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.        


  1. Interesting article, but the spelling mistakes and type o's are atrocious! I do wish people would read through and check before posting something

  2. Interesting article, but the spelling mistakes and type o's are atrocious! I do wish people would read through and check before posting something