Tuesday, 14 May 2013

The Brother of the Sun King

Another Miracle Baby
Louis & Philippe
Philippe de Bourbon was the second child of Louis XIII, king of France and his wife Anne of Austria. Born on 21st September 1640; Philippe was granted the title of Duc d’Anjou by his father. Philippe’s parents had been married twenty-five years by the time of his birth and their only other living child was Philippe’s elder brother, known as Louis Dieudonné. Louis and Philippe were placed in the care of the Marquise de Lansac.

Throughout his life Philippe suffered from the knowledge that his brother was his mother’s favourite child. Philippe’s education was far less thorough than the programme his brother was subjected to. When Louis fell ill Anne would be at his bedside day and night. When Philippe was ill Anne attended balls or left him alone in order to spend long periods of time with Louis. Louis was her idol; he had saved her from any possibility of divorce.

From his earliest childhood Philippe was required to defer to and obey his brother. He was given to understand that only in this way could he win his mother’s love and approval. Philippe’s education was deliberately minimal and he was encouraged to concentrate in frivolous pursuits to lessen the danger of Philippe following in his Uncle Gaston’s footsteps; a potential rival to his brother’s crown.
Philippe was an attractive and intelligent child and his mother called him ‘her little girl’. He was encouraged by his mother and her senior minister Cardinal Mazarin to make friends with active homosexuals at court. This cannot have had any effect on his sexuality; his father, if not an active homosexual[i], was certainly attracted to men rather than women; which may have partly explained the length of time before his children were born[ii].

Le Petit Monsieur

Philippe dressed for his brother's coronation
When Philippe was less than three years old his father died and on 14th May 1643 the five year old Louis became king. Philippe was now heir to the throne.
The Queen was made Regent and her adviser was Cardinal Mazarin[iii]. Anne’s power was severely limited by Louis’ will. Her brother-in-law Gaston was made lieutenant general of the country. Anne and her advisers were able to persuade the Paris Parlement to override the will; Gaston remained as lieutenant general, but was now subject to the Regent.

The Fronde

Gaston, Duke of Orleans
Anne saw the five year war of the Fronde in the stark terms of disobedience to her son; whether it was the Fronde of the Parlement 1648-9 or the Fronde of the Princes 1651-2. For her the second of the two periods of violent disturbances was more dangerous, involving as it did the disloyalty of senior nobility and members of the royal family.
Naturally Louis’s Uncle Gaston was involved in this attempted power grab. Gaston had been involved in many attempts to seize power from his brother and now had no compunction in attempting to dispossess his nephew.

Philippe was ill with smallpox when the Fronde originally erupted following the arrest of three members of the Paris Parlement. The people demanded the arrest of Anne and her replacement by Gaston. Louis was taken to Rueil[iv] and Philippe was left in Paris, until rescued several days later.

Cardinal Mazarin
For the next four years the court led a nomadic existence. Originally Gaston was chosen to negotiate with the revolting Parisians. But it was not long before Anne and Mazarin decided that he appeared to be too sympathetic to the demands of the Parlement. In 1650 Gaston’s wife produced a son and the Parisians were delirious with delight; Anne and Mazarin must have feared that Gaston would try and replace Louis.
Louis was permanently scarred by the wars of the Fronde. He avoided his capital as much as possible during his adult life; preferring the palace of Versailles he had built on the site of one of his father‘s hunting lodges. Philippe as an adult made the Palais Royale his Parisian home, until the Palace of St Cloud was built.

Duchesse de Montpensier
Gaston’s eldest daughter[v], Mademoiselle[vi], had always considered her cousin as her future bridegroom, despite a twelve year difference in their ages. She took an active part, on the side of her father, in the war and in doing so, as Mazarin remarked
‘With that cannon Mademoiselle has shot her husband.’[vii]
When finally Louis was able to re-enter his capital on 21st October 1652 Gaston was exiled to his estates in the Loire valley and Mademoiselle to her property at Saint Fargeau. Philippe lost the company of his two favourite relatives.

Louis was henceforth to be far less trusting of those around him:
‘It could reasonably be asked if a prince does not have as much need to protect himself from the pretensions of his own allies, of his own subjects, and even of his own family, as from the attacks of his enemy.’[viii]
This mistrust was to rule his actions throughout the rest of his life, causing Philippe much unhappiness.

Marriage to an English Princess
It was not until the death of his Uncle Gaston in February 1660 that, when he was 20, Philippe was made Duc d’Orléans. The dukedom had always been held by a member of the royal family. Philippe had not seen Gaston since he was exiled, but they had kept in contact by letter. Louis was angered by Philippe’s sorrow

‘Not only did he profess not to believe in his brother’s grief, but through the disguise of mockery he saw it as a threat.’[ix]
Normally the revenues of the dukedom were settled on the new duke, but Mazarin and Louis were reluctant to give Philippe this financial freedom, preferring to keep him dependent on his brother. It was decided to give him a reduced revenue stream of 150,000 livres[x] per year once he was married. With the death of Gaston the title of Monsieur passed to Philippe. For Philippe, an inveterate gambler, money was essential. In 1678 Monsieur had to pawn his best jewels to cover his gambling losses.

The governorship of Languedoc also fell vacant on Gaston’s death, but Philippe must have been disappointed to not receive this post which had paid his uncle circa 500,000 livres per annum in the form of bribes from local officials. The post was given to the Prince de Conti[xi], a former Frondeur, but now living the life of a religious penitent and powerless in Louis’s opinion. Giving Languedoc to Philippe would have boosted his power vis-à-vis his brother; that was something Louis was determined not to do.

Henrietta Maria
After his brother’s marriage to Marie Therese in June 1660 the Queen Mother persuaded Philippe to offer for the younger sister of the newly restored English king, Henrietta. He had previously offered for the hand of his cousin Anne-Marie, la Grande Mademoiselle[xii], Gaston’s daughter and heiress to a great fortune. The Duchesse de Montpensier refused Philippe’s offer, remaining unmarried until her death in 1693
The marriage between Henrietta and Philippe took place on 31st March 1661, three weeks after the death of Cardinal Mazarin, Philippe’s mother’s adviser[xiii] since the death of her husband eighteen years before. Louis was in favour of the match, writing later in his memoirs 
‘The marriage of my brother served to keep [Charles] on my side.’[xiv]
Philippe was eager for the match[xv], and despite his preference for men, he was clearly capable of doing his duty as a husband. Philippe and Henrietta had three children and one still-born child. Only the youngest daughter outlived her father. The couple’s only son Philippe died in infancy eighteen months before his mother.

It is possible that the extremely thin and highly strung Henrietta suffered from anorexia nervosa; she slept very little and ate even less. Her life was a frenetic search for amusement.
When the newly married couple were summonsed to court at Fontainebleau, Henrietta, freed at last from her mother’s dour tutelage, was ready to flirt with her husband’s brother and Louis was more than happy to humiliate his brother. Louis and Henrietta spent a lot of time together;

‘The couple explored the grottoes, bathed in the river and on moonlit evenings promenaded to the sounds of violins around the canal.’[xvi]
However innocent these pleasures may seem to modern eyes, they caused a lot of gossip and scandal. Philippe was furious to find himself publicly cuckolded so soon after his marriage.

The public conduct of the affair ceased only when Louis’ mother joined Queen Henrietta Maria and Philippe in pressuring Louis into conducting the affair with some attempt at subtlety. Henrietta and Louis now would practise subterfuge; to this end Louis was to pretend to set up one of his sister-in-law’s ladies as his new mistress; Louise de la Valliére.
Louise de la Valliere
Louis fell in love with la Valliére and Henrietta was cast aside, the first discard of many[xvii]. Now humiliated in her turn, Henrietta set up a new flirt, the Comte de Guiche, who was also one of her husband’s lovers. Philippe’s humiliation was redoubled. By July he had got his wife pregnant.

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] There is no evidence that he was actively homosexual
[ii] There were rumours extant at the time that Louis’s father was Cardinal Richelieu
[iii] Former secretary to Cardinal Richelieu
[iv] Outside Paris
[v] One of Europe’s greatest heiresses
[vi] Her court title
[vii] Brother to the Sun King - Barker
[viii] Ibid
[ix] Ibid
[x] Possibly as much as £700,000 at today’s rates.
[xi] Brother of the prince de Condé, one of the highest ranking Frondeurs
[xii] Her court title after the birth of Philippe’s eldest daughter
[xiii] It is rumoured that he was also her lover.
[xiv] Brother to the Sun King - Barker
[xv] Possibly due to the knowledge of the immediate rise in his income the marriage would bring in its wake.
[xvi] Brother to the Sun King - Barker
[xvii] Louis was very callous towards his ex-mistresses

No comments:

Post a Comment