Marie-Louise O’Murphy – The Irish petite maîtresse (Part two)

marie louise o'murphy
(public domain)

Read part one here.

After she had been with the King for two years, rumours were circulating around Versailles that Marie-Louise wished to topple Madame de Pompadour as the King’s maîtresse-en-titre, the official mistress who lived in the palace.

If Marie-Louise was planning to work her way up and overthrow the powerful Pompadour, this did not happen. In late November 1755, Marie-Louise was sleeping when she was woken in the middle of the night and evicted from her home in the Parc-aux-Cerfs without any prior warning. It was clear that Madame de Pompadour had retained her position as the chief mistress and would not be threatened by any of the others.

Just days later on 25 November, Marie-Louise was married off to a young, handsome soldier who had been chosen for her by Pompadour’s inner circle. This sort of marriage usually happened when the King grew tired of a mistress or if she caused trouble at court. The man, named Jacques Pelet de Beaufranchet had little choice but to agree to the King’s orders. However, Marie-Louise was not just thrown out into the street and left penniless, and she was allowed to keep any clothing and jewellery from her time at the Parc. She was also given a 200,000 livre dowry, and she was also given a new surname which would elevate her status to her new in-laws, she was now known as Marie-Louise Morphy de Boisfailly. For a girl who grew up in poverty, this was a very good opportunity, but the wedding, which was secretly carried out two days later, must have been a sombre affair with no family or friends present.

The young married couple had two children together, first came a daughter named Louise Charlotte and the following year a son followed, named Louis Charles. Sadly happiness was not in store for the couple, and Jacques died in battle two weeks before the birth of Louis Charles. Two years later, little Louise Charlotte also died. This must have been a very difficult time for Marie-Louise, now a woman of twenty-two.

Just weeks after the death of her daughter, Marie-Louise married again to a cousin of Madame de Pompadour’s husband. Her new husband François Nicolas Le Normant was divorced with three children and was Receiver General of Finance in Riom where the pair were married. Through this marriage, Marie-Louise entered into the world of finance, and over time she gained a fortune through the collection of the Ferme générale tax on behalf of the crown. Marie also became related to her former rival Madame de Pompadour through the marriage.

Marie-Louise and François Nicolas remained married until his death in 1783. From records, it appears that only one child was born to the couple, a daughter named Marguerite Victoire born in 1768. There were rumours that Marguerite was actually fathered by the King and that the affair had carried on, but this can never be confirmed.

After her husband passed away, Marie-Louise was awarded a yearly pension of 12,000 francs, and we do not hear much of her until the French Revolution. During the Reign of Terror which followed the destruction of the French royal family, Marie-Louise was arrested and held in a series of convents due to her involvement with the royal household over the years. Tens of thousands of people were executed during this period, but Marie-Louise was one of the lucky ones, and she was released in 1795. This could be because her son Louis Charles had become a General for the republic.

Shortly after her release, Marie-Louise was married for the third time. This time her husband was almost thirty years younger than her, his name was Louis Philippe Dumont, and he was part of the new revolutionary government. Little is known of this marriage, but it ended in divorce after three years, and Marie-Louise never remarried after this.

Marie-Louise died aged 77 at home with her daughter Marguerite after a long and eventful life. She had seen the overthrow and the restoration of the French monarchy, had three marriages, been the mistress of a King and the subject of a famous and scandalous painting which is much more than was expected of her life when she was growing up in rags in Rouen.

1 Comment

  1. I’m surprised there is no biography of Marie-Louise O’Murphy.She lived a most eventful and interesting life.Thank you for introducing her to the world.

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