The mysterious Madame de Maintenon

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Madame de Maintenon was the last wife of King Louis XIV but what do we really know about her ?

De Maintenon

Born in a prison

Nicknamed Your Solidity by King Louis XIV, the mysterious Françoise de Maintenon has always fascinated historians. Born in prison, taken to the islands by a broke and doubtful father, before returning home to attend convents and salons… She will become the last wife of the greatest king of the time ! Through her extraordinary skill, this woman, who started from very far away, managed to lead her boat to the highest echelons of society without ever imposing herself.

Abandonned by her father

Born in 1635 in the prison of Niort, where her father was incarcerated, she spent the first months of her life with her aunt Madame de Villette, who offered her a Protestant education. When his father was released, the family left for the West Indies, where he was appointed governor of Marie-Galante. But the man’s quest for fortune and good business fails, and he abandons Françoise and her mother to poverty. On her return to France, the young girl returned to Madame de Villette before being taken in by the mother of her godmother, Madame de Neuillan, who sent her to the Ursuline convents of Niort, then Paris, to deny her Calvinist faith and join the Catholic religion.

Françoise and the great Parisian intellectuals

Strolled from Niort to Martinique, then from La Rochelle to Paris, in misery and poverty, Françoise d’Aubigné is now sixteen years old, a well-respected Catholic education, and can begin to frequent salons. It was at this time that his gradual ascent began. The discreet young girl, nicknamed « the beautiful Indian » because of her tanned complexion, was noticed by Paul Scarron, a burlesque poet who ran a salon frequented by the great Parisian intellectuals of the time, who ended up marrying her. Having become Mrs. Scarron, Françoise is an ambitious woman, equipped with solid essential assets to be accepted. She is beautiful, cheerful, witty and virtuous. The new Madame Scarron quickly integrated into this society and formed an intimate circle.

Married secretly with the king

On the advice of the Marquise de Montespan, mistress of Louis XIV whom she had met a few years earlier, in 1669 she became the governess of their children. Excellent opportunity to meet the King in person when he visits his offspring. But the story says he would have found her “unbearable”. However, the situation is changing. In 1675, still on the advice of the Marquise de Montespan, Louis XIV granted her two gratuities which enabled her to buy the land of Maintenon and to take its name. In 1680, she received the charge, specially created for her, of « second lady of the garb » of the Dauphine. She then took advantage of the disgrace of the Marquise de Montespan and the death of Queen Marie-Thérèse of Austria to secretly marry the King in 1683.

A great influence over Louis XIV

Madame de Maintenon enjoyed great influence over Louis XIV, who visited her home daily, in her apartment overlooking the royal courtyard of the Château. He works there, receives his ministers and offers himself moments of calm, one-on-one with his wife. However, it is difficult to assess the role it played in the sovereign’s political decisions. Her “reign”, which some describe as rigorous and boring, however, coincides with the king’s own evolution and she wears the hat of this new order that many courtiers reproach her for. A few days before the death of Louis XIV in 1715, this powerful woman in the shadows retired to Saint-Cyr, to the house of education for young girls that she had had Louis XIV create.

https://www.chateauversailles.fr/decouvrir/histoire/grands-personnages/madame-maintenon

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