Louise de La Vallière
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|Louise de La Vallière|
|Duchess of La Vallière|
|File:La Duchesse de la Vallière Pierre Mignard.jpg
Portrait by Pierre Mignard.
Louise Françoise de La Baume Le Blanc de La Vallière
|Father||Laurent de La Vallière|
|Mother||Françoise Le Provost|
6 August 1644|
|Died||7 June 1710
Louise de La Vallière (Françoise Louise de La Baume Le Blanc; 6 August 1644 – 7 June 1710) was a mistress of Louis XIV of France from 1661 to 1667. She later became the Duchess of La Vallière and Duchess of Vaujours in her own right. She has no known surviving descendants. Louise was also very religious and she led a religious penance for herself near the end of her life.
Born on 6 August 1644 at the Hôtel de la Crouzille in Tours, Françoise Louise de La Baume Le Blanc (who very quickly was called by her middle name) was the daughter of Laurent de La Baume Le Blanc, Marquis de La Vallière and officer in the royal army, by his wife Françoise Le Provost, widow of a councillor in the Parlement of Paris. She spent her early infancy in her birthplace, the Château d'Amboise (where her father was governor) and the Château de La Vallière in Reugny, a possession of her family.
On the death of her father in 1651, Louise's mother married in 1655 in Blois for the third time to Jacques de Courtavel, marquis de Saint Rémy and butler of Gaston, Duke of Orléans, the uncle of King Louis XIV of France, then in exile in the Blésois. Louise served as a companion to the three younger daughters of the Duke of Orléans (the future Grand Duchess of Tuscany, Duchess of Alençon, and Duchess of Savoy), who were about her age, and was educated with them.
Although she was neither a striking beauty nor naturally brilliant, Louise had qualities that attracted attention; she was discreet, modest and had blonde hair and soft blue eyes. Although she was afflicted with a limp, she was also an accomplished and graceful rider and dancer.
After the death of the Duke of Orléans, his widow moved with her daughters to the Luxembourg Palace in Paris and took the sixteen-year-old Louise with them.
Meeting with Louis XIV
Through the influence of a distant kinswoman, Mme de Choisy, Louise was named Maid of honour to Princess Henrietta Anne of England, sister of King Charles II of England, who was about her own age and had just married Philippe I, Duke of Orléans, King Louis XIV's brother. Henrietta (known as Madame) was extremely attractive and joined the court at Fontainebleau in 1661. Her friendly relationship with her brother-in-law the King caused some scandal and fed rumors of a romantic affair.
To counter these rumors, the King and Madame decided that the King should pay court elsewhere as a front, and Madame selected three young ladies to "set in his path", Louise among them. The Abbé de Choise reported that the seventeen-year-old girl "had an exquisite complexion, blond hair, blue eyes, a sweet smile . . . [and] an expression [at] once tender and modest." One of her legs was shorter than the other, so Louise wore specially made heels.
Louise had been at Fontainebleau only two months before becoming the king's mistress, and completely ignorant of being part of a ploy to cover the scandal between the King and his sister-in-law, ignored the ploy, believed in the sincerity of the monarch and was delighted. However, the king was quickly trapped in his own game: conquered by Louise's horse riding and hunting talents, her taste for music and singing, her dancing skills, her knowledge of books and literature and without doubt her innocence and sincerity of feelings about him (one source say that the King was seduced by a sentence that Louise would have expressed after their first meeting: "Ah! if he was not the King..."; a sentence that would have suggested to the monarch that she loved him for himself and not for his royal title) he fell under the spell of the young innocent girl and soon fell in love with her.
The liaison, although discreetly maintained, was quickly known and caused anger among devotees and clergymen, such as Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, and the embittered sarcasm of the Duchess of Orléans. According to Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve, Louise symbolized the "perfect lover", the one who loves only for love, without pride or caprice, without ambition or vanity, and whose sensitivity does not hide the firmness of heart.
It was Louise's first serious attachment and she was reportedly an innocent, religious girl who initially brought neither coquetry nor self-interest to their secret relationship. She was not extravagant and was not interested in money or titles that could come from her situation; she wanted only the king's love. Antonia Fraser writes that she was a "secret lover not a Maîtresse-en-titre like Barbara Villiers." Nicolas Fouquet's curiosity in the affair was one of the causes of his disgrace, for, when he bribed Louise, the king mistakenly thought that Fouquet was attempting to take her as a lover.
However, the King wanted to avoid the scandal and to spare his mother, Anne of Austria a painful confrontation between them. Louise was then installed in a small castle used as hunting lodge which she particularly enjoyed, and located not far from Saint-Germain-en-Laye, in the forest of the village of Versailles. In 1664 Louis XIV hosted there a splendid party called The Pleasures of the Enchanted Island, where Molière presented The Princess of Elid, The Mad and Tartuffe, or, the Impostor, with the musical arrangements of Lully. The Queen and the Queen Mother were the official dedicators while Louise was the unofficial dedicatee; the court was not fooled and the gossip began, more so when Louise received the domain of Carrières-sur-Seine, where she built a castle whose gardens were designed by André Le Nôtre, the principal royal gardener.
In February 1662, the couple fell into conflict. Despite being directly questioned by the king, Louise refused to tell her lover about the affair between the Duchess of Orléans and the comte de Guiche. Coinciding with this, Bossuet delivered a series of Lenten sermons in which he condemned the immoral activities of the king through the example of King David's adultery, and the pious girl's conscience was troubled. She fled to the convent at Chaillot. Louis followed her there and convinced her to return to court. Her enemies —chief among them, Olympe Mancini, Comtesse de Soissons, niece of Cardinal Mazarin— sought to orchestrate her downfall by bringing her liaison to the ears of the King's wife, Maria Theresa of Spain.
During her first pregnancy, Louise was removed from the Duchess of Orléans' service and established in a lodging in the Palais Royal, where, on 19 December 1663, she gave birth to a son, Charles, who was taken immediately to Saint-Leu and given to two faithful servants of Jean-Baptiste Colbert. Despite the secrecy of the transfer, organised by a doctor Boucher who was present at the birth, the story quickly spread to Paris. The public scorn at a midnight mass on 24 December resulted in a distraught Louise escaping home from the church.
- Charles de La Baume Le Blanc (19 December 1663 – 15 July 1665), died without being legitimized.
- Philippe de La Baume Le Blanc (7 January 1665 – 1666), died without being legitimized.
- Louis de La Baume Le Blanc (27 December 1665 – 1666), died without being legitimized.
- Marie Anne de Bourbon (2 October 1666 – 3 May 1739); after her father Louis XIV legitimised her, she was known as Mademoiselle de Blois. She later married Louis Armand I, Prince of Conti, and, through this marriage, became officially recognised as a Princess of the Blood.
- Louis de Bourbon, Count of Vermandois (2 October 1667 – 18 November 1683); died at the age of sixteen during his first military campaign.
After the death of his mother in 1666, Louis XIV publicly displayed his affair, which greatly displeased Louise, who, instead of the splendor of being a royal mistress, preferred demonstrations of tenderness aside. Within a week of the Queen Mother's death on 20 January 1666, Louise appeared at Mass beside the king's wife; ashamed of her conduct, she treated the queen with humility and respect.
It was at this moment that the court saw the return of Françoise-Athénaïs, marquise de Montespan. The King, subjugated by this "triumphant beauty to show to all the ambassadors" (according to Madame de Sévigné), sought to take her as his mistress. Becoming more sure of himself, claiming that the dowry of his wife was not paid, Louis XIV declared war on his brother-in-law, King Charles II of Spain, who was only six years old and under the regency of his mother.
Before going on campaign to Flanders (which began the War of Devolution) in May 1667, by letters patent confirmed by the Parlement de Paris, the King legitimized his only surviving child with Louise, a daughter who was named Marie Anne de Bourbon and was given the title of Mademoiselle de Blois and also made Louise Duchess de La Vallière and gave her the estate of Vaujours. As a Duchess, Louise had the right to sit on a tabouret in the presence of the Queen, which was a highly prized privilege; however, Louise was not impressed: she said her title seemed a kind of present given to a servant who was retiring. Indeed, she was correct, for Louis XIV commented that legitimising their daughter and giving Louise an establishment "matched the affection he had had for her for six years" — in other words, an extravagant farewell present.
Louise, again pregnant, was asked to stay at the court. Taking anxiety for the king and maybe jealous, she joined the battlefield without his permission and threw herself at the King's feet sobbing uncontrollably; infuriated, Louis XIV forced Louise to return immediately. Hypocritically, Madame de Montespan was the first who denounced the scandal in the battlefield. In a strange twist of fate, her relationship with the King started in much the same way: used initially as a decoy for Louis XIV and Madame, Louise now became a decoy for her own successor. The king made her share Madame de Montespan's apartments at the Tuileries, because the latter was already married and her husband was very uncomfortable with the situation.
During this time, a devastated Louise wrote the Sonnet to the king:
All is destroyed, everything passes, and the most tender heart
Can not of the same object be satisfied always;
The past has not had eternal love,
And the following centuries can not wait for it.
Constancy has laws that we do not want to hear;
Desires of a great King nothing stops the course:
What pleases today displeases in a few days;
This inequality can not be understood.
Louis, all these faults are wrong with your virtues;
You once loved me, but you do not love me anymore.
My feelings, alas! differ from yours.
Love, to whom I owe and my harm and my good,
What did you give him a heart like mine?
Or what did you do mine like the others!
Five months later, in October 1667, Louise gave birth to her fifth and last child to the King, a son called Louis after his father. A long period of cohabitation then began between the two mistresses. Despite having Louise as his official mistress and in the middle of his affair with Madame de Montespan, this did not prevent Louis XIV falling in love with Madame de Ludres; hoping to win back the heart of the King with whom she was still deeply in love, Louise accepted all the humiliations inflicted by the new royal mistresses (for example, Madame de Montespan demanded that Louise assist her with her toilette, or whenever the King wished to travel with his real mistress, he made both Louise and Madame de Montespan sit in the same carriage with the Queen), but this tactic was unsuccessful: the king neither resumed their relationship nor ended his other affairs.
Louise's son was only legitimized by Louis XIV in 1669, two years after their affair effectively ended. He created the child Count of Vermandois, and gave him the post of Superintendent of the Navy, but because he was still a child, the King retained his authority over the French navy. Around this time, Madame de Montespan gave birth her first child to the King, a daughter; Louise served as a godmother of the newborn, who was named Louise-Françoise after her.
The strain of being forced to live with her former lover and his current mistress took its toll on Louise: she lost weight and become increasingly haggard. In 1670, after a long illness —which according to some sources was a miscarriage — that put her close to death, Louise turned to religion, writing the Réflexions sur la miséricorde de Dieu. However, as Monique de Huertas points out, "these Reflections are a mystical call of conversion, rather than a true conversion," which came a few years later. She claims it "a poor creature still attached to the earth, and only crawl into the path of virtue...". For now, she made the choice to stay in "the world" (at Court) to face the test of leading a life henceforth exemplary, and also in the hope of inspiring other souls. Her love for the king was not yet dead: she admitted that she can not claim to be "dead to her passions, while I feel them live more strongly than ever in what I love more than myself".
On the advice of Louis Bourdaloue, supported by the Marquis de Bellefonds, head of the Maison du Roi and Bishop Bossuet, she decided to leave the court and enter the Carmelite convent, later known as Notre-Dame-des-Champs, in the Faubourg Saint-Jacques in Paris. The Carmelites followed very strict rules; rejecting the option of being placed in an easier order, she attempted to leave in 1671 without the King's permission, fleeing to the convent of Saint Marie de Chaillot.
Compelled to return to court, Madame de Montespan urged Louis to dissuade Louise from leaving by publicly recognising their daughter as Mademoiselle de Blois. The intent was to compel Louise to remain so she could continue to serve as a decoy for his double-adultery with Madame de Montespan. The new favorite, who feared scandal, also wanted to convince Louise to stay at court through Madame Scarron (the future Madame de Maintenon), who told the former mistress about the privations and suffering to which she would be expose herself during her stay in a Carmelite convent, as well as the scandal that such decision would not fail to provoke; in addition, she asked Louise if she had fully considered the discomforts that awaited her at the Carmelite convent, which eventually included being forbidden to wear the shoes that allowed her to walk without a limp:
"When I shall be suffering at the convent", Louise replied, "I shall only have to remember what they made me suffer here, and all the pain shall seem light to me."
But all these attempts were in vain and at the end Madame Scarron stopped her attempts to convince her. In 1674, she was finally permitted to enter the Carmelite convent in the Faubourg Saint-Jacques; the day she left the court forever, she threw herself at the feet of the Queen, begging forgiveness:
"My crimes were public, my repentance must be public, too."
One year later, on 3 June 1675, Louise pronounced her perpetual vows as a Carmelite nun under the name of Sister Louise of Mercy; in the ceremony, she accepted the black veil from the Queen herself, who kissed and blessed her.
When Louise left the Court, the new Duchess of Orléans (born Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate) took care of the education of her only surviving son, Louis. He later was involved in a homosexual scandal with his uncle Philippe de France and Philippe's favourite, the Chevalier de Lorraine, and died in 1683 while in exile in Flandres. His loving sister and aunt were greatly affected by his death, while his father did not shed a tear. His mother, still obsessed with the sin of her relationship with the King, said upon hearing of her son's death:
"I ought to weep for his birth far more than [for] his death."
The queen already had a habit of spending brief sojourns at the Carmelite convent for spiritual consolation and repose; another visitors were Bossuet, Madame de Sévigné and the Duchess of Orléans. Later in life, Madame de Montespan went to Louise for advice on living a pious life. Louise forgave her, and counselled her on the mysteries of divine grace.
After 36 years of religious life, Sister Louise of Mercy died on 6 June 1710 aged 65. She was buried in the cemetery of her convent. Her Duchies of La Vallière and Vaujours were inherited by her daughter Marie Anne, as did the fortune she had acquired during her tenure as royal mistress.
Saint-Simon wrote: "she died [...] with all the marks of great holiness" and even "sadly [the king] had not a similar mistress like Mademoiselle de La Vallière...". Sainte-Beuve considers that, of the three most famous favorites of Louis XIV, Louise was "by far the most interesting, the only one really interesting in itself."
- The term lavaliere (lavalier), the name for a jeweled pendant necklace, comes from her name (or after Ève Lavallière). In its original French, a lavallière designates a floppy neck tie tied to form a bow at the front of the neck (reminiscent of a pussy bow). It was a popular fashion in the 19th century.
- La Vallière's Réflexions sur la miséricorde de Dieu, written after her retreat, were printed by Lequeux in 1767, and in 1860 Réflexions, lettres et sermons, by M. P. Clement (2 vols.). Some apocryphal Mémoires appeared in 1829, and the Lettres de Mme la Duchesse de la Vallière (1767) are a corrupt version of her correspondence with the Maréchal de Bellefonds.
- Letitia Elizabeth Landon' s poem, Louise, Duchess of La Valliere, was published in Fisher's Drawing Room Scrap Book, 1839.
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- Louise de la Vallière by Maria McIntosh (1854) is the earliest known fictionalised portrayal in English.
- Louise de la Vallière is one of the main characters in Alexandre Dumas's novel The Vicomte de Bragelonne, the second sequel to The Three Musketeers, which embroiders the beginning of her affair with Louis. Dumas makes her the fiancée of the fictional titular character, who is the son of musketeer Athos. Some editions of this very long novel break it up in several books, one of which is titled Louise de la Vallière.
- A 1922 German silent film Louise de Lavallière was made about her life
- Marcelle Vioux wrote a novel about her called Louise de La Valliere (Fasquelle, 1938).
- Sandra Gulland has written a historical novel featuring Louise de la Vallière, called Mistress of the Sun, published in 2008.
- Karleen Koen's 2011 novel, "Before Versailles", features Louise de la Vallière as a primary viewpoint.
- Joan Sanders published a biography of Louise in 1959 entitled La Petite: Louise de la Vallière.
- Louise Françoise le Blanc de la Vallière, the main female character of The Familiar of Zero, is named after her.
- Christina Rossetti's poem 'Soeur Louise de la Misericorde' is presumed to be about Duchess de la Valliere as the title translates to Sister Louise of Mercy which was the Duchess' chosen name as a Carmelite nun.
- Mauclair & Maillard 2010, p. 6.
- Gustave Braux: Louise de La Vallière - de sa Touraine natale au Carmel de Paris, C.L.D., 1981, p. 17.
- Louis Bertrand: La Vie amoureuse de Louis XIV, Frédérique Patat, 2013, p. 24.
- Herman, Eleanor, Sex with Kings, Harper Collins, 2004, p. 106.
- Ah! s'il n'était pas le roi - Louise de la Vallière in: The little sentences that made history, Vuibert, September 2017, pp. 84-85.
- Fraser, Antonia, Love and Louis XIV, Anchor Books, 2006, pp. 70-71.
- ib. Fraser, pp. 83-84.
- ib. Fraser, pp. 70-75.
- ib. Fraser, pp. 80-81.
- Breton, Guy; Histoires d'amour de l'histoire de France IV: Les favorites de Louis XIV, Presses de la Cité, Paris, 1991, p. 115.
- François Bluche: "Dictionnaire du Grand Siècle".
- Jean-Christian Petitfils: "Louise de la Vallière".
- Letter to Madame de Grignan from 29 July 1676, No. 563 in the edition of Mr. Monmerqué, p. 564 online [retrieved 26 July 2018].
- ib. Fraser, pp. 111-112.
- Sonnet, quoted in Lair 1881, p. 224.
- Les enfants cachés du Roi-Soleil in: histoire-et-secrets.com [retrieved 16 November 2016].
- Huertas 1998, p. 135.
- Huertas 1998, pp. 134-135.
- Herman, Elizabeth, Sex with Kings, Harper Collins, 2004, p. 222.
- Saint-Simon: Memoires, Paris, Librairie L. Hachette et Cie, 1864, vol. 5 of 1864 edition, chapter XXIII, pp. 303-304.
- Louis was later suspected of being the Man in the Iron Mask.
- ib. Fraser
- Saint-Simon: Memoires, Paris, Librairie L. Hachette et Cie, 1863, vol. 8 of 1863 edition, chapter VI, p. 77.
- Marcelle Vioux: Louise de La Valliere, Fasquelle 1938, 263 p.
- Breton, Guy (1991). Histoires d'amour de l'histoire de France IV: Les favorites de Louis XIV. Presses de la Cité.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
- Eleanor Herman (17 March 2009). Sex with Kings. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-175155-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
- Antonia Fraser (25 June 2010). Love and Louis XIV: The Women in the Life of the Sun King. Doubleday Canada. ISBN 978-0-385-67251-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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- Mauclair, Fabrice; Maillard, Brigitte (2010). La Justice seigneuriale du duché-prairie de La Vallière (1667-1790) - Thèse doctorante (in français). Université François-Rabelais, Tours.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
- John J. Conley (2002). Mademoiselle de la Vallière: The Logic of Mercy in: The Suspicion of virtue : Women Philosophers in Neoclassical France. Ithaca, Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-8014-4020-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
- Catherine Valogne (1964). Louis XIV et Louise de la Vallière à Versailles (in français). Payot, Lausanne.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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- Historia magazine n°o 459, March 1985 ISSN 1270-0835
- Monique de Huertas (1998). Louise de la Vallière, De Versailles au Carmel (in français). Pygmalion.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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