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Anne Marie Louise D'Orléans
Duchesse de Montpensier
(May 29, 1627 - April 5, 1693) France

Anne Marie D'Orléans

Royal princess

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Born in Paris, called Mademoiselle and La Grande Mademoiselle, because her father, Gaston de France, Duke d'Orléans, the brother of Louis XIII and uncle of Louis XIV, had the designation of Monsieur. From her mother, Marie de Bourbon Montpensier, she inherited a huge fortune, including Eu and Dombes as well as Montpensier.

Tall and with a noble bearing, Montpensier set her heart on an exalted marriage, but the government would neither promise her the future Louis XIV in 1638 nor make a premature peace with the Habsburg powers in time for her to marry the Holy Roman emperor Ferdinand III in 1647.

In 1651, during the first exile of the cardinal and statesman Jules Mazarin, Montpensier pulled her father along the path of collaboration with Louis II de Bourbon, Prince de Condé, in the revolts known as the Fronde.

In the third war of the Fronde, which Condé launched against the royal government, she took command of the troops that occupied Orléans on March 27, 1652, against token opposition. She saved Condé's army from annihilation in the Battle of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine (July 2, 1652) by ordering the cannon of the Bastille to be fired against the royal troops.

On Louis XIV's return to Paris (October 1652), Montpensier went into exile until 1657. She was again exiled from court from 1662 to 1664 for refusing to marry Afonso VI of Portugal.

To everyone's amazement, Louis XIV, on December 15, 1670, consented to Montpensier's plea for permission to marry a low-ranking gentleman, the Count de Lauzun, a captain in the king's bodyguard.

Louis then retracted under pressure from outraged advisers and had Lauzun imprisoned. Montpensier finally obtained Lauzun's release in 1680 and, in return, ceded much of her estate to Louis's illegitimate son Louis-Auguste, Duke du Maine.

She and Lauzun were married secretly in 1681 or 1682 but were unhappy together and separated in 1684. Mademoiselle spent the rest of her life in pious works and the composition of her memoirs. Montpensier's Mémoires cover her life to 1688. She also left two short novels and literary "portraits."

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Picture source: Singleton, Esther, ed. Famous Women Described by Great Writers. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1907.

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