The Warrior Prince
|Louis XIV as patron of the arts|
When Louis went to war against the Dutch in 1667, he claimed that he was upholding the right of his wife Marie Therese to the throne of Spain. Philippe went with the army; determined to learn to fight. He joined Louis at the siege of Tournay, although a volunteer without command Philippe visited the common soldiers, exposed his person to fire and rewarded the troops. He was also present at the siege of Lille in August. Louis excluded Philippe from his councils of war, once again humiliating a brother who wanted to be involved.
‘Brother, you may go amuse yourself elsewhere, we are going to take counsel.’[i]
It was ten years later at the battle of Cassel that Philippe was to win his spurs; he had been allowed to campaign with the army several times. In the spring of 1677 the latest campaign of the Franco-Dutch war began.
In the previous year’s campaigning Condé and Bouchain had been taken after investiture by French forces. Philippe had been with the army at Bouchain, but had been called to Louis’s side when the Dutch and French looked as though they were going to engage at Heurtebise. In the event Louis, advised by his generals, did not proffer a fight. Both brothers were eager to win valour in battle. Philippe then returned to Bouchain, which by the end of the campaigning season was captured.It had never been intended that Philippe would be allowed to risk the French army in a battle. Louis divided his forces; he went with one army to Cambrai and Philippe went with the other to Saint Omer. Then the king and his advisers discovered to their consternation that the Dutch were marching to the relief of Saint Omer. With reinforcements en route Louis ordered Philippe be
‘At liberty to conform as far as he thinks practical’[ii]to the instructions he had already received to prosecute the siege, while stopping the Dutch attempt to lift it.
Prince William of Orange
On 11th April 1677 the Dutch and French forces faced each other at Cassel, the French had over 10,000 more troops. The Dutch were led by their Stadtholder William, Prince of Orange a general with several victories already under his belt. Philippe was on the field early in the morning and took active management of the battle, ordering the decisive charge on William’s weak flank.The chance of totally routing the Dutch was lost when the French soldiers plundered the baggage train, leaving William to continue his fight against French hegemony in Europe almost single-handedly.
‘The victory had brought him not only honour and public acclaim but, for the only time in his life in an event of any importance, the knowledge that he had succeeded where his brother had failed.’[iii]Louis never again allowed Philippe to demonstrate his prowess as a soldier. The following year Philippe was only allowed to accompany the army as a mere observer for fear of further honours falling in his direction.
The Orléans marriage turned very sour around 1677, the couple moving into separate bedrooms, much to the relief of Madame, who was pleased to be rid of the burden of child bearing and more than happy to retire into chastity. Philippe was at the time being punished by his brother, jealous of his victory at Cassel. The break-up of Monsieur and Madame’s friendship was engineered by a cabal headed the Chevalier de Lorraine, his mistress and his acolyte the Marquis d’Effiat, presumably to reduce Liselotte’s influence over her husband.At the time Liselotte was worried that her father would remarry, having divorced her mother some years before[iv]. She feared that her legitimacy would somehow be affected; was she afraid of being cast off by her husband on the orders of his brother? There is no suggestion of this in her correspondence but, knowing that her letters were read by the French officials, she may not have wished to mention what could have become a nightmare for her. In 1680 she was overset by her father’s death from a heart attack.
In 1682 the cabal set about a rumour that Madame was enamoured of one of the young officers who accompanied her when she hunted. The Palais Royale was riven with the bitter quarrels of Philippe and Liselotte, despite Philippe assuring his wife that he knew there was no truth in the rumours. Eventually Madame went to the king and demanded permission to leave court and retire to a convent. Louis refused saying
‘You are Madame, obliged to keep this position. You are the wife of my brother, so I would not permit you to do him such a turn that would hurt him in the world.’[v]The unhappiness between the couple rumbled on; Madame was horrified when it was proposed that one of the cabal, the Marquis d’Effiat be made the Duc de Chartres’ governor. It was only due to her strenuous efforts that the appointment was avoided.
In 1693 she commented
‘Monsieur is still the same as he was in his youth. This very winter he purchased 200,000 guilders worth of charges in the regiment of the guards with which to reward some young fellows who have entertained him in not exactly an honourable fashion……[I] would happily say to these fellows ‘you are welcome to gobble the peas, for I don’t like them’.’[vi]She obviously tolerated his homosexual liaisons, if not approving of them[vii] Again in 1696 she was making caustic comments about the money Monsieur spent on his ‘boys’ and his gambling.
‘All he has in his head are his young fellows, with whom he wants to gorge and guzzle[viii] all night long, and he gives them huge sums of money; nothing is too much or too costly for these boys. Meanwhile, his children and I barely have what we need. Whenever I need shirts or sheets it means no end of begging.’[ix]Monsieur was hampered by his brother’s refusal to use his undoubted abilities and, like his son after him; Philippe was reduced to staving off boredom with gambling and lovers.
The Marriage of the Duc de ChartresThe relationship between Philippe and his wife was exacerbated by the marriage in February 1692 of their son, the Duc de Chartres. Madame had obtained a promise from her husband that he would not agree a marriage with one of the boy’s legitimised cousins[x], whom Madame viewed with extreme disfavour.
Madame de Maintenon
Unfortunately Madame was up against the determination of Madame de Maintenon[xi], whose arrival in the innermost sanctum of power led to a corresponding fall in Madame’s influence. The king and Madame de Maintenon, the children’s former governess, were determined that the king’s bastards should be given the highest positions in court and had arranged advantageous marriages for them.Both Madame and Monsieur disapproved of Louis’s morganatic marriage to de Maintenon, but while her husband kept his feeling to himself, Madame poured out her disgust in her letters home. Madame’s frankness in her letters had earned her the enmity of the king and Madame de Maintenon, but de Maintenon kept up a façade of affection for Monsieur in front of his brother
‘The old woman, the Maintenon, gets her pleasure from making the King hate everyone in the royal house; except Monsieur; him she flatters to the King and sees to it that he is well liked and given whatever he desires……..Behind his back, however, this old woman …………whenever the courtiers speak to her, she says the very devil about him, calling him worthless, the most debauched person in the world, unable to keep a secret, false and faithless.’[xii]It was this enemy of Madame who was now determined on a marriage that Madame had set her face against; a battle Madame was destined to lose. Madame had long ago lost the confidence of her son, as she battled to save him from the wicked ways he had fallen into. The failure to give her son worth-while employment, while those around him were given honours and appointments galore, Liselotte blamed on Madame de Maintenon[xiii].
Francoise Marie de Bourbon
The duke’s potential bride was Francoise Marie de Bourbon[xiv], the legitimised daughter of Louis and his former mistress Françoise Athénaïs, Madame de Montespan. Prior to the marriage being proposed to Monsieur and Madame they were the recipients of unusual favours; Louis escorted the couple to Flanders, where their son underwent his first trial by arms; Madame was given 2,000 pistoles and Madame de Maintenon dined with the Chevalier de Lorraine. The Palais Royale was added to Monsieur’s by now vast estates.The bride brought with her a fabulous dowry; two million livres, a pension of 150,000 livres and 600,000 livres worth of jewellery. But first the marriage had to be agreed. Louis used as his agent, to pressurise Monsieur into agreeing to the marriage, his lover, the Chevalier de Lorraine. The Chevalier had been promised a reward by the king[xv].
‘[Louis] had already made the first moves, which had been all the more difficult because Monsieur attached infinite importance to all that appertained to his rank, and Madame was of a nation that abhorred bastardy and misalliances and of a character that was little inclined to yield to persuasion……..to overcome these obstacles the King desired…..to enlist the services of….the Chevalier de Lorraine, who ruled Monsieur in everything.’[xvi]Madame was desolated by the command from Louis, through Philippe, enjoining her to agree to the marriage of de Chartres to a woman she despised;
‘At half past three Monsieur came in and said to me ‘Madame I have a message from the King for you, and you are to give him your answer in person by tonight. The King wishes me to tell you that since he and I and my son are agreed on the marriage of mademoiselle de Blois to my son, you will not be foolish enough to demur.’’[xvii]Her distress at the marriage was visible to all at court; not only did she weep publicly, but she also slapped her son’s face, in front of other courtiers, for agreeing to the marriage against her wishes.
BibliographyBrother to the Sun King – Nancy Nichols Barker, 1989 The John Hopkins University Press
Louis XIV – Vincent Cronin, The Reprint Society London 1965A 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 2000The Affair of the Poisons – Anne Somerset, Weidenfeld and Nicholson 2003
Louis XIV – John B Wolf, Panther History 1970En.wikipedia.org
[i] Memoirs, Vol 1 - Norton
[ii] Brother to the Sun King - Barker
[iii] Brother to the Sun King - Barker
[iv] Her mother refused to acknowledge the divorce and there was the possibility of Madame’s father blackening her mother’s name to the courts of Europe
[v] Brother to the Sun King - Barker
[vii] Her objection was to the cost not the reward itself
[viii] Reference to Monsieur’s prodigious appetite for food as well as (presumably) his sexual appetites
[ix] A Woman’s Life at the Court of the Sun King - Forster
[x] Louis’ legitimate family were unhappy about the legitimising of his bastard children, an action encouraged by Madame de Maintenon
[xi] She undertook a morganatic marriage with Louis in the winter of 1685-6 in a private ceremony. They were married by the Archbishop of Paris.
[xii] A Woman’s Life at the Court of the Sun King - Forster
[xiii] To be fair to de Maintenon Louis was merely continuing the policy he used with Monsieur
[xiv] Known as Mademoiselle de Blois
[xv] Payment had been rendered up front, the award of the exclusive Order de l’Esprit de St Louis.
[xvi] Memoirs, Vol 1 - Norton
[xvii] A Woman’s Life at the Court of the Sun King - Forster