Françoise Marie de Bourbon

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Françoise Marie
Légitimée de France
Duchess of Orléans
Francoise-Marie de Bourbon in 1700; Duchess of Chartres.jpg
Françoise in 1700
Born4 May 1677
Château de Maintenon, Maintenon, France
Died1 February 1749 (aged 71)
Palais-Royal, Paris, France
Burial6 February 1749 [1]
Église de la Madeleine de Trainel, Paris, France
Spouse Philippe II, Duke of Orléans
Marie Louise Élisabeth, Duchess of Berry
Adélaïde, Abbess of Chelles
Charlotte Aglaé, Duchess of Modena
Louis, Duke of Orléans
Louise Élisabeth, Queen of Spain
Philippine Élisabeth, Mademoiselle de Beaujolais
Louise, Princess of Conti
Full name
Françoise Marie de Bourbon, légitimée de France
House Bourbon
Father Louis XIV of France
Mother Madame de Montespan
Religion Roman Catholicism
Signature Signature of the Duchess of Orleans (Francoise Marie de Bourbon) at the marriage of Emilie de Breteuil (June 1725).png

Françoise Marie de Bourbon, légitimée de France (4 May [2] 1677 – 1 February 1749) was the youngest illegitimate daughter of Louis XIV of France and his maîtresse-en-titre , Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart, Marquise de Montespan. At the age of 14, she was wed to her first cousin Philippe d'Orléans, future Regent of France during the minority of Louis XV. Through four of the eight children she bore him in an unhappy marriage she became the ancestress of several of Europe's Roman Catholic monarchs of the 19th and 20th centuries, notably those of Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and France.



Françoise Marie was born in 1677, at the château de Maintenon, owned since 1674 by Françoise d'Aubigné, marquise de Maintenon, the governess of Madame de Montespan's illegitimate children by Louis XIV. She and her younger brother, Louis Alexandre de Bourbon, Count of Toulouse were cared for by Mmes de Monchevreuil, [3] de Colbert and de Jussac under Mme. de Maintenon's' supervision, their mother being eventually ostracized from court. As a child, she was brought occasionally to Versailles to visit her parents.

Mademoiselle de Blois

On 22 November 1681, at the age of four and a half, Françoise Marie was legitimised by Louis XIV and given the courtesy title of Mademoiselle de Blois, a style held previously by her older half-sister, Marie Anne de Bourbon, a legitimised daughter of the king by Louise de La Vallière. The name of her mother was not mentioned in the act of legitimisation because Madame de Montespan was still married to the Marquis de Montespan, who might have counter-claimed paternity and custody of his wife's children. [3] By the time of her birth, her parents' relationship was coming to an end because of Madame de Montespan's possible involvement in the Affaire des poisons . [4]

Her older siblings Louis Auguste and Louise Françoise had been legitimised on 19 December 1673 by letters patent registered at the Parlement de Paris . Her younger brother, Louis Alexandre, was legitimised at the same time as she and given the title of comte de Toulouse. She remained close to him all her life, as well as to their older brother, Louis-Auguste de Bourbon, duc du Maine. She was never close to her legitimate half brother, Louis, Dauphin of France.

Françoise wielded little political influence considering her near relationships to France's rulers during most of her life. She was involved in the botched Cellamare Conspiracy in 1718 which was supposed to oust her own husband as regent in favour of her full brother Louis-Auguste de Bourbon, Duke of Maine.

She inherited her mother's beauty, Madame de Caylus commented that Françoise was naturally timid and glorious and was a little beauty with a beautiful face and beautiful hands; completely in proportion. [5] She was proud of her royal ancestry and of the royal blood of the House of Bourbon she inherited from her father: Later, it was joked that she would "remember she was a daughter of France , even while on her chaise percée [6] The marquis d'Argenson said she was very like her mother, but had also Louis XIV's orderly mind with his failings of injustice and harshness.

Among her male line descendants are Philippe Egalité, Louis-Philippe I, King of the French, and Prince Henri, Count of Paris, the present Orléanist pretender to the French throne. She is also an ancestor of Juan Carlos I of Spain, Albert II, King of the Belgians, Henri, Grand Duke of Luxembourg and Vittorio Emanuele, Prince of Naples, the pretender to the Italian throne.


Francoise Marie, by Francois de Troy. Portrait painting of Francoise Marie de Bourbon, later Duchess of Orleans by Francois de Troy.jpg
Françoise Marie, by François de Troy.

Madame de Maintenon was a childless widow who, as the king's morganatic wife from the mid 1680s, promoted her charges' interests, scandalizing the court by securing the marriage of Mlle de Blois to the king's only legitimate nephew, Philippe d'Orléans in 1692. Then known by his father's subsidiary title, Duke of Chartres, he was the son of Philippe de France, duc d'Orléans known, as the king's only brother, as Monsieur. The mésalliance between bastard and legitimate blood royal disgusted Philippe's mother, Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate, whose prejudice against her brother-in-law's bastards was well known. [6] Upon learning of her son's acquiescence to the betrothal, she slapped him in front of the court, [7] then turned her back on the king who had bowed in salutation to her. [6] She remained an enemy to her daughter-in-law and indifferent to her grandchildren by her.

On the occasion of the marriage between their respective children, Louis XIV gave to his brother the Palais-Royal where the Orléans had been residing, but which they had not owned. [8] Formerly known as the Palais Cardinal, the palace had been bequeathed to the crown by its builder, Cardinal Richelieu, upon his death in 1642. Louis XIV also promised an important military post to the Duke of Chartres and gave 100,000 livres to the Duke of Orléans' favourite, the Chevalier de Lorraine . Upon being informed of the identity of her future husband, Françoise remarked:

Je ne me soucie pas qu'il m'aime, je me soucie qu'il m'épouse. ("I care not that he love me, but that he marries me") [8]

Françoise and Philippe d'Orléans were married on 18 February 1692 in the chapel of the Palace of Versailles. The service was conducted by the Cardinal de Bouillon [3] – a member of the House of La Tour d'Auvergne. In 1685, the Cardinal de Bouillon had refused to take part in the marriage of the Duke of Bourbon and Françoise's sister, Mademoiselle de Nantes, and, as a result, had been sent into exile, but he was recalled for the wedding of Françoise and the Duke of Chartres. After the ceremony, a banquet was given in the Hall of Mirrors with all the princes and princesses of the blood in attendance. [3] Other guests included the exiled James II of England and his consort, Mary of Modena. At the newlyweds' bedding ceremony later that evening, Queen Mary handed the new Duchess of Chartres her night shirt. [3] Madame de Montespan had not been invited to the wedding of her daughter.

As her new husband was a legitimate grandson of a king, Françoise assumed the rank of petite-fille de France ("Grand-Daughter of France"), and was addressed as Royal Highness . Furthermore, the newlyweds traveled and lodged wherever the king did, dined with him, and were entitled to armchairs in his presence. [9] As the new duchesse de Chartres, Françoise Marie was next in precedence behind only the Duchess of Burgundy, and her own mother-in-law, the Duchess of Orléans.

From her father, Françoise Marie received a dowry of more than two million livres, twice the sum bestowed on her older sister, Louise, who had married Louis, Duke of Bourbon, first prince of the blood royal, whose rank was deemed substantially lower than that of the king's nephew. This difference led to animosity between the sisters. [3] The dowry was not to be paid until the Nine Years' War was over. [10]

Around 1710, an account of her was written by her husband's friend, the proud Duke of Saint-Simon:

[i]n every way majestic; her complexion, her throat, her arms, were admirable; she had a tolerable mouth, with beautiful teeth, somewhat long; and cheeks too broad and too pendant, which interfered with, but did not spoil her beauty. What disfigured her the most were her eyebrows, which were, so to speak, peeled and red, with very little hair; she had, however, fine eyelashes, with well-set, chestnut-coloured hair. Without being humpbacked or deformed, she had one side larger than the other, which caused her to walk awry; and this defect in her figure indicated another, which was more troublesome in society and which inconvenienced herself. [11]

Mademoiselle de Blois as Galatea Triumphant, 1692, Pierre Gobert. Portrait of Mademoiselle de Blois (1677-1749), as Galatea Triumphant.jpg
Mademoiselle de Blois as Galatea Triumphant, 1692, Pierre Gobert.

Her mother-in-law wrote the following in her memoirs:

all the ladies in waiting have made her believe that she did my son honour in marrying him; and she is so vain of her own birth and that of her brothers and sisters that she will not hear a word said against them; she will not see any difference between legitimate and illegitimate children. [12]

Not long after their marriage, Philippe openly ridiculed his wife's bad temper, nicknaming her Madame Lucifer. Her mother-in-law said that during the early years of the Chartres marriage, Françoise was as "drunk as drunk" three to four times a week. [3]

The union, despite open discord, produced eight children, several of whom later married into other European royal families during the Regency of her husband for the young king Louis XV of France. Françoise Marie was so annoyed at her children not being recognised as grandchildren of a king that Saint-Simon wrote:

The duchesse d'Orléans had a head filled with fantasies that she could not realise... Not content with the modern rank of Granddaughter of France, which she enjoyed through her husband, she could not bear the idea that her children were only Princes of the Blood and dreamed up a rank for them that was betwixt and between...Great-Grandchildren of France. [13]

Duchess of Orléans

Francoise Marie with her son, by Pierre Gobert. Gobert - Francoise Marie de Bourbon with her son Louis of Orleans.jpg
Françoise Marie with her son, by Pierre Gobert.

In 1701, upon the death of his father, her husband became Duke of Orléans, head of the House of Orléans and inherited his father's estates. The new Duchess of Orléans acquired precedence over her mother-in-law, becoming second in rank only to the Dauphine (Duchess of Burgundy). Her father-in-law had died of a stroke at Saint-Cloud following an argument with Louis XIV at Marly concerning the Duke of Chartres' flaunting his pregnant mistress, Marie-Louise de Séry, in front of Françoise. [10] Nonetheless, the new Duke and Duchess of Orléans took up a lavish lifestyle at the Palais-Royal in Paris and the Château de Saint-Cloud, located some ten kilometers west of Paris. The private apartments of the duke and duchess at the Palais-Royal were designed and decorated by the renowned Jean Bérain. [7]

While her husband led the debauched life of a womaniser, Françoise lived a quiet life without scandal, unlike her sisters, the Princess of Conti and the Duchess of Bourbon, and their older brother, the Duke of Maine. Though witty and charming, she preferred the company of the Duchess of Sforza. [3] [12] Her intimate circle included her cousins, Marie Élisabeth de Rochechouart, Countess of Castries, who was also her lady-in-waiting, as well as Diane Gabrielle Damas de Thianges, daughter of Françoise's aunt, Gabrièlle de Rochechouart de Mortemart.

Two days after her birthday in 1707, Françoise Marie lost her mother who had lived in seclusion [3] since being banished from court in 1691. Her father forbade his legitimised children to wear mourning clothes for their mother, but they chose to absent themselves from court gatherings during the mourning period, with the exception of their eldest brother, the Duke of Maine, who inherited the entirety of his mother's vast fortune. [7]

In 1710 Louis XIV's youngest legitimate grandson, Charles, Duke of Berry, was still unmarried. It was suggested that he marry Louise Élisabeth de Bourbon, the daughter of Louise, Duchess of Bourbon. But on 6 July 1710 Françoise secured the marriage of her eldest daughter, Marie Louise Élisabeth d'Orléans, to the duke, much to the annoyance of the Duchess of Bourbon. This marriage elevated Marie Louise Élisabeth to the rank of petite-fille de France, above princesses of the blood.

The Chateau de Bagnolet, Francoise Marie's favourite residence. Engraving by Jacques Rigaud. Bagnolet par Rigaud, Jacques.1730.jpg
The Château de Bagnolet, Françoise Marie's favourite residence. Engraving by Jacques Rigaud.

On the death of his great-grandfather Louis XIV, in 1715, the five-year-old Dauphin became the new king of France as Louis XV. There was a great deal of tension between Françoise's older brother, the Duke of Maine, and her husband, the Duke of Orléans, over who was to be named regent during the minority of the new king. The Parlement de Paris ruled in favour of her husband. As the wife of the de facto ruler of France, Françoise became the most important lady of the kingdom. During the Regency, her husband increased her annual allowance to 400,000 livres. In March 1719, she acquired the château de Bagnolet near Paris, and, at her death, the estate passed to her son, Louis d'Orléans, Louis le Pieux. Françoise Marie extended the small château under the direction of Claude Desgots who also worked at the duc du Maine's château de Sceaux.

Family life

Her many daughters were rumoured to be promiscuous. Having become a widow, the Duchess of Berry accumulated lovers and hid several pregnancies. She almost died in labor early in 1719, having been denied the sacraments by the church and when she died on 21 July 1719, she was again pregnant. [14] After the liaison of her favourite daughter, Charlotte Aglaé, with the libertine Louis François Armand du Plessis, duc de Richelieu was discovered, Françoise and her husband swiftly married her abroad. At the same time, the Cellamare Conspiracy was uncovered. The Duke and Duchess of Maine, as well as the duc de Richelieu, were arrested for participating in the plot and temporarily imprisoned.

Earlier, Françoise had tried to get either Louise Adélaïde or Charlotte Aglaé to marry the Duke of Maine's son, Louis Auguste, Prince of Dombes, but both refused their cousin. In 1721, marriage arrangements into the royal family of Spain were also agreed upon for two of her other daughters, Louise Élisabeth, and Philippine Élisabeth. Louise Élisabeth was to marry the Infante Luis Felipe of Spain, heir to the throne, while Philippine Élisabeth was to marry Luis Felipe's younger half-brother, the Infante Carlos. Both marriages took place but that of Philippine Élisabeth was annulled and she returned to France. She died at the château de Bagnolet in 1734. [ citation needed ]

After the death of her husband in December 1723, Françoise retired to Saint-Cloud.

Francoise Marie as she appeared during the Regency; by Etienne Jahandier Desroches Francoise-Marie de Bourbon par Desrochers, Etienne Jahandier,.jpg
Françoise Marie as she appeared during the Regency; by Etienne Jahandier Desroches

In 1725, Françoise Marie saw the marriage of her cousin, the young King Louis XV, to the Polish princess Marie Leszczyńska, diminishing her precedence at court, as did the birth of their daughters. As it turned out, the second of the king's eight daughters, Madame Henriette, fell in love with Françoise Marie's grandson, Louis Philippe, then the duc de Chartres. Louis XV would not, however, allow the marriage because he did not want the House of Orléans to come too close to the throne of France. Afterwards, it fell upon the dowager duchess to find her unwed grandson a suitable bride. At the direction of her son, Françoise Marie negotiated with her niece, Louise Élisabeth de Bourbon, for her grandson to marry Louise Élisabeth's attractive daughter, Louise Henriette de Bourbon. This marriage united a grandchild of Françoise Marie with a grandchild of her sister and enemy, the Duchess of Bourbon. Françoise Marie lived to see, in 1747, the birth of their son, the future Philippe Égalité.

The next of her daughters to marry was the youngest. Louise Diane, the favourite of Madame, was engaged to the young Louis François de Bourbon, Prince of Conti whom she married at Versailles. Louise died in childbirth at the Château d'Issy. Louise Diane's only surviving child was the last Prince of Conti, who would later marry Princess Maria Fortunata of Modena. Maria Fortunata was one of the daughters of the wayward Charlotte Aglaé, who was Françoise Marie's most difficult daughter. [ clarification needed ] She returned from Modena in a self-imposed exile many a time and Françoise Marie and her son Louis chose to ignore her when she did. She returned to Modena in 1737 as the Sovereign Duchess Consort.


Françoise died on 1 February 1749 at the Palais Royal after a long illness, aged 71. She was the last surviving child of Louis XIV. She had outlived her husband by twenty-six years. She was survived by two children, Charlotte Aglaé and Louis, Duke of Orléans. She was buried in the Church of Madeleine de Traisnel (Église de la Madeleine de Traisnel) in Paris, an old Benedictine church at 100 Rue de Charonne in Paris on 6 February. Her heart was taken to the Val-de-Grâce.

At present, in the Royal Collection owned by the British Royal Family, there exists a miniature portrait by the Venetian painter Rosalba Carriera of Françoise. She poses as Amphitrite. [15]

Titles and styles

Royal styles of
Françoise Marie, Duchess of Orléans
France moderne.svg
Reference style Her Royal Highness
Spoken styleYour Royal Highness
Alternative styleMadame d'Orléans


  1. Mademoiselle de Valois (17 December 1693 – 17 October 1694), died in infancy.
  2. Marie Louise Élisabeth d'Orléans (20 August 1695 – 21 July 1719), married Charles of France, Duke of Berry no surviving issue (all children died in infancy)
  3. Louise Adélaïde d'Orléans (13 August 1698 – 10 February 1743), became nun and Abbess of Chelles, died unmarried.
  4. Charlotte Aglaé d'Orléans (20 October 1700 – 19 January 1761), married Francesco III d'Este, Duke of Modena and had issue.
  5. Louis d'Orléans (4 August 1703 – 4 February 1752), married Margravine Johanna of Baden-Baden and had issue.
  6. Louise Élisabeth d'Orléans (11 December 1709 – 16 June 1742), married Louis I of Spain, no issue.
  7. Philippine Élisabeth d'Orléans (18 December 1714 – 21 May 1734), died unmarried, no issue.
  8. Louise Diane d'Orléans (27 June 1716 – 26 September 1736), married Louis François de Bourbon and had issue.


References and notes

  1. Boudet. Antoine, Dictionnaire de la noblesse, seconde edition (in French), Paris, 1776, p. 107
  2. Date as given by the Almanach Royal of France. She has been given three dates of birth over time; 9 February; 4 May; and 25 May.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 The Unruly Daughter of the Regent
  4. Hilton, Lisa, Athénaïs: The Real Queen of France, p. 187
  5. Memoirs of Madame de Caylus [ page needed ]
  6. 1 2 3 Fraser, Lady Antonia, Love and Louis XIV, Nan A. Talese, 2006, pp. 279, 282, 284
  7. 1 2 3 Mitford, Nancy, The Sun King, pp. 136, 165
  8. 1 2 Dufresne, Claude, les Orléans, CRITERION, Paris, 1991, pp. 77-78.
  9. 1 2 Spanheim, Ézéchiel, pp. 87, 100–105, 313–314, 323–327.
  10. 1 2 Pevitt, Christine, Philippe, Duc d'Orléans: Regent of France, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1997, pp. 41, 43, 56
  11. French Memoirs of the Duke of Saint-Simon c. 1710
  12. 1 2 Translated memoirs of the Duchess of Orléans
  13. Goldhammer, Arthur, Saint-Simon and the court of Louis XIV (translated memoirs of Saint-Simon), University of Chicago Press, London, 2001, p. 33
  14. De Barthélémy, E. (ed.), Gazette de la Régence. Janvier 1715-1719, Paris, 1887.
  15. Françoise Marie's portrait,; accessed 15 April 2014.
  16. Style of HRH and further information on Princes of the Blood

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