Madame de Montespan
An influential favourite (1640-1701)
The Marquise de Montespan met Louis XIV in the autumn of 1666 and became his mistress the following year. After being introduced at the Château de Versailles thanks to Anne of Austria, this favourite, feared by the courtiers, obtained great influence over the life of the Court. Passionately devoted to the arts and protected by the King, she occupied an apartment close to his before being ousted by Madame de Maintenon in 1691.
In the game of the King’s favourites, each newcomer ousted the reigning mistress. Françoise Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart, Marquise de Montespan, met Louis XIV in 1666 when he fell under her charm. In 1674, she definitively drove out Mademoiselle de la Vallière to become in her turn the official favourite of the King. His majesty installed her in a suite close to his own and with his own personal door to it. They had seven children together, whose education was entrusted to Scarron’s widow, the future Madame de Maintenon. Six of them were legitimised by the King in 1673.
The Marquise de Montespan played an important role in the life of the Château. Her court “became the centre of the court, and of the pleasures, fortune, hope and terror of the ministers and army generals”, noted Saint-Simon in his Mémoires. A great appreciator of luxury and the arts, she covered her walls with paintings and made her apartment “the centre of the wit» of the King’s court. She took under her protection famous writers such as Molière, La Fontaine and the poet Philippe Quinault.
But after these long years in favour, the Marquise de Montespan was unable to oppose her rivals. Louis XIV progressively distanced her from his apartment and the Court and the clever Madame de Maintenon took advantage of this disgrace to take her place. The Marquise, compromised in the vast scandal of the poisons and neglected by the King, retired in 1691 to her monastery of Saint-Joseph in Paris. She died in 1707.