Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The Brother of the Sun King II

A Homosexual at the Court of the Sun King

Comte de Guiche
In his adolescence Philippe was certainly interested in girls; Cardinal Mazarin objected to his attentions towards one of his nieces and Philippe was clearly able to father children with both his wives.

However Mazarin was soon warning the Comte de Guiche’s father to keep his son away from court and Philippe’s attentions. Anne forbade Philippe to see the Comte without others being present. Like Lorraine after him de Guiche[i] lorded it over Philippe with an arrogance that scandalised the court and enraged Anne. De Guiche was

‘The handsomest young man at court, well-built, gracious, gallant, bold, brave, of elevated rank and station. He was haughty of attitude, but all recognised that no one had more merit than he.’[ii]

In France homosexuality was punishable by death, although in practise this rarely happened. Philippe did not hide his aberrant (as it was viewed at the time) behaviour. Sodomy was viewed as impure and profane by the church. Practitioners were often accused of even more horrendous crimes[iii]
Chevalier de Lorraine
Philippe’s affair with the man he was infatuated with, for most of his adult life, began in 1658; while he and Philippe, known as the Chevalier de Lorraine, were living at the Palais Royale. This Philippe was a penniless second son of the Comte de Harcourt and was described by contemporaries as ‘beautiful as an angel.’ He was not angelic by temperament however and gloried in his ability to control Monsieur, three years his elder. The Chevalier too bore a resemblance to Louis.
‘The Chevalier de Lorraine, who ruled Monsieur in everything. He had been compellingly handsome; Monsieur’s taste was not for women; he made no attempt to disguise it; he had taken the Chevalier de Lorraine as his master and so he remained throughout the rest of his life.’[iv]

Lorraine was to dominate Philippe for the rest of his life.

Louis was of a religious turn and when cavorting with his many mistresses would go without the consolation of his religion. He sneered at Philippe’s propensity to go to confession even though he was breaking the church’s dictum on homosexuality.
‘He would not play the hypocrite like him, who went to confession because the Queen Mother wished it.’[v]
Exile of a Favourite

Henrietta holding a portrait of Monsieur
Louis did not hesitate throughout the nine years of the OrlĂ©ans’ marriage to sow discord between the unhappy couple. Philippe was resentful of his brother’s interference and that resentment was fuelled by Louis’ early interference in his marriage. Henrietta’s affair with the Comte de Guiche continued for four years until he was exiled from court by Louis, whom de Guiche had offended.
In 1666 Conti died and Philippe again wanted the post of Governor of Languedoc. Acting on the same priorities that had driven him six years before, Louis refused his brother’s request. At the same time Louis also refused a request for a fauteuil[vi] for Henrietta. In the etiquette of the court the right to be seated in the presence of the royal family was a great honour. Duchesses had the right of the tabouret, but only queens had the right to the fauteuil. In his memoirs Louis recalls that he hypocritically told Philippe

‘I did not believe, out of consideration for the dignity of my rank and for the lack of precedent of his petition, that I could permit him to lessen the distinction between us.’[vii]
In January1666 Louis declared war on England[viii], Philippe had tried to act as a go-between for the two monarchs. His brother-in-law, Charles despised Philippe as did his brother.

Charles II
Louis wanted to extract Charles from an alliance with the Dutch to facilitate his own planned war with the Netherlands. Henrietta was heavily involved in the negotiations between the two kings. Louis played on Charles’ strong affection for his baby sister. Charles wrote to his sister almost every week and in December 1669, when the negotiations were at their peak declared to one of Louis’s special ambassadors in the matter
‘The intermediacy of Madame was absolutely essential.’[ix]
Henrietta’s mother had died in September and Madame was now the sole point of personal contact between Louis and Charles.

Henrietta intensely disliked the hold the Chevalier de Lorraine had on her husband and was prepared to use her brother’s influence with their cousin Louis. Henrietta demanded Lorraine’s exile from court, and Louis was happy to oblige, particularly after Charles had intervened saying
‘He was still disappointed that the king of France had done nothing for Madame that could compensate her in the eyes of the court……[He was].aware that Monsieur was treating Madame badly….he attributed the abuse to the intrigues of Lorraine.’[x]
On 30th January 1670 a contingent of soldiers burst into Philippe’s apartments in the Palais de Saint Germain and seized the Chevalier who was taken to Lyon and imprisoned. Philippe was horrified and devastated. Naturally this did not improve relations between him and his wife; the battle between husband and wife raged on.

Failing to receive satisfaction from his brother Philippe insisted on moving his court and his wife to an isolated chateau in his own domains. Philippe refused to return to court unless Lorraine was released and Louis upped the ante by transferring Lorraine to the Chateau d’If[xi] 
Chateau d'If
After 25 days Philippe gave in and returned to court, bringing Henrietta in his wake. Their return was announced abroad. The negotiations between the brothers resulted in the release of the Chevalier de Lorraine from his incarceration, but he was not allowed to return to Paris. Instead he moved to Rome. Henrietta was to find her success a mixed blessing:
‘The absence of the Chevalier de Lorraine was a new source of discord between Madame and Monsieur. Every day they had another row’[xii]
wrote Mademoiselle, their mutual cousin. In their battles Philippe was fighting against his wife as proxy for the brother he could never hope to defeat.

However Madame’s presence was essential during the negotiations of the treaty and it appears that her presence, for which Philippe’s permission was required, had not been included in the agreement between Louis and Philippe. In late March Philippe was still refusing to allow Henrietta to travel to England. But Louis forced his acquiescence in this matter, as in all others.

Madame de Montespan
Louis took the court on a tour of Flanders, ostensibly showing his queen her heritage. Louis and his queen were also accompanied, in their carriage, by his new mistress Madame de Montespan. Philippe was not the only person Louis was happy to humiliate. Philippe was in a foul mood during the trip, his wife was to leave for England to continue with her diplomatic duties; duties that Philippe himself longed to undertake. On May 24th the royal party arrived at Dunkirk and Madame and her retinue embarked on an English warship.
Henrietta’s role was essential to Louis and Charles who, in a secret addendum to the peace treaty of Dover signed in June 1670, agreed to change his religion and in return was to be a secret pensioner of the French crown[xiii]. The effects of the treaty were not visible until nearly fourteen months after Henrietta’s death when Louis declared war on the Dutch[xiv] and was followed the following day by a declaration of war by the English on their co-religionists.

Brother to the Sun King – Nancy Nichols Barker, 1989 The John Hopkins University Press

Louis XIV – Vincent Cronin, The Reprint Society London 1965
A Woman’s Life at the Court of the Sun King – Elborg Forster, John Hopkins Paperbacks 1997

Memoirs Duc de Saint-Simon Vol 1 Edited Lucy Norton, Prion Books 2000
The Affair of the Poisons – Anne Somerset, Weidenfeld and Nicholson 2003

Louis XIV – John B Wolf, Panther History 1970

[i] Who bore an uncanny resemblance to the king
[ii] Brother to the Sun King - Barker
[iii] The Chevalier de Lorraine being accused of Henrietta’s ‘murder’ and of the death of her elder daughter.
[iv] Memoirs, Vol 1 - Norton
[v] The Affair of the Poisons - Somerset
[vi] The armchair was for very senior members of the Royal family, instead of the tabouret or stool.
[vii] Memoirs, Vol 1 - Norton
[viii] Joining on the side of the Dutch in the Second Anglo-Dutch War
[ix] Brother to the Sun King - Barker
[x] Ibid
[xi] One of France’s most notorious prisons
[xii] Brother to the Sun King - Barker
[xiii] This allowed Charles to reign without parliament for the last years of his life
[xiv] Whereby Louis appropriated the former Spanish Netherlands in what the French called the War of Devolution

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