Bathilde of Orléans was born on 9 July 1750 as the daughter of Louis Philippe d’Orléans, Duke of Chartres and Louise Henriette de Bourbon at the Château de Saint-Cloud. She lost her mother when she just eight years old and was then sent to be raised at a convent. She would remain there until she was 20 years old and a marriage had been arranged for her.
In 1770, she was set to marry her 14-year-old cousin, Louis Henri, Duke of Enghien and the heir of the Prince of Condé. They married on 20 April at the Palace of Versailles, but their marriage became unhappy quickly. Nevertheless, she gave birth to their only son, named Louis Antoine, in 1772. They finally separated in 1780 after her husband had had several affairs. Bathilde settled away from court at the Château de Chantilly and sometimes also lived with her father and his second morganatic wife, Madame de Montesson. It was rumoured that she gave birth to an illegitimate daughter during this time.
Upon the death of her father in 1785, her brother Philippe became the Duke of Orléans, and two years later she purchased the Élysée Palace from Louis XVI. She became involved with the occult, and her salon became known for the liberal minds that visited it. As the French Revolution approached, she fell out with her husband and son who both left France after the storming of the Bastille. Bathilde stayed behind and offered her wealth to the French Republic before they could confiscate it. Her brother became known as Philippe Égalité, and he voted for the death of King Louis XVI. Nevertheless, he too was guillotined during the Reign of Terror. His son and Bathilde’s nephew would eventually succeed as Louis Philippe I, King of the French. Bathilde took the name Citoyenne Vérité (Citizen Truth).
Bathilde too was imprisoned after the National Convention decreed the imprisonment of all the Bourbons who had remained in France. She was first imprisoned in Fort Saint-Jean in Marseille and spent a year and a half in prison. She was miraculously spared during the Reign of Terror and returned to Paris in poverty. In 1797, her exile was ordered, and she left France for Spain with her sister-in-law. She began a pharmacy for the poor near Barcelona and dedicated herself to the Republic cause.
Her son was executed by firing squad during the reign of Napoleon at the Château de Vincennes in 1804. When Bathilde was at last able to return to Paris in 1814, she was hailed home as the mother of the “Martyr of Vincennes.” During the Bourbon Restoration, she traded the Élysée Palace for the Hôtel Matignon, and she had nuns installed there who were charged with praying for the souls of the victims of the French Revolution. In 1818, her father-in-law died, and she became the last Princess of Condé, despite having been separated from her husband for over 30 years.
In 1822, she suddenly lost consciousness during a march and died a few moments later. Her memoirs were ceremoniously burned by her nephew. She was buried in the Royal Chapel, the traditional burial ground of the Orléans family in Dreux. Her son died without issue, but her illegitimate daughter reportedly did leave issue.