Valentine’s Day is over.  But let’s still celebrate Love by talking of the royal mistresses who often influenced the fate of France.

The Royal Mistress, a vast and controversial topic that makes us either smile or shy away!

François Boucher 019
Madame de Pompadour (Source Wikimedia)
Were they exceptionally attractive?

Not always but they were undoubtedly more attractive than the average women of their time when hygiene was questionable, when teeth started to decay in teenage, when women’s life expectancy was so short, when they had reached their “shelf-life” by the age of 30, if they had had the extreme luck of surviving until such an “advanced age” despite the multiple births and epidemics.

Madame de Maintenon took exception to the rule and married Louis XIV in her middle age! Little Cupid must have been in a teasing mind the day he shot his arrow into the heart of the illustrious king as the severe Madame de Maintenon was not exactly the “cool type”.

Pierre Mignard - Françoise d'Aubigné, marquise de Maintenon (1694)
Madame de Maintenon (Source Wikimedia)
Were they gold-diggers? Undoubtedly! In these times it was very easy to move up the social ladder by using one’s charms. The prince who married the servant girl always made the romantic crowds weep.
Isn’t it the topic of many fairy tales!? How many favours and new or higher titles of nobility were thus obtained in the quiet atmosphere of the royal alcoves?

Some died too young such as Gabrielle d’Estrées who lost her life in her mid 20’s while giving birth to the child of King Henry IV.

Gabrielle d'Estrees (Source Wikimedia)
Others were replaced by younger models as soon as their first wrinkles appeared and their waist started to expand. They often had to share the “royal favours” with younder and lesser mistresses to retain “power” as Madame de Pompadour did.
Kings got bored very quickly in those early days.

But all these women share one characteristic: they have remained famous as today we can read all about them on “Wikipedia”!

But let’s not be petty. Many royal mistresses were not only attractive but also bright.

This was the case of Diane de Poitiers, who was disgraced by Queen Catherine de Medici after Henry II was accidentally killed in a tournament in 1559.

Diane de Poitiers (Source Wikimedia)
The queen exiled Diane to the château de Chaumont-sur-Loire, since known as Chateau of Diane de Poitiers, but Diane refused to live there and retired to the Château d’Anet(west of Paris) that the king had also bought for her. Before leaving  Chaumont-sur-Loire she had the time of undertaking an extensive series of alteration and restoration work and added her initials and her emblem all over the place. Almost a way of stating “Diane was here”!

Photos source: Wikimedia Commons: Madame de PompadourMadame de MaintenonGabrielle d’EstreesDiane de Poitiers


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About the author

I am French Parisienne and lived in Asia for nearly 20 years before settling in the UK 3 years ago. I have an interest in everything and every culture and am an avid reader. French linguistics is my "specialty" but I have a passion for history and try to mingle them. Humour is very important to me, I love writing, talking, laughing, exchanging ideas, learning more from others... the world is full of fascinating people! I never leave my home without my camera, there is always something unusual, beautiful or strange to capture. I like to pay attention to details, to the world of the "small", a parallel world if you take the time to look for it...And above all, I love my country of birth, France.