Wednesday, June 2, 2010

TAKE A POWDER - The Sad Tale of Louis XIV's Mistress

You know how sometimes you are heading in one direction, something strikes you and you end up going off on a tangent?

 Helen was recently about to list the item on the left  on our ETSY site (Vintagepickle) when the name struck her. She decided to do a bit or research, keep the Talc (for now!) and introduce her latest historical research foray into who "La Vallierre Vera Violet Talcum Powder" was most probably named after.

First, some interesting information culled from the metal container:

It is dated 1906 and its use reads: "A perfect antiseptic powder gives immediate relief for chafed skin, prickly heat, sunburn and sore feet...excellent to use after shaving"...which makes one think:  who this flowery art nouveau-patterned bottle meant for, men or women? (did women shave themselves at the turn of the century?)

Anyway, back to the point. It turns out that Louise de La Vallierre was a French noblewoman who was a mistress of Louis XIV.  It is interesting to note that the name for a jewelled pendant, lavalier (lavallière in French), actually descends from her name.

 Her story is a sad one.

Born in 1644  in Tours, France, her widowed mother married into nobility and  Louise de La Valliere  (above, at left) was introduced at Versailles at the tender age of 16.  Through a distant relative, Louise was appointed maid-of-honor to Henrietta of England (above, at right), a young woman her own age who had just married Louis XIV’s brother.

 Henrietta was said to be so fetching that when she joined the court at Fontainebleau in 1661 she became, shall we say, “friendly” with her brother-in-law the king,  resulting in scandal and rumors of romance.
To avoid increasing royal scandal, the King (Louis XIV) and Henrietta decided that the King’s passion should be redirected elsewhere as a “blind” to hide their affair, and Henrietta set before him 3 young ladies as possibilities, One of  those young women was 17-year old Louise, an innocent and quite religious young girl (Louise, still innocent, at right)

. At the time, the Abbé de Choise reported that the seventeen-year-old innocent " had an exquisite complexion, blond hair, blue eyes, a sweet smile . . . [and] an expression [at] once tender and modest."  She was purported to be so lovely that famous French writers such as LaFontaine and Racine wrote her praises. As an interesting aside, one of her legs was shorter than the other and Louise wore specially made heels.

Naively, Louise  promptly fell in love with the king (Louis the Voracious Womanizer at left). Though she knew it to be wrong, she became his mistress in 1661 at the tender age of 17. Over the proceeding years, she battled with her conscience and left the king twice to seek refuge in a convent, but the King dragged her back both times and she remained his mistress from 1661 to 1667.

When her liaison reached the angry ears of  Louis’s Queen (Maria Teresa of Spain)  (scorned Queen at right), Louise was removed from the palace and banished to a smaller building.  There, between 1962  and 1966 she became pregnant 4 times with 4 sons who all died in infancy or from a miscarriage. A daughter was born in 1666, who survived and was publicly recognized by the king , in turn making Louise a duchess in 1667.

 In October of the same year she bore another son (the king kept her busy!), but the King’s affections had by that time roamed elsewhere.  While both she and the King’s wife were pregnant at the same time, the king took himself another mistress, Françoise-Athénaïs, Marquise de Montespan, (the new favored mistress below) a trusted friend of both her and the Queen.  

Louise’s title as the King’s “official Mistress” remained, but she was forced to share the new mistress’s Tuillerie living quarters in Paris, this time serving as the Marquise’s blind decoy to prevent court gossip and any legal maneuvers of the Marquise’s husband, who wanted her back.

In 1674, she left the king for good and took the veil in a Carmelite convent under the name Sister Louise of the Misercord . The day she left, she threw herself at the feet of the Queen, begging forgiveness: "My crimes were public, my repentance must be public, too” . When Louise took her final vows a year later, the Queen, who used to come to the convent for spiritual rest,
personally presented her with the black veil.

Upon the death of her surviving son in 1683, Louise was still so obsessed with the sin of her affair with the king that she lamented: “I ought to weep for his birth far more than [for] his death”

Though she had such royal visitors such as  Queen Maria Teresa and the Duchess of Orleans, she spent the rest of her life in seclusion, engaging in charity work.  In 1690  she wrote  book entitled “ Reflections on the Mercy of God, by a Penitent Woman” .

She died alone in 1710 in Paris, and was immortalized in Alexander Dumas’ “The Three Musketeers” Volume 5”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Check out the historical novel "Bijoux" by Olivia Peyton for more true-life stories concerning the Sun King and his many loves. Nice to see this tribute to gentle Louise.