After the departure of Marie de Mancini, his love of youth, Louis XIV found consolation with the gracious Henrietta of England, wife of her brother. Henriette, with the help of Count St Aignan, a close friend of the young monarch, used the so-called "screen" or "candlestick" strategy, widely used in these libertine times and which served to distort appearances. " Pretend to love another woman, she said to the king, and the rumors about us will cease on their own. " Therefore Louise de la Vallière, maid of honor to Madame, entered the life of the Sun King.
Louise de La Valliere and the Sun King
She was a 17 year old girl, candid, frail, shy and slightly limped. Henriette of England, sure of herself, thought that this little provincial presented no danger. And indeed, Mlle. De la Vallière was rather withdrawn, discreet and not at all aware of the cunning of court. An ideal complaisant screen, at least Madame thought so. However, the little provincial was not devoid of charm. And her eyes, her beautiful ash blonde hair, her luminous complexion and her melodious voice did not leave indifferent the king, who rejoiced at this choice and immediately began to pay him a discreet, but assiduous court.
One evening, climbing the balconies of a wing of the castle, he managed to slip into the room of the young woman whose amazement was great, and assured her of his pure and passionate feelings, causing a torrent of tears in Louise - she cried a lot, they say. Removed from her excitement, she dared to reproach the king for his temerity, who was putting his honor in danger. They parted at dawn, after a chaste, emotional night. Subsequently, Louis multiplied his advances, so much so that the beauty ended up giving in to him. All the more easily, since she herself had long been secretly in love with the king. She became his mistress.
The king had to face the wrath of Henrietta of England, but it was easy for him to explain to Madame that after all, they had "lost" in this dangerous game to which they had played. Both very keen to keep their affair secret, the two new lovers met at night in the forest or in the room obligingly lent by Monsieur de St Aignan. But at court, such a secret could not be kept for long without arousing suspicion. And it was known.
Louis XIV and Louise de la Vallière "/> The mystery was quickly exposed, commented on, criticized by the fierce courtiers on the lookout for the slightest scandal, giving free rein to their jealousy and their backbiting. Only the queen, Marie Thérèse of Austria , pregnant with the king and blinded by the tenderness she bore for her husband, ignored it. And this made Mlle. de la Vallière very uncomfortable, who had scruples, a rare quality at the court of that time. to space out his meetings with the king, on the pretext of the discomforts which forced him to stay with Madame. Louis imagined all kinds of stratagems to see his beloved at all costs. Torn between his passion - she sincerely loved the king - and his remorse , she could not for long shy away from royal ardor.
Until one day when, after a violent argument with her royal lover, Louise fled from the Château des Tuileries to take refuge in the Convent of Chaillot where she burst into tears among the bored canonesses. A chronicler of the time, Bussy-Rabutin tells us about this episode: the king, beside himself, rushed with his bridle down on a horse to find the beautiful weeping in his convent and bring her back after having comforted and reassured her about his feelings.
In 1663, Louise de la Vallière discreetly gave the king a first child, a boy who only lived for three years. Unable to hide for long, Louise had to reappear at court, arousing suspicion about this birth. The following spring, Louis XIV moved his mistress to partially completed Versailles. He gave her a feast fit for a queen, where music, plays, lavish ballets and fireworks were mingled. Prestigious artists took part, from Molière to Lully. At this sumptuous show of love, Louise cried. It seemed like happiness wasn’t made for her.
A second child was born in 1665, still anonymously. Immediately withdrawn from his mother, he died shortly after. The death of Queen Mother Anne of Austria the following year was the occasion for the king to openly display his affair, including in front of the queen who could no longer be fooled. This caused great embarrassment for Louise who would have preferred discretion. The king gradually grew tired of the lamentations of his favorite, torn between his love and his constant fear of sin.
A screen story
It was then that the dazzling Athenaïs de Mortenart, the queen's maid of honor and future Duchess of Montespan, entered the scene, while Louise was expecting her third child. She gave birth to a daughter who was legitimized this time by the king, who also granted her land and titles. These honors had the bitter taste of disgrace. When the king went to war in Flanders, taking Athenaïs in his luggage, Louise was assigned to Versailles.
Collapsed, she could not resign herself and got into a coach to join her royal lover. She was very badly received by the queen and her entourage, but also by the king, very upset by this initiative. In 1667, Louise nevertheless gave the king one last son, also legitimized. This event allowed a short-term rapprochement between the two lovers. The king was more and more in love with the evil Athenais who, unwittingly, made him absorb love potions. A curious situation ensued: Madame de Montespan took Louise into her service, making her suffer the worst humiliations, especially as the king again used her to act as a "screen" for his new loves.
This unbearable life, lived by Louise de la Vallière as a sacrifice, will last seven years, at the end of which she will make another attempt to flee to Chaillot, in the hope of regaining her lost love. It will be in vain. After having written a moving essay on "Reflections on the mercy of God", she ended up renouncing the king, and on Bossuet's advice, returned to the Carmel, to devote himself to God and expiate his faults, not without having previously made public apologies to the queen, which caused a stir.
Was Louise de la Vallière's only mistake, for whom nothing had prepared for the life of a courtesan, to have loved too much a great king of France? A humble woman, disinterested, delicate and very little material, she crossed her time like a timeless dream. Described as a saint by St Simon, she received during her retirement the visit of many great figures, from the Marquise de Sévigné to Bossuet, and even from the Queen. Did she finally find peace as Sister Louise of Mercy? This pure soul died out in 1710 among the great Carmelites of the Faubourg St Jacques after thirty-six years of religious life, not understood by most of his contemporaries.
- Louise de La Vallière by Jean-Christian Petitfils. perrin, 2008.
- Louise de la valliere de versailles at the Carmel of Huertas (de) Monique. Pygmalion, 1998.