Granddaughter of Henri IV, first cousin of Louis XIV, La Grande Mademoiselle, born in the Louvre palace in 1627, was familiar with all the corridors of power of the royal family. A rich heiress, she even tried to marry Louis XIV. During the Fronde civil war, she gave her allegiance to her father against the power of the Monarch. Exiled to the Yonne region, she lived away from the Court for a time before reinstalling herself there definitively in 1664.
Marie Louise d’Orléans, duchesse de Montpensier, gained her name of “Grande Mademoiselle” from her father Gaston de France, brother of king Louis XIII and hence “Grand Monsieur”. Seeking to gain power, she focused her ambition on the young Louis XIV, 11 years younger than her, but her plans failed owing to the firm opposition of Cardinal Mazarin.
During the Fronde period of popular discontent with the regime that began in 1648, she picked the side of her father in his struggle against absolute monarchy. On 2 July 1652, she ordered her forces to fire on the royal troops from the fortress of the Bastille. Thanks to her action, the Prince de Condé, whom she wished to marry, was saved. This greatly angered the king and La Grande Mademoiselle began a long exile on her estate of Saint-Fargeau, in the Yonne region.
Recalled to the Court in 1657, she began to write her Mémoires, which throw precious light on the king’s life for historians. But in 1660 she moved away from Versailles once again to the Château d’Eu. There she devoted special attention to refurbishing and embellishing her property. The many paintings she procured for it reflect her pronounced taste for art. Wishing to learn Italian, she introduced Jean-Baptiste Lully, a young Florentine and future Superintendent of Music, to the court at Versailles. In 1664, she decided never to leave the Court.
In the 1680s, after an unhappy marriage with the duc de Lauzun, she ended her days in religious devotion. She was buried in 1693 in the basilica of Saint-Denis, the crypt of the kings of France profaned during the French Revolution.