Philippe de France, brother of Louis XIV and known as “Monsieur”, was sidelined from any political management of the kingdom. A libertine known to prefer his favourites to his wives, “more Parisian than Versaillais”, he led a military victory in 1677 against William of Orange. Married to the Princess Palatine, their union produced two future regents who governed during the minority of Louis XV in the following century.
Though “Monsieur” was the title reserved under the Ancien Regime for the youngest brother of the King, Philippe de France was also called “Petit Monsieur” to distinguish him from the brother of Louis XIII, Gaston d’Orléans the “Grand Monsieur”. On the death of the latter in 1660, he took back the initial title of Monsieur and became, at 20, head of the House of Orléans.
Eleven years later, in 1671, after the death of his first wife, Louis XIV forced his brother to marry Elisabeth-Charlotte de Bavière, known as the Princess Palatine. They had three children, including Philippe d’Orléans, a future Regent, and Mademoiselle de Chartres, also a Regent during the minority of Louis.
A libertine, attracted by women’s clothes and eccentric jewellery and finery, surrounded by his favourites and given to the Italian vice, Philippe de France was entrusted with no political responsibility by the King who disapproved of his conduct. Yet he emerged victorious from the Battle of Cassel on 11 April 1677 during the Dutch War in which William of Orange was beaten.
“More Parisian than Versaillais”, Monsieur lived between the Château de Saint-Cloud and the Palais Royal, staying away from the Court where he had introduced Molière and his troop of actors. His château was regarded as “the other Versailles”. The gardens designed by Le Nôtre and the apartments decorated by the painter Mignard rivalled those of the palace of Louis XIV.