Philippe I, Duke of Orléans born 12 September 1640 (d. 1701)
Philippe I, Duc d'Orléans was the second son of Louis XIII of France and Anne of Austria, and thus the younger brother of Louis XIV of France. He was known as Monsieur at the French court, Monsieur becoming the traditional name of the King's eldest brother from 1660. He was born at St Germain-en-Laye.
In 1661, he was made Duke of Orléans, and married his first cousin Henrietta Anne Stuart, sister of Charles II of England, also known as 'Minette'.
Traditionally, in the French court, a king's younger son was not given significant responsibility, and Philippe was no exception. His mother discouraged him from traditionally male pursuits such as arms and politics, and encouraged him to wear dresses, make-up, and to enjoy traditionally feminine pursuits. This was part of Queen Anne's effort to distract Philippe from challenging his older brother's rule and position.
As an adult, Monsieur continued to enjoy wearing feminine clothing and fragrances, but also proved to be a brave and competent commander in the field. He fought with distinction in the 1667 promenade militaire against Flanders during the War of Devolution, though he hastened back to his life at court immediately after victory was assured. Monsieur resumed military command in 1672, and in 1677 won a great victory at the Battle of Cassel and took St Omer. Louis XIV, it was said, was jealous of his brother's success, therefore Monsieur never commanded an army again.
Monsieur's favorites, invariably handsome young men, dominated contemporary and historical commentary about his role at court, particularly one man who shared his princely rank and much of his life: Philip of Lorraine-Armagnac was three years younger than Philip of Orléans. Handsome, brutal and devoid of scruples, he was the great love of Monsieur's life. He was also the worst enemy of Monsieur's two wives...
As greedy as a vulture, this cadet of the French branch of the house of Lorraine had, by the end of the 1650s, hooked Monsieur as though harpooning a whale. The young prince loved him with a passion that worried Madame Henrietta and the court bishop, Cosnac, but the King understood that, thanks to the attractive face and sharp mind of the good-looking cavalier, he would have his way with his brother.
Under these circumstances it is no surprise that Monsieur's first marriage was unhappy. In January 1670 his wife prevailed upon the King to imprison the chevalier, first near Lyon, then in the Chateau d'If, and finally banish him to Rome. But by February Monsieur's protests and pleas persuaded the King to restore him to his brother's entourage. The death of the Duchess in the following June was popularly attributed to poison, although there was little evidence for Monsieur to have perpetrated such a deed, whereas some of his mignons had earned her enmity and she theirs — and were suspected.
Subsequently, Monsieur's confidante the Princess Palatine Anna Gonzaga arranged his second marriage to her husband's niece, Elisabeth Charlotte, daughter of Charles Louis, Elector Palatine of the Rhine [pictured]. 'Liselotte' converted to Roman Catholicism before entering France in November 1671.
Whereas Monsieur's first wife had been known for beauty, charm and wit, no one accused Liselotte of those graces, and some said that this lack explained why she fared better with Monsieur (who personally took charge of her toilette for public occasions) than did his first wife. She gave him his only surviving son. She also became known for her brusque candour, upright character, lack of vanity, and prolific foreign correspondence about the daily routine and frequent scandals of Versailles. Her letters record how willingly she gave up sharing Monsieur's bed at his request after their children's births, and how unwillingly she endured the presence of his mignons in their household, which caused the couple to quarrel. But she frequently acknowledged that Monsieur's treatment of her was less offensive than the importunities his entourage made at her expense, and the lack of protection he afforded her and their children against the hostile intrigues she believed were directed at her by spiteful courtiers.
Monsieur failed to stand up to Louis XIV's insistence on marrying his daughter Françoise Marie de Bourbon (Mademoiselle de Blois) to Monsieur's son and heir, Philippe d'Orléans in February 1692. But when, years later, the King rebuked him for his son's indifference toward her, Monsieur defended his son with such vehemence that a footman felt obliged to enter the King's chamber to warn the royal brothers that their argument was being overheard by the entire court. Monsieur is the only man known to have raised his voice to the adult Louis XIV, though he did not live to see the King again.
Monsieur was an art collector and perhaps also a shrewd investor. Monsieur enjoyed court life, gambling, chasing young men, and ceremony. Despite the fact that his debts and dalliances often cost the King, the brothers spent much time together. Orléans' loyalty was never in question; he raised the standard of fraternal fidelity in a dynasty in which the Frondes had established princely rebellion as a tradition. His unabashed effeminacy probably deprived him of the credit he deserved among his countrymen and in history. Louis XIV, however, seems to have fully appreciated their relationship, as he treated Monsieur, publicly and privately, with respect and leniency.
He died at Saint-Cloud in 1701 of an apoplectic fit brought on by his heated argument with the King.
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