Aurora von Goeth is a German Mademoiselle with a passion for the time of Louis XIV, his court, its occupants and etiquette. She is currently working on her first book about Louis XIV, together with her partner-in-bonbon-devouring, Jules Harper. A second book on the topic of court anecdotes is in planning, and it will be followed hopefully by many more. During the years, she has developed a special passion for everything regarding Louis XIV’s brother, Philippe de France, and his paramour the Chevalier de Lorraine, extended research has been done on both.
You can follow her on Twitter at @partylike1600, where she tweets news from the 17th Century.
Henri IV of France had many mistresses and fathered quite a few children during his lifetime. His womanising became legendary and earned him the nickname Le Vert Galant (the green gallant). Henri's sexual appetite is said to have been enormous. He was not just satisfied with one mistress at a time, along with his wife, but kept several and payed sneaky visits to brothels; but, all of this is nothing compared to his grandson Louis XIV.
The great Sun King had so many mistresses, it's hard to name them all. There are the well-known lovers like the Marquise de Montespan, Louise de La Vallière, Marie Angélique de Scorailles and Marie Mancini, but the list is long.
Louis XIV had his first experiences in matters of bed-sports as he was a tender fifteen year old. The lady who introduced him to how to do it was not a beauty at all. She was nearly forty years old and went by the charming nickname ‘One-Eyed Catherine’. Although she was no beauty, and Louis was probably a little shocked as he found her waiting in a state of undress in his bedroom as he returned from the bathing room, the whole thing was a spectacular success. After this first encounter, Louis had sex with her regularly, even when he could have had his pick of the celebrated beauties at court. Before Louis XIV moved on to young noblewomen, he practised his arts on the various palace serving maids, and got a gardener-girl with child. Far from causing a scandal, the court was quite pleased with this, for it proved Louis was able to father children; a thing of utmost important for France.
Olympe Mancini, of the famous Mazarinettes, was likely one of the first noble ladies whose bed the Sun King visited. Olympe is described of being of a fiery temperament, which might hint that this period of time was one for experiments in the life of the young King. Louis was also improving his flirting skills around during this time and charmed everyone around him. Olympe’s sister Marie was one of those who had been charmed and soon became Louis’ favorite thing to ogle, and his first big love. Surprisingly for everyone involved in the matter, Marie was reportedly still a virgin as she was married off later. Louis seemed, at least for a while, to have continued to visit Olympe for pleasure, at the same time as he courted Marie. Whether he did not want to go that far with Marie, or Marie did not want him to go that far, will probably never be known.
Someone with whom Louis undeniably went that far with was his next love interest Françoise Louise de La Baume Le Blanc, better known as Louise de La Vallière. Louise was similar in temperament to Marie Mancini; before she got married off, gave birth to five children all fathered by Louis XIV. At the start of their affair, Louise feigned an illness to receive Louis alone in her chambers. Louis had quite some practice in horizontal bed gymnastics by then and was readily embracing the delights of the court. One delight, in particular, was his next mistress, Françoise Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart, the Marquise de Montespan. The first sexual get-together of Louis and Louise occurred in the rooms of the Comte de Saint-Aignan, who kindly lend his apartment to the King for the act of seduction. As the Comte later said, Louise's resistance was great but short. Yet Louise made the most of mourning the loss of her virginity.
A scandal was brewing between Louis and his sister-in-law Henrietta of England at the same time. As both were in their early teens, Louis did not care for her much at all. He found her ugly and a bore, far too slim, and resented being forced to dance with her. After Henrietta's marriage to Louis' brother Philippe, this seems to have changed. Nobody can for sure say what was going on between them, but the flirting was great enough to produce rumours her first born child might have been fathered by the King.
Louis de La Vallière was still his official mistress when Louis became involved with Madame de Montespan and he visited both of them for a while to satisfy his desires. Louise acted as cover for la Montespan and both shared an apartment for a while. Louis had to pass through the bedroom of Louise to reach that of Athénaïs, something he seems not to have minded much. The same applies to Louise and Athénaïs riding in the same carriage as his wife. It seems that for Louis, the satisfaction of his needs was the most important thing. At the time reports circulated of Louis amusing himself with the servants of his love-interests; the Sun King always had more than one woman whom he paid visits. Louis was not at all picky as to the location of his tête-à-têtes; a bed, a chaise-lounge, a door-frame. Every location was good enough as long as the goal was reached (and from what is reported in various writings of the time, it did not take Louis long to reach that goal.)
The first exchange of attentions between Louis XIV and the Marquise de Montespan occurred at camp in Flanders. Louis had ogled her for a while already and decided he had enough of only looking at this Goddess. As she stayed with the Duchesse de Montausier, a lady to Louis' wife Marie-Thérèse, and was just about to have a bath, a man entered dressed as a guard. It was Louis and he was so enchanted by what he saw that he was unable to utter a single word. He just stared at her until she let her towel drop.
Louis le Grand did sleep with his wife regularly as well, although he did not find her handsome at all. He was especially eager at his wedding night and the bride in quite the shock as she learned the groom desired to retire early. Marie-Thérèse even complained to her mother-in-law about having to leave the celebrations so early and she was in no haste to undress - until she was told her husband was already naked and ready to perform, after which she urged her maids to hurry with the undressing. Marie-Thérèse made it her habit to clap in the mornings after Louis visited her, thus everyone was always well informed when and how often martial visits took place.
One woman was never enough for the Sun King. Madame de Montespan was aware that she was not the only woman who Louis visited and even sent her own maids and friends in Louis general direction. Claude de Vin des Œillets was one of those and apparently Madame de Montespan also planned to place her own niece, the Duchesse de Nevers, into the King’s bed - or rather the King in her bed. Whenever Louis had the urge, he would go to the lady in question, sometimes stay there most of the night, but always return to his own bed in time for his getting-up-ceremony (called the Lever).
Gabrielle de Rochechouart de Mortemart, sister of Madame de Montespan, was also briefly rumoured to have been a lover of Louis XIV and so was Marie Angélique de Scorailles. A very beautiful young girl said to be ‘as stupid as a basket’.
In his youth, Louis XIV had an enormous sexual appetite. Along with those mentioned, he also amused himself with Anne de Rohan-Chabot, Catherine Charlotte de Gramont, Elizabeth Hamilton, Julie de Guenami, Louise-Elisabeth Rouxel, Lydie de Rochefort-Theobon, Marie-Antoinette de Rouvroy and several other noble ladies, along with several maids and various females of the court. Most of Louis XIV’s affairs were only short flings, sometimes lasting a few weeks, sometimes just a few days. We know the names of some of them, but probably just as many are not mentioned anywhere.
While Madame de Montespan shared Louis love for the naughty business, her successor did not. Madame de Maintenon, whom Louis XIV married in secret, did not care for sex at all. By her own admission, she tried to avoid it as best as she could, or would not have done it at all if the King did not have certain needs. In her youth, she had lovers, but now, being of an age, she tried to end Louis’ lifestyle of having various partners. Where sexual desire reigned, Madame de Maintenon placed piousness. No more messing around for Louis.
During his reign as vigorous lover, Louis XIV fathered six legitimate children and around sixteen illegitimate ones that were known. Counting in those with uncertain paternity, the number rises to around thirty.