Françoise d'Aubigné, Marquise de Maintenon
(27 November 1635 – 15 April 1719) was the second wife of King Louis XIV of France
Louis XIV , known as Louis the Great or the Sun King , was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre. His reign, from 1643 to his death in 1715, began at the age of four and lasted seventy-two years, three months, and eighteen days...
. She was known during her first marriage as Madame Scarron
, and subsequently as Madame de Maintenon
. Her marriage to the king was never officially announced or admitted.
Françoise d'Aubigné was born on 27 November 1635, but her place of birth is under speculation. A plaque suggests her birthplace was at the Hotel du Chaumont in Niort, in western France. Her enemies and critics claim she was born in a prison at Niort
Niort is a commune in the Deux-Sèvres department in western France.The Latin name of the city was Novioritum.The population of Niort is 60,486 and more than 137,000 people live in the urban area....
because her father, the Huguenot
The Huguenots were members of the Protestant Reformed Church of France during the 16th and 17th centuries. Since the 17th century, people who formerly would have been called Huguenots have instead simply been called French Protestants, a title suggested by their German co-religionists, the...
Constant d'Aubigné was a French nobleman, son of Théodore-Agrippa d'Aubigné, the poet, soldier, propagandist and chronicler. Born into a Huguenot family, Constant led a less structured life, first embracing Protestantism and then the Catholic causes, visiting England and then in 1626 betraying...
, was incarcerated there for conspiring against the Cardinal Richelieu. Her mother, Jeanne de Cardilhac, was the daughter of Constant's jailer. Her grandfather was Agrippa d'Aubigné
Théodore-Agrippa d'Aubigné was a French poet, soldier, propagandist and chronicler. His epic poem Les Tragiques is widely regarded as his masterpiece.-Life:...
, a well-known Protestant General, a close friend of Henry IV
Henry IV , Henri-Quatre, was King of France from 1589 to 1610 and King of Navarre from 1572 to 1610. He was the first monarch of the Bourbon branch of the Capetian dynasty in France....
, and an epic poet. Jeanne dutifully had her child baptised in her own Catholic religion; the young girl's godparents were the Comtesse de Neuillant and the Duc de la Rochefoucauld, father of François de la Rochefoucauld
François de La Rochefoucauld may be:* François de La Rochefoucauld , French author* François de La Rochefoucauld , French cardinal of the Catholic Church...
, author of the famous Maxims
In 1639 Françoise's father was released from prison and went with his family to the island of Martinique
Martinique is an island in the eastern Caribbean Sea, with a land area of . Like Guadeloupe, it is an overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department. To the northwest lies Dominica, to the south St Lucia, and to the southeast Barbados...
in the West Indies. Jeanne was a strict mother and allowed her children few liberties, and gave them a Protestant education (despite their Catholic baptism). Constant returned to France, leaving his wife and children behind in Martinique. Jeanne was forever trying to be "mother and father" to her children, and eventually she made it back to France to join her husband in 1647. Within months of her return to France, Jeanne's husband died, and Françoise returned to the care of her beloved aunt, Madame de Villette
Louise Arthemise d'Aubigné was a daughter of Agrippa d'Aubigné and Suzanne de Lusignan de Lezay....
, her father's sister. The Villettes' house, Mursay, became a happy memory for Françoise, who had been in the care of her aunt and uncle before leaving for Martinique. The de Villettes were wealthy and took good care of the child, but they were ardent Protestants and they continued to school Françoise in their beliefs. When this became known to her godmother's family, an order was issued that Françoise must be educated in a convent.
Françoise disliked the convent life, but she grew to love one of the nuns there, Sister Céleste, who persuaded Françoise to take her First Communion. "I loved her more than I could possibly say. I wanted to sacrifice myself for her service."
Madame de Neuillant, the mother of Françoise's godmother Suzanne, brought her to Paris and introduced her to sophisticated women and men, who became vital links that she would need in the future.
Coming to the Royal Court
In her excursion with Madame de Neuillant, Françoise met Paul Scarron
Paul Scarron was a French poet, dramatist, and novelist. His precise birthdate is unknown, but he was baptized on July 4, 1610...
, who was 25 years older than she, and with whom she began to correspond. Scarron was an accomplished poet and novelist, who counted Marie de Hautefort, maîtresse-en-titre
The maîtresse-en-titre was the chief mistress of the king of France. It was a semi-official position which came with its own apartments. The title really came into use during the reign of Henry IV and continued until the reign of Louis XV....
of King Louis XIII, among his patrons. He proposed either to pay her dowry so that she might enter a convent, or offered her marriage. Although Scarron suffered from acute and crippling rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, systemic inflammatory disorder that may affect many tissues and organs, but principally attacks synovial joints. The process produces an inflammatory response of the synovium secondary to hyperplasia of synovial cells, excess synovial fluid, and the development...
, she accepted his proposal and became Madame Scarron
in 1651. The match permitted her to gain access to the highest levels of Paris society, something that would have been otherwise impossible for girl from an impoverished background. For nine years, she was Scarron's wife, nurse, and a fixture in his social circle.
On the death of Scarron in 1660, Anne of Austria
Anne of Austria was Queen consort of France and Navarre, regent for her son, Louis XIV of France, and a Spanish Infanta by birth...
continued his pension to his widow, even increasing it to 2000 livres
The livre was the currency of France until 1795. Several different livres existed, some concurrently. The livre was the name of both units of account and coins.-Etymology:...
a year, thus enabling her to remain in literary society. Following the dowager queen's death in 1666, Louis XIV suspended the pension. Once again in straitened circumstances, Mme Scarron prepared to leave Paris for Lisbon
Lisbon is the capital city and largest city of Portugal with a population of 545,245 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Lisbon extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of 3 million on an area of , making it the 9th most populous urban...
as a lady-in-waiting to the new Queen of Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...
, Marie-Françoise de Nemours. Before setting off, however, she met Madame de Montespan, who was secretly already the king's lover. Madame de Montespan took such a fancy to Mme Scarron that she had the king reinstate her pension, an act which enabled Françoise to stay in Paris.
In 1669, when Madame de Montespan's first child by Louis was born, she gave Mme Scarron a large income and staff of servants at Vaugirard
The 15th arrondissement of Paris is one of the 20 arrondissements of the capital city of France.Situated on the Rive Gauche of the River Seine and sharing the Montparnasse district with the 6th and 14th arrondissements, it is the city's most populous arrondissement...
to raise the child in secrecy. Françoise would take care to keep the house well guarded and discreet, even doing the domestic duties herself. Due to her hard work, the King rewarded her with a large sum of money, and she purchased a property at Maintenon. Saint-Simon was told by his father-in-law that the King had initially disliked Madame Scarron , but, as he tired of Madame de Montespan's bad temper, began to find her rival increasingly sympathetic.
In 1678, the king gave her the title of Marquise de Maintenon
after the name of her estate. Such favours incurred Madame de Montespan's jealousy. At court, she was now known as Madame de Maintenon
. Madame de Montespan and Françoise would spar frequently over the children and their care
In France, the Governess of the Children of France , was charged with the education of the children and grand children of the monarch. The holder of the office was taken from the highest ranking nobility of France...
"Madame de Maintenon knows how to love. There would be great pleasure in being loved by her." said the king. He probably asked her to become his mistress at that time. Though she later claimed she did not yield to his advances ("Nothing is so clever as to conduct one's self irreproachably." she wrote to a friend), some historians doubt that she dared refuse the King at a time when her position remained very insecure. By the late 1670s the king spent much of his spare time with Madame de Maintenon, discussing politics, religion and economics.
In 1680, the king made Madame de Maintenon second Mistress of the Robes to his daughter-in-law, the Dauphine. Soon after, Madame de Montespan left the court. Madame de Maintenon proved a good influence on the king. His wife, Queen Marie-Thérèse
Maria Theresa of Austria was the daughter of Philip IV, King of Spain and Elizabeth of France. Maria Theresa was Queen of France as wife of King Louis XIV and mother of the Grand Dauphin, an ancestor of the last four Bourbon kings of France.-Early life:Born as Infanta María Teresa of Spain at the...
, who had spent years being rudely treated by Madame de Montespan, openly declared she had never been so well treated as at this time.
Marriage with Louis XIV
In 1684, Madame de Maintenon became first lady-in-waiting to the Dauphine, and in the winter of 1685-1686 she was married to the king in a private ceremony by François de Harlay de Champvallon
François de Harlay de Champvallon was the fifth archbishop of Paris.-Early years:...
, Archbishop of Paris
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Paris is one of twenty-three archdioceses of the Roman Catholic Church in France. The original diocese is traditionally thought to have been created in the 3rd century by St. Denis and corresponded with the Civitas Parisiorum; it was elevated to an archdiocese on...
, in the presence, it is believed, of Père la Chaise
François de la Chaise was a French Jesuit priest, the father confessor of King Louis XIV of France.-Biography:...
, the king's confessor
-Confessor of the Faith:Its oldest use is to indicate a saint who has suffered persecution and torture for the faith, but not to the point of death. The term is still used in this way in the East. In Latin Christianity it has come to signify any saint, as well as those who have been declared...
, the Marquis de Montchevreuil, the Chevalier de Forbin
Claude, chevalier, then count de Forbin-Gardanne was a French naval commander. In 1685-1688 he was on a diplomatic mission to Siam...
, and Alexandre Bontemps
Alexandre Bontemps was the valet of King Louis XIV and a powerful figure at the court of Versailles, respected and feared for his exceptional access to the King...
. Owing to the disparity in their social status, she could not marry the king openly and become queen, and the marriage was morganatic
In the context of European royalty, a morganatic marriage is a marriage between people of unequal social rank, which prevents the passage of the husband's titles and privileges to the wife and any children born of the marriage...
. No written proof of the marriage exists, but that it took place is nevertheless accepted by historians.
In his memoirs, the Duc de Saint-Simon
Louis de Rouvroy commonly known as Saint-Simon was a French soldier, diplomatist and writer of memoirs, was born in Paris...
(himself only a boy at the time of the event) wrote the following:
But what is very certain and very true, is, that some time after the
return of the King from Fontainebleau, and in the midst of the winter
that followed the death of the Queen (posterity will with difficulty
believe it, although perfectly true and proved), Père de la Chaise,
confessor of the King, said mass at the dead of night in one of the
King's cabinets at Versailles. Bontems, governor of Versailles, chief
valet on duty, and the most confidential of the four, was present at this
mass, at which the monarch and La Maintenon were married in presence of
Harlay, Archbishop of Paris, as diocesan, of Louvois (both of whom drew
from the King a promise that he would never declare this marriage), and
The satiety of the honeymoon, usually so fatal, and especially the
honeymoon of such marriages, only consolidated the favour of Madame de
Maintenon. Soon after, she astonished everybody by the apartments given
to her at Versailles, at the top of the grand staircase facing those of
the King and on the same floor. From that moment the King always passed
some hours with her every day of his life; wherever she might be she was
always lodged near him, and on the same floor if possible.
The Marquise de Montespan
Françoise Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart, marquise of Montespan , better known as Madame de Montespan, was the most celebrated maîtresse en titre of King Louis XIV of France, by whom she had seven children....
in her memoirs wrote the following about the marriage:
The following week Madame de Maintenon ... consented to the King's will, which she had opposed in order to excite
it, and in the presence of the Marquis and Marquise de Montchevreuil, the
Duc de Noailles, the Marquis de Chamarante, M. Bontems, and Mademoiselle
Ninon, her permanent chambermaid, was married to the King of France and
Navarre in the chapel of the château.
The Abbé de Harlay, Archbishop of Paris, assisted by the Bishop of
Chartres and Père de la Chaise, had the honour of blessing this marriage
and presenting the rings of gold. After the ceremony, which took place
at an early hour, and even by torchlight, there was a slight repast in
the small apartments. The same persons, taking carriages, then repaired
to Maintenon, where the great ceremony, the mass, and all that is
customary in such cases were celebrated.
At her return, Madame de Maintenon took possession of an extremely
sumptuous apartment that had been carefully arranged and furnished for
her. Her people continued to wear her livery, but she scarcely ever rode
any more except in the great carriage of the King, where we saw her in
the place which had been occupied by the Queen. In her interior the
title of Majesty was given her; and the King, when he had to speak of
her, only used the word Madame, without adding Maintenon, that having
become too familiar and trivial.
Influence and legacy
Historians have often remarked upon Madame de Maintenon's political influence, which was considerable. Ministers would discuss with her beforehand a majority of the business that the king would be dealing with. He would not always consult her on more important matters, though. Her judgment was not infallible and mistakes were undoubtedly made: replacing Catinat
Nicolas Catinat was a French military commander and Marshal of France under Louis XIV. The son of a magistrate, Catinat was born in Paris on 1 September 1637...
François de Neufville, 2ème duc de Villeroy was a French soldier.-Biography:Villeroy was born in Lyon into noble family which had risen into prominence in the reign of Charles IX....
in 1701 may be attributed to her, but not entire policies - according to Saint-Simon, certainly not the policy with regard to the Spanish Succession.
Madame de Maintenon did use her power for personal patronage, for example in achieving the promotions of Chamillart
Michel Chamillart or Chamillard was a French statesman, a minister of King Louis XIV of France.He was born in Paris of a family recently raised to the nobility...
and Villeroi, and the frequent assistance she gave to her brother Charles, the comte d'Aubigné. She had no recognised position at court, and therefore less social influence than the wife of the king would typically have. One can speculate as to whether or not she occasionally desired to be recognised as queen.
Some have accused her of responsibility for the revocation of the Edict of Nantes
The Edict of Nantes, issued on 13 April 1598, by Henry IV of France, granted the Calvinist Protestants of France substantial rights in a nation still considered essentially Catholic. In the Edict, Henry aimed primarily to promote civil unity...
and the dragonnades
, but recent investigations have shown that in spite of her ardent Catholicism, she at least opposed the cruelties of the dragonnades
, although she was pleased with the conversions they procured. She is reputed to have said that in view of her Protestant upbringing, she feared that a plea on behalf of the Hugenots might lead her enemies to claim that she was still a secret Protestant. She had a great reputation for devotion, and in 1692 Innocent XII
Pope Innocent XII , born Antonio Pignatelli, was Pope from 1691 to 1700.-Biography:He was born in Spinazzola to one of the most aristocratic families of the Kingdom of Naples, which included many Viceroys, and ministers to the crown, and was educated at the Jesuit college in Rome.In his twentieth...
granted her the right of visitation over all the convents in France.
Saint-Cyr-l'École is a commune in the western suburbs of Paris, France. It is located from the center of Paris.It used to host the training school for officers of the French army, the École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr , which was relocated to Coëtquidan in 1945.The old buildings of the ESM are...
a village five kilometers west of Versailles, she founded the Maison royale de Saint-Louis
The Maison Royale de Saint-Louis was a 'pensionnat' or boarding school for girls set up in 1684 at Saint-Cyr in France by king Louis XIV at the request of his second wife, Madame de Maintenon, who wanted a school for girls from impoverished noble families...
, a school for poor girls of noble families. The school began at Rueil then moved to Noisy
Noisy is the name or part of the name of six communes of France:*Noisy-le-Grand in the Seine-Saint-Denis département*Noisy-le-Roi in the Yvelines département*Noisy-le-Sec in the Seine-Saint-Denis département...
; the king endowed St-Cyr at her request, using the funds of the Abbey of St. Denis. Madame de Maintenon drew up the rules of the institution and attended to every detail. She was considered a born teacher and a friendly, motherly influence on her pupils, who included Marie-Adélaïde of Savoy
Marie Adélaïde of Savoy was born a Princess of Savoy and was the wife of Louis, Duke of Burgundy. She was the eldest daughter of Victor Amadeus II, Duke of Savoy and of Anne Marie d'Orléans. Her betrothal to the Duke of Burgundy in June 1696 was part of the Treaty of Turin, signed on 29 August...
Jean Racine , baptismal name Jean-Baptiste Racine , was a French dramatist, one of the "Big Three" of 17th-century France , and one of the most important literary figures in the Western tradition...
for the girls at Saint-Cyr, and Chamillart became controller-general of the kingdom's finances because he had managed Saint-Cyr so well. In the latter years of her life, Madame de Maintenon encouraged the king to promote her previous charges, the children of the king by Madame de Montespan, to high positions at court intermediate between the Prince and Princesses du Sang
A prince of the blood was a person who was legitimately descended in the male line from the monarch of a country. In France, the rank of prince du sang was the highest held at court after the immediate family of the king during the ancien régime and the Bourbon Restoration...
and the peers of the realm
The Peerage of France was a distinction within the French nobility which appeared in the Middle Ages. It was abolished in 1789 during the French Revolution, but it reappeared in 1814 at the time of the Bourbon Restoration which followed the fall of the First French Empire...
On the death of her husband in 1715, she retired to Saint-Cyr. The Duc d'Orléans
Philippe d'Orléans was a member of the royal family of France and served as Regent of the Kingdom from 1715 to 1723. Born at his father's palace at Saint-Cloud, he was known from birth under the title of Duke of Chartres...
, as regent, honoured her with a pension of 48,000 livres. She continued to receive visitors at Saint-Cyr.
One morning Madame de Maintenon awoke at Saint-Cyr to find a very tall man seated at a chair by the foot of her bed. Instead of showing surprise, she knew who the man was. It was a very distinguished royal visitor who was the toast of Paris. When the man asked what her illness was she replied "old age".
She then asked what brought him to her room, the man replied, "I came to see everything worthy of note that France contains." At that a smile appeared on her face and some of her beauty returned to her cheeks. At that, the visitor, Tsar Peter the Great
Peter the Great, Peter I or Pyotr Alexeyevich Romanov Dates indicated by the letters "O.S." are Old Style. All other dates in this article are New Style. ruled the Tsardom of Russia and later the Russian Empire from until his death, jointly ruling before 1696 with his half-brother, Ivan V...
, left the room. He later remarked to his aides that she had rendered a great service to the King and nation.
She died on 15 April 1719 and was buried in the choir at Saint-Cyr, bequeathing her estate at Maintenon to her niece, Françoise Charlotte d'Aubigné
Françoise Charlotte Amable d'Aubigné, Duchess of Noailles was the wife of Adrien Maurice de Noailles, 3rd Duke of Noailles. She was the niece of Françoise d'Aubigné, Madame de Maintenon, and her heiress.-Biography:...
, the wife of Adrien-Maurice, 3rd duc de Noailles
Adrien Maurice de Noailles, 3rd Duke of Noailles was a French aristocrat and soldier.-Biography:Son of Anne Jules de Noailles, he inherited the title duc de Noailles on his father's death in 1708....
, and her brother Charles' only daughter. In her honor, a small island, off the coast of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada, which at that time was known as "L'Île Royale", was attributed to her; this island was named Isle Madame
Isle Madame is a Canadian island located at off the southeastern corner of Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia.The island was settled by France as part of its colony of Île-Royale . It is presumed to have been named for Madame de Maintenon, the second wife of France's King Louis XIV. After the fall...
(first noted as l'Isle de la Marquise).
She owned the Château de Maintenon
The Château de Maintenon is a château situated in the Eure-et-Loir region of France. It is best known as being the private residence of the second spouse of Louis XIV, Madame de Maintenon....
Madame Louis 14
, till 30 April 2011, a one-woman play written and played by Lorraine Pintal in French in Montreal, Quebec.
- L'allée du Roi", Françoise Chandernagor
Françoise Chandernagor is a French writer, born June 15, 1945. She is the daughter of André Chandernagor. She is a former student of the National School of Administration - École nationale d'administration, and she became a member of the Council of State in 1969.-Biography:In 1991, Françoise...
, Memories of Françoise d’Aubigné, Marquise de Maintenon, wife of the king of France, French, Paris, Julliard, 1995 ISBN 2-266-06787-7
- Buckley, Veronica
Veronica Buckley is a writer and biographer. She was born in Christchurch, New Zealand. In 1979 she graduated from the University of Canterbury with first class honours in French with philosophy, and was awarded a postgraduate scholarship in cultural and social history at the University of London...
. Madame De Maintenon: The Secret Wife of Louis XIV. London, Bloomsbury, 2008. ISBN 0-7475-8098-7 http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/nov/15/books-secret-wife-louis-xiv/