Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart
by Pierre Mignard
Château de Versailles
Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart was born on 5 October 1641, at the Château of Lussac-les-Châteaux, in Poitou-Charentes, France. She was the daughter of Diane de Grandseigne and Gabriel de Rochechouart, Duc de Mortemart, Prince de Tonnay-Charente. Her siblings were: Gabrielle de Rochechouart (1633-1693), Louis Victor de Rochechouart (1636-1688) and Marie-Madeleine de Rochechouart (1645-1704). In 1653, she began her education at the Convent of St. Mary, in Saintes. According to The Memoirs of Madame de Montespan by Madame de Montespan, "My sisters thought it of extreme importance to possess positive knowledge as to their future condition and the events which fate held in store for them. They managed to be secretly taken to a woman famed for her talent in casting the horoscope. But on seeing how overwhelmed by chagrin they both were after consulting the oracle, I felt fearful as regarded myself, and determined to let my star take its own course, heedless of its existence, and allowing it complete liberty." In 1661, Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart was appointed Maid of Honor to Henrietta Anne, Princess of England (1644-1670), the wife of Philippe I, Duke of Orléans (21 September 1640 - 9 June 1701). He was the son of Anne of Austria, Queen Consort of France and Navarre (22 September 1601 - 20 January 1666) and Louis XIII, King of France and Navarre (27 September 1601 - 14 May 1643). According to Madame de Montespan, "Of all her Court ladies I was the most youthful and, perhaps, the most conspicuous. At the outset the Queen showed a wish to take me into her confidence but it was the lady-in-waiting who would never consent to this." Louis XIII, King of France and Navarre died in 1643. He was succeeded by Louis XIV, King of France and Navarre (5 September 1638 - 1 September 1715). Louis XIV married Maria Theresa of Spain (10 September 1638 - 30 July 1683) on 9 June 1660, in Saint-Jean-de-Luz. In July 1661, Louise Françoise de La Baume Le Blanc de La Vallière (1644-1710) became the King's mistress. According to Madame de Montespan, "When, at that lottery of the Cardinal's, I won the King's portrait, the Queen-mother called me into her closet and desired to know how such a thing could possibly have happened. I replied that, during the garter-incident, the two tickets had got mixed. "Ah, in that case," said the princess, "the occurrence was quite a natural one. So keep this portrait, since it has fallen into your hands; but, for God's sake, don't try and make yourself pleasant to my son; for you're only too fascinating as it is. Look at that little La Valliere, what a mess she has got into, and what chagrin she has caused my poor Maria Theresa!" I replied to her Majesty that I would rather let myself be buried alive than ever imitate La Valliere, and I said so then because that was really what I thought. The Queen-mother softened, and gave me her hand to kiss, now addressing me as "madame," and anon as "my daughter." A few days afterwards she wished to walk in the gallery with me, and said to me, "If God suffers me to live, I will make you lady-in-waiting; be sure of that." Françoise-Athénaïs married Louis-Henri de Pardaillan de Gondrin, Marquis de Montespan (1640-1701) in February 1663, in a Chapel at the Église Saint-Eustache, in Paris. The couple lived close to Louvre, in Paris. They had two children.
The Children of Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart and Louis Henri de Pardaillan:
Marie-Christine de Pardaillan de Gondrin (1663-1675)
Louis Antoine de Pardaillan de Gondrin, Marquis d'Antin (1665-1736)
In 1667, Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart first danced with Louis XIV at a ball in the Louvre. According to Madame de Montespan, "It was just about this time that I noticed the beginning of the monarch's serious attachment for me. Till then it had been only playful badinage, good-humoured teasing, a sort of society play, in which the King was rehearsing his part as a lover. I was at length bound to admit that chaff of this sort might end in something serious, and his Majesty begged me to let him have La Valliere for some time longer." In July 1667, Madame de Montespan became the King's new mistress. "...while becoming her rival, I still remained her friend. Of this she had countless proofs, and when, at long intervals, I saw her again in her dismal retreat, her good-nature, unchanging as this was, caused her to receive and welcome me as one welcomes those one loves." Louise gave birth to her last child by the King, a son, Louis on 20 October 1667. Françoise-Athénaïs gave birth to her first child by the King a girl, Louise Françoise in March 1669. She was entrusted to be raised with Mme Scarron, in Vaugirard.
Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart, Marquise de Montespan with her Children
by Pierre Mignard
by Pierre Mignard
Château de Versailles
Her daughter, Louise Marie Anne de Bourbon, Mademoiselle de Tours
by Pierre Mignard
Château de Versailles
Louis-Auguste de Bourbon, Duc du Maine (1670-1736)
Louis César de Bourbon, Comte de Vexin (1672-1683)
Louise-Françoise de Bourbon, Mademoiselle de Nantes (1673-1743)
Louise Marie Anne de Bourbon, Mademoiselle de Tours (12 November 1674 - 15 September 1682)
Françoise-Marie de Bourbon (1677-1749) Married Philippe Charles d'Orléans, Duke of Orléans.
Louis-Alexandre de Bourbon, Comte de Toulouse (1678-1737)
According to Madame de Montespan, "The King became ever more attached to me personally, as also to the peculiarities of my temperament. He had witnessed with satisfaction the birth of Madame de la Valliere's two children, and I thought that he would have the same affection for mine. But I was wrong. It was with feelings of trepidation and alarm that he contemplated my approaching confinement. Had I given birth to a daughter, I am perfectly certain that, in his eyes, I should have been done for. I gave birth to the first Comte de Vegin, and, grasping my hand affectionately, the King said to me, "Be of good courage, madame; present princes to the Crown, and let those be scandalised who will!" A few moments later he came back, and gave me a million for my expenses. It was, however, mutually arranged that the newborn Infant should be recognised later on, and that, for the time being, I was to have him brought up in secrecy and mystery." Phillippe married Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate (1652-1722) by proxy on 16 November 1671, at Metz. According to Madame de Montespan, "Directly she arrived, she singled me out as the object of her ponderous Palatine sarcasms. She exaggerated my style of dress, my ways and habits. She thought to make fun of my little spaniels by causing herself to be followed, even into the King's presence-chamber, by a large turnspit, which in mockery she called by the name of my favourite dog. When I had had my hair dressed, ornamented with quantities of little curls, diamonds, and jewelled pins, she had the impertinence to appear at Court wearing a huge wig, a grotesque travesty of my coiffure. I was told of it. I entered the King's apartment without deigning to salute Madame, or even to look at her. I had also been told that, in society, she referred to me as "the Montespan woman." I met her one day in company with a good many other people, and said to her: "Madame, you managed to give up your religion in order to marry a French prince; you might just as well have left behind your gross Palatine vulgarity also. I have the honour to inform you that, in the exalted society to which you have been admitted, one can no more say 'the Montespan woman,' than one can say 'the Orleans woman.' I have never offended you in the slightest degree, and I fail to see why I should have been chosen as the favoured object of your vulgar insults." She blushed, and ventured to inform me that this way of expressing herself was a turn of speech taken from her own native language, and that by saying "the," as a matter of course "Marquise" was understood. "No, madame," I said, without appearing irritated; "in Paris, such an excuse as that is quite inadmissible, and since you associate with turnspits, pray ask your cooks, and they will tell you." Fearing to quarrel with the King, she was obliged to be more careful, but to change one's disposition is impossible, and she has loathed and insulted me ever since. Her husband, who himself probably taught her to do so, one day tried to make apologies for what he ruefully termed her reprehensible conduct. "There, there, it doesn't matter," I said to him; "it is easier to offend me than to deceive me. Allow me to quote to you the speech of Mademoiselle de Montpensier, 'You had a charming and accomplished wife, you ought to have prevented her from being poisoned, and then we should not have had this hag at Court.'" In 1673, the illegitimate children were legitimatised by the King. The eldest, Louis-Auguste de Bourbon, became the Duc du Maine. Louis César de Bourbon, became the Comte de Vexin and Louise-Françoise, became Mademoiselle de Nantes. Her last two children by the King were raised by Madame de Monchevreuil, Madame de Colbert and Madame de Jussac. In 1681, Françoise-Marie was legitmised by Louis XIV and given the Courtesy title of Mademoiselle de Blois. Queen Marie-Thérèse died on 30 July 1683, at Versailles. Louis XIV married his second wife, Françoise d'Aubigné, Marquise de Maintenon in secret at midnight on 10 October 1683, in the Chapel at Versailles, Versailles. According to Madame de Montespan, "A few days after the marriage, my health being somewhat reestablished, I went to Petit-Bourg; but the Marechal de Vivonne, his son Louis de Vivonne, all the Mortemarts, all the Rochehouarts, Thianges, Damas, Seignelays, Blainvilles, and Colberts, -in a word, counts, marquises, barons, prelates, and duchesses, came to find me and attack me in my desert, in order to represent to me that, since Madame de Maintenon was the wife of the monarch, I owed her my homage and respectful compliments. The whole family has done so, said these cruel relations; you only have not yet fulfilled this duty. You must do it, in God's name. She has neither airs nor hauteur; you will be marvellously well received. Your resistance would compromise us all. Not desiring to harm or displease my family, and wishing, above all, to reinstate myself somewhat in the King's mind, I resolutely prepared for this distressing journey, and God gave me the necessary strength to execute it. I appeared in a long robe of gold and silver before the new spouse of the monarch. The King, who was sitting at a table, rose for a moment and encouraged me by his greeting. I made the three pauses and three reverences as I gradually approached Madame de Maintenon, who occupied a large and rich armchair of brocade. She did not rise; etiquette forbade it, and principally the presence of the all-powerful King of kings. Her complexion, ordinarily pale, and with a very slight tone of pink, was animated suddenly, and took all the colours of the rose. She made me a sign to seat myself on a stool, and it seemed to me that her amiable gaze apologised to me. She spoke to me of Petit-Bourg, of the waters of Bourbon, of her country-place, of my children, and said to me, smiling kindly: "I am going to confide in you. Monsieur le Prince has already asked Mademoiselle de Names for his grandson, M. le Duc de Bourbon, and his Highness promises us his granddaughter for our Duc du Maine. Two or three years more, and we shall see all that. After half an hour spent thus, I rose from this uncomfortable stool and made my farewell reverences. Madame de Maintenon, profiting by the King having leaned over to write, rose five or six inches in her chair, and said to me these words: "Do not let us cease to love one another, I implore you. I went to rest myself in the poor apartment which was still mine, since the keys had not yet been returned..." In 1685, Louis XIV gave her the Château de Clagny. In 1691, Madame de Montespan retired to the Filles de Saint-Joseph Convent, Rue Saint-Dominique, in Paris. Her daughter, Françoise-Marie de Bourbon married Philippe Charles, Duc d'Chartres (2 August 1674 - 2 December 1723) on 18 February 1692, in the Chapel of the Château de Versailles, in Versailles. Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart died aged 65, on 27 May 1707, at Bourbon-l'Archambault. Louis XIV died on 1 September 1715, at the Château de Versailles, in Versailles, France. He was interred in the Saint-Denis Basilica, Saint-Denis, France.
Excerpts and Source: The Memoirs of Madame de Montespan by Madame de Montespan.