Marie of Bourbon was born on 15 October 1605 as the daughter of Henri de Bourbon, Duke of Montpensier and Henriette Catherine de Joyeuse, Duchess of Joyeuse in her own right. She would turn out to be their only child and her father died on 27 February 1608 – making her Duchess of Montpensier in her own right at the age of only 2. Her mother remarried in 1611 to Charles, Duke of Guise and went on to have a further ten children, though not all of them would live to adulthood.
Because of her large fortune and attractive title, she became engaged to the newborn Nicolas Henri of France, Duke of Orléans, second son of King Henry IV, at the age of 2. However, he would die in infancy and she then became engaged to Gaston of France, Duke of Orléans, her late fiancé’s younger brother. Gaston did not want to marry her but his brother King Louis XIII was determined to see them marry.
The wedding took place in the evening of 5 August 1626 in the Chapelle de l’Oratoire at Nantes in Brittany. It was solemnised by Cardinal Richelieu. At the time, Gaston was still the heir presumptive to his childless brother and Marie could possibly have become Queen consort. His brother and his wife, Anne of Austria, and his mother Marie de’ Medici were present as well. The bride wore a white satin dress and was bedecked in pearls. However, there was no music and the groom had not bothered to purchase new clothes. One member of his household later said, “A sadder wedding was never seen.” A fight over precedence between the Duchess of Rohan and the Duchess of Halluin also cast a shadow over the wedding.
The newlyweds were escorted to their rooms, with the King handing a nightshirt to his brother and then leading him to the nuptial chamber where his wife the Queen and his mother were putting Marie to bed. The consummation was interrupted by Marie’s mother who had been looking for her dog, who had accidentally been shut inside the nuptial chamber. Even with the interruption, it appears to have been a successful night and Marie gave birth to a daughter nine months and 14 days later. On 29 May 1627, Marie gave birth to a daughter – to the disappointment of her parents and “the whole realm of France.” The little girl was named Anne Marie Louise and just a week after her birth, Marie passed away from complications. The King’s physician simply recorded, “He (the King) went to the Louvre to see Madame die.”1
“Madame, the Duchesse d’Orleans, had been too transient a figure at the Court to leave a history. She was, indeed, remembered chiefly for her overweening airs at the prospect of her coming maternity, and of giving an heir to France. She had died within a year, but the little daughter whom she left behind, Anne-Marie-Louise, was growing up to be a personality.”2
Marie’s titles and riches passed to her little girl and even though she was not in the line of succession, she was still one of the most important children of France. Her daughter later wrote in her memoirs, “The beginning of the troubles of my house happened soon after my birth, for it was followed by the death of my mother, which greatly impaired the happy prospects which the rank I hold entitled me to expect. The great wealth left by my mother at her death, and of which I am sole heiress, might well, in the opinion of most people, console me for her loss. But I, who now appreciate what an advantage her care would have been in my education, and her influence joined to her tenderness for my settlement in life – I can myself never sufficiently deplore her loss.”3
- Daughter of France: The life of Anne Marie Louise d’Orléans, duchesse de Montpensier 1627-1693 by Vita Sackville-West p.20
- The Court of Louis XIII by Katherine Patmore p.192-193
- Memoirs of Mademoiselle de Montpensier vol 1 p.48-49