Friday, 17 June 2011

Louis XIII and the Hunting Lodge in Versailles

Well maybe not so very private since his little hunting lodge in Versailles was never really enjoyed by the king alone, there were his friends to think about. But for a king this was certainly private, since the design itself excluded the unwanted company of woman, especially that of his wife Anne of Austria and her ladies whom he claimed "spoil everything for me". Of course there was also his mother Marie de Medici who proved to be a constant fountain of arguments and so the need for the young king to get away from all the family drama grew with the result of the hunting lodge built in the early 1600s.

Well the young king certainly took the necessary steps in making his new hunting lodge into his very own private heaven. The little house was built around a land famed for its countess swamps, ponds and the many wolves, deer and other animals that provided the perfect place for the king to pursue his favourite hobby; hunting. More notably while the house itself contained around twenty rooms only two of these were bedrooms one belonging to the King and the other was designed as a dormitory to house all of his closest men friends who would accompany him on his hunting trips.

The house itself was said to be been utterly charming with its rose red brick and white stone work in fact it was nicknamed the 'little house of cards' as it was said to resemble the back of a playing card. It turned even lovelier when the king’s sister Christine Marie, Duchess of Savoy furnished the four reception rooms with furniture of the latest fashion. The King grew very much attached to his little hunting lodge, he often held tours of the house and later sought to create a park and a pretty garden which enhanced the beauty of the already picturesque house. Even in his last years having perhaps grown weary of his life as a monarch he is thought to have voiced his wish to place his son in his place while he would retire to his beloved Versailles, a wish that sadly for Louis XIII never came true since he died not long after in the spring of 1641.

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Louise de Keroualle Mistress to the King

Charles II was known to have had many mistresses and one of them was the famous or indeed the infamous beauty Louise de Keroualle. Her back round was that of nobility with her parents being Comte Guillaume de Penancoet de Keroualle and her mother Marie de Ploeuc de Timeur who was herself a daughter of a marquis. Still even with the families good name and Louise's good looks it was still apparent that her family was relatively poor and Louise did not even a dowry which damaged severely her chances of making a good marriage. So it happened that in 1668 at the age of nineteen she traveled to France to take up a position as a maid of honour to Henrietta Duchesse d'Orleans the youngest and most favorite sister of Charles II. 

While marriage proposals did not came her way, no one failed to notice Henrietta's new maid of honour's beauty the poet Charles Robinet once said to Henrietta that "your new maid-of-honour is as sweet as she is beautiful". Then in 1670 Henrietta was asked by Louis XIV to negotiate the Treaty of Dover with Charles II which meant a trip to England for Henrietta and some of attendants one of them being Louise de Keroualle herself. It was during this trip in England that Charles noticed Louise and it is said that he wooed her throughout the whole trip. Once back in France a tragedy stuck that would change Louise's life forever, Henrietta became very ill and died soon after leaving Louise in a very tricky spot, that was she to do now with no position or money? she played around with the idea of becoming a nun but showed no real interest in it. In the end it was Charles II who wrote a message to the French king asking that Louise de Keroualle would came and serve as a maid of honour to his Queen Catherine of Braganza. This was something that Louis XIV viewed as an opportunity, to use Louise as someone who would generally report back on what was happening at the English court, and to keep the English king friendly with France.  


She did not however become Charles II mistress trait away, undoubtedly she had heard of the kings reputation as a womaniser and did not want to become just another, soon to be forgotten Mistress. Initially however she gave up on her resistance and became Charles mistress. She was never a popular mistress the main reason being that she was a Catholic and any Catholic influence was generally feared in England. Louise however now finely finding herself in a position where money was no longer a problem embarked on an extravagant lifestyle. She was given the titles Duchess of Portsmouth, Countess of Fareham and Baroness Petersfield by Charles. In France Louis XIV she was also grated land in France when  the last Stuart of Aubigny died upon Charles II request Louis XIV presented  Château de La Verrerie as a gift to Louise.  
On one of her visits to France she was granted the right of a stool which was a high rank allowed only to Duchesses. She spared no expense in her life as the mistress of the king she wore only the grandest clothes loved jewelry indeed among her many jewels she had diamond pendant earrings that cost £18,000. Also like any good mistress before and after her she made sure that the king enjoyed her company. She was never to forceful and did not give the impression of trying to influence the king in any way when they talked of politics or any other subject. She also made sure that while he was with her in her rooms at Whitehall, he would be served the best food and entertainment making sure that her apartments looked gorgeous in their obvious grandeur just to make it into a more alluring and beautiful place.
Indeed her rooms at Whitehall were legendary with one guest having have praised them  for being "ten times" more rich and glorious than those of the Queen. It also astonished many that she alone owned forty rooms as well as the Stone and Matted Galleries which served as an entrance into her grand apartments. Its splendour did not fail to impress Charles II and he often receive important people such as the French ambassadors and the Prince of Monaco. Her tastes in decor were very French which reflected her entertaining as well, on one occasion she provided French musicians who were on tour to entertain the King and some of the most impressive objects held in her rooms were from France such as the famous tapestries made in the famous Gobelins company in Paris. This Frenchness of the English court and the fact that she was a Catholic certainly did not bring her fame with the English public, she was also a Catholic which made people fear her influence over the King.


Her luxurious court life was cut short with the sudden death of the king who was at the time fifty two years old. James II granted her a small pension, while she supposedly had to return some of the crown jewels she equared over the years before leaving the English court for France with her son the Duke of Richmond. In France she spent a lot of time at Versailles but did visit England a number of times, where she still had her Whitehall apartments. 

In France she was in favour with Louis XIV and recieved a further pension for herself and her son and soon equared a house in the fashionable part of Paris. Louise's new house suited her still lavish lifestyle, she had brought some of her celebrated iteams that previosly decorated her Whitehall appartmentsChâteau de La Verrerie where she spent more and more time managing her estates while at the same time she continuesly tried to get a bigger pension in England the never equared the amount she wanted and was greatful that Louis XIV continuesly helped her out by canceling her debts. With the death of Louis XVI thinks got even harder for Louise, she could no longer afford to live in Paris and permantly settled in Château de La Verrerie. Around this time she became more religious and used up some of her time and and pension to  decorate churches. Thoughout her life she was loved by her family, friends and even servants  to whom she was both generous and very kind, she died in 1784 aged eighty-five, in Paris.        

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Margaret Duchess of Portland and her Collection of Curiosities

Margaret Cavendish was born into a family of devoted collectors, her mother obsessively collected china and proudly displayed it all over her house. Her father was a keen book collector as well as being a patron of the arts. Margaret piked up on her mothers interest of collecting china and had her own collection that did not fail to impress King George III and Queen Charlotte when they visited the Duchess house in 1778  (she especially loved Chinese porcelain). However her most profound interest lay in collecting shells, ores, fossils, birds eggs, nests, insects, sculpture, coins and medals. She also collected some art works and drawings and she obviously inherited a huge collection of art from her father and grandfather who was once again a great collector. A lot of her collection was housed in the Portland museum which included  collection around 40.000 objects. Her museum was world famous and was known to house the largest collection of sea shells in the whole Europe. She was a good friend and a patron of Captain Cook and asked him to bring her the most interesting looking shells and other objects from his many voyages abroad. Captain Cook was not the only one who supplied whom she asked to collect objects for her collected from all over the world, she also employed sailors, naturalist and travellers so she could constantly add to her huge collection.
She also loved vases and had a huge collection of them including the famous ancient Roman glass vessel which is now known as Portland vase. She bought it from Sir William Hamilton a known collector himself and the husband of the famous beauty Emma Hamilton.
Sadly Portland Museum no longer exists it seems that at the end of her life her children found themselves in huge debts and being such a good mother she sacrificed her own collection by putting it on sale.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Marie Angelique de Fontanges

Marie Angelique de Fontanges was the last mistress of Louis XIV, who was by that time around forty while the lovely young Angelique was just eighteen or nineteen years old . She came from an ancient family and her father Comte de Roussile was the Kings Lieutenant. Seeing the potential in Angelique's beauty her parents got her a place in court as a maid-of-honour to Liselotte Duchess of Orleans. It was their hope that she would capture the eye  (and  undoubtedly the heart) of the king. Indeed she was very beautiful some courtiers even said that she was the most beautiful woman ever to appear in Versailles, she was like a statue who's features were always perfect like that of a goddess. She had golden red hair and classically perfect features and grey-blue eyes yet according to Liselotte she was not very clever. Still the King fell deeply in love with her and so did Angelique she became his mistess and the king was charmed by her even though it was noted that whenever she spoke in the presence of the third party the king seemed ashamed. Well this could be the naiveness of Angelique youth talking, after all at this time she was living a dream of luxury with the King who was in love with her so it does not necessarily mean she was stupid as it is often said. She was after all a deep romantic who liked to wear clothes who's colours matched those of the king. 

Angelique was living in full splendour now her carriage was driven by eight horses, she had her own set of servants. Soon Angelique fell pregnant, she had a very difficult birth in which her baby boy was born dead and if this was not bad enough the king seem to have lost interest in her as well a good example of this is that fact that she was made a duchess which was Louis usual farewell present. Angelique was of course heartbroken by the lack of interest the King was now showing her in one episode Madame de Maintenon spoke with Angelique telling her to abandon completely her relationship with the King and move while Angelique argued saying "you speak of throwing off a passion as if it was as easy as changing a chemise". The poor girl now only twenty got more ill and retired to a convent of  Port-Royal (which still exists only its a hospital now) where she died not long after. 

However before she did Louis did visit her knowing that she was very ill and would die soon and since he never visited any of his other mistresses once they left Versailles such as Louise de la Valliere this marks Angelique out. On the occasion the King had tears in his eyes was he still a bit in love with her, was he felling guilty  maybe both but Angelique is reported to have said that "I die happy since I have seen my King weep". He also paid for a annual service in Angelique's memory which was something he did not do for any other of his mistresses. After her death there was some gossip and accusations that Angelique was perhaps poisoned by Athenais de Montespan  supposedly she sent her a pair of gloves that were covered in poison, or sent some milk which was poisonous Angelique herself believed she was poisoned but most probably she died of lung disease as her symptoms seem to indicate. Further more it was the enemies of Athenais who accused her of poisoning such as Liselotte Duchess of Orleans who was known for her deep dislike of Athenais.

Angelique is best known now for the famous hairstyle she invented in her golden days it seems that while she was hunting one day with the king her hair got untied and she arranged it in a style of which the king approved and it became a smashing hit got popular all over France and abroad, the hairstyle was named after her "Fontange hairstyle".

Saturday, 5 June 2010

The early romance of Henriette-Anne of England and Louis XIV

The year 1661 saw the birth of a new, innocent romance in the in the French royal family. This was between Henriette-Anne the seventeen year old daughter, of the ill-fated Charles I of England who was executed in 1649 and the twenty-two year old Louis XIV King of France. Henriette-Anne had recently married Louis XIV younger brother Monsieur and Louis was married to the Spanish infana Maria Therese. So the relationship was certainly doomed, and it remained innocent through out like an impossible fantasy or a dream but certainly flirting was not out of the way.

It seems in her early years Louis never thought much of his young cousin in fact he thought her bony and dreaded being asked by his mother to dance with the young, shy girl. But at sixteen she blossomed into a quite a different person, she grew tall, and with a complection seem to be like a blend of roses and jasmine, she had perfect teeth, and beautiful dark eyes inherited from her mother. Most importantly she seemed to posses a quality that made people love her, even her homosexual husband was in love with her for a while and so Louis XIV was no exception.

She loved dancing and was in fact thought to have been the best dancer in Versailles at the time, Louis shared this hobby just like he shared her love of gardening, she also loved art and became a muse for many writers such as Racine. Louis was seen to spend a lot of time in the company of Henriette-Anne, he was seen dancing with her and just talking in her company, Anne of Austria who warned her of the terrible consequences if gossip would start to spread more wildly. 

Yet it did not end just yet, Louis continued to be in Henriette-Anne's company by pretending that he had a fancy for one of her ladies in waiting, it was arranged so that everyone would think that Louis was actually instead in Louise de la Valliere but it did not quite turn out like that and Louis actually fell in love with with the girl.

Still throughout Henriette-Anne's life he continued to be very fond of her and it is actually quite interesting that it could have been quite possible that Henriette-Anne would have married Louis if only Spanish marriage with Maria Therese did not go through.     

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Dorothea Jordan the actress, the courtesan, and the mistress of the future William IV

Dorothea Jordan was born into a family that were involved in theatre with her mother being an actress and her father working in the theatre, she did not have it easy from the early on as her father abandoned the little Dorothea and her mother to run off and marry another actress causing the family to live in poverty. However  Dorothea was quite the charmer, very pretty, and had a talent for acting which is something her mother took note off. Soon she joined the theatre and proved to be a success especially when she wore male clothing that allowed to show off her perfect legs.
She had numerous affairs including her first boss, an army Letunant Charles Doyle whose marriage proposal she dismissed, then an actor George Inchbold with whom she was madly in love but he did not seem to feel the same for her and had no plans for marrying her. She soon moved on to become a  mistress of the upper class personages which lead her to become the mistress of William IV with whom she had ten children. After their separation he was rather a crude in the way he gave her the custody the girls while the boys remained with the Duke  and even the girls were later taken away from her once she returned to stage. Which was something she promised she would not do but the crashing debt lead her to seek any way to pay the bills. When the Duke heard of her comeback to the theatre her children were taken away and she escaped to France so no to be bothered by her creditors she died not long after once again in great poverty.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Sophia Baddeley 18th Century's Stage Beauty

So this being my first post and I thought Mrs. Baddeley, the English beauty of the eighteenth century is the perfect start to my blog. Her painting here shows her and her husband in Colman's play The Clandestine Marriage. Enjoy!!!!

Sophia Baddeley with her uncommon beauty and her beautiful voice was a very famous 18th century actress and courtesan. She was famed for her lovers that included Viscount Melbourne, Charles Holland an actor, Lord Grosvenor, George Garrick, Duke of York amongst many others. Due to her popularity and her many admirers she was able to attend social balls that were usually closed to 'improper' woman. One story says that when she tried to attend the Pantheon a concert hall situated in the fashionable Oxford Street and was refused by the guards, around fifty of her devoted admirers came to her rescue with a plan of action. They got their swords and threatened to "run them through" if she was not allowed in and so the frightened guards let her pass, after this the managers had to "beg Mrs. Baddeley's pardon, for the insult". The incident was recorded in Town and Country Magazine and apparently after this other theatre actresses were admitted as well.

She was born to middle class family, her father Valentine Show was once Sergeant-Trumpeter to George II and was now Theatrical musician and was keen to see her daughter Sofia embark on a career as a harpsichord player. Yet she hated she hated the lesions and when she was introduced to Robert Baddeley who was a player at Drury Lane Theatre she got married. Though her husbands connections she embarked on an acting career paying leading parts in The beggar's Opera, Cymbeline, As you like it , Twelfth Night amongst others.
It seems however that she was never a great actress yet with her beautiful voice and angelic looks her not so impressive acting was forgotten by the audience who loved her. At this time she started to live separately from her husband as their marriage having had failed. She became increasingly famous for her beauty even the Duke of Ancaster called her "absolutely one of the wonders of the age" and that she certainly was. Her life was full of drama including the famous bloodless dual fought between her husband and her lover George Garrick.
She once embarked on an affair with with the brother of Lord Coleraine who was previously also her lover and after living a life of reckless spending he unwillingly had to leave her. Sofia in her devastation took an overdose of laudanum after which she could barely walk even after six weeks, this caused her to be addicted to laudanum for the rest of her life. Yet she recovered after this to become one of the most famous courtesans of her age.
However she was growing older and due to her reckless spending and unsuccessful love affairs she lived in very modest means, her expensive jewels sold, all her luxuries gone she died at the age of only forty-one surrounded by her actor friends.