Once upon a time, at the court of Louis XIV, there was a woman who reigned without having been crowned: the Marquise de Montespan, favorite in chief.

Marquise de Montespan

The king’s favorite

Mistress of Louis XIV in 1667, the Marquise de Montespan arrived at the Court thanks to Anne of Austria. This woman of dazzling beauty and feared by courtiers, thanks to the famous “Mortemart spirit” that characterizes her family, enjoyed a great influence on the life of the Court. Passionate about the arts and protected by the king, she occupied an apartment close to his before being ousted around 1680 by Madame de Maintenon and leaving Versailles for good in 1691.

An apartment next to the king

In the game of the king’s favorites, one ousts the other. A member of the Queen’s Household, Françoise Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart (1640-1707), Marquise de Montespan, had frequented the sovereign since the early 1660s, but it was probably around 1666-1667 that Louis XIV fell under her spell. In 1674, she definitively ousted Mademoiselle de la Vallière by becoming in her turn the official favorite of the King. The latter installs him in an apartment adjoining his own and sets up a personal entrance there. They have seven children, whose education is entrusted to the widow Scarron, future Madame de Maintenon. Six of them are legitimized by the King from 1673.

A pronounced taste for luxury

The Marquise de Montespan imposes herself in the life of the Château. His circle “became the center of the Court, of the pleasures, of the fortune, of the hope and the terror of ministers and army generals”, notes Saint-Simon in his Memoirs. With a pronounced taste for luxury and the arts, she covers her walls with paintings and makes her apartment “the center of the spirit” of the King’s Court. Under his protection, are placed artists as illustrious as Molière, La Fontaine or Philippe Quinault.

She struggled to oppose her rivals

But after these long years of favour, the Marquise de Montespan struggled to oppose her rivals and ended up tiring the sovereign with her mood swings. Louis XIV gradually takes him away from his apartment and from the Court. The skilful Madame de Maintenon took advantage of this disgrace to impose herself. The marquise, compromised in the vast affair of the Poisons and neglected by the king, finally retired in 1691, to the convent of Saint-Joseph in Paris. She died in 1707.

Her entrails were extracted

In accordance with the testamentary wishes of the Montespan, her entrails (heart, stomach and intestines) were extracted in order to be buried separately in the Abbey of Saint-Menoux. Unfortunately, it is said that said entrails never arrived. The entrails removed were therefore badly treated and quickly rotted to the point that the person in charge of transporting the urn (a peasant for some, a monk for others) was so inconvenienced by the pestilential smell that he opened the jar. and, repugnant, threw the contents into a nearby pig pit !

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