheriting, so the title went to Jacques' younger brother, Jean-Baptiste.

3) Jean-Baptiste de Durfort & Marie Angélique Victoire de Bournonville

Jean-Baptiste spent the majority of his life in battle. He fought in Germany, Flanders and Spain and was finally awarded with the rank of Marèchal de France. For some reason, Jean-Baptiste abdicated his title at the age of 48. However, he would continue to live comfortably and died at the age of 86.

He had three children by Marie Angélique:
  • Victoire Félicité, first Duchesse de FitzJames, then Duchesse d'Aumont
  • Reine Madeleine, Marquise d'Hautefort
  • Emmanuel-Félicité, Duc de Duras

4) Emmanuel Félicité de Durfort & (I) Charlotte-Antoinette de La Porte Mazarin, (II) Louise Françoise de Coëtquen

Emmanuel was certainly a very attractive match. By the age of 18, his father abdicated and he inherited the title of Duc de Duras besides his position as royal musketeer. He would surpass even his father's impressive military record by serving in no less than five different military campaigns: Italy, the Rhine, Bavaria, Flanders and Germany. It was hardly surprising when he was added to the impressive number of Marèchaux de France produced by the house of Durfort. 
When he was at home, his great passion was books. His large library was sadly scattered during the revolution. He was placed in charge of both the French and Italian comedic theatre. At court he held the position of First Gentleman of the Chamber to the king.

Charlotte-Antoinette was the daughter of the Duc de Mazarin. She had one child by Emmanuel:
  • Louise Jeanne de Durfort, Duchesse de Rethel-Mazarin
Louise Françoise provided Emmanuel with the son and heir, he needed:
  • Emmanuel-Céleste Augustin, Duc de Duras

Louise Françoise

5) Emmanuel-Céleste Augustin de Durfort & Louise Charlotte de Noailles
Emmanuel-Céleste inherited the title of Duc de Duras exactly one month before the storming of Versailles. Another military man, he spent the next couple of years attempting to curb the worst of the excesses of the revolution. He had married Louise Charlotte in 1760 and they had one son:
  • Amédée Bretagne Malo

Louise Charlotte
Billedresultat for famille de durfort"

Duc de Lorges

1) Guy Aldonce II de Durfort & Geneviève Frémont d'Auneuil 
Until 1691, Guy was known under the title of Duc de Quintin; he had been given the courtesy title of Comte de Lorges at birth and chose to maintain it when it was elevated to a duchy. Due to his military contributions he was awarded with the title of Marèchal de France.

Geneviève was the daughter of a very wealthy financier. They had six children:
  • Marie-Gabrielle, Duchesse de Saint-Simon
  • Geneviève Marie, Duchesse de Lauzun
  • Guy Nicolas, Duc de Lorges
  • Élisabeth Gabrielle, abbess
  • Claude Suzanne, abbess
  • Marie Louise Gabrielle, appears to have died in infancy

Image illustrative de l’article Guy Aldonce II de Durfort
Guy Aldonce II

2) Guy Nicolas de Durfort & (I) Geneviève Chamillart, (II) Marie Anne Antoinette de Mesmes
Besides the duchies of Lorges and Quintin, Guy held the position of captain of the king's bodyguard. He would eventually abdicate his title of Duc de Quintin in 1728. Geneviève was the daughter of Michel Chamillart, Minister for War. Sadly, she died at the age of just 29 years. She had two sons by Guy:
  • Guy Michel, Duc de Lorges
  • Guy Louis
Marie Anne already had her own position at court when she became the Duchesse de Lorges. Perhaps, Guy had already known her prior to their marriage? She served as dame d'honneur to the Duchesse d'Orléans and was herself the daughter of the Comte d'Avaux. Their marriage left no children.

3) Guy Michel de Durfort & Élisabeth Philippine de Poitiers de Rye
Guy became Duc de Quintin at the age of 24. However, the duchy of Randan was left from his aunt, the Duchesse de Lauzun and bequeathed on his younger brother, Guy Louis. Like his relatives, the Ducs de Duras, he was an accomplished military leader. He participated in the campaigns of the Rhine, Italy and Germany. When he was made Marèchal, he was given the title of Marèchal de Randan to distinguish him from his cousins.

Élisabeth Philippine was the only daughter of the Comte de Poitiers. They had one daughter:
  • Marie Geneviève, Duchesse de Thouars
Haudebourt-Lescot - Guy Michel de Durfort de Lorges.jpg
Guy Michel

4) Guy Aldonce Louis de Durfort & Marie Marguerite Reine Butault de Marsan de Keramprat
With no male heirs, the title went to the younger brother of Guy Michel, Guy Aldonce Louis. As a child, he had been amongst the chosen young boys who accompanied the Dauphin in his free time and his lessons. Following in the proud martial footsteps of his family, he partook in the wars of the Polish Succession, of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years' War.

Marie Marguerite was appointed as dame de Palais to both Marie Thérèse Raphaëlle and Marie Josèphe. It was a rather surprising match. In status, the two were quite far apart. While Guy was a duke from one of the leading families, Marie Marguerite was the daughter of a councillor to the Parlement of Brittany. There is some evidence to suggest that the marriage took place away from the court which could suggest a love match.

They had four children:
  • Guyonne Marguerite Philippine, Duchesse de Praslin
  • Guy Augustin, died at 14
  • Adélaide Philippine, Duchesse de Lorges
  • Guy Michel, died at 2

5) Jean-Laurent de Durfort-Civrac & Adélaide Philippine
Again, the title had died out in the male line. To fix this "unfortunate" situation, it was agreed to marry the daughter of the last Duc de Lorges to the next claimant: the son of the Duc de Civrac: Jean-Laurent de Durfort-Civrac. Thus, the title remained totally within in the family. 

Jean-Laurent had been one of the companions to the young Louis XVI. He would grow up to serve the last king of the Ancien Regime in a military capacity. During the last years at Versailles, he enjoyed a massive trust from the king. When the revolution broke out, he was amongst those who would have the king move to Metz. However, when the king was taken to Paris, he emigrated with his daughters. 

Adélaide Philippine was dame d'honneur to the Comtesse de Provence.

Jean-Laurent de Durfort-Civrac.jpg

Duc de Civrac

1) Aimeric Joseph de Durfort & Anne Marie La Faurie de Monbadon
Aimeric was the son of the Marquis de Durfort-Civrac and received his dukedom in 1774. Prior to this, he had served as ambassador to Venice and more recently to Vienna where he was instrumental in arranging the marriage between Louis XVI to Marie Antoinette. He was made Chevalier d'Honneur to Madame Victoire once the new Dauphine had arrived.

Anne Marie and Aimeric both died before the revolution broke out. They had two children:

  • Angélique,
  • Jean-Laurent, Duc de Lorges

Comte de Deyme

1) Nicolas II de Durfort & Marie-Agnès de Cursay de Bourdeville 
This couple had five children:

  • Joseph, abbot
  • Louis-Philippe, Comte de Durfort
  • Nicolas-Louis, Baron de Durfort
  • Marguerite-Thérèse-Narcisse, Comtesse de Poly
  • Marguerite-Marie-Agnès, nun

Interesting facts and anecdotes:

  • Guy Aldonce II (first Duc de Lorges) had a twin brother who died at the age of 1 of the plague
  • The youngest daughter of Guy Aldonce I (Marie) was a dame de compagnie to the Duchesse d'Orléans
  • Frédéric Maurice de Durfort, Comte de Rozan died from the wounds he sustained in a duel
  • The eldest daughter of the first Duc de Lorges was married to the notorious memoir-writer, the Duc de Saint-Simon. As such, the family of Lorges feature often in his memoirs.
  • A cousin of the family, Louis de Duras, was a favourite of Charles II of England

Photo Gallery:

Geneviève Marie - daughter of
the Duc de Lorges, she married
the Duc de Lauzun

Billedresultat for famille de durfort"

Friday, 15 November 2019

The Palatine Cape

Charlotte Elizabeth of the Palatinate never cared much for the reigning fashions at Versailles. Nevertheless, it was her marriage to Philippe d'Orléans that brought a new item to the French fashion stage. It was a short shoulder cape of lace or fur - it was named a "palatine". There seems to be some doubt as to exactly when it was introduced in France. Some sources claim it was in 1671 while others point to 1676. Nevertheless, it can be established that it was in the 1670's that the fashion emerged.

Some eagerly embraced the cape; the fashions at Louis XIV's court often involved exposed shoulders. Besides the obvious chill, some thought it a bit too daring and were glad to be able to cover a bit more skin and still be fashionable. Undoubtedly, it came in handy in the colder months. In some instances it could be sewn to cover the neck as well. 

There was another, more practical reason for Madame's fondness for the cape. She was an avid hunter and the long cloaks otherwise used were in the way. So, a more feminine version than the typically masculine cloak was needed.

Billedresultat for elizabeth charlotte madame palatine"

The predominant fashion at Versailles called for heavy jewellery - especially pearl necklaces. However, these were expensive and not everyone could afford the genuine pearls. In this manner, it became a convenient "cover" if the throat was already covered. As mentioned, lace was often a necessary part of the "palatine". Those who could afford it could have it made entirely out of lace - if this was case, it would have been almost entirely decorative since it could hardly have been very insulating. Others preferred to limit the lace to the lining of the cape. Conveniently, fur could be interchanged in the colder months.

The palatine was not the always same length. Typically, it was longer in the back which corresponds to the use Madame had of it during hunting. It would keep her back warm but leave her arms free to move about in the movements of the hunt. The practicality of the cape meant that it would continue to be somewhat popular throughout the Ancien Regime. 

Thursday, 14 November 2019

The Illegitimate Children of the Grand Dauphin

Louis de Bourbon rarely followed in his father's footsteps. He never showed an interest in politics and lacked the natural authority which the Sun King was so notorious for. However, in two particular aspects the apple certainly did not fall far from the tree.

Firstly, once he became a widower, Louis married his mistress (Mademoiselle de Choin) but kept the union secret. Similarly, it was widely believed that Louis XIV had married his own mistress, Madame de Maintenon.

Secondly, the Grand Dauphin fathered several illegitimate children - although not nearly as many as his august father. Surprisingly, the "natural" children of the heir to throne never took their place at court and lived rather anonymous lives.

The Secret Marriage
The morganatic marriage with Marie Émilie de Joly de Choin allegedly took place in 1695. At the time of the marriage, Mademoiselle de Choin was apparently already pregnant. Some months following the ceremony she gave birth in secret to a son. He never received a name and was quickly despatched to a trusted nurse in the countryside. Sadly, he died at the age of just two - still having never been given an official name and as such was not publicly recognised. 
Their union does not appear to have produced more off-spring. This is a bit odd considering that Mademoiselle de Choin was only 24 years old at the time of their marriage. It could be that Marie Émilie was not particularly fertile or perhaps she had miscarriages that were not recorded. This could very well be a possibility since she lived her life at court in remarkable isolation.

The "Other Women"
Despite his steady relationship with Mademoiselle de Choin, the Grand Dauphin still took mistresses after their union. In the very same year that he remarried, he still had another mistress. Unlike Marie Émilie, she was from a prominent, aristocratic family: Marie Anne Caumont de La Force. Their relationship stretched back to when the Grande Dauphine was still alive - to the great irritation of the neglected Bavarian princess. 

Although Marie Anne did not become pregnant until after the death of her lover's wife, Louis XIV still refused to sanction a public recognition of the child. That child was a girl and given the name Louise Émilie de Vautedard. The lack of official recognition placed Louise Émilie in a social limbo. She could not be given a place at court and definitely not a household of her own. However, it would not do either to let her live completely in destitution. 

As she grew up, some courtiers eyed an opportunity for securing future favour with the heir to the throne. While the "proper" aristocratic families were hesitant to welcome Louise Émilie into their family, others had fewer scruples. Nicolas Mesnager was from a wealthy family which had earned its fortune through trade. He eventually changed career and became a diplomat. As such, he was a fine match for the illegitimate daughter. His status was not high enough to offend the established nobility but just high enough for it to be a dignified union. The husband of Louise Émilie was no less than 46 years older than her. 

The illegitimate line through Louise Émilie would not last long. She died at the age of 25 years and never had children. 

As if the relationships with Mademoiselle de Choin and Marie Anne were not enough to occupy his years in the early 1690's, the Grand Dauphin had yet another mistress in this time frame. Françoise Pitel was an actress who had already had eight children by the time she became the mistress of Louis. However, these were fathered by her husband and not by the Grand Dauphin.

Louis and Françoise had three daughters over the years from 1693 to 1695. The first-born was known simply as Mademoiselle de Fleury but she died in her infancy. The second daughter was given the name Anne-Louise. She did survive infancy but only reached the age of 21 years old. Still, she managed to make an advantageous marriage to the Marquis d'Avaugour.

Their final daughter was baptized Charlotte. Of all the Grand Dauphin's illegitimate children, she was the only one who lived past her twenties. She was married to Gérard Michel de La Jonchère, royal councillor. However, the choice of her husband turned out to be unfortunate. By 1723, he was publicly disgraced when it was discovered that he had embezzled public funds. He was put in the Bastille until 1728 and lived a rather drawn-back life following that. Curiously, he died the same year as Charlotte (1750) despite being 20 years her senior. Charlotte does not appear to have had children either. 

None of the daughters of the Grand Dauphin were depicted in portraits or the like.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

The Courtiers' Lodgings: The Queen's Favourites

Royal favour was one way of gaining an apartment at Versailles; one example is the lodgings given to the Princesse de Lamballe and the Duchesse de Polignac - close friends of Marie Antoinette. These changed over the years according to both the personal relationship between the three women and the positions they received from their royal friend.

Madame de Lamballe

Upon her marriage to the Prince de Lamballe, Marie Thérèse Louise had shared an apartment with her husband and father-in-law, the Duc de Penthièvre. In this arrangement, she had a bedchamber to herself.

In July 1780, the Princesse de Lamballe was housed in a magnificent apartment on the first floor of the Aile du Midi. No less than 15 rooms were allocated to the royal friend; the location of the apartment meant that she had an excellent view of the garden and the Orangery. Her rooms were as follows: (a) billiard room, (b) passage, (c) toilet, (d) boiler, (e) bath, (f) library, (g) cabinet, (h) salon, (i) gaming room, (j) first antechamber, (k) second antechamber, (l) bedchamber, (m) toilet, (n) cabinet and (o) wardrobe.

Note the small chamber adjoining the first antechamber. It was used as a bedroom for a female servant. By 1780, she had to leave these rooms because the Duc d'Angôuleme had need of a new apartment. She was then housed on the ground floor of the same wing but, unfortunately, I have not been able to find a floor plan of that particular apartment.

Madame de Lamballe's apartment, 1780

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Madame de Lamballe

Madame de Polignac

In comparison to Madame de Lamballe, Yolande's favour rose later on in the 1780's which is shown clearly in the gradually larger apartments she received. In 1780 - same year that Madame de Lamballe was moved - she occupied a small apartment. This also happened to be on the ground floor.

Madame de Polignac's apartment, 1780

However, they did not share the ground floor for long. Already in 1781, Madame de Polignac was moved to the Minister's Wing (extending from the Corps Central on the side of the Aile du Midi). Here, she shared a larger apartment with her husband.

The Apartment of the Duc & Duchesse
de Polignac, 1781

Once Yolande was appointed to the post of Governess of the Children of France, she was moved back to the Aile du Midi - traditionally, the where the Governess lived since it was near the apartments of her charges. The apartment she received was smaller than the one she had previously occupied but it came with the adjoining entresol. This is the apartment Yolande occupied in the last years of Versailles as the seat of the monarchy.

(a) antechamber, (b) dining room, (c) salon, (d) bedchamber), (e) wardrobe and (f + g) bathrooms 


The entresol counted rooms for her servants as well as her library and a boudoir. Her husband had benefited from her promotion as well; he occupied an apartment to the left of hers but it appears to have been a temporary structure since it no longer exists.

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Madame de Polignac

Monday, 11 November 2019

The Courtiers' Lodgings (II)

Anne de Noailles, Comtesse de Noailles
The infamous "Madame Etiquette" had a long career at court which began long before Marie Antoinette arrived in France. By 1766 she was lodged in the Aile du Nord, near the chapel. At this point in time she had the prestigious post of dame d'honneur to Marie Leszczynska which entitled her to a rather large apartment: (a) cabinet, (b), bedchamber, (c) dining room, (d) salon and (e) interior cabinet.

The Comtesse de Noailles

François-Hyppolite Sanguin, Marquis de Livry
The post of the king's Premier Maître d'Hôtel was occupied by the Marquis de Livry for quite some years. To befit his status, the Marquis was given a very sumptuous apartment on the first floor of the Aile du Midi. In comparison, this wing was usually occupied by the princes and the very top of the royal households. Consisting of six larger rooms, two smaller cabinets and three very small cabinets (located between the staircases), the Marquis certainly did not lack for space - or fireplaces of which he had eight! However, no "chaise" or toilet appears to have been installed.

Marie-Josèphe de Boufflers, Duchesse d'Alincourt
The Duchesse d'Alincourt replaced Madame de Prie as dame du palais to Marie Leszczynska. As such she was technically entitled to a lodging at court but not a very prestigious one. I chose her particular apartment to show how simple such a lodging could be. As the floorpan shows, she had just two rooms and a small passage from the staircase. Nevertheless, an apartment was still a massive privilege so she was undoubtedly envied.

Apartment of the Duchesse d'Alincourt

Charles-Juste de Beauvau-Craon & Marie-Charlotte-Sylvie de Rohan-Chabot, Prince & Princesse de Beauvau
On occasion, married couples would be given a combined apartment which was the case for the Prince and Princesse de Beauvau. By 1770, they were lodged in the attic of the Aile du Nord, right next to the Opera. Considering that it was meant for two people, it was larger than usually and certainly had its perks: (a): wardrobes, (b) toilets, (c) cabinet, (d) first antechamber, (e) second antechamber, (f) bedchamber, (g) grand salon, (h) bedchamber, (i) cabinet and (j) another wardrobe. 

Image illustrative de l’article Charles-Juste de Beauvau-Craon
Prince de Beauvau

Saturday, 9 November 2019

The Courtiers' Lodgings (I)

Louis-Marie-Augustin d'Aumont de Rochebaron, Duc d'Aumont
The Duc d'Aumont served as the king's First Gentleman of the Bedchamber (Premier Gentilhomme de la Chambre) and as such was given an apartment in the Aile du Midi where he lived around 1732. Despite his grand charge at court, his apartment consisted of just three rooms - not much compared to the eight rooms assigned to the First Maître d'Hôtel who was housed in the same wing. Note that while his apartment included two fireplaces it had no place to reheat food.

Apartment of the Duc d'Aumont

Charles-Godefroy de La Tour d'Auvergne, Duc de Bouillon
Charles-Godefroy held one of the so-called "grand charges" of the French crown: Grand Chambellan or Great Chaplain. As such, it was no surprise that he was given a sumptuous apartment in the Aile du Nord - conveniently close to the magnificent chapel. The floor plan of his apartment dates to 1755 and counts no less than 11 separate rooms: (a) wardrobe, (b) passage, (c) toilet, (d) cabinet, (e) bedchamber, (f) first antechamber, (g) second antechamber), (h) grand cabinet, (i) inner cabinet and (j) toilet. It is quite incredible that his apartment contained no less than two toilets in an age where some had none at all!

Apartment of the Duc de Bouillon
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Duc de Bouillon

Françoise de Chalus, Comtesse de Narbonne
Françoise had the benefit of being a close confidante of Mesdames of France; as such, she was housed in their near vicinity in the Aile du Nord. She was particularly attached to Madame Adélaide who wielded a considerable influence with her father, Louis XV. Perhaps it is due to this influence that the Comtesse de Narbonne managed to secure a large apartment for herself which included rooms for her husband too. No less than 13 rooms were allocated for her use: (a) uncertain, (b) first antechamber, (c) personal cabinet, (d) second antechamber, (e) wardrobe, (f) cabinet, (g) wardrobe), (h) bedchamber, (i) maid-servant, (j) reserved for her husband and (k) servant.

Madame de Narbonne's apartment

Interestingly, this is the only apartment of the four which specifically shows accommodation for servants: one female (housed in "i") and one for a boy-servant (housed in "k"). The rooms marked with an "a" were described as "pieces noirs" which I am not quite sure what means. Still, she inhabited the apartment in 1766.

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Comtesse de Narbonne

Joachim-Casimir-Léon de Béthune, Comte de Béthune
The Comte de Béthune had achieved the post of Chevalier d'Honneur to Madame Adélaide and from there was granted entry into the king's chamber.  Nevertheless, he had to "make due" with an apartment in the Ministers' Wing. Still, his living conditions were better than others who were lodging in the palace proper. He had fireplaces in four out of five rooms which helped a great deal in the uninsulated apartment. If you look closely at the room farthest to the left, there is a small square with two circles on it. This is most likely a stove for reheating meals. He lived here from 1761-67.

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Comte de Béthune
 The Comte de Béthune's apartment

The Courtiers' Lodgings

Besides the royal family, certain aristocrats were entitled to a lodging at court. These would be the ones who were occupying key positions in the royal households; consequently, they would be near at hand whenever their master or mistress required their services. In truth, the apartments were constantly changing. Depending on status, employment and royal favour courtiers were moved from one apartment to the next. Furthermore, once settled in their new accommodations, it was not uncommon to petition the king for renovations to be done. These included usual upkeep but additions too - as a result, the layout of apartments changed quite a bit over the years.

The "Bâtiments du Roi" was in charge of the king's buildings (hence the name) and produced several lovely floor plans of both entire wings of the château and individual apartments. This gives us an insight into exactly who lived at the palace at which times. The nobles below were not in the immediate royal family but still lived at court and is not an exhaustive list. The years depend on the time when the floor plans were created. Note that the royal family's key members (king, queen, dauphin, dauphine etc) were mainly housed in the Corps Central. Therefore, few other courtiers were on the main floors.

Generally, there were four floors (besides the basements) were courtiers could be lodged. This include the attic apartments and the mezzanines. The posts in this category are meant to give an insight into the types of apartments available at Versailles; therefore, I have chosen a wide variety of people and positions. Stay tuned as new posts are uploaded describing individual apartments in detail!

Saturday, 2 November 2019

The Aile du Midi of 1785

In the last years of the French monarchy's time at Versailles, the royal family was remarkably large - and as such, needed proper apartments to house them. Not only Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette (as well as their children) were to be provided for. Both of the king's brothers - the Comtes de Provence and d'Artois - as well as their wives and children were to be granted apartments. Added to these were the cousins of Orléans.

Besides the members of the royal family came the numerous aristocrats who could claim an apartment due to serving in a royal household. The following floor plans focus on the immediate royal family and their closest friends.

This is how Versailles' apartments were in the year of 1785.

The Ground Floor

A) Monsieur's Pavilion
B) Madame de Polignac
C) The Children of France

The First Floor

In the Aile du Midi, the king's siblings and cousins as well as the queen's household servants were housed.

A) Comte de Provence 
B) Madame Élisabeth
C) Comtesse d'Artois
D) Comte d'Artois
E) Pavilion d'Orléans
F) Household servants of Marie Antoinette
G) Staircase of the Princes

1) The Apothecary's Court
2) The Grand Staircase's Court
3) The Courtyard of "the Mouth" (the department responsible for the king's table)

Interestingly, I have not been able to find information as to who occupied the front part of the wing.