Louise Françoise de Bourbon, Légitimée de France (1 June 1673 – 16 June 1743) was the eldest surviving legitimised daughter of Louis XIV of France and his maîtresse-en-titre, Madame de Montespan. She was said to have been named after her godmother, Louise de La Vallière, the woman that her mother had replaced as the king’s mistress. Prior to her marriage, she was known at court as Mademoiselle de Nantes.
Married at the age of eleven, she became known as Madame la Duchesse, a style which she kept as a widow. She was, Duchess of Bourbon and Princess of Condé by marriage. She was later a leading member of the cabale de Meudon, a group of people who centered on Louis, le Grand Dauphin her older half brother. Whilst her son, Louis Henri, Duke of Bourbon was Prime Minister of France she tried to further her political influence but to little avail.
Very attractive, she had a turbulent love life and was frequently part of scandal during the reign of her father Louis XIV. Later in life, she built the Palais Bourbon in Paris, the present seat of the National Assembly of France, with the fortune she amassed having invested greatly in the Système de Law.
Louise Françoise was born in Tournai on 1 June 1673 while her parents, King Louis XIV and Françoise-Athénais de Rochechouart were on a military tour; her maternal aunt, the marquise de Thianges, was there also. After returning from Tournai, her parents placed her and her older siblings in the care of one of her mother’s acquaintances, the widowed Madame Scarron.
On 19 December 1673, Louis XIV legitimised the children he had had with his mistress in a legitimisation process that was recognised with letters patent from the Parlement de Paris. At the time of their legitimisation, her eldest brother, Louis-Auguste de Bourbon, received the title of duc du Maine; the next eldest brother, Louis-César de Bourbon water bottle holder belt, became the comte de Vexin, while Louise Françoise received the courtesy title of Mademoiselle de Nantes. Her parents had nicknamed her Poupotte after her doll like appearance.
In the year after her birth, another sibling joined Maine, Vexin and Louise Françoise at their residence in Paris. The future Mademoiselle de Tours had been born at the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye in November 1674. The young Mademoiselle de Tours was legitimised in 1676 and would become a great friend of Mademoiselle de Nantes. The death of her younger sister in 1681 Pink Cocktail Dresses, deeply affected her.
After the death of Mademoiselle de Tours, Madame de Montespan wrote to the duc du Maine:
I do not speak to you of my grief, you are naturally too good not to have experienced it for yourself. As for Mademoiselle de Nantes, she has felt it as deeply as if she were twenty and has received the visits of the Queen and Madame la Dauphine
Mesdemoiselles de Nantes and de Tours had been raised together in a private house on the Rue de Vaugirard in Paris, where the king’s illegitimate children with Mme de Montespan had been hidden away from the prying eyes of the court by their parents meat tenderizer solution. Louise Françoise would never be close to either her older half-sister, Marie Anne de Bourbon, or younger full sister, Françoise Marie de Bourbon, as the three sisters were intensely jealous of each other. Louise Françoise and Françoise-Marie were especially competitive, despising any increase in status or rank that the other, or any of her children, might achieve.
Having inherited her parents passion for music and dance, Louise Françoise became a good dancer. When she was nine, she played Youth in a ballet dedicated to the Dauphine of France. She also inherited her mother’s sharp and caustic wit, the famous Mortemart esprit, which made her popular with some but not with others. Saint-Simon later said of the future Princess of Condé:
her face was formed by the most tender loves and her nature made to dally with them. She possessed the art of placing everyone at their ease; there was nothing about her which did not tend naturally to please, with a grace unparalleled, even in her slightest actions. She made captive even those who had the most cause to fear her, and those who had the best of reasons to hate her required often to recall the fact to resist her charms. Sportive, gay, and merry, she passed her youth in frivolity and in pleasures of all kinds, and, whenever the opportunity presented itself, they extended even to debauchery.
She was also called the..
[was the] prettiest, wittiest, and naughtiest of the fast set in the latter half of the reign, and was in constant hot water. Her comic verse, too often indecent, was genuinely amusing, except to the victims, and the king was not at all amused at a set which she had written on his august self
On 25 May 1685, at the age of eleven, Louise Françoise was married to Louis de Bourbon, Duke of Bourbon, a distant sixteen-year-old cousin of her father. Her husband was the son of Henry Jules, Duke of Enghien, the son of the head of the House of Condé, a cadet branch of the reigning House of Bourbon. His mother was Anne Henriette of Bavaria. Louis XIV gave his daughter a large dowry of one million livres upon her marriage.
At court, Louise Françoise’s husband was known by the courtesy title of duc de Bourbon, and was addressed as Monsieur le Duc. As a result, his new wife became known as Madame la Duchesse.
Some time after her marriage in 1686, while the court was in residence at the Palace of Fontainebleau, Louise Françoise contracted smallpox. While her then seventeen-year-old husband did not help nurse her back to health, her mother and grandfather-in-law, Le Grand Condé, did. Louise Françoise recovered, but Le Grand Condé died the following November after having caught her illness. Louise Françoise and her husband eventually had nine children, all of whom survived into adulthood.
After her mother officially left court in 1691, Louise Françoise would visit her at the convent of the Filles de Saint-Joseph, in the rue Saint-Dominique in Paris, where she had retired. As they saw each other often, the two became much closer, and Louise Françoise was deeply affected by her mother’s death in 1707. Louis XIV forbade anyone at court to wear mourning clothes for his former mistress, but, as a mark of respect for their mother, Louise Françoise and her two younger siblings, Françoise Marie de Bourbon and the Count of Toulouse, decided not to attend any court gatherings. On the other hand, her older brother, the Duke of Maine, could barely conceal his joy at inheriting his mother’s fortune. The Château de Clagny was bequeathed to him, but he rarely used it.
In 1692, her youngest sister, Françoise Marie, was married to their first cousin, Philippe d’Orléans, the only son and heir of their uncle, Monsieur. As the wife of a petit-fils de France, Françoise Marie took precedence at court over Louise Françoise and their half-sister Marie Anne. This, combined with the fact that Françoise Marie received a dowry twice the amount given to her older sister, greatly angered Louise Françoise, who thereafter became quite competitive with her younger, more successful sister.
Louise Françoise was a beautiful and vivacious woman. Around 1695, she began a romantic affair with François Louis de Bourbon, prince de Conti, the handsome brother-in-law of her older half-sister, Marie Anne de Bourbon. François Louis’ wife was the pious Marie Thérèse de Bourbon; Marie Thérèse was in turn the oldest sister of Louise Françoise’s husband. Louise Françoise’s fourth daughter Marie Anne, born in 1697, was thought to have been the result of this affair.
When her husband discovered his wife’s infidelity, he was furious but did not openly quarrel with the Prince of Conti due to a fear of his father-in-law, Louis XIV. Her older half-brother, the Dauphin, to whom she was close, allowed the couple to meet at his country estate at Meudon away from her husband and the court.
Upon the death of her father-in-law on 1 April 1709, her husband succeeded to the title of Prince of Condé. He did not, however, succeed to his father’s rank of Premier Prince du Sang, which was instead officially transferred from the House of Condé to the House of Orléans. As a result, her younger sister’s husband, the Duke of Orléans, became entitled to use the style of Monsieur le Prince. His wife, Louise Françoise’s sister Françoise Marie, accordingly became entitled to use the style Madame la Princesse. Despite the fact that Françoise-Marie never referred to herself as Madame la Princesse, this transfer in rank from the House of Condé to the House of Orléans greatly aggravated the rivalry between Louise Françoise and her younger sister.
Louise Françoise’s husband, who had by this time descended into madness, did not survive his father long and died within the year in 1710. Although Louise Françoise should have officially assumed the style of Madame la Princesse de Condé douairière (Dowager Princess of Condé) upon the death of her husband, she instead chose to be known in her widowhood as Madame la Duchesse douairière. She had a portrait taken in widow’s dress. When her husband died she is said to have been affected but Madame de Caylus did not believe her grief was sincere.
In the hope of ingratiating herself with the future king, Louise Françoise frequently attended the court of her older half-brother, Monseigneur, at the Château de Meudon. At Meudon, she became close to the Élisabeth Thérèse de Lorraine, princesse d’Epinoy and her older sister, Mademoiselle de Lillebonne, a future Abbess of Remiremont Abbey. Unexpectedly, the dauphin died in 1711, ruining his sister’s plan of establishing a more solid relationship with the Crown. Despite her dashed hopes, Louise Françoise was deeply affected by the dauphin’s death. This death made her nephew, Louis, Duke of Burgundy, and his wife, Marie Adélaïde, the new Dauphin and Dauphine.
Marie Adélaïde and Louise Françoise were to become bitter enemies because of the new dauphine’s condescending attitude toward ladies of inferior rank. The Duchess of Orléans and the older Dowager Princess of Conti also grew to dislike their niece for her haughty behavior.
As a dowager, Louise Françoise became a good friend of Jeanne Baptiste d’Albert de Luynes, the former mistress of Victor Amadeus, Duke of Savoy. Jeanne Baptiste had escaped Savoy in 1700 and had been residing in Paris ever since. She was a great literary figure of the day.
Within two years, in 1712, the new dauphin and his young wife died, leaving only a small son, the duc d’Anjou, as the legitimate heir of Louis XIV. In 1715, the king died, and was succeeded by his five-year-old great-grandson, Louis XV. A controversy immediately arose between Louise Françoise’s older brother, the Duke of Maine, and her brother-in-law, the Duke of Orléans, over which of the two should be declared Regent. After the Parlement de Paris had deliberated for a week, the Duke of Orléans was declared the official Regent. This of course exacerbated the rivalry between Louise Françoise and her younger sister, the Duchess of Orléans, now the highest ranking lady of France.
During the Régence, Louise Françoise was frequently occupied with the escapades of her second daughter, Louise Élisabeth, Princess of Conti, who had become the mistress of Philippe Charles de La Fare. When her daughter’s husband, the Prince of Conti, discovered the liaison, he became physically abusive toward his wife. The only son of the Conti couple, Louis François de Bourbon, was thought to have been the result of his mother’s adulterous relationship with La Fare. Louise Élisabeth later took refuge from her violent husband with her mother at the Palais Bourbon.
In 1714, her niece, Mademoiselle du Maine, the daughter of her older brother, the Duke of Maine, was named in her honor.
In the 1720s, Louise Françoise became the mistress of the marquis de Lassay. In order to be closer to her, he built the Hôtel de Lassay next to the Palais Bourbon, her residence in Paris. Later on, a gallery was built, housing the grander, more public part of the collection of paintings that made Lassay’s reputation as a connoisseur redound in Parisian circles for a generation after his death; the gallery that joined the two buildings also enabled the lovers to have better access to each other.
In 1737, she was asked to be the godmother to Louis XV’s eldest son, Louis, Dauphin of France. The young dauphin’s godfather was Louise Françoise’s nephew, Louis, Duke of Orléans.
When her son was disgraced during the Regency of Philippe d’Orléans, Louise Françoise regarded his mistress Madame de Prie as the cause. As such, Louise Françoise detested her. Her son died in exile in 1740 to be succeeded by his son, Louise Françoise’s grandson, Louis Joseph, Prince of Condé who was aged four.
During her long widowhood, Louise Françoise built the Palais Bourbon in Paris, not far from the residences of her surviving siblings. Construction on the palace started in 1722, when she was forty-nine years old.
The Palais Bourbon, named after her family, was built after her stay at the Grand Trianon, which became the architectural inspiration for her new home. The Palais had a collection of large reception rooms, the main one being the Galerie which overlooked the Seine ; the main salon of the Palais looked towards the Tuileries Palace to the east. It was designed by the Italian architect Lorenzo Giardini; the plans were approved by Jules Hardouin-Mansart. Giardini oversaw the actual construction from 1722 until his death in 1724, after which Jacques Gabriel took over, assisted by L’Assurance and other designers, until its completion in 1728.
The Palais was linked to the Hôtel de Lassay by means of a corridor overlooking a joint Parterre.
Her older half-sister, Marie Anne de Bourbon, who was the Dowager Princess of Conti, lived in the Hôtel de Conti, opposite the Louvre, on the Quai de Conti. Her older brother, the Duke of Maine, lived in the Hôtel du Maine near the Louvre, and her younger sister, the Duchess of Orléans, lived at the Palais Royal, the Orléans residence in Paris. Near the Louvre and the Palais-Royal, her youngest brother, the Count of Toulouse, lived in the Hôtel de Toulouse.
Louise Françoise de Bourbon died on 16 June 1743, at the age of seventy, at the Palais Bourbon. She was buried at the Carmel du faubourg Saint-Jacques, a Carmelite convent on the Left Bank in Paris Latin Quarter.