Madame de Montespan

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Madame de Montespan
Marquise of Montespan
Contemporary portrait of Françoise by an unknown artist.
Contemporary portrait of Françoise by an unknown artist.
Spouse(s) Louis Henri de Pardaillan
Issue
Marie Christine de Pardaillan
Louis Antoine, Duke of Antin
Louis Auguste, Duke of Maine
Louis César, Count of Vexin
Louise Françoise, Duchess of Bourbon
Louise Marie Anne, Mademoiselle de Tours
Françoise Marie, Duchess of Orléans
Louis Alexandre, Count of Toulouse
Full name
Françoise de Rochechouart
Noble family House of Pardaillan
House of Rochechouart
Father Gabriel de Rochechouart
Mother Diane de Grandseigne
Born (1640-10-05)5 October 1640
Lussac-les-Châteaux, France
Baptised 5 October 1640
Lussac-les-Châteaux, France
Died 27 May 1707(1707-05-27) (aged 66)
Bourbon-l'Archambault, France
Occupation Maîtresse en titre of Louis XIV

Françoise de Rochechouart, Marquise of Montespan (5 October 1640 – 27 May 1707), better known as Madame de Montespan, was the most celebrated mistress of King Louis XIV of France, by whom she had seven children. She came to public notice having spent several years in fashionable Parisian salons where it quickly became clear she was an intelligent, witty and very attractive woman. She eventually gave herself the nickname Athénaïs in honour of the ancient Greek goddess Athena. As a result of this she is also referred to as "Athénaïs de Montespan". She lived at the same time as Barbara Palmer, 1st Duchess of Cleveland, the mistress of Charles II of England. Due to the marriages of her descendants she is an ancestress of several royal houses in Europe, including those of Spain, Italy, Bulgaria and Portugal. She was also responsible for the creation of the now destroyed "Trianon de Porcelaine" as well as the larger and grander Château de Clagny. The latter building has often been likened to the Palace of Versailles, just on a smaller scale. She was also called "the real queen of France" in her lifetime due to her strong influence over the king and royal court.

Early life[change | change source]

The second daughter of Gabriel de Rochechouart, Duke of Mortemart and Diane de Grandseigne, she was a member of the House of Rochechouart, itself one of the most well regarded noble families in France. Her mother was a lady-in-waiting to Anne of Austria and as a young girl, she often travelled with her mother between the family estates and the court at the Louvre in Paris. At the age of twelve, she began her formal education at the Convent of St Mary at Saintes, From a young age she was styled as Mademoiselle de de Tonnay-Charente or Mademoiselle de Mortemart.

Marriage[change | change source]

Despite being in love with Louis de La Trémoille, on 28 January 1663, Françoise married Louis Henri de Pardaillan, Marquis of Montespan, who was one year younger than her. Also from a prominent noble family the marriage was considered a good social match. The couple had two children.

  1. Marie Christine de Pardaillan (17 November 1663 - 1675) died unmarried and childless.
  2. Louis Antoine de Pardaillan, Duke of Antin (5 September 1664 – 2 November 1736); later Duke of Antin, married Julie Françoise de Crussol and had children.


Relationship with Louis XIV[change | change source]

At the age of twenty, Athénaïs became a maid-of-honour to the king's sister-in-law, Princess Henrietta of England, who was known at court by the traditional honorific of Madame. Later, because of the relationship between her mother and the queen dowager, Anne of Austria, Athénaïs was appointed to be a lady-in-waiting to the king's wife, Queen Marie Thérèse. By 1666 Athénaïs was trying to gain the favour of Louise de La Vallière, the mistress of king Louis.

Eventually it became common knowledge that Louis and Athénaïs were having a sexual relationship. Their first illegitimate child was a daughter who was named after the couple ; Louise Françoise de Bourbon (1669-1672) but who died young. As the children born to the couple increased a house in Paris was bought on the Rue Vaugirard where the children could be bought up by their nanny Madame Scarron (future Madame de Maintenon) and secret wife of Louis). Thanks to the constant requests of Athénaïs in 1673, the couple's three living illegitimate children were legitimated by Louis XIV and given the royal surname of de Bourbon. Their mother's name, however, was not mentioned. Despite having successfully seen her children with Louis legitimised, the arguments between Louis and Athénaïs became more and more frequent as well as ferocious but the couple would invariably work things out. However The "Affaire des Poisons" (Affair of the poisons), which erupted in September 1677. This was a national scandal and it was thought that Athénaïs had been using certain poisons on Louis to ensure her influence on him would remain strong. Throughout her time as mistress of Louis her influence on female fashion at court also remained considerable.

Children with Louis XIV[change | change source]

Montespan with her four eldest of Louis XIV's illegitimate children by an unknown artist.
  1. Louise Françoise de Bourbon (1669-1672) died young.
  2. Louis Auguste de Bourbon, Duke of Maine (31 March 1670 - 14 May 173) married Louise Bénédicte de Bourbon and had children.
  3. Louis César de Bourbon, Count of Vexin (20 June 1672 – 10 January 1683) died in infancy.
  4. Louise Françoise de Bourbon, Mademoiselle de Nantes (1 June 1673 – 16 June 1743) married Louis de Bourbon, Duke of Bourbon, Prince of Condé and had children.
  5. Louise Marie Anne de Bourbon, Mademoiselle de Tours 18 November 1674 – 15 September 1681) died young.
  6. Françoise Marie de Bourbon, Mademoiselle de Blois (4 May 1677 – 1 February 1749) married Philippe d'Orléans, Duke of Orléans, (later Regent of France) and had children.
  7. Louis Alexandre de Bourbon, Count of Toulouse (6 June 1678 – 1 December 1737) married Marie Victoire de Noailles and had children.

Later life[change | change source]

The last years of Madame de Montespan's life were given up to a very severe penance. Real sorrow over her death was felt by her three youngest children. She died on 27 May 1707 at the age of sixty-five while taking the waters at Bourbon-l'Archambault in order to try to heal an illness. The king refused to let her children to wear mourning for her.