Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Brother of the Sun King V

A Falling out Between Brothers

Louis XIV
The two brothers now fell out over Philippe’s son, an intelligent man, whom Louis was not prepared to advance. Having promised the Duc de Chartres a position in the army, calculating that Philippe would refuse to give permission for his son to take a lowly rank, Louis was stymied by his brother’s agreement. Louis then reneged on his promise and consequently the Duc de Chartres wasted his time in foolish exploits in conjunction with unsavoury companions.

Throughout her life Madame continued her hatred of her daughter-in-law; failing to empathise with the Duchesse de Chartres’ problems with her husband, who was contemptuous of her and spent as little time with her as possible. Monsieur too had no love for his daughter-in-law but, in the etiquette ridden Versailles, insisted on her precedence over her brothers. The de Chartres had six daughters and one son, despite their mutual unhappiness. In addition the Duc de Chartres had numerous illegitimate offspring.

The duke’s continuing poor behaviour infuriated his uncle, who reneged on the promises made to him, prior to the wedding. Madame complained that her husband’s boyfriends were corrupting her son
‘My son has been completely captivated by Monsieur’s favourites; since he loves women, they act as his pimps, sponge off him, gorge and guzzle with him, and drag him so deeply into debauchery that he cannot seem to get out of it; and since he knows I do not approve of his ways, he avoids me and does not like me at all.’[i]
When Louis told Philippe to control his son, Philippe publicly berated his brother for failing to give the Duc de Chartres the same honours, appointments and dignities as his brothers-in-law[ii].

‘Thereupon Monsieur fell into a rage, more from policy than from real anger, and turning upon the king asked to be informed how he should deal with a grown-up son who was given nothing better to do than kick his heels in the great gallery and forecourt of Versailles, a married man yet quite destitute.’[iii]
Louis had no intention of changing his policy vis-à-vis the duke; he was prepared to humiliate the son as he did the father. Philippe may very well have felt betrayed by Louis in this matter, as he had acquiesced in the Duc de Chartres marriage to his cousin.

The Death of Monsieur
A report for the English king gave a pen portrait of Philippe late in his life:

‘He is a good enough prince who does neither good nor ill. He loves the people who love him more than they esteem him. He is two thirds as tall as his brother….. but very fat. He wears a black wig, his nose and the rouge on his cheeks almost obliterate his face…….never has anyone loved himself more than he does……his affections do not go to women whose gallantry seems common to him, nonetheless he affects their manners…..his make-up resembles the ladies more than a general of the armies.’[iv]
Louis had recently been failing to show his brother some of the courtesies he had hithertofore granted Philippe. Monsieur had also been threatened by his confessor with damnation for his homosexual activities:

‘To this he had appended that Monsieur had best beware, for he was old, worn out by debauchery, short in the neck, fat, and to all appearance likely to die of apoplexy at any moment. These were awful words for the most voluptuous and life-loving of princes…….He grew sad, down-hearted and chattered less…..it was not to be wondered at that such heart-ache and the suffering he had endured regarding the king should have been too much for so weak a man.’[v]

Duchess de Chartres
On the 8th June 1701 June Philippe and Louis had a very public quarrel at Marly as a result of the Duc de Chartres’ ill treatment of his duchess. The Duc de Chartres had fallen in love with one of his mother’s maids of honour, Mademoiselle de Séry, and was pursuing the affair very publicly and embarrassing his wife in the process. Louis coldly reprimanded his brother
‘Monsieur, in the state he then was, needed no such excuse to lose his temper, and before long they were at it hammer and tongs. An usher, hearing the din, went in to tell the King he could be heard distinctly from the drawing room and then immediately retired. This made them lower their voices but did not stop the quarrel; and finally Monsieur flew into a rage, telling the King plainly that when M. de Chartres was married he had been promised the earth and had so far extracted no more than a governorship.’[vi]

St Cloud
Then in the evening Philippe, having returned home to Saint Cloud, suffered a stroke. Louis did not visit his brother for some hours, possibly believing that the affair was a trick to relieve tension between the two of them. Monsieur died the following day; Louis was upset,
‘He may have blamed himself for precipitating Monsieur’s death by that morning’s quarrel; he may also have felt some disquiet, since Monsieur was the younger by two years and had appeared quite as healthy as himself, if not more so.’[vii]
Philippe had been unwell for a long time; during the 1680s he had suffered several serious fever bouts; in the 1690s Philippe became a victim of gout. Having always had a prodigious appetite Philippe now became seriously overweight; Saint-Simon drew a merciless pen portrait when he was newly arrived at court

‘He was a pot-bellied little man propped up on heels like stilts; gotten up like a woman with rings, bracelets, and jewels everywhere; a long wig, black and powdered, spread out in front; ribbons wherever he could put them; and exuding perfumes of all kinds……With more vivacity than intelligence and entirely without learning, although with an extensive knowledge of genealogies, births and marriages, he was capable of nothing. No one so soft of body and mind.’[viii]
Saint-Simon only saw the Monsieur who had been ground down by his brother’s mistrust and the deliberate exclusion from education forced upon him by his mother and Cardinal Mazarin.

The widowed Duchesse d'Orleans
Madame was upset by her husband’s death; they had recently reconciled themselves to friendship.
‘This comes to your Grace from the most unfortunate of creatures; Monsieur has suffered a stroke last evening at ten o’clock. He is in the throes of death and I….in the most wretched state in the world.’[ix]
When he died the sale of Philippe’s personal jewellery raised over one million livres. He also left a huge personal fortune. Much of his wealth was in real estate, which turned out to be a shrewd investment, leaving his descendants richer than the future king’s brothers.

Philippe’s enormous expenditure was rents, a fifth of the monies expended were for the construction of canals and buildings. Monsieur had also had his income from his brother reduced in 1699 and now Philippe had to pay for his household out of his own rents and income from his estates, not to mention pensions to his servants when they retired.
It is uncertain as to how much of the accumulation of wealth was driven by Monsieur; certainly his contemporaries believed he had no interest in his finances. But Philippe was very acquisitive and if his Superintendant of Finances and his council of advisers did nothing more than follow Monsieur in this, they serve the Orléans family well.

Brotherly Division and Suspicion
Louis had always been taught to treat his brother as a subject by his mother and the Fronde taught him to treat his brother with suspicion. Louis seems to have equated his brother’s actions with his uncle’s frequent rebellions against the crown; a suspicion that seems to have been ill-founded and suspicions that must have caused Philippe pain. Louis’ repression of all Philippe’s attempts to serve France can only have added to the breach between the two brothers and increased Philippe’s sense of isolation from his immediate family.

Saint-Simon tells us that Philippe got on well with his brother
‘What is more, he was truly devoted to the king and had been used to treating him in private with brotherly freedom and to receiving the like, together with all manners of kindness and tokens of love – and of respect too, always provided that there was no danger of giving him any importance.’[x]
Louis did love his brother and closest relative, but he also seems to have found pleasure in humiliating others and possibly particular pleasure in humiliating his brother. This may have been a partly a result of his mother’s encouragement at an early age to consider his brother as his subordinate and his mother’s encouragement of Philippe’s feminine side, as Louis was encouraged to be masculine.

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] A Woman’s Life in the Court of the Sun King - Forster
[ii] The bastard sons of Louis
[iii] Memoirs, Vol 1 - Norton
[iv] Louis XIV - Wolf
[v] Memoirs, Vol 1 - Norton
[vi] Ibid
[vii] Ibid
[viii] Brother to the Sun King - Barker
[ix] A Woman’s Life in the Court of the Sun King - Forster
[x] Memoirs, Vol 1 - Norton

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