Court Memoirs of France Series— Complete

Author: Various

Chapter XIII.

First Vocation of Mademoiselle de la Valliere.—The King Surprises His Mistress.—She is Forced to Retire to a Convent.—The King Hastens to Take Her Back.—She Was Not Made for Court Life.—Her Farewell to the King.—Sacrifice.—The Abbe de Bossuet.

What I am now about to relate, I have from her own lips, nor am I the only one to whom she made such recitals and avowals.

Her father died when she was quite young, and, when dying, foresaw that his widow, being without fortune or constancy, would ere long marry again. To little Louise he was devotedly attached. Ardently embracing her, he addressed her thus:

"In losing me, my poor little Louise, you lose all. What little there is of my inheritance ought, undoubtedly, to belong to you; but I know your mother; she will dispose of it. If my relatives do not show the interest in you which your fatherless state should inspire, renounce this world soon, where, separated from your father, there exists for you but danger and misfortune. Two of my ancestors left their property to the nuns of Saint Bernard at Gomer-Fontaines, as they are perfectly well aware. Go to them in all confidence; they will receive you without a dowry even; it is their duty to do so. If, disregarding my last counsel, you go astray in the world, from the eternal abodes on high I will watch over you; I will appear to you, if God empower me to do so; and, at any rate, from time to time I will knock at the door of your heart to rouse you from your baleful slumber and draw your attention to the sweet paths of light that lead to God."

This speech of a dying father was graven upon the heart of a young girl both timid and sensitive. She never forgot it; and it needed the fierce, inexplicable passion which took possession of her soul to captivate her and carry her away so far.

Before becoming attached to the King, she opened out her heart to me with natural candour; and whenever in the country she observed the turrets or the spire of a monastery, she sighed, and I saw her beautiful blue eyes fill with tears.

She was maid of honour to the Princess Henrietta of England, and I filled a like office. Our two companions, being the most quick-witted, durst not talk about their love-affairs before Louise, so convinced were we of her modesty, and almost of her piety.

In spite of that, as she was gentle, intelligent, and well-bred, the Princess plainly preferred her to the other three. In temperament they suited each other to perfection.

The King frequently came to the Palais Royal, where the bright, pleasant conversation of his sister-in-law made amends for the inevitable boredom which one suffered when with the Queen.

Being brought in such close contact with the King, who in private life is irresistibly attractive, Mademoiselle de la Valliere conceived a violent passion for him; yet, owing to modesty or natural timidity, it was plain that she carefully sought to hide her secret. One fine night she and two young persons of her own age were seated under a large oak-tree in the grounds of Saint Germain. The Marquis de Wringhen, seeing them in the moonlight, said to the King, who was walking with him, "Let us turn aside, Sire, in this direction; yonder there are three solitary nymphs, who seem waiting for fairies or lovers." Then they noiselessly approached the tree that I have mentioned, and lost not a word of all the talk in which the fair ladies were engaged.

They were discussing the last ball at the chateau. One extolled the charms of the Marquis d’Alincour, son of Villeroi; the second mentioned another young nobleman; while the third frankly expressed herself in these terms:

"The Marquis d’Alincour and the Prince de Marcillac are most charming, no doubt, but, in all conscience, who could be interested in their merits when once the King appeared in their midst?

"Oh, oh!" cried the two others, laughing, "it’s strange to hear you talk like that; so, one has to be a king in order to merit your attention?"

"His rank as king," replied Mademoiselle de la Valliere, "is not the astonishing part about him; I should have recognised it even in the simple dress of a herdsman."

The three chatterers then rose and went back to the chateau. Next day, the King, wholly occupied with what he had overheard on the previous evening, sat musing on a sofa at his sister-in-law’s, when all at once the voice of Mademoiselle de la Beaume-le-Blanc smote his ear and brought trouble to his heart. He saw her, noticed her melancholy look, thought her lovelier than the loveliest, and at once fell passionately in love.

They soon got to understand one another, yet for a long while merely communicated by means of notes at fetes, or during the performance of allegorical ballets and operettas, the airs in which sufficiently expressed the nature of such missives.

In order to put the Queen-mother off the scent and screen La Valliere, the King pretended to be in love with Mademoiselle de la Mothe- Houdancour, one of the Queen’s maids of honour. He used to talk across to her out of one of the top-story windows, and even wished her to accept a present of diamonds. But Madame de Navailles, who took charge of the maids of honour, had gratings put over the top-story windows, and La Mothe-Houdancour was so chagrined by the Queen’s icy manner towards her that she withdrew to a convent. As to the Duchesse de Navailles and her husband, they got rid of their charges and retired to their estates, where great wealth and freedom were their recompense after such pompous Court slavery.

The Queen-mother was still living; unlike her niece, she was not blindfold. The adventure of Mademoiselle de la Mothe-Houdancour seemed to her just what it actually was,—a subterfuge; as she surmised, it could only be La Valliere. Having discovered the name of her confessor, the Queen herself went in disguise to the Theatin Church, flung herself into the confessional where this man officiated, and promised him the sum of thirty thousand francs for their new church if he would help her to save the King.

The Theatin promised to do what the Queen thus earnestly desired, and when his fair penitent came to confess, he ordered her at once to break off her connection with the Court as with the world, and to shut herself up in a convent.

Mademoiselle de la Valliere shed tears, and sought to make certain remarks, but the confessor, a man of inflexible character, threatened her with eternal damnation, and he was obeyed.

Beside herself with grief, La Valliere left by another door, so as to avoid her servants and her coach. She recollected seeing a little convent of hospitalieres at Saint Cloud; she went thither on foot, and was cordially welcomed by these dames.

Next day it was noised abroad in the chateau that she had been carried off by order of the Queen-mother. During vespers the King seemed greatly agitated, and no sooner had the preacher ascended the pulpit than he rose and disappeared.

The confusion of the two Queens was manifest; no one paid any heed to the preacher; he scarcely knew where he was.

Meanwhile the conquering King had started upon his quest. Followed by a page and a carriage and pair, he first went to Chaillot, and then to Saint Cloud, where he rang at the entrance of the modest abode which harboured his friend. The nun at the turnstile answered him harshly, and denied him an audience. It is true, he only told her he was a cousin or a relative.

Seeing that this nun was devoid of sense and of humanity, he bethought himself of endeavouring to persuade the gardener, who lived close to the monastery. He slipped several gold pieces into his hand, and most politely requested him to go and tell the Lady Superior that he had come thither on behalf of the King.

The Lady Superior came down into the parlour, and recognising the King from a superb miniature, besought him of his grandeur to interest himself in this young lady of quality, devoid of means and fatherless, and consented, moreover, to give her up to him, since as King he so commanded.

Louise de la Beaume-le-Blanc obeyed the King, or in other words, the dictates of her own heart, imprudently embarking upon a career of passion, for which a temperament wholly different from hers was needed. It is not simple-minded maidens that one wants at Court to share the confidence of princes. No doubt natures of that sort—simple, disinterested souls are pleasant and agreeable to them, as therein they find contentment such as they greedily prize; but for these unsullied, romantic natures, disillusion, trickery alone is in store. And if Mademoiselle de la Beaumele-Blanc had listened to me, she might have turned matters to far better account; nor, after yielding up her youth to a monarch, would she have been obliged to end, her days in a prison.

The King no longer visited her as his mistress, but trusted and esteemed her as a friend and as the mother of his two pretty children.

One day, in the month of April, 1674, his Majesty, while in the gardens, received the following letter, which one of La Valliere’s pages proffered him on bended knee:

SIRE:—To-day I am leaving forever this palace, whither the
cruellest of fatalities summoned my youth and inexperience. Had I
not met you, my heart would have loved seclusion, a laborious life,
and my kinsfolk. An imperious inclination, which I could not
conquer, gave me to you, and, simple, docile as I was by nature,
I believed that my passion would always prove to me delicious,
and that your love would never die. In this world nothing endures.
My fond attachment has ceased to have any charm for you, and my
heart is filled with dismay. This trial has come from God; of this
my reason and my faith are convinced. God has felt compassion for
my unspeakable grief. That which for long past I have suffered is
greater than human force can bear; He is going to receive me into
His home of mercy. He promises me both healing and peace.

In this theatre of pomp and perfidy I have only stayed until such a
moment as my daughter and her youthful brother might more easily do
without me. You will cherish them both; of that I have no doubt.
Guide them, I beseech you, for the sake of your own glory and their
well-being. May your watchful care sustain them, while their
mother, humbled and prostrate in a cloister, shall commend them to
Him who pardons all.

After my departure, show some kindness to those who were my servants
and faithful domestics, and deign to take back the estates and
residences which served to support me in my frivolous grandeur, and
maintain the celebrity that I deplore.

Adieu, Sire! Think no more about me, lest such a feeling, to which
my imagination might but all too readily lend itself, only beget
links of sympathy in my heart which conscience and repentance would
fain destroy.

If God call me to himself, young though yet I am, He will have
granted my prayers; if He ordain me to live for a while longer in
this desert of penitence, it will never compensate for the duration
of my error, nor for the scandal of which I have been the cause.

Your subject from this time forth,

The King had not been expecting so desperate a resolve as this, nor did he feel inclined to hinder her from making it. He left the Portuguese ambassador, who witnessed his agitation, and hastened to Madame de la Valliere’s, who had left her apartments in the castle at daybreak. He shed tears, being kind of heart and convinced that a body so graceful and so delicate would never be able to resist the rigours and hardships of so terrible a life.

The Carmelite nuns of the Rue Saint Jacques loudly proclaimed this conversion, and in their vanity gladly received into their midst so modest and distinguished a victim, driven thither through sheer despair.

The ceremony which these dames call "taking the dress" attracted the entire Court to their church. The Queen herself desired to be present at so harrowing a spectacle, and by a curious contradiction, of which her capricious nature is capable, she shed floods of tears. La Valliere seemed gentler, lovelier, more modest and more seductive than ever. In the midst of the grief and tears which her courageous sacrifice provoked, she never uttered a single sigh, nor did she change colour once. Hers was a nature made for extremes; like Caesar, she said to herself, "Either Rome or nothing!"

The Abbe de Bossuet, who had been charged to preach the sermon of investiture, showed a good deal of wit by exhibiting none at all. The King must have felt indebted to him for such reserve. Into his discourse he had put mere vague commonplaces, which neither touch nor wound any one; honeyed anathemas such as these may even pass for compliments.

This prelate has won for himself a great name and great wealth by words. A proof of his cleverness exists in his having lived in grandeur, opulence, and worldly happiness, while making people believe that he condemned such things.


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Chicago: Various, "Chapter XIII.," Court Memoirs of France Series— Complete, ed. Braybrooke, Richard Griffin, Baron, 1783-1853 and trans. Holcroft, Thomas, 1745-1809 in Court Memoirs of France Series—Complete (New York: Doubleday, Page, 1909), Original Sources, accessed May 28, 2023,

MLA: Various. "Chapter XIII." Court Memoirs of France Series— Complete, edited by Braybrooke, Richard Griffin, Baron, 1783-1853, and translated by Holcroft, Thomas, 1745-1809, in Court Memoirs of France Series—Complete, Vol. 36, New York, Doubleday, Page, 1909, Original Sources. 28 May. 2023.

Harvard: Various, 'Chapter XIII.' in Court Memoirs of France Series— Complete, ed. and trans. . cited in 1909, Court Memoirs of France Series—Complete, Doubleday, Page, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 28 May 2023, from