Montpensier, Anne Marie Louise d'Orléans, Duchesse de (1627–1693)
Montpensier, Anne Marie Louise d'Orléans, Duchesse de (1627–1693)
French heiress and participant in the Fronde who provided in her memoirs a personal account of the splendor of the courts of Louis XIII and Louis XIV. Name variations: The Grand or Grande Mademoiselle, The Great Mademoiselle; La Grande Mademoiselle; Mlle d'Orleans Montpensier. Born on May 29, 1627, at the Louvre in Paris, France; died in Paris on April 5, 1693; daughter of Gaston d'Orléans (1608–1660), duke of Orléans (brother of Louis XIII, king of France, and known as "Monsieur"), and Marie de Bourbon (1606–1627), duchesse de Montpensier ("Madame"); never married; no children.
Born and raised in the court of Louis XIII; participated in the Fronde against Cardinal Mazarin (March–October 1652); exiled to St. Fargeau (1762–67); returned to the court of Louis XIV (1767); courted and almost married the duke de Lauzun (1666–70).
Anne Marie Louise d'Orléans was born into the incredible wealth and privilege that accompanied the royal family of France in the 17th century. Her father Gaston, duke of Orléans, was the brother of King Louis XIII, and as such he had the sole right to be addressed as "Monsieur." Her mother, commonly referred to as "Madame," was Marie de Bourbon, duchesse de Montpensier, the richest heiress in France. The wedding of Gaston and Marie was a union of great national import. Not only were the scions of the two most powerful families coming together, but as Louis XIII and his queen Anne of Austria were childless, the possibility existed that this union would provide an heir to the throne of France. The couple were married by Cardinal Richelieu, Louis XIII's closest counselor and the most powerful man in France, on August 5, 1626.
The marriage was ill-fated from the beginning. Marie de Bourbon, noted for her "sheeplike face and a character to match," was not the kind of woman to interest the dashing and impetuous Gaston, who had, in fact, already distinguished himself as an untrustworthy conspirator within the court. In the previous spring, he had been implicated in a plot to overthrow Richelieu. When caught, Gaston was forced to sign a document swearing his loyalty to Louis XIII and Richelieu, but soon after he was again drawn into a conspiracy. Caught the second time, he gave the first indication of the cowardly lack of loyalty he would show throughout his life. When he was threatened with losing his titles and property, he turned in his fellow conspirators, one of whom was executed. As further penance for his behavior, Gaston agreed to marry Marie de Bourbon.
It was into these curious circumstances that Anne Marie Louise d'Orléans was born on May 29, 1627. Marie de Bourbon died while giving birth, thus making her newborn heir the richest infant in all of France, with the titles duchesse de Montpensier, duchesse de Châtellerault, duchesse de St. Fargeau, sovereign of Dombes, princess of Joinville and Laroche-sur-Yon, and dauphine d'Auvergne. Having been born female she was not, however, in line for the throne, which was prohibited by French law. Through her father, she was a fille de France (a princess of the blood, referred to as "Mademoiselle" and later "La Grande Mademoiselle"), niece of Henrietta Maria , queen of England, and granddaughter of the first Bourbon monarch, Henry IV, and his queen Marie de Medici .
Louis XIII and Anne of Austria were extremely fond of their little niece, and they visited her often at her apartments in the Louvre. Montpensier was grateful for their attention, but lavished all her youthful affection on her father. Although Gaston was an attentive father, he hardly merited the devotion his daughter heaped upon him. When she was only four years old, Gaston was caught in another plot against Richelieu and was exiled. He immediately took refuge with France's enemy, Charles IV, duke of Lorraine, and in January 1632 even married Charles' sister Marguerite of Lorraine . Despite her tender age, Montpensier defended her father staunchly. She blamed Richelieu for his troubles and took to singing anti-Richelieu jingles, heard on Paris streets, up and down the corridors of the Louvre. Gaston was allowed to return from exile in 1634, when Mademoiselle was seven years old. He came to Paris alone and went to great lengths to entertain her and her friends with ballets and puppet shows.
On September 5, 1638, when Montpensier was 11 years old, Anne of Austria, after 21 years of marriage to Louis XIII, gave birth to a son, the future Louis XIV. All of Paris rejoiced, and 36-year-old Anne of Austria called Montpensier to her side to keep her company while she recuperated. Anne teasingly promised her niece that one day she would be her daughter-in-law, when Louis was old enough to marry. Mademoiselle was charmed with the idea and took to calling the baby her petit mari, or little husband. Several months later, when Richelieu heard her pet name for the future king, he was alarmed. He had no desire to give anyone the impression that he would countenance having the daughter of the disloyal Gaston on the throne of France. Richelieu called Montpensier before him, scolded her for her impertinence, and sent her away from Paris.
Marie de Bourbon (1606–1627)
Duchess of Auvergne and Montpensier. Name variations: Duchess of Auverne. Born in 1606; died in childbirth around May 29, 1627; daughter of Henri, duke of Montpensier (ruler of Auvergne, 1602–08), and Henriette de Joyeuse; married Gaston d'Orléans (1608–1660), duke of Orléans (brother of Louis XIII, king of France), in August 1626; children: Anne Marie Louise d'Orléans, duchesse de Montpensier (1627–1693).
Sole heiress of the Montpensier family, Marie de Bourbon was born in 1606, the daughter of Henri, duke of Montpensier, ruler of Auvergne, and Henriette de Joyeuse . When her father died in 1608, Marie de Bourbon inherited his rule. In August 1626, she married Gaston, duke of Orléans, brother of the king of France, Louis XIII. The following May, she died while giving birth to Anne Marie Louise d'Orleans, duchess de Montpensier, who inherited her rule and her fabulous wealth.
Richelieu died on December 4, 1642, and was followed the next spring by Louis XIII, who
died on May 14, 1643. Louis XIV became the king of France when he was not yet five years old. Anne of Austria was made sole regent, and she immediately announced the appointment of Cardinal Jules Mazarin as her prime minister. Many of the nobles of France were furious. Those who had disliked Richelieu and hoped to get their old privileges back after his death saw Mazarin as a powerful road block. The dissident nobles, of whom Gaston was a natural ringleader, were poised for the first opportunity to strike against this unwelcome interloper.
During the following year, Henrietta Maria, one of Louis XIII's sisters who had married the English king Charles I, arrived in Paris after a perilous flight from England. Charles I was engaged in a civil war against his own Parliament, and in the face of several setbacks, he had sent his wife to the relative safety of her home court. When Henrietta Maria finally arrived, Montpensier noted that "she was in such a lamentable state that everyone pitied her." The prince of Wales (the future Charles II of England) followed his mother into exile and arrived in Paris in 1646. He was 16 or 17 when Montpensier was introduced to him. Montpensier, already 19, was not very impressed with her English cousin. She was also greatly annoyed that he could not speak or understand French. Henrietta Maria, with half an eye on Mademoiselle's immense fortune, did her best to arrange a marriage between her son and Montpensier. She prodded Charles into carrying on a half-hearted courtship, but in the end Montpensier refused to hazard her fortune on the chance that Charles could regain his kingdom. "Having always been happy and brought up in luxury, these considerations alarmed me greatly," she admitted.
As Montpensier entered her 20s, she vacillated often on the issue of marriage. Taller than average, with a large Bourbon nose and bad teeth, she was not by any standard a beauty, but her wealth and position made her a desirable commodity. She was intrigued with the possibility of marrying into a crown, and she flirted with the idea of marrying Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand III. When she received word that Ferdinand was extremely pious, she began attending church more regularly and went so far as to spend an entire week determined to take vows as a Carmelite nun. In reality, however, Montpensier was much too fond of the frivolous court life to seriously consider taking religious orders. As to the possibility of marriage, the continuing disloyalties of her father worked against the odds that Mazarin would ever agree to her marriage to anyone, who could then become a potential enemy.
Her Memoirs are those of a woman absorbed in herself, rather than of a princess, witness of great events.
The opening that Gaston and the other recalcitrant princes had been looking for since Mazarin's appointment finally arose in 1648, when the Parlement began resisting increased taxation. The aristocrats were quick to support Parlement's cause, and used the feud as a lever to rid themselves of the hated counselor. In a series of on-again, off-again military confrontations, the princes ignited a half-hearted civil disturbance which came to be known as the Fronde. They urged the Parisian mob to rise up against Mazarin, and the whole court, including Montpensier, was forced to flee Paris for St. Germain, where they lived in spartan conditions. Montpensier got her first taste of the power she could wield with the Parisian Frondeurs when she returned to the gates of the city and charmed them into letting her bring out mattresses, linens, and clothing. The disturbance ended when a peace was worked out with the Prince of Condé, who had been laying siege to Paris, and the court returned in April 1649.
In January 1652, the Fronde reignited. Although deeply involved in the conflict, Gaston was not very successful. In March, the town of Orléans was approached by Mazarin's troops who demanded entry in the name of the king. Faced with this crisis, the town fathers appealed to Gaston to come to Orléans and protect them. With his typical cowardice, Gaston procrastinated and refused to leave Paris. Montpensier, who had declared herself a dedicated Frondeuse, was unable to convince her father to go, and at his suggestion she went to Orléans herself. When she arrived, the city fathers refused her entry, out of fear of inciting the king's troops, and suggested that she stay at an inn until the troops passed, at which time they promised her a fit reception. Inflamed by the excitement, Montpensier refused to wait; instead, she marched up and down the bank of the moat until boatmen agreed to help her break in through the Port Brulée. With their help, she traversed the moat by scrambling over two boats and crawling over a long ladder; then some of the citizens broke a hole into the gate and shoved her inside the city walls. Once inside, she was led triumphantly through the city streets on a wooden chair, and the city fathers had no choice but to welcome her. Montpensier stayed in Orléans for five weeks, holding court and entertaining the local notables, while the king's troops did not enter the city. She was thrilled to receive a note from her father: "My daughter, you may imagine my delight at your deed; you have saved Orléans for me and assured Paris; everyone says that your action was worthy of the granddaughter of Henry the Great."
Thrilled with her new role as a revolutionary, Montpensier returned to Paris on May 4. In July, the Prince of Condé again laid siege to Paris, but Mazarin's troops threatened to cut them off from the city. Condé sent an appeal for help to Gaston, who feigned illness. Informed of the situation, Montpensier rushed to her father to try to convince him to help Condé. When he refused, claiming that he was not so sick as to be in bed but too sick to be out and about, she went by herself to meet with the prince. Bloody and dirty from a morning of fighting, Condé told her: "You behold a man in despair. I have lost all my friends." Energized by his plight, she met with the city leaders at the Hôtel de Ville to work out a compromise to let Condé's troops into Paris, then went to the top of the Bastille to view the battlefield. When she saw that the king's troops were about to cut off Condé's troops from the city gate, she ordered the soldiers on top of the Bastille to turn the cannons, which normally faced into the city, outward and
fire on the king's troops. They did so. When Mazarin received word that the cannons of the Bastille had been fired at the king's troops by order of Montpensier, he supposedly said, "that cannon-shot has killed her father."
Montpensier's actions, brave as they were, served only to prolong a conflict that was quickly becoming stale. Although Gaston and Condé both swore they would not make peace until Mazarin was removed from office, a Party of Peace was arising in Paris that had grown tired of the meaningless war. In the last months of this chapter of the Fronde, Condé, who despite the assistance he had received from her was given to making fun of Montpensier behind her back, offered to make her a captain of cavalry (this offer was made with the caveat that she raise her own regiment and pay for it with her own money). Intoxicated with her new self-image as an Amazonian warrior, she readily agreed. When her regiment had been raised and outfitted, she delighted in watching them pass in review. "I must confess," she later wrote, "I did think they looked very fine; never were troops better attired than mine. … I went a bit childish and that I felt much pleasure and rejoicing in the sound of the trumpets."
But the Fronde was inevitably drawing to a close. The court returned to Paris victorious on October 13, 1652. Immediately, the leading Frondeurs were banished. Gaston panicked, uncertain whether to fight or to flee. Within a week of the court's return, Montpensier received a curt letter ordering her to leave her rooms in the Tuileries, where she had resided since she was a week old, by noon the next day. Frantic, she raced to the family's Luxembourg palace to see her father, who was too concerned for his own fate to have much sympathy for hers. Montpensier soon got a taste of what his earlier colleagues had suffered when a conspiracy fell apart: he angrily dismissed her by saying that he refused to intervene on her behalf—she had conducted herself so injudiciously that he would have nothing to do with her. Stunned, Montpensier protested that her actions at Orléans were done at his behest. Gaston replied with venom, "Don't you think, Mademoiselle, that it did you a lot of harm at Court? You enjoyed yourself so much playing the heroine and being told that you were on our side and had saved it twice, that, whatever happens to you in future, you will find consolation in the remembrance of all that praise that was lavished on you."
In the end, both Gaston and Montpensier were banished from Paris. Gaston, packed off to his castle at Limours, refused to let Montpensier come with him. Abandoned by her father and fearful of the growing rumors that she might be arrested, Montpensier slipped out of Paris early the next morning in a borrowed coach and set out for her property of St. Fargeau, which she had never seen. When her coach arrived there at two o'clock in the morning, she was horrified to find "an old house with neither doors nor windows; it filled me with dismay. They took me into a dreadful room, with an upright beam in the center. Fear, horror and grief took possession of me to such an extent that I began to cry; I thought myself most unhappy, being exiled from the Court, not having a better residence, and thinking that this was the finest of all my châteaux." Montpensier lived in exile from the court from 1652 until 1657.
Despite her longing for the splendor of court life, Mademoiselle nonetheless spent the next four years quite happily. She dedicated herself to fixing up her house to her satisfaction, writing her memoirs (which then had to be recopied by her secretary Préfontaine to make them legible), riding, gardening, and traveling to other parts of France. The last half of her stay at St. Fargeau was sullied by a long, drawn-out controversy with her father over her inheritance. At the time she turned 25 and reached her majority in 1652, she knew almost nothing about how Gaston had handled her affairs. Once she began to read through her own accounts, it became evident that her father had been steadily siphoning money from her estates in order to pay for his huge gambling debts and support his second wife (Marguerite of Lorraine) and daughters (Marguerite Louise of Orleans and Françoise d'Orleans ). Gaston first tried to evade her inquiries, then erupted into anger and indignation. In the end, he dismissed Montpensier's private secretary, Préfontaine, who had worked tirelessly to help her put her affairs in order. Bereft at the loss of her loyal confidant, Montpensier refused to hire another private secretary, insisting instead on writing all her own letters and keeping her own accounts.
Regardless of the peaceful life which Montpensier congratulated herself upon creating at St. Fargeau, it was obvious in her memoirs that she never gave up hope that she might one day return to court. Soon after his dispute with his daughter, Gaston made peace with Louis XIV by cavalierly renouncing all his former friends. Montpensier was deeply upset by the news, in light of the bad blood between them, but determined to take advantage of the opportunity. Swallowing her pride, she wrote Gaston promising to pay off his debts if he would intervene to secure the king's forgiveness of her. After receiving assurances that her apology would be heard, she set off in July 1657 to rendezvous with the court at Sedan. Louis XIV was now 18, and his younger brother, Philip, duke of Orléans (called "Monsieur" in his own right because he was brother of the reigning king), was 17. When the king and his brother arrived to greet Mademoiselle, Anne of Austria introduced her: "Here is a young lady who is very sorry to have behaved so badly but who will be very good in future." Louis XIV laughed; all was forgiven.
By the time of Montpensier's reconciliation with the court in 1657, she was 30, and still lacked serious marital prospects. She flirted briefly with the idea that she might be allowed to marry the young Monsieur. Effeminate, foppish and 13 years her junior, Philip of Orléans would not have been an ideal match, but as Montpensier noted in her memoirs, "Age does not matter to persons of our rank." Nothing ever came of her musings: Philip married Henrietta Anne (1644–1670), sister of Charles II, in 1662, two years after Louis XIV had married the Infanta of Spain, Maria Teresa of Spain (1638–1683). While Montpensier was accompanying the court on its pilgrimage to rendezvous with the Infanta and conclude a peace with Spain, she received word that Gaston d'Orléans had died suddenly, probably of a stroke, in February 1660. Despite the checkered nature of their recent relationship, Montpensier seems to have been genuinely grieved by his loss, plunging her household into deep mourning and covering everything in black. Gaston's death only increased her wealth, however. Even though she could not inherit his primary titles and properties (these reverted back to the king), she inherited practically all that remained of his personal fortune and possessions, since Gaston had no sons.
By 1666, Montpensier was nearing 40, and whisperings about her marriage schemes had all but died out. But Mademoiselle's romantic adventure had not yet begun. It was in that year that she first became acquainted with an up-andcoming star in Louis XIV's army, Antonin Nompar de Caumont, Marquis de Puyguilhem and Comte de Lauzun. Lauzun was the third son in a minor French family, with no court connections and little money. After attending the military academy, he quickly distinguished himself in the royal army—he was made a colonel at age 24. He quickly advanced in the king's favor, despite a reputation for angry outbursts which twice landed him briefly in the Bastille. He was made captain of the first company of the king's guards, and soon thereafter struck up a friendship with Montpensier, who found him very agreeable and his conversation most extraordinary. Lauzun was described as "one of the smallest men that God ever made," with fair hair, a red nose and an untidy appearance. As Montpensier's friendship with Lauzun grew, she found herself, at 43, falling in love, and began making plans to marry him. Ignoring the reality that the court would look questionably upon her union with a man so much her social inferior, she assured herself that, at her age, she had the right to marry for happiness. As an added bonus, Montpensier mused, marriage to a Frenchman like Lauzun would allow her to remain in her beloved France.
Once her mind was made up to take on this project, she began her pursuit of Lauzun in earnest. The fact that Lauzun had never pursued her she attributed to his knowledge of his own inferior status. She began seeking him out actively, convinced that she would have to make the first move; when he seemed to be avoiding her, she comforted herself that he was simply showing wise restraint. Over the next several months, Lauzun seems to have become convinced of her meaning, and even to have become enamored with the idea, for marriage to Montpensier would elevate him to unthinkable heights and put France's largest fortune at his disposal. Whatever lack of passion he felt for her was more than made up for by the intoxicating possibility of becoming united to the royal family. But in 1670 Philip's wife, Henrietta Anne, died suddenly. Rumors immediately circulated that Montpensier would become the new Madame, and Louis XIV called her to speak with him: "Cousin," he addressed her, "the place is vacant: will you fill it?" Shaken, Montpensier could only reply that he was her master and in all things she would be subject to his will. Over the next several months, Montpensier summoned all her craft and poise to try to convince the king not to force her to marry Monsieur. She was careful to admit only to a desire to follow Louis' will. When she felt she had hedged sufficiently against the king's notorious obstinacy, she dared to tell him that while she respected Monsieur according to her duty, and was grateful for the honor done to her by the consideration of such a marriage, she preferred not to be married to Monsieur. Louis took the news calmly and merely replied that he would inform his brother that the marriage negotiations should be broken off.
Once rid of the fear of marriage to Monsieur, Montpensier was prepared to take her scheme of marrying Lauzun before the king as soon as possible. The first hurdle she faced, however, was to announce her intention clearly to Lauzun himself. This delicate task she handled by first telling him she had decided to marry. When he asked her the name of her intended, she refused to tell him but went home and wrote on a sheet of paper, "It is you." At their next meeting, she gave him the paper and asked that he think on it and write his answer in return. Lauzun's reply, received the following day, was dutifully recorded in her memoirs. He "complained that his zeal in my service should not have been rewarded by so cutting a mockery, and that he could not flatter himself by thinking that I meant it seriously; therefore he could not answer otherwise, but that I should always find him submissive, so great was his devotion to my wishes." Montpensier was heartened: "It was a very cautious letter," she wrote, "but through it all I could see what I wanted to see." When they finally spoke in private, Lauzun still would not take her request seriously: "I half-killed myself trying to persuade him," she recalled. When she finally secured his agreement, she immediately wrote to the king, asking for permission to marry Lauzun. Louis' reply was cool; he expressed surprise at her request and beseeched her to think it over. Mademoiselle accosted Louis in his private rooms and begged him, proclaiming her undying love for Lauzun. Louis again implored her to think it through carefully, since there were many who did not like Lauzun. In the end, he assured her that he would neither advise nor forbid the marriage.
Ecstatically, Montpensier threw herself into plans for the wedding. Queen Maria Teresa, dead set against the match, told her, "You would do far better never to marry and to keep your fortune for my son [Louis, Le Grand Dauphin]." The king's counselors, though they acquiesced only reluctantly to the marriage, advised the couple to marry immediately, before the political winds could shift the king's opinion. She put her lawyers to work drafting the documents that would make Lauzun the duke de Montpensier and scheduled the marriage for Thursday, December 17, 1670, at noon. The smallest and quietest of ceremonies was arranged, but at 10 am news arrived that the contracts were not completed and the wedding would have to be postponed. Upon hearing the news, Montpensier replied: "Then it must be tomorrow night [at midnight], for I will not marry on a Friday." But she had hesitated too long. At eight o'clock the following evening, an order arrived from the king demanding her to wait upon him. Montpensier turned to Lauzun's sister and said, "I am full of despair; my marriage is broken." She was correct.
Louis XIV broke the news to her as gently as he could: "I am sick at heart over what I have to say to you. I have been told that people are saying that I am sacrificing you in order to make the fortune of Monsieur de Lauzun, that this will do me harm abroad, and that I should not allow the affair to proceed further." Montpensier threw herself at his feet, saying, "Sire, better to kill me than to throw me into such a state." Louis gently reproved her, "Ah, why did you give [me] time to think it over? Why did you not hurry?" Montpensier protested that never before had she known Louis to break his word. She begged him to reconsider and accused him of selling her out to her enemies. But in the end Louis was firm: "Kings must please the public," he insisted, and Montpensier went home to cry herself insensible. For weeks she could not pass Lauzun without bursting into tears, and over time the disappointed aging woman came to be the butt of many Parisian jokes.
As the reality of the king's refusal settled in, Montpensier tried to resume something of a normal life. As for Lauzun, the king had not forbidden them from corresponding, and she relied heavily on his counsel, much as if they had indeed been married.
Suddenly, without warning, on November 25, 1671, word came that Lauzun had been arrested and sent to prison at Pignerol. No explanation was given (though in the court of Louis XIV, no explanation could have been expected), but contemporaries believed that Lauzun's imprisonment was a result of his longstanding feud with Madame de Montespan , one of Louis XIV's mistresses. The king may have also feared that Montpensier would eventually tire of trying to persuade him to change his mind and marry Lauzun in secret.
Not daring to confront Louis XIV with Lauzun's arrest, Montpensier was confined to looking at Louis from across a room with tears in her eyes. Messages of Lauzun's condition were infrequent and alarming. His anger and indignation about his imprisonment later dissolved into personal neglect, complaints about his health and bouts of prayer, fasting and extreme piety. Montpensier's life, devoid of its zest and enjoyment, became a heavy burden to her, and she determined to remain as much at the center of court life as possible, in the hope that she might one day convince Louis to relent. Lauzun languished in prison for almost ten years, but Montpensier never gave up on her love for him. Finally, in 1680, her allies hit upon a scheme to secure Lauzun's release. She began negotiations with Madame de Montespan to bequeath some of her property to Montespan's and Louis' son, the tenyear-old duke of Maine. In return, Montespan agreed to intervene with Louis on Lauzun's behalf. In the end, Montpensier was badly duped by Montespan. After she gave an incredible amount of her property away outright to the duke of Maine on the promise that Montespan would secure both Lauzun's release and permission for them to marry, Louis agreed only to allow Lauzun's release from prison; Montpensier was informed that on no account would Louis ever allow her and Lauzun to marry.
Disappointed again, but hopeful that she would at least be able to see Lauzun soon, Montpensier threw herself into the project of building a summer house on the Seine, near Choisy. She proudly described the house at Choisy in her memoirs, "It will be apparent, from all the details I have gone into, that I love Choisy; it is my own work; I made it entirely myself." The king presented her with a boat, "very pretty, painted, gilded, furnished in crimson damask with gold fringes," in which she could travel upriver to Paris.
Lauzun was allowed to leave Pignerol on April 22, 1681. After having been shut up in prison for almost ten years, he was not inclined to deprive himself of any enjoyment, and the resulting rumors aroused Montpensier's jealousy. To make matters worse, Lauzun began complaining in his letters that Mademoiselle had not given him enough money and property. By the time they were reunited in Paris, their relationship had soured. Although Lauzun greeted Montpensier by falling at her feet and thanking her for her help, and although some historians have speculated that they did indeed secretly marry at this time, he later reproved her for wearing colored ribbons in her hair like a young girl and accused her of wasting too much money on Choisy. He threw himself into Parisian society, spending large sums of money on clothing and jewelry and losing even larger sums at the gambling table. Despite the fact that Montpensier had arranged an income of 32,000 livres per year for him soon after his release from Pignerol, Lauzun complained incessantly that she left him in penury. Locked in what became a bizarre love-hate relationship, Montpensier and Lauzun quarrelled endlessly. Finally it became too much. After a final scene of recriminations in the summer of 1683 they parted, never to see each other again.
Montpensier lived on for ten more years, and during that time Lauzun made repeated attempts to reconcile with her. Having given up over half of her possessions on Lauzun's behalf, she seemed to have fallen out of love as completely as she had ever fallen into it. Up to the time of her death at 66, Montpensier continued to attend parties at Versailles and remained active in court life, but she refused to see Lauzun under any circumstances. In the spring of 1693, she fell ill of a disease of the bladder. While she was on her deathbed, Lauzun begged to see her; she refused. She died on Sunday, April 5, 1693, at the palace of Luxembourg she had inherited from her father. Lauzun survived her by 30 years. For almost a decade, he stunned the court by acting as a husband in mourning, wearing black and surrounding himself with pictures of Montpensier. After ten years of this, he married a girl of 14, and lived on until he died on November 19, 1723, at the age of 90.
Montpensier was both a product of her age and at odds with the values of womanhood held most dear during the ancient regime. Contemporaries considered her somewhat unfeminine, one commenting, "She is better adapted to handling a weapon than a spindle. She is proud, enterprising, and free in her speech, unwilling to tolerate contradiction, impatient, active, and ardent, incapable of dissimulation, and says what she thinks without heed." In an age when aristocratic women were expected to be beautiful, submissive and pious, Montpensier was considered overbearing, temperamental and unattractive. Although she lived in an age of great historical import, she seems not to have realized what she was witnessing. Indeed, when she resumed her memoirs in 1677 after a long hiatus, she recited her purpose: "Though I was born to great rank and wealth, though I have never harmed anyone, God has allowed my life to be afflicted by a thousand scourges. Such an example seems to me a worthy subject of reflection." Her memoirs are frustratingly myopic; however, through Montpensier's eyes we get a glimpse of the life of French society, particularly of the French court. Her personal reflections about eminent figures in Louis XIV's court bring them alive to us in a way that official documents never could. Her memoirs are also valuable as a reminder of the universality of the human condition—the aches and pains, the agony of disappointed love and the grind of daily affairs she chronicles make Montpensier as much a member of the human race as she was a member of the aristocracy of France's ancient regime.
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Kimberly Estep Spangler , Assistant Professor of History and Chair, Division of Religion and Humanities, Friends University, Wichita, Kansas