Anne Marie Louise of Orleans – La Grande Mademoiselle

(public domain)

Anne Marie Louise of Orleans was born on 29 May 1627 at the Louvre as the daughter of Gaston, Duke of Orléans and Marie, Duchess of Montpensier. Her mother was Duchess of Montpensier in her own right, and Anne Marie Louise was only a week old when her mother passed away. She became Duchess of Montpensier and one of the richest people in France as her mother’s sole heiress. She was known as Mademoiselle. Her aunt and uncle, King Louis XIII and Anne of Austria, who had been married for 12 years and had suffered three stillbirths, were fond of their little niece and often to came to visit her. She called them “mon petit papa” and “mon petit mamam.” 1

How much Anne Marie Louise was aware of her father’s disappearance in 1632, we don’t know for sure. He had fallen in love with Marguerite of Lorraine, but as France and Lorraine were enemies at the time, he was refused permission to marry. Nevertheless, they married in secret and were not allowed to appear at court. However, the King learned of the marriage and had it declared null and void. It wasn’t until the King was on his deathbed in 1643 that he accepted the marriage. As far as Anne Marie Louise was aware, Cardinal Richelieu had sent her father away because he had wanted him to marry his niece.

Anne Marie Louise as Minerva holding a portrait of her father (public domain)

As she grew up, she was surrounded by “girls of quality”. Her education was seriously lacking, and she only learned to read and write, and very badly too. She saw her father again in 1634, and she recognised him right away. “Without hesitating a moment, I flung myself into his arms.”2 One of her friends was Mademoiselle de Longueville, Marie de Nemours, who was two years older. “She and I were in the habit of making fun of everybody, although it would have been easy to turn the tables on us, for we wore the most ridiculous clothes and made every sort of grimace, in spite of all the scoldings we got from her governess and mine. The only way of stopping us was to forbid us to see one another, which they knew would be a hard privation on account of the great friendship between us.”3

By 1637, the Queen was pregnant again, and she wanted her favourite niece with her and so Anne Marie Louise headed to St. Germain. On 5 September 1638, Anne gave birth to a son, the future Louis XIV. This also meant that Anne Marie Louise’s father was no longer the heir presumptive. Anne Marie Louise took to calling the newborn her “little husband” and began to believe that she would marry him one day. Cardinal Richelieu was not amused and ordered her back to Paris. She began to hate him even more. Luckily for her, he died in 1642. As she grew into a teenager, life changed when the King died in 1643. Her four-year-old “little husband” was now King Louis XIV under the regency of his mother. He had been joined in the nursery by a younger brother named Philippe in 1640.

With the King’s deathbed blessing of her father’s remarriage, her stepmother Marguerite could finally be presented at court. However, their reunion was quite cold, and Anne Marie Louise was disappointed. Despite this, Marguerite gave birth to a daughter also named Marguerite in 1645. They would go on to have five children, though only three daughters survived to adulthood. By 1646, the now 19-year-old Anne Marie Louise was still not married, which was strange for the time and especially considering her great wealth. She had been promised to the Count de Soissons without her knowledge since the age of 9. He was 23 years older than her. The marriage never materialised. The Queen regent had promised her in marriage to her brother after she had been scolded for calling the future Louis XIV her “little husband.” Anne of Austria’s brother was Philip IV of Spain, also many years Anne Marie Louise’s senior. Apart from these two, no attempt was made to court Anne Marie Louise, and she never showed the slightest inclination for any man during these years. She was a complicated character who did not adhere to the standards of beauty of the time. “Mine is no tender soul”, she would boast.4

Anne Marie Louise was involved in something called the Fronde, which was a civil war in France. Louis de Bourbon, Prince of Condé, took the city of Paris by siege. As the first part of the Fronde came to an end, Anne Marie Louise caught smallpox and befriended Claire Clémence de Brézé, the Prince’s unwanted wife. She and the Princess travelled to Bordeaux, where she was involved in the peace that ended the siege of the city. During the second part of the Fronde, the city of Orléans wished to remain neutral and asked for her father’s input. He was undecided, and so Anne Marie Louise went to represent her father. However, the city refused her entry, and she was forced to enter through a gate on the river, upon which she was enthusiastically received. She stayed for five weeks and began calling it “my town.” For her actions, she was exiled to her residence at Saint-Fargeau until 1657.

At Saint-Fargeau, she was bored to tears, but she tried to be happy. As time went by, she actually became quite attached to her residence there. She kept two greyhounds as pets and took up hunting. She never liked to read but took up it in her exile. In addition, she took up writing, though she wrote most words phonetically. By 1657, her father was back in favour, and so she would follow. She was now 30 years old, and the young boy she had once dreamed of marrying was now 19 years old. She was welcomed back at court and these first few years were perhaps quite dull. In 1660, her father died, leaving her even richer than she already was. As her half-brother had died as a child, the title Duke of Orléans passed to the King’s younger brother.

By 1670, it appeared that she was in love for the first time. His name was Antoine Nompar de Caumont, Duke de Lauzun. She described the days of 16, 17 and 18 December 1670 as the happiest of her life. She managed to speak to the King about her love for Lauzun, and he answered that he would neither advise nor forbid the marriage. The next day, he consented to the marriage, despite the fact that the Queen and his brother, who wished to marry her, or rather her fortune, were against the match. Nevertheless, he changed his mind the following day with the words, “Kings must please the public.”5 Her three happy days were over and she shut herself in her apartments until the beginning of the next year. Lauzun was arrested for no official reason, and he wasn’t released until 1681 when Anne Marie Louise was forced to sell two of most profitable lands, the principality of Dombes and the County of Eu.

After the death of the Queen in 1683, she and Lauzun parted ways indefinitely. She told him, “Your life would have been better if I had never seen you, but better late than never.” He became angry with her but did not leave until later that day when she told him to get out.6

On 15 March 1693, Anne Marie Louise fell ill with a disease or stoppage of the bladder. Lauzun asked to see her, but he was refused. She died on 5 April 1693. During the funeral, the urn containing her entrails exploded, causing extreme chaos. She was buried in the Basilica of St Denis.

  1. Sackville-West, Vita: Daughter of France: The life of Anne Marie Louise d’Orléans, Duchesse de Montpensier 1627-1693 p.23
  2. Sackville-West, Vita: Daughter of France: The life of Anne Marie Louise d’Orléans, Duchesse de Montpensier 1627-1693 p.30
  3. Sackville-West, Vita: Daughter of France: The life of Anne Marie Louise d’Orléans, Duchesse de Montpensier 1627-1693 p.43-44
  4. Sackville-West, Vita: Daughter of France: The life of Anne Marie Louise d’Orléans, Duchesse de Montpensier 1627-1693 p.80
  5. Sackville-West, Vita: Daughter of France: The life of Anne Marie Louise d’Orléans, Duchesse de Montpensier 1627-1693 p.286
  6. Sackville-West, Vita: Daughter of France: The life of Anne Marie Louise d’Orléans, Duchesse de Montpensier 1627-1693 p.333

About Moniek Bloks 2744 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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