Françoise Marie de Bourbon, Légitimée de France (4 May 1677 – 1 February 1749) was the youngest legitimised daughter (fille légitimée de France) of Louis XIV of France and his maîtresse-en-titre, Françoise-Athénaïs, marquise de Montespan. Originally known as the second Mademoiselle de Blois, that style eventually gave way to the name Françoise Marie de Blois. She married her first cousin Philippe d'Orléans in 1692 at the age of fourteen and bore eight children, four of which would have further progeny.
Proud, lazy and attractive, she successfully intrigued to have her daughters marry well to the Prince of Conti, Duke of Berry, Duke of Modena and King of Spain, mostly to spite her sister Louise Françoise de Bourbon, the Duchess of Bourbon. However, she wielded little political influence considering her proximity to the political circle of the era. She was involved in the Cellamare Conspiracy in 1718 which was supposed to overthrow her own husband Philippe d'Orléans as Regent of the Kingdom and replace him with her favourite brother the Duke of Maine. The marquis d'Argenson said she was very like her mother, Madame de Montespan, but also had Louis XIV's orderly mind with his failings of injustice and harshness.
Among her male line descendents 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.
Françoise Marie was born on 4 May 1677, at the Château de Maintenon, owned since 1674 by Madame de Maintenon, the governess of Madame de Montespan's illegitimate children by Louis XIV.
She and her younger brother, Louis Alexandre de Bourbon were raised by Mmes de Monchevreuil, de Colbert and de Jussac. As a child, she was brought occasionally to Versailles to visit her parents.
Like her older sister, Louise Françoise de Bourbon, Mademoiselle de Nantes, she inherited her mother's beauty, Madame de Caylus said Françoise Marie was naturally timid and glorious and was a little beauty with a beautiful face and beautiful hands; completely in proportion. From her mother, she also inherited the esprit of the Mortemart. She was also very proud of her royal ancestry and of the royal blood of the House of Bourbon she inherited from her father. Later on in her life, people would often joke that she would "remember she was a daughter of France, even while on her chaise percée."
In 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 title held previously by her older half-sister, Marie Anne de Bourbon, legitimised daughter of Louis XIV and Louise de La Vallière. The name of her mother was not mentioned in the act of legitimisation because Madame de Montespan was legally married to the Marquis de Montespan who could claim paternity of the children his wife had had with Louis XIV. By the time of her birth, her parents' relationship was coming to an end because of Madame de Montespan possible involvement in the Affair of the Poisons.
Her oldest siblings Louis Auguste and Louise Françoise had been legitimised on 19 December 1673 and recognised by letters patent from the Parlement de Paris.
Françoise Marie's younger brother, Louis Alexandre, was legitimised at the same time and given the title of comte de Toulouse. She remained close to him all her life, as well as to their older brother, Louis- uguste de Bourbon, duc du Maine. She was never to grow close to her sister Louise Françoise de Bourbon, Mademoiselle de Nantes or her half brother, Louis, Dauphin of France. Her mother-in-law often complained of Françoise Marie's "deceitfulness" in her letters to her aunt Sophia of Hanover.
Although the king's trust in Madame de Montespan quickly diminished after the Affaire des Poisons, he continued to shower her with gifts, and also secured for their youngest daughter, Françoise Marie, an advantageous and profitable marriage.
The marriage arranged by Louis XIV for Françoise Marie was to her first cousin, Philippe d'Orléans, duc de Chartres, the only son of Philippe de France, duc d'Orléans. This came as a shock to Philippe Charles's mother, Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate, whose prejudice against her brother-in-law's bastards was well known. Upon learning of her son's having agreed to the marriage plans, she slapped him in front of the court, then turned her back on the king who was bent in a salutation to her.
On the occasion of the marriage between their respective children, Louis XIV gave to Philippe, Duke of Orléans, and his wife, Elizabeth Charlotte, the Palais-Royal where the Orléans had been residing, but which they did not own. Formerly known as the Palais Cardinal, the palace was owned by the Crown, having been bequeathed to it 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 Marie remarked,
Je ne me soucie pas qu'il m'aime, je me soucie qu'il m'épouse.
I don't care if he loves me; just as long as he marries me.
Françoise Marie 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 – 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 Marie's sister, Mademoiselle de Nantes, and, as a result, had been sent into exile, but he was recalled for the wedding of Françoise Marie 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. Guests included the exiled king of England and his wife. At the newlyweds' bedding ceremony later that evening, the exiled Queen of England had the honor of giving the new Duchess of Chartres her night shirt. Madame de Montespan, had not been invited to the wedding of her daughter.
The union was one of discord. Not long after their marriage, Philippe openly ridiculed his wife's bad temper by nicknaming her Madame Lucifer. Her mother-in-law said that during the early years of the Chartres marriage, Françoise Marie was as "drunk as drunk" three to four times a week.
From her father, Françoise Marie received a dowry of over two million livres, twice as much as her older sister, Louise Françoise, had earlier received on her marriage to the Duke of Bourbon. This difference led to a great deal of animosity between the sisters. The dowry was not to be paid till the Nine Years' War was over. In protest at the size of the dowry, Louise Françoise did not even appear at her sister's engagement party on 17 February, the day before the wedding.
As her new husband was a legitimate grandson of King Louis XIII of France, Françoise Marie assumed the rank of petite-fille de France, and was addressed by the style of Her Royal Highness. Furthermore, the newlyweds traveled and lodged wherever the king did, dined with him, and were entitled to an armchair in his presence. 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.
Out of all her siblings, Françoise Marie made the most prestigious marriage after that of her half-brother, the Dauphin of France, who married his cousin Maria Anna Victoria of Bavaria in 1680.
Around 1710, an account of her was written by her husband's friend, the Duke of Saint-Simon:
in 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.
Her mother-in-law wrote the following in her memoirs:
all the femmes de chambre have made her believe that she did my son honor 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.
Mademoiselle de Blois as Galatea Triumphant, 1692, Pierre Gobert.
The union, even if mismatched, 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. As the children of a legitimate petit-fils de France, her children were addressed with the style of Serene Highness. 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 Grand-daughter 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; they were known as Great-Grandchildren of France...
Françoise Marie even appealed to her father, the King, on the matter but he refused to help her because he was worried about creating future distinctions in a court etiquette that was already too elaborate and stringent.
In 1701, upon the death of his father, her husband, became Duke of Orléans, head of the House of Orléans and inherited the titles and estates of his father. The new Duchess of Orléans received precedence over her mother-in-law and became the second most highly ranked lady in the kingdom, yielding only to the Dauphine, the Duchess of Burgundy. Her father-in-law had died at Saint-Cloud after an argument with Louis XIV at Marly concerning the Duke of Chartres' blatant flaunting his pregnant mistress, Marie-Louise de Séry, in front of Françoise Marie. Her father-in-law (and uncle) was not fond of Françoise Marie.
The new Duke and Duchess of Orléans lived 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.
While her husband led the debauched life of a womaniser, Françoise Marie 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 a cousin, the Duchess of Sforza. Her intimate circle included other cousins. Her lady-in-waiting was the Countess of Castries born Marie Élisabeth de Rochechouart, who was the daughter of her mother's brother, the Duke of Vivonne. Her chevalier d'honneur was the Count of Castries. She was also close to another cousin Diane Gabrielle Damas de Thianges, daughter of the great beauty Gabrièlle de Rochechouart de Mortemart and wife of Philippe Jules Mancini.
At Versailles in 1703, Françoise Marie would give birth to a son who would continue the Orléans line Once informed of the child's birth, Louis XIV gave him the name Louis and bestowed upon him the pension normally accorded to the Premier Prince du Sang. Louis and Françoise Marie would always be close to each other. Madame complained that her grandson was much more like his mother than his father.
Two days after her birthday in 1707, Françoise Marie lost her mother who had been in severe penance since she had officially left court in 1691. Her father had forbidden his legitimised children to wear mourning clothes for their mother; but, in order to honor their mother anyway, the Duchess of Orléans, the Duchess of Bourbon and the Count of Toulouse refused to go to any court gatherings. Their eldest brother, the Duke of Maine, on the other hand was hardly able to conceal his joy at his mother's death. He was her sole heir and inherited her vast private fortune, as well as the Château de Clagny, the birthplace of the Count of Toulouse in 1678.
Upon the death of the Prince of Condé in 1709, the rank of Premier Prince du Sang was officially transferred from the House of Condé to the House of Orléans. As a result, her husband, the Duke of Orléans, became entitled to use the style of Monsieur le Prince. She accordingly was entitled to use the style Madame la Princesse. Neither however ever used those styles.
This transfer in rank from the House of Condé to the House of Orléans greatly aggravated the rivalry between Françoise Marie and her older sister, Louise Françoise, who was now the Princess of Condé, and who would use the style of Madame la Duchesse until her death in 1743. and would still be known as the Duchess of Bourbon.
In competition with her older sister for wealth and status, Françoise Marie also wanted her children to make better marriages. By 1710, Louis XIV's youngest legitimate grandson, the Duke of Berry, was still unmarried. It was suggested that he marry Louise Élisabeth de Bourbon, the daughter of Louise Françoise, Duchess of Bourbon. Françoise Marie set about to prevent this marriage and establish a closer relationship between herself and the throne. On 6 July 1710, she secured the marriage of her eldest daughter, Marie Louise Élisabeth d'Orléans, to the Duke of Berry, much to the annoyance of the Duchess of Bourbon. This marriage arrangement caused further friction between the two sisters as it elevated Marie Louise Élisabeth to the rank of petite-fille de France, a rank none of the Condé children would ever acquire.
On 9 April 1714, Françoise Marie was asked to help baptise her niece Louise Françoise de Bourbon, the only daughter of her older brother, the Duke of Maine. Louise Françoise was named in honor of her aunt, Françoise Marie's rival and sister, the Duchess of Bourbon, and was known as court as Mademoiselle du Maine. Françoise Marie was helped by the little Dauphin, the future King Louis XV.
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 Marie'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 favor of her husband who was named Regent. As the wife of the de facto ruler of France, Françoise Marie became the most important lady of the kingdom. During the Regency, she reigned supreme at court, and her husband increased her annual allowance to 400,000 livres.
In March 1719, she acquired the Château de Bagnolet in 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 and who was a nephew of the renowned gardener of Louis XIV, André Le Nôtre. Between 1665 and 1693, Le Nôtre had redesigned the gardens at Saint-Cloud for the Duke of Orléans.
Her many daughters were well known for their promiscuous behavior. Having become a widow, the Duchess of Berry accumulated lovers and hid several pregnancies. Early 1719, the debauched princess was big with child again. She almost died in labor while being denied the Sacraments by the Church. Unable to recover from her harrowing delivery, Berry died on 21 July 1719 and was found to be pregnant already. After the liaison of her favorite daughter, Charlotte Aglaé, with the libertine duc de Richelieu was discovered, Françoise Marie and her husband set about to find a suitable husband for the girl. Their choice fell upon the future Hereditary Prince of Modena. 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 Marie 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, the heir to the throne of Spain, while Philippine Élisabeth was to marry Luis Felipe's younger half-brother, the Infante Carlos of Spain. 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.
After the death of her husband in December 1723, Françoise Marie retired to Saint-Cloud. In 1724, her son, the new Duke of Orléans, Louis le Pieux, married Margravine Johanna of Baden-Baden, daughter of one of his father's former enemies, Louis William, Margrave of Baden-Baden. Prior to the marriage, prospective brides had included his first cousin, Élisabeth Alexandrine de Bourbon, and two Russian grand duchesses, the Grand Duchess Anna and her sister, the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, both daughters of the tsar of Russia, Peter I of Russia. Françoise Marie's son was turned down by the Russian court over forms of address. Not being a fils or petit-fils de France, Françoise Marie's son possessed only the style of Serene Highness whereas each Russian Grand Duchess possessed the higher style of Imperial Highness.
In 1725, Françoise Marie saw the marriage of her cousin, the young King Louis XV, to the Polish princess Marie Leszczyńska. As the dowager Duchess of Orléans, she remained one of the most important ladies at court. However, her position became greatly diminished over time with the birth of a succession of daughters to the royal couple. As it turned out, the second of the king's eight daughters, Madame Henriette, fell in love with Françoise Marie's grandson, Louis Philippe d'Orléans. 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 help 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.
Charlotte Aglaé was Françoise Marie's most difficult daughter. 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 when she became the Sovereign Duchess Consort.
In 1739, Françoise Marie's elder half-sister, the Dowager Princess of Conti died at the age of seventy-two. Three years later, her fourth surviving daughter, Louise Élisabeth, died at the Palais du Luxembourg in Paris. Louise Élisabeth's funeral took place in the church of Saint Sulpice. Ironically, the funeral occurred in the same church in which Françoise Marie's mother and her legal husband, the Marquis de Montespan, had been married years before in 1663. The church's bishop was Louis Charles de Saint-Albin, an illegitimate child of Françoise Marie's deceased husband.
Her second surviving daughter Louise Adélaïde died of Smallpox in Paris in February 1743 after having been Abbess of Chelles for 15 years; four months later in June Françoise Marie's sister and rival, the dowager Duchess of Bourbon, died at the Palais Bourbon.
In December 1744 at the Palace of Versailles, her eldest surviving grand daughter Princess Maria Teresa Felicitas of Modena married the wealthiest man in France, the Duke of Penthièvre; Penthièvre was the only legitimate son of Françoise Marie's younger brother, the Count of Toulouse and thus her nephew. Through this union, Françoise Marie became the great-great-grandmother of Louis Philippe I, King of the French.
Françoise Marie was the great-grandmother of the Prince of Lamballe, future husband of one of Queen Marie Antoinette's closest friends, Princess Maria Luisa of Savoy, the infamour princesse de Lamballe.
Françoise Marie died on 1 February 1749 at the Palais Royal after a long illness. 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 Trainel in Paris, an old Benedictine church on Rue de Charonne in Paris on 6 February. Trainel was near her favourite Bagnolet. 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 Marie. She poses as Amphitrite. Carriera also painted Françoise Marie's husband and niece, Mademoiselle de Clermont. The portrait is believed to have been presented to Queen Victoria by Françoise Marie's infamous descendant, King Louis Philippe I of the French. See here
Mademoiselle de Valois (17 December 1693 – 17 October 1694) died in infancy.
Marie Louise Élisabeth d'Orléans (20 August 1695 – 21 July 1719) married Charles of France, Duke of Berry and had issue.
Louise Adélaïde d'Orléans (13 August 1698 – 10 February 1743) Abbess of Chelles died unmarried.
Charlotte Aglaé d'Orléans (20 October 1700 – 19 January 1761) married Francesco III d'Este, Duke of Modena and had issue.
Louis d'Orléans (4 August 1703 – 4 February 1752) married Margravine Johanna of Baden-Baden and had issue.
Louise Élisabeth d'Orléans (11 December 1709 – 16 June 1742) married Louis I of Spain, no issue.
Philippine Élisabeth d'Orléans (18 December 1714 – 21 May 1734) no issue.
Louise Diane d'Orléans (27 June 1716 – 26 September 1736) married Louis François de Bourbon and has issue.