Chateau de Maintenon, a gift from the Sun King
Madame de Maintenon, born as Françoise d'Aubigné (27 November 1635 – 15 April 1719)
The Chateau is best known for its most famous inhabitant, Madame de Maintenon. She was the mistress of Louis XIV, and secretly, his second wife. Her story did not start like a fairy tale, but she ended as the king's wife!
Born as Françoise d'Aubigné into a poor family and becoming an orphan at age 16, Madame de Maintenon got married at the age of 17 to the much older poet Paul Scarron. He died in 1660, leaving her as a widow with only depths and no kids at the age of 25.
In 1669 she was offered a position as a governess to the illegitimate children of Louis XIV and his mistress of the time, Madame the Montespan. Madame the Montespan was a friend of her and recommended her to the King.
King Louis XIV, the Sun King
The, at that time illegitimate, children lived in a secret house in Paris. The Sun King would visit his children and that is where he first met Francoise. At first, he did not like Francoise very much, but that would change. In 1673, the children were legitimised by the king and therefore could be moved to court. Francoise went with them.
She bought the Château de Maintenon in 1674. The large income she received for taking care of the royal children made this possible. Her idea was to move there in retirement when she would grow older, but she never got there.
In 1678 the King gave her the title Marquise, or Madame de Maintenon, after her estate. It was presumably in this period that she became his mistress. 3 Years later, Madame the Montespan eventually left court around 1680, finally giving way to her former friend who became the new mistress of the Sun King.
Madame de Maintenon the secret wife of Louis XIV
In 1684 the King and Madame de Maintenon were secretly married, but she would never become the official new Queen of France.
The marriage was a so-called morganatic marriage, a practice that was used more often by royalty.
It meant that the Husband’s title and privileges could not be inherited by the wife (and children, if any). The marriage was not recognized in French law.
After het marriage, Madame the Maintenon was referred to as just 'Madame'.
The marriage was, however, recognized by the Church, which was very important for the Sun King. In his old age he became very religious and afraid of going to hell (he was 46, considered old at that time). He would live for another 32 years though. He staid married, and presumably faithful, to Madame de Maintenon until his dead in 1715. The couple had no children, which was no surprise since Francoise was already 49 when the marriage took place.
After the death of the King, Madame de Maintenon retired at Saint-Cy, the school for poor, but noble girls which she founded. She did not retire at the Chateau de Maintenon as she intended.