The extraordinary destinies of the Royal Favourites, male or female, who ruled the hearts of Kings and of the Kingdom have been a source of endless fascination down through time. Their charisma, their power and their influence over the Sovereign was such that at times it changed the course of French history.
“You are absolute ruler of my life, as of my death. You are all-powerful in determining my fate.”
Letter from Louis XIV
to Louise de la Vallière
A look from Louise was a look soft as an angel’s. With her slim waist, her supple body, gracious face framed by her blonde locks, her pale and delicate skin, and her lambent blue eyes – Louise was a rare flower, raised in the happiest of times at the Château de La Vallière. Louise-Françoise de La Baume Le Blanc, the future Duchess de La Vallière, spent much of her childhood in her beautiful Touraine, dividing her time between her birthplace, the town house known as the Hôtel de la Crouzille (a “Hôtel” was simply a word for a mansion at the time) and the Château de La Vallière in Reugny, purchased by her great-great-grandfather in 1542. IN 1661, at the age of 17, she was presented to the court of the Sun King. Louis XIV fell head over heels in love with her. The love he devoted to Louise was mingled with the love he felt for the palace at Versailles, whose gardens and every beauty of the emerging masterpiece were dedicated to his beloved Louise. Perhaps the most sumptuous demonstration of his love, though, were the eight days of sumptuous revelries – known thereafter as the “pleasures of the enchanted isle” – that Louis offered to Louise de La Vallière. Her modesty, goodness, sensibility, the depth of her spirituality, and her selflessness had all touched the heart of the Sun King. She had only two loves in her life: Louis XIV, and God. And that was the essence of Louise de La Vallière, the first designated Favourite who loved the royal personage, and not the royalty.
From the time of the Renaissance to the Second French Empire, queens and favourites are without doubt the historical figures who have inspired the most fantasies.
Some evinced unconditional love for their king: the exquisite, highly intelligent Marie Mancini, who was the platonic lover of Louis XIV; the gentle countess of Mailly, who would never stop loving Louis XV; the beautiful Madame Du Barry – nicknamed “the Angel” – who loved Louis XV as a man and not as a king; the touching figure of Marie Walewska, who loved Napoleon Bonaparte with all her heart. These exceptional women sacrified everything for love…
Yet others were undoubted éminences grises, using their influence to become powerful actors at court and to reign alongside their king: Diane de Poiters, a magnetic figure who transformed the clumsy Henri II into a poet, a knight and a true monarch; the “almost Queen” Gabrielle d’Estrées, who exerted an influence unlike that of any other woman over Henri IV; the Duke of Luynes, who became the real master of the kingdom under the reign of Louis XIII; or the beautiful Madame de Tournelle, far from reticent in giving advice on political matters to Louis XV…
Some were faithful confidantes , emblematic figureheads of the ancien Régime: Madame de Maintenons, closely linked to Louis XIV by a tender and complicit friendship, and who subsequently become his second wife; Madame de Polignac, honest, pretty, friend and confidante of Queen Marie-Antoinette…
Other became fashion icons for their time, highlights of the sumptuous revelries of the Grand Siècle: princess Henrietta of England, queen of courtly pleasures, and who seduced Louise XIV with her devastating charm; the extravagant, out-of-control Chevalier de Lorraine, favourite of Philippe of Orléans, the Sun King’s brother; the ravishing Duchess of Fontanges, who touched the heart of Louis XIV with her innocence, and who gave rise to the famous hairstyle known as the “Fontange”; the sensual Joséphine de Beauharnais, Napoleon’s greatest love, whose make-up was considered the most beautiful in all the Empire; or the graceful and elegant Countess of Balbi, the first mistress of Louise XVIII.
Then there were women, of uncommon destiny, who truly left their mark on history. There was the incomparable Madame de Montespan, muse to Louis XIV and patron of great artists; the dazzling Madame de Pompadour, lover of Louis XV who wielded enormous influence in the evolution of French artistic life; doyenne of fashion Marie-Antoinette, Queen of France, passionate patron and protector of the arts; clever Eugénie de Montijo, wife of Napoleon III, who turned Paris into the driving force of international high fashion while still finding time to found countless orphanages and hospitals..
The Favourites were those who knew how to love, and who were loved.
Our hope is that their exceptional lives will light up your stay at the Château.
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Tel: +33 2 42 06 02 00
Fax: +33 1 40 29 07 00