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Essay on Louis XIV

By bherger Feb 10, 2014 2181 Words
Louis XIV, King of France
A man of many women and children

By Brendan J. Herger

Louis XIV, King of France
a Man of many Women and children
While the reign of Louis XIV is well noted for many commendable achievements-a more united, stable France, the palace at Versailles, and a court that was emulated throughout Europe, the personal life of Louis XIV has been a subject of debate and controversy in the annals of history. Well known for his personal vitality, by the time of his death King Louis XIV had married two wives, who both commanded respect and authority in his court, despite at times struggling for the attention of their husband. Additionally, Louis had many mistresses who were treated with a surprising amount of respect, in face of their relations to the king. Finally, the entirety of Louis’s children, both those by marriage and outside of wedlock, and those that were legitimate, legitimized, and illegitimate, have received some level of historical recognition. In addition to his position as king of France, Louis XIV led an interesting role in the lives of the women he married, his mistresses, and the small plethora of children he fathered. Wives

King Louis XIV had interesting relations with both of his wives, Marie Thérèse— Maria Theresa in her native Spain, and Françoise d'Aubigné marquise de Maintenon, better known as the marquise de Maintenon. First, Marie Thérèse was born the daughter of Philip IV of Spain, and engaged to Louis through the Treaty of Pyrenees. They were married through proxies on June 3rd , 1660 at Hondarribia, a town on the Spanish side of the Basque Country, with Don Luis de Haro representing Louis. Then, six days later, on June 9th, they were married in person in a ceremony officiated over by the Bishop of Bayonne, which took place in Saint Jean-Baptiste Church in Saint-Jean-de-Luz on the French side of the Basque Country.1 Described as a pious and virtuous woman, who helped improve morals of court, Marie Thérèse was a major force in the adaptation and advancement of Louis’s court, which would later be emulated across Europe. Moreover, she bore six children, only three of which were known to have survived. One would grow up to be the ‘Great Dauphin of France’, though never the king. Additionally, some believe that Marie may have given birth to another child—the daughter of an African prince—who was placed in the trust of an African family, and would later become a nun.2 Moreover, during their marriage she was not the sole bedmate of King Louis XIV, and, while no certain conclusion can be drawn, most likely knew of Louis’s mistresses. Regardless of any infidelities, Marie remained the Queen of France, and held much power until her death, in 1683, shortly after which she was replaced by Françoise d'Aubigné marquise de Maintenon.3 Françoise d'Aubigné marquise de Maintenon, commonly referred to as the marquise de Maintenon, had led a hard life until she was secretly married to the King of France, and, as some argue, continued to after. Born Madame Scarron, had previously been married to a poet, who had died, before she became the governess of the children of Françoise Athénaïs marquise de Montespan, a mistress of the king. While she and her wards were originally kept in secrecy, once the children of the marquise de Montespan were legitimized, Mme. Scarron was a full fledge member of the court, and eventually was given money to buy land, which gave her the title of the marquise de Maintenon.4 While in a member of the court, she was often visited by Louis, and largely assumed she was another mistress by 1670.5 After the aforementioned death of Queen Marie, who died in her hands, the relations between Maintenon and Louis were believed to have greatly deepened, and by 1684 they were married, morganatically. While this marriage did legitimize any of Maintenon’s children, and elevate her to the position of Louis’s wife, she would never be granted the title of queen, and never be given a higher title than the one she had bought. Additionally, during their marriage, Louis seemed to have a strong interest in procreation with his second wife. While Louis was believed to have had no mistresses during his second marriage, and perhaps because of this fact, he was rumored to have procreated with Maintenon at least twice a day until he reached the age of seventy two.6 While Madame Scarron did become the wife of a king, and received all of this position’s trappings, a stark contrast to her live previously, she never became a queen. Mistresses

While the wives of Louis XIV may have been interesting, and valued additions to his court, they are well complemented by his mistresses, including Maria Mancini, Henrietta of England, Louise Françoise de La Baume Le Blanc de La Vallière, Françoise Athénaïs marquise de Montespan, and the aforementioned Madame Scarron, who he later married. As a whole, they were generally attractive women, but their individual significance to the king has been widely debated. Varying from satisfying a need to be loved that had been unfulfilled since his childhood7 to fulfilling a purely physical need, which his second wife excelled at8, King Louis’s interests seemed to have varied with his age, but was almost always accompanied by an unprecedented level of acceptance, shown by his legitimization of children, and titling of mistresses9. The first woman of Louis, technically not a mistress, was his first love, Maria Mancini. Little is known of this early endeavor in love, other than that she was the niece of the Louis’s minister, Cardinal Mazarin, and that she had to leave Louis when he became engaged to Marie Thérèse. While some argue that an extramarital affair may have occurred after the marriage, there is comparably little credence to this claim. 10 The first known possible true mistress of Louis XIV was Henrietta of England, the wife of his brother, Monsier Philippe Duc d’Orleans. The daughter of Henry IV, King of England, Henrietta was known for her “frail beauty” and “kindly spirit”. Additionally, her position as the mistress of Louis is somewhat contested; while most agree that she was an extramarital interest of the king, some argue that she may have simply been a close sister-in-law, who enjoyed spending time with Louis. 11 Regardless, the two spent a good amount of time together, at Versailles, and seemed to have particularly enjoyed the gardens. 12Any timeline as a mistress could simply begin with the marriage of his brother, and her death in 1681. Additionally, Louis XIV was known to have had relations with Louise Françoise de La Baume Le Blanc de La Vallière, the daughter of Henrietta. While the transition, or overlap, between mother and daughter is unclear, Louise de La Valliere, described by contemporaries as delicate in health, with “no bosom to speak of”, alarmingly thin, and walking with a slight limp, was certainly a mistress by August 1661, at the age of sixteen. She was believed to have been in the king’s favor for six years, until 1667, during which time she gave him four children; the first two of her children died in infancy, and the latter two were legitimized in 1667 and later became the Conte de Vermandois and Mlle de Blois. At the same time as her children’s legitimization Louise de La Valliere became a duchess. 13 She later retired, some believe forcibly, to a covenant. The last of the king’s known mistresses was Françoise Athénaïs marquise de Montespan. Born Françoise asthenias rochechouart, she obtained the title of marquise de Montespan by marrying the marquis de Montespan. It is believed that her “pearl studded blond curls, languorous proud eyes, sensuous lips, laughing mouth, caressing hands, skin the color and texture of lilies” caught the eyes of Louis while she was in Versailles with her husband.14 She then remained in Paris with the king, leaving her husband without disbanding her marriage. During the seventeen years she was believed to have been a mistress of the king, she had seven children, some of which died, who he accepted, and legitimized in 1673.15 It was through the education of these children, however, that Louis met his second wife, Françoise d'Aubigné marquise de Maintenon, who would later replace her. Furthermore, some believe that while she was the mistress of Louis, he may have also slept with Mme. De soubise or the young Mlle. De scorraille de roussilles, although there is minimal evidence to support this, and any purported relations would have been strictly sexual, and contained within a small time frame.16 Finally, in 1679, Louis’s extramarital interest in her ended, and she was made the superintendant of the queen’s household, which some believe was meant as a cruel joke. After some time as the superintendant, the marquise de Montespan retired to a convent.17 While these are the only known, well noted mistresses of King Louis XIV, there may have been other, brief indulgences, particularly later in his marriage to Marie Thérèse. However, most believe that the interests of Louis were mostly contained within Marie Thérèse, these four women, and his last mistress, marquise de Maintenon , whom he married. 18, 19 Legitimate & Illigitimate Children

While King Louis only fathered one legitimate child with a claim to the throne of France, and two more by Marie, he had many more children, who were legitimized, and approximately eight or more children who were never legitimized. At first, there were mixed reactions to the products of the king’s extramarital affairs. Some viewed the illegitimate children of Louis negatively, which one aristocratic courtier was not shy about remarking upon: “Meanwhile, I cannot help fretting inside myself, and whenever I see these bastards my blood boils over”. Others found them suitable by the current standards of Parisian aristocracy, seeing them as acceptable children of a powerful monarch. This sentiment was more popular particularly in France, where there were higher rates of illegitimacy in large cities amongst the aristocracy. 20 First, the legitimate children of Louis XIV, through his wife Marie Thérèse and his mistresses were largely treated with the splendor that came with their births. The three children born to Louis legitimately, grew up in the splendor of Versailles, and the wealth which they were entitled to. His other children by Marie were Marie-Thérèse de France, and Philippe-Charles de France. Additionally, his legitimized children through mistresses, such as the offspring of Louise Françoise de La Baume Le Blanc de La Vallière, mother of Marie Anne de Bourbon, and Louis de Bourbon, Count of Vermandois, as well as those of Françoise Athénaïs marquise de Montespan, mother of Louis-Auguste de Bourbon, Duke of Maine, Louise-Françoise de Bourbon, Louise Marie Anne de Bourbon, Françoise-Marie de Bourbon, and Louis-Alexandre de Bourbon, comte de Toulouse. These children were given titles, and treated well within the aristocracy of the time, regardless of the personal feelings against them.21 More interesting than the legitimized children of Louis XIV were his children that were never legitimized. Numbering approximately seven of eight, the illegitimate children of King Louis XIV were still largely recognized by the king and treaty well, though their names have been intermixed with a number of­ other children sponsored by the king. While some have attempted to name and precisely number the illegitimate offspring of Louis, most attempts have been futile.22, 23 Conclusion

In conclusion, Louis XIV, the King of France, was a man of many women, and even more children. His wives, great powers within the court of France, helped shape the legacy of Louis XIV, and Marie, despite being cheated on, assisted in the creation of a court that would be emulated throughout Europe, and the marquise de Maintenon managed to contain Louis’s interests. Additionally, his mistresses were not the disgrace of the court, but were rather treated with varying levels of respect, and accepted in the court for their special positions within the king’s reign. Finally, the legitimate and legitimized children of Louis XIV were treaty as the royalty they were, and even those that were not the children of a queen were given titles, while his illegitimate children were treated with respect, and lived the lives of aristocracy. Quite simply, while the personal life of King Louis XIV may have been non-conventional, it allowed for the acceptance of all those he loved, including his many women and children. Bibliograpy

Beik, William. Louis XIV and Absolutism : A Brief Study with Documents. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000. Google Books. 13 Sept. 2008 . Durant, Will, and Ariel Durant. The Age of Louis XIV. 1st ed. New York, NY: Siman and Schuster, Inc., 1963. 34-41. "Louis XIV." Collier's Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. NEw York, NY: Macmillan Educational Company, 1990. 28-30. "Louis XIV: Mistresses and Illegitimate Children." Historical Boys' Royal Costume. 13 Sept. 2008 . Philippe Erlanger, Louis XIV, translatated from the French by Stephen Cox, Praeger Publishers, New York, 1970, pp. 88-90 Steingrad, Elena. "Louis XIV- the Sun King: Women." Louis XIV. 26 Nov. 2007. 10 Sept. 2008 .

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