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The smooth transition from the Middle Ages to the Modern Age is conventionally fixed on such events as the Reformation and the discovery of the "New World," which brought about the emergence of a new image of man and his world. Humanism, which spread out of Italy, also made an essential contribution to this with its promotion of a critical awareness of Christianity and the Church. The Reformation eventually broke the all-embracing power of the Church. After the Thirty Years' War, the concept of a universal empire was also nullified. The era of the nation-state began, bringing with it the desire to build up political and economic power far beyond Europe. The Americas, Africa, and Asia provided regions of expansion for the Europeans.

Proportions of the Human Figure by Leonardo da Vinci (drawing, ca. 1490)
is a prime example of the new approach of Renaissance
artists and scientists to the anatomy of the human body.



France: From the Wars of Religion to the Eve of the Revolution



see also text

VOLTAIRE "Age of Louis XIV"



"Sun King" Louis XIV and his Mistresses



Louise Françoise de la Baume le Blanc (1644 - 1710), duchess of Vaujours

Françoise-Athénais de Rochechouart de Mortemart (1640 - 1707), marchioness of Montespan

Marie Angélique de Scoraille de Roussille (1661 - 1681), duchess of Fontanges

Olympe Mancini (1638 — 1708)

Marie Mancini (1639 - 1715)

Henrietta of England (1644 - 1670)

Catherine-Charlotte de Gramont (1639 - 1678), princess of Monaco

Marie-Élisabeth Isabelle de Ludres (1647 in Ludres-Januar 1726 in Nancy)

Anne de Rohan-Chabot (1641 - 1709), princess of Soubise



Louise De La Valliere

was a woman of French nobility that is celebrated for her intimate relations with Louis XIV. She was born in Tours in August, 1644 and died in Paris, June 6, 1710.

Her mother and father were of the French aristocracy. After the death of her father, a French nobleman and superior officer, her mother married the Baron de St. Remy, who was attached to the household of the Duchess of Orleans, a very prominent woman in French society. Because of this relation, Louise was introduced at court and appointed maid of honor to Henrietta of England, sister-in-law of Louis XIV. Because of her personal loveliness and fine character Louise soon won the heart of several distinguished men. However, Louise discouraged their devotion because she had fallen in love with the king.

All who became aquatinted with the young Louise were impressed by her modesty, gentleness, and truthfulness, as well as with her personal charms and varied accomplishments; and the most eminent French writers, as Racine, La Fontaine, and Madame de Sevigne, bestowed the highest praises upon her virtues and graces.

Her love for Louis XIV was as enthusiastic as it was disinterested. Deep down she knew that becoming the king’s mistress went against her conscience. But, after having for some time resisted his advances, she became his mistress in 1661. Louise was never comfortable with this arrangement and on several occasions felt impelled by conscientious scruples to desert her lover. When she left the king, she took refuge in a convent, but the king succeeded in bringing her back from that very convent two times. In 1674, however, she left him definitely, and took the veil in the Carmelite convent of the Faubourg St. Jacques under the name of Sister Louise. She received the visits of the queen, the Duchess of Orleans, and other warm admirers, and, engaged in works of piety and charity, spent the rest of her life in the seclusion of that convent.

She bore four children to the king, two of whom were legitimatized, Mlle. de Blois, who married the Prince of Conti, and the Count of Vermandois. Louise wrote a book entitled “Reflections on the Mercy of God, by a Penitent Woman” in 1680. A collection of her letters was also published in 1767. Here life has been a very suggestive literary theme.


Louise de la Valliere


Portrait of Louise de la Vallière, one of Louis XIV's mistresses,
with her children from the king

Louise de La Baume Le Blanc, duchesse de La Vallière et de Vaujours by Franque Jean-Pierre



Francoise-Athenais of Rochechouart, marquess of Montespan

(1641 - 1707) was a mistress of Louis XIV.

Born at the chateau of Tonnay-Charente (Charente-Inferieure), France, the daughter of Gabriel de Rochechouart, duc de Mortemart. She was educated at the Convent of St Mary at Saintes, and when she was twenty she became maid-of-honour to Queen Maria Theresa. She married in January 1663 LH de Pardaillan de Gondrin, marquis de Montespan, who was a year younger than herself. By him she had two children, LH Pardaillan de Gondrin, duc d'Antin, born in 1665, and a daughter.

Her brilliant and haughty beauty was only one of the Montespan's charms; she was a cultivated and amusing talker who won the admiration of such competent judges as Saint-Simon and Mme de Sévigné. Nevertheless she was a profound believer in witchcraft, and La Reynie, the chief judge of the court before which the famous poisoning cases were brought, places her first visits to La Voisin in 1665. She received from the sorceress love powders concocted of abominable ingredients for Louis XIV, and in 1666 the "black mass" was said by the priest Etienne Guibourg over her with the usual horrible ceremonial. In 1667 she gained her end, becoming Louis XIV's mistress in July.

Montespan astounded the court by openly resenting his wife's position. He made a scandal by accusing Mme de Montausier of acting as go-between in order to secure the governorship of the dauphin for her husband. He even wore mourning for his wife. Montespan was arrested, but released after a few days' imprisonment. The first of the seven children whom Mme de Montespan bore to the king was born in March 1669, and was entrusted to Mme Scarron, the future Mme de Maintenon, who acted as companion to Mme de Montespan while the king was away at the wars. Her children were legitimatized in 1673 without mention of the mother's name for fear that Montespan might claim them. The eldest, Louis Auguste, became duc de Maine, the second, Louis Cesar, comte de Vexin, and the third, Louise Françoise, demoiselle de Nantes (afterwards duchess of Bourbon).

Meanwhile Montespan had been compelled to retire to Spain, and in 1674 an official separation was declared by the procureur-general Achille de Harlay, assisted by six judges at the Chatelet. When Louis's affections showed signs of cooling, Mme de Montespan had recourse to magic. In 1675 absolution was refused to the king, with the result that his mistress was driven from the court for a short time. It has been thought, that she had conceived the intention of poisoning even as early as 1676, but in 1679. Louis's intrigue with Angélique de Fontanges and her own relegation to the position of superintendent of the queen's household brought matters to a crisis. Mile de Fontanges died a natural death in 1681, though poisoning was suspected.

Meanwhile suspicion was thrown on Mme de Montespan's connexion with La Voisin and her crew by the frequent recurrence of her maid's name, Mlle Desoeillets, in the evidence brought before the Chambre Ardente. From the end of 1680 onwards Louvois, Colbert and Mme de Maintenon all helped to hush up the affair and to prevent further scandal about the mother of the king's legitimatized children. Louis XIV continued to spend some time daily in her apartments, and apparently her brilliance and charm in conversation mitigated to some extent her position of discarded mistress. In 1691 she retired to the Convent of St Joseph with a pension of half a million francs. Her father was governor of Paris, her brother, the duc de Vivonne, a marshal of France, and one of her sisters,

Gabrielle, whose vows were but four years old, became abbess of the wealthy community of Fontevrault. Besides the expenses of her houses and equipage Mme de Montespan spent vast sums on hospitals and charities. She was also a generous patron of letters, and befriended Corneille, Racine and La Fontaine. The last years of her life were given up to penance. When she died at Bourbon 1'Archambault on the 27th of May 1707 the king forbade her children to wear mourning for her. Real regret was felt for her by the duchess of Bourbon and by her younger children--Françoise Marie, Mlle de Blois (1677-1749), married in 1692 to the future regent Orleans, then due de Chartres, and Louis Alexandre, comte de Toulouse (1678-1737).

See P Clement, Madame de Montespan et Louis XIV (Paris, 1869); monographs by Arsène Houssaye (1865) and by H Williams (I903); F Funck-Brentano, Le Drame des poisons (1899); A Durand, "Un Episode du grand regne" in Rev. des questions hist. (Paris, 1868); the contemporary memoirs of Mme de Sevigne, of Saint-Simon, of Bussy-Rabutin and others; also the proceedings of the Chambre Ardente preserved in the Archives de la Bastille (Arsenal Library) and the notes of La Reynie preserved in the Bibliothéque Nationale. She figured in V Sardou's play, L'Affaire des poisons (1907).


Francoise Athenais de Rochechouart de Mortemart


Francoise-Athénais de Rochechouart de Mortemart, Marquise de Montespan,
maitresse of King Louise XIV, with four of her children


Francoise-Athénais de Rochechouart,
marquise de Montespan


Francoise-Athenais de Rochechouart de Mortemart, Marquise de Montespan,
maitresse of King Louise XIV, with four of her children




Marie Angelique de Scorailles de Roussille, duchesse de Fontanges

(1661 – 1681)

was one of the many paramours of Louis XIV, King of France. A lady-in-waiting to his sister-in-law the Princess Palatine, she caught the attention of the Sun King and became his lover in 1679.

Mlle de Fontanges was very pretty as reflected in art from the day, but not very clever. The King made her a duchess, as well as pregnant. She gave birth to a stillborn child while she herself was seriously ill. Afterward she left the court for a convent, although by then the atmosphere at court was such that many people believed that she had been poisoned by Françoise-Athénaïs, marquise de Montespan. Mlle de Fontanges died in June 1681 in Port-Royal.

The fontange, a headdress worn by women in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, was named after Mlle de Fontanges. It is said that she tied her hair up with a ribbon after losing her cap while horseback riding. The king liked the look and it soon became fashionable.


Marie Angélique de Scorailles de Roussille, duchesse de Fontanges




Olympe Mancini, comtesse de Soissons
Italian-French noble
Olympe also spelled Olimpia

born 1639
died Oct. 9, 1708, Brussels

niece of Cardinal Mazarin and wife from 1657 of the Comte de Soissons (Eugène-Maurice of Savoy).

Olympe Mancini had a brief affair with the young king Louis XIV when she was in her teens and took part in the amorous intrigues of the French court up to 1680, when she fled the country after being charged with complicity in the Affair of the Poisons (a scandal involving widespread murder and purported black magic). The Habsburgs’ great general, Prince Eugene of Savoy, was her son.


Olympe Mancini, comtesse de Soissons


Portrait of Olympia Mancini (b. 1640 - d. 1708),
the mother of Prince Eugene of Savoy, niece of Cardinal Mazarin.
Painted by Pierre Mignard




Marie Mancini

(Anna Maria Mancini; August 28, 1639 – May 8, 1715) was the middle of the five Mancini sisters, nieces to Cardinal Mazarin who were brought to France to marry advantageously.

She was born in Rome, the daughter of Michele Lorenzo Mancini and Geronima Mazzarini. "Dark, vivacious and beautiful," Marie captured the biggest prize of the French court: the love of Louis XIV. According to Antonia Fraser's biography Love and Louis XIV, Marie's mother, Hieronyma (or Geronima) was told by a horoscope that Marie would cause trouble and demanded on her deathbed that Cardinal Mazarin should "shut Marie up in a convent and keep her there."

Marie did not consummate her relationship with the Sun King. His love for her was a somewhat idealistic one, but he was so besotted that he wanted to marry. Eventually, Cardinal Mazarin and Anne of Austria separated the couple, banishing Marie into exile and arranging Louis' marriage to his cousin, Maria Theresa of Spain. In 1661, Marie was married off to an Italian prince, Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna, who remarked after their wedding night that he was surprised to find her a virgin as one does not normally expect to find 'innocence among the loves of kings'. (from Antonia Fraser's book Love and Louis XIV).

They had three children, all sons: Filippo, born in 1663; Marcantonio, born in 1664; and Carlo, born in 1665.

After the birth of her third child, relations between Marie and her husband deteriorated. On May 29, 1672, fearing that her husband would kill her, Marie left Rome accompanied by her sister Hortense. In 1677, in order to support herself, she wrote her memoirs. She did not return to Italy until her husband's death in 1689.

She died in Pisa and is buried in the church of the Holy Sepulchre there.


Anna Maria Mancini


Anna Maria Mancini


Anna Maria Mancini




Henrietta Anne of England, Duchess of Orléans

(born Henrietta 16 June (Old Style) 26 June (New Style) 1644 – 30 June 1670), in French Henriette d'Angleterre, known familiarly as Minette, was the youngest daughter of King Charles I of England and Henrietta Maria of France. The Jacobite claims to the throne following the death of Henry Benedict Stuart descend from her.

After her marriage to Monsieur, Philippe d'Orléans, brother of king Louis XIV, she became known as Madame at court.

Henrietta was born at Bedford House, Exeter, at a time when the English Civil War was raging across the land. Two weeks after Henrietta's birth, her mother, the Queen, fled the country leaving her in the care of Lady Morton. Henrietta Anne (the "Anne" was added after she was baptized into the Catholic Church) was not reunited with her mother until she was two years old. After her father, Charles I of England, was beheaded in 1649, and a republic was proclaimed in England, Lady Morton brought her to France to live at the court of her cousin, King Louis XIV.

At the age of seventeen, Princess Henrietta married her first cousin, Philippe I, Duke of Orléans, who was the younger son of her maternal uncle Louis XIII and the only brother of Louis XIV. The wedding was held at the Palais Royal chapel in Paris on 31 March 1661. By then her brother Charles II had been restored to the thrones of England and Scotland and therefore the marriage was even more politically advantageous. The marriage was unhappy, and her husband preferred the affections of his gentlemen, who vied with Henrietta for power.

Louis XIV was very close to his sister-in-law, and the two may have been lovers. Louis' mourning of her after her tragic death was even greater than that of Philippe, her husband, lending credence to that theory[citation needed]. However, Philippe was extremely jealous of his wife, possibly abusive, and paraded a succession of male lovers before her.

Popular at court, much to Philippe's annoyance, Henriette was known as a pretty, good-natured girl who enjoyed flirting. She soon attracted the attention of her husband's older brother. In order to hide their attraction from the king's mother and wife, Henriette and Louis invented the story that he was constantly in Henriette's company in order to be close to one of her ladies-in-waiting, Louise de La Vallière. Only later did Henriette realize that the ruse had been so successful that Louis had indeed begun an affair with Louise.

Reluctantly and somewhat bitterly, Henriette stepped aside. Later, she seems to have taken one of her husband's earlier conquests, the comte de Guiche, as a lover. This caused all sorts of arguments at the Palais Royal, the Orléans residence in Paris.


Henrietta Anne of England, Duchess of Orléans




Catherine-Charlotte de Gramont

(1639 – June 4, 1678) was Princess of Monaco as the wife of Louis I of Monaco, and a mistress of King Louis XIV of France.

She was the eldest daughter of Marshal Antoine III de Gramont and Françoise-Marguerite du Plessis-Chivré, a niece of Cardinal Richelieu. Catherine-Charlotte's elder brother was Armand de Gramont, the celebrated comte de Guiche, known for his arrogance and good looks, who was successively the lover of Philippe I of Orléans and Henrietta Anne Stuart, husband and wife.

In 1660, Catherine married Louis de Grimaldi, the 2nd Duke of Valentinois and heir to the throne of Monaco, who is described as "a glorious and avaricious Italian". They had six children.

In 1662, she became Princess consort of Monaco. She visited Monaco in 1662, were she stayed for three years, after which she returned to the French court. The Prince and Princess of Monaco spent more time in Paris than they did in Monaco. The couple were well-established at the royal court of Louis XIV, where Catherine-Charlotte held the position of lady-in-waiting to Henrietta Anne Stuart, sister-in-law and former lover of Louis XIV. Her aunt, Suzanne Charlotte de Gramont, marquise de Saint Chaumont, was also a member of Henrietta's household as the governess of her two daughters, Marie Louise and Anne Marie.

Catherine-Charlotte's beauty did not go unnoticed. She was renowned for her beauty and wits, and attracted many lovers, including the king, the marquis de Villeroi, and her cousin, "the little Lauzun". Madame de Sévigné described her as "greedy for pleasure", and she was nicknamed Catherine the Torrent.

The king, who was losing interest in his mistress, Louise de la Vallière, began an affair with Catherine-Charlotte that lasted only a few months. Catherine-Charlotte's husband, Louis I, Prince of Monaco, diplomatically left court and went off to war. In reality this was part of a plot designed by Henrietta Anne Stuart to distract the king from Louise so that she might gain him back for herself. Louis XIV did in fact leave Catherine-Charlotte after a few months, not to go back to Henrietta, but in favor of Madame de Montespan. Some gossip has it that, during this short affair, Catherine also had an intimate relationship with Henrietta. She was forced to return to Monaco in 1668 after having been banished from court for her affairs. In 1672, she returned to the French court, were she spent the rest of her life.

Catherine de Gramont died in Paris on June 4, 1678, aged 39.


Catherine-Charlotte de Gramont




Marie-Élisabeth (dite Isabelle), marquise de Ludres

Marie-Élisabeth Isabelle de Ludres, genannt La belle Isabelle oder auch La belle chanoinesse de Poussay, (1647 in Ludres-Januar 1726 in Nancy) war Ehrendame am Königshof und Mätresse des französischen Königs Ludwig XIV.

Marie-Élisabeth war die Tochter von Jean IV. de Ludres und seiner Frau Claude des Salles. Sie wurde als Kanonisse im Kloster von Poussay erzogen und wurde von ihren Eltern mit dem älteren Herzog Karl IV. von Lothringen verlobt. Doch dieser wollte nicht seine Mätresse, Marie-Louise d' Apremont, verlassen und schlug seiner jungen Verlobten eine Ménage à trois vor. Doch Marie-Elisabeth widersetzte sich dem und hatte die Unterstützung des lothringischen Klerus.

Im Jahre 1666 verlieb Marie-Elisabeth das Kloster in den Vogesen und ging nach Versailles. Als Ehrendame wurde sie in den Haushalt der Herzogin von Orléans, Henrietta Anne Stuart, der Lieblingsschwester Karls II., gegeben und bei Hofe eingeführt. Es wird vermutet, dass ihre Familie Marie-Elisabeth in der Hoffnung, sie würde dem französischen König Ludwig XIV. auffallen und zur Mätresse aufsteigen, bei Hofe einführte. Nach dem frühen Tod der Herzogin von Orléans († 1670), kam sie in den Hofstaat der französischen Königin Maria Theresia. Durch ihre Schönheit und ihren lothringischen Akzent zog sie die Höflinge in ihren Bann, darunter den Enkel von César de Bourbon, Philippe de Bourbon-Vendôme. Der König interessierte sich auch für La belle Isabelle. Die Verbindung blieb Madame de Montespan, der Maîtresse en titre des Königs, nicht verborgen, die daraufhin gegen Marie-Elisabeth intrigierte.

1678 verließ Marie-Elisabeth de Ludres den Hof und zog sich ins Kloster des„Orden von der Heimsuchung Mariens“ zurück, nachdem sie eine Geldspende vom König ausgeschlagen hatte. Jahre später und inzwischen verschuldet, war La belle Isabelle gezwungen, eine Pension von Ludwig XIV. zu fordern. Er stellte ihr eine Pension von 2000 Livres aus, von der sie mehr schlecht als recht leben konnte. Sie starb am 28. Januar 1726 in Nancy.


Marie-Élisabeth Isabelle de Ludres




Anne-Julie Adelaide de Rohan-Chabot, princesse de Soubise, genannt Madame de Frontenay

Anne-Julie Adelaide de Rohan-Chabot, Princesse de Soubise, called Madame de Frontenay (1648 - 1709) was a mistress of Louis XIV. Julie-Anne was the daughter of Henri Chabot and his wife, Marguerite, duchesse de Rohan. She received for the time an excellent education and married Francois de Rohan, Prince de Soubise. There were 10 children. In 1665 she was invited with her mother to Versailles and presented to the King. The Duchess de Rohan wanted her daughter at court because it was widely known that the favor of the official mistress, Louise de La Valliere, was fading. Her husband understood very quickly that this situation could benefit his favor. The king was generous by providing him with awards. In January 1674, the pregnant Anne-Julie was honorary Dame of Queen Marie-Therese at Versailles. In June, a son, Gaston-Armand (1674 - 1749), the future of Cardinal Rohan and member of the Academie Francaise, was born. The liaison with the King ended in 1675, but they remained at the court serving the queen.


Anne-Julie de Rohan-Chabot, princesse de Soubise



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