Royal Mistresses part 2 of 3

If you have not read Part 1, please scroll down and read it first.

Anges Sorel (1421-1450)

"The earliest surviving portrait of a royal mistress is of Anges, painted in 1449, a time when secular portraits were not yet common, and many of the rich and famous still bribed church artists to paint their faces on saints (2-3)." As a result, Charles VII of France had his royal mistress, Anges, painted in a two-part church panel as the virgin Mary offering a breast to the baby Jesus (seen above). Anges died in childbirth soon after the panel was completed.

Queen Maire tolerated her rival, but her son, the heir to the crown, Louis, despised Anges for causing his mother pain. "One day in 1444, Louis, running into Anges, cried, 'By our Lord's passion, this woman is the cause of all our misfortunes,' and punched her in the face (197)."

Anges used her influence with the king, with to raise him from his apathy and help him drive the English out of France. "Charles . . . made a poor king before Agnes, and returned to being a poor king after her" (2). (Charles VII was the contemporary of Joan of Arc.)

Madame de Montespan (1641-1707)

Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart (Athénaïs) was the mistress of Louis XIV of France for 13 years and provided him with 7 children in 9 years.

Athénaïs kept her radiant good looks until age 40 by a lavish regime of creams, oils and cosmetics. Because of the rich court food and the limited exercise options for ladies, Athénaïs daily rubbed herself with pomade and would disappear to a spa to starve herself.

Athénaïs was a strong spirit. Once, when Louis reproved her wearing strong perfume, Athénaïs said it was because he stank so badly. Five months pregnant, Athénaïs insisted on being with Louis as he toured his frontiers, sleeping in farmhouses and bumping in carriages. She loved playing cards. "One Christmas Day she lost the staggering sum of £230,000, kept playing, and won back £500,000 on one play involving three cards" (143). When her illegitimate 12-year old daughter was married to a 17-year-old dwarf for political reasons, Athénaïs pushed for immediate consummation despite the conditions of the marriage contract.

Athénaïs was not interested in politics, and was even unreliable in getting her friends political positions. She was disliked by the court and the public for her haughtiness and lavish spending.

Before Athénaïs married, she had attempted to become Louis' mistress. When married and a lady-in-wating to Queen Marie-Thérése, Athénaïs told the queen she would rather die than be Louis' mistress and criticized his current mistress, Louise de La Valliére, sharply. However, when Athénaïs became Louis' mistress, the queen was the last to find out. Athénaïs, now the mistress, treated the Queen rudely. Athénaïs was also rude to Louise whom she demanded to help her get ready in the morning.

For some time, Louis tried to keep up a public charade. In 1670 and 1671 Louis took his old mistress, Athénaïs and his Queen on journeys to confuse the public and avoid scandal. The crowd called them "the three Queens" (68). At one stop with only one bed, the indignant Queen was given the bed while the King, his brother and sister-in-law, his cousin, Louise and Athénaïs slept on a mattress on the floor. Despite this, the Queen was grateful that Louis treated her respectfully, returning to her bed every night and eating with her. Despite this, Athénaïs enjoyed a 20-room apartment to the Queen's 11.

Athénaïs' husband, the marquis de Montespan, enjoyed the life of a soldier. Once he disguised a girl he seduced as a member of his Calvary. While the marquis was known to storm convents for the girls inside, when he returned to court, he raged about his wife's immorality, boxing her ears and using language so strong it sent several ladies to bed with "the vapors."

After exiled from court for pretending to mourn for
Athénaïs' death, he held an elaborate funeral. "He stood by the main door with his two small children, all clad in black, somberly accepting condolences on their loss" (99). After storming another convent and injuring the girl, her mother, the father superior and several peasants, the marquis was sent to prison but escaped to Spain.

In 1667, Athénaïs visited a with for help with seducing Louis. The witch, La Voisin, provided services to wealthy patrons. When innocent Louise invited Athénaïs to dine with the king and her, Athénaïs slipped lve potions made of "dead babies blood, bones, and intestines, along with parts of toads and bats" (107) into Louis; drinks. Soon after, Athénaïs became Louis' mistress, but by the late 1670s her position was unstable, causing her to sulk, storm and scheme against her rivals. Instead of a young beauty, Athénaïs appointed the future Madame de Maintenon as the royal governess but was shocked when Louis fell for her.

In 1680,
La Voisin was burned for witchcraft after 218 people were interrogated and 36 more executed. La Voisin's daughter claimed that Athénaïs had been a patron ordering black masses which included infant-sacrifices with its blood drained into chalices. When the police excavated La Voisin's garden, they found the bodies of 2,500 infants-"aborted, stillborn, premature, and those who had been sacrificed alive. There was a small oven in the garden pavilion where La Voisin would burn an infant's body if it was too big to burn easily.

Louis finally understood why for thirteen years he had awoken with a headache every morning after having dined with
Athénaïs de Montespan the night before. He was revolted at the quantities of noxious potions he had consumed over the years" (113). Louis hushed Athénaïs' involvement, imprisoning witnesses. While Athénaïs remained at court for another ten years, Louis avoided her and returned to his Queen's bed.

Athénaïs was exiled from court at age 51, she left protesting and storming. Athénaïs' husband was later pardoned and returned to court, becoming a favorite of the king after Athénaïs' exile. Athénaïs' son with Louis , the duc de Maine, who blamed his mother for his limp, insisted on personally telling his mother of her exile, threw her furniture out the window and took over her apartments for himself. After Athénaïs' exile, forced to follow the lead of Madame de Maintenon, public favor swung back towards Athénaïs. With rosaries and Bibles fashionable, courtiers yearned for the days of Athénaïs.

Louis never visited
Athénaïs, despite her fashioning special rooms for his visit and hanging her bedchamber with his portraits. While she remained proud, forcing her visitors to stand when receiving them, Athénaïs founded a hospital, personally sewed clothes for the poor and took to wearing bands of iron-spikes for penance.

When she died,
Athénaïs' body received a botched autopsy, was dumped on her doorstep and received a small funeral. According to custom, her entrails were placed in a separate urn, but they disgusted the porter so much that he threw them on the ground where they were eaten by pigs.

At her death, two of her sons openly rejoiced at Athénaïs' death while Louis remained cold. Only Madame de Maintenon (whom Louis had secretly married) mourned.

Source: "Sex With Kings" by Eleanor Herman (a very interesting book).


coopernicus said...

such drama...
"we have found a witch, may we burn her???"

satire and theology said...

Anges Sorel (1421-1450)

He looks real sure/full of himself.

Woops it's a she.;)

Happy Weekend.

Ailurophile said...

Your posts are always so fascinating. Thanks for continuing to share these interesting tales and facts!

Hope you are having a nice weekend :)

odd facts said...

coopernicus: " Well, she turned me into a newt."

satire and theology: I'm just stuck on trying to imagine that picture in my church

ailurophile: Thank you. That means a lot to me.