Louise de la Vallière was born in 1644 in the Bourbonnais region, and came to the Court of France in 1661 as maid of honour to Henrietta of England, the wife of Monsieur, the King’s brother. Louis XIV pretended to court her to mask his affair with his sister-in-law. Louise soon won him over, however, with her blonde hair and charming smile. She was humble and modest, an accomplished horse rider and had a strong liking for music. Louis made her his mistress, even though he was already married to Maria Theresa of Spain. Versailles, still Louis XIII’s simple hunting lodge at the time, served as a retreat for the lovers.
In May 1664, Louise was the secret queen of The party of the Delights of the Enchanted Island.
After Anne of Austria’s death in 1666, Louis XVI made Louise de La Vallière his new favourite. He recognized their two children, Mademoiselle de Blois and the Count of Vermandois, and gave Louise the title of Duchess of Vaujours and La Vallière.
Ashamed of “being a mistress, being a mother, being a duchess” (Madame de Sévigné), Louise de La Vallière suffered from the exposure of her adultery. She was the most selfless of the royal mistresses, never asking for anything for herself. She was somewhat eclipsed by Madame de Montespan from 1668 and wanted to withdraw to a convent, but Louis XIV kept her at Court. After many years of forced cohabitation, Louise was finally allowed to leave the Court. She entered the Carmelite convent on Rue Saint-Jacques in 1674, after publicly asking the queen for forgiveness. She took the name Sister Louise of Mercy and kept her distance from her children, living a penitent’s life until her death in 1710. Louis XIV was unaffected by her death, saying she had died in his eyes the day she entered the convent.