Las Últimas Cortesanas


Second episode: Marquise de Montespan and Madame de Pompadour

Continuing the story of the book written by the Spanish beautiful Isabel Rábago (here you can read the first episode), about the (French now, Italian and Spanish later) mistresses, we arrived at Madame de Montespan, the woman who, which with her breathtaking beauty (by the standards of that times), stole the heart of King Louis XIV of France. Françoise Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart, marquise of Montespan, which was her entire name, was a special mistress, different from the others due to her aristocratic roots and position in the French Court of the XVII-th and XVIII-th centuries. Rumors of the times talked about her involvement in the famous Affaire des Poisons – she has never been conclusively implicated, but this story made the relation between the King and her impossible. Even if she was leaving the royal palace, she was often visited by the king, by whom she had seven children.

The last years of her 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 forbade her children to wear mourning for her. As a mark of respect for the death of their beloved mother, the duchesse de Bourbonduchesse d’Orléans and the comte de Toulouse, who were very close to her, refused to go to any court gatherings. Her eldest (and most disloyal) child with the king, the duc du Maine, though, was hardly able to conceal his joy on the death of his mother. He had always considered Madame de Maintenon to be more of a mother to him.

She had an extravagant and demanding nature and possessed enough charm to usually get what she wanted. She was expensive and glorious, like the Palace of Versailles itself. Her apartments were filled with pet animals and thousands of flowers; she had a private gallery, and costly jewels were showered upon her. She was highly discriminating as regards to the quality of the gems; returning them if they did not meet her exacting standards. She was given the nickname Quanto (“How much”, in Italian). She was more than a queen; for example her apartment in the royal palace had 20 extraordinary rooms, while the real Queen of France had only 12 rooms.

Between these extraordinary beautiful and powerful women, to separate their stories, I insert my picture (taken while I was in the bed, reading the book)… more pictures at the end of the stories:

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The next famous mistress of the French Court was Marquise de PompadourJeanne Antoinette Poisson, by her real name. She was the ‘real’ queen of France during the life of King Louis XV. She always followed her early life’s motto ‘I will transform the King into a humble slave at my feet’. There are so many stories about Madame de Pompadour that I don’t know how and where to start… let’s begin by saying she was beyond any doubts the most beautiful woman of that century, and she completely conquered the heart of the King. That’s why she had many enemies among the royal courtiers, who felt it a disgrace that the king would thus compromise himself with a commoner. She was very sensitive to the unending libels called poissonnades, a pun on her family name, Poisson, which means ‘fish’ in French. Only with great reluctance did Louis take punitive action against known enemies such as the duc de Richelieu.

Her importance was such that she was even approached in 1755 by Wenzel Anton Graf Kaunitz, a prominent Austrian diplomat, asking her to intervene in the negotiations which led to the 1756 Treaty of Versailles. This was the beginning of the Diplomatic Revolution, which saw France allied to her former enemy Austria.

There were several reasons for the Marquise de Pompadour’s lasting influence over Louis that distinguished her from past mistresses. First, she decidedly established a cordial relationship with Marie Leszczyńska, the real Queen of France. The Queen had been snubbed by the king’s previous mistresses but Pompadour realized that showing respect for Marie eased Louis’ guilt and allowed him to have a strong relationship with his children. The Queen often said ‘if there must be a mistress, better her than any other’. She also put all of her effort into bringing fun into the melancholy life of the King. Unlike the other females in the King’s life the Marquise de Pompadour accompanied him while hunting, playing cards, and touring properties. She also threw dinner parties for him and put on plays that exalted him.

Read more about Madame de Pompadour and see two more pictures, after clicking on ‘Continue reading’ link:

Madame de Pompadour suffered two miscarriages in 1746 and 1749, and she is said to have arranged lesser mistresses for the King’s pleasure to replace herself. Although they had ceased being lovers after 1750, they remained friends, and Louis XV was devoted to her until her death from tuberculosis in 1764 at the age of 42. Even her enemies admired her courage during the final painful weeks. Voltaire wrote: ‘I am very sad at the death of Madame de Pompadour. I was indebted to her and I mourn her out of gratitude. It seems absurd that while an ancient pen-pusher, hardly able to walk, should still be alive, a beautiful woman, in the midst of a splendid career, should die at the age of forty’. Yet, at the time of her death, many enemies were greatly relieved and she was publicly blamed for the Seven Years’ War. Looking at the rain during the departure of his mistress’ coffin from Versailles, the King reportedly said: La marquise n’aura pas de beau temps pour son voyage (‘The marquise won’t have good weather for her journey’). As she said, after France lost her possessions in America: après nous le déluge!, she consumed her life and remained in history as one of the greatest mistresses of France.

I hope you liked these history’s tales and also my photos, the next story will be about Madame du Barry, maybe the most important and disputed mistress of the France’s kings. The next episode will be entirely dedicated to this femme fatale.

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