Madame de Maintenon is born as Françoise d'Aubigné in 1635.
She is the last mistress of Louis XIV. The couple stays together for at least 32 years, from around 1678 until Louis dies in 1715. In 1683 Françoise becomes, secretly, his second wife. She does not become Queen of France, everyone keeps calling her Madame de Maintenon.
Born into a poor family, Françoise becomes an orphan at age sixteen. Her aunt who is taking care of her want to get rid of her quickly, and she knows a place for her. At the age of seventeen, Françoise gets married to the forty-two-year-old poet Paul Scarron. She prefers taking care of the crippled writer over going to a convent. Scarron dies in 1660, leaving her a widow with no kids and huge depths at the age of twenty-five.
In the years to follow, Françoise receives Scarron's pension paid by Anne of Austria, the queen-mother. This enables her to circle the highest levels of Parisian society and make important friends.
In 1669 she is offered a position as governess to the illegitimate children of Louis XIV and his mistress of the time, Madame the Montespan. Madame the Montespan is a friend of Françoise and recommends her to the King.
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The at that time illegitimate children of the Sun King live in a secret house in Paris together with Françoise. Louis XIV visits his children there now and then. Here is where they first meet. Initially, Louis does not like Francoise very much, but over time this changes.
In 1673, Montespan's children are legitimised by the king. As a result, the kids can now move to live at court, first at Saint-Germain and later at Versailles. Françoise moves with them.
A year later Françoise has made so much money she is able to buy the Château de Maintenon. The large income she receives for taking care of the royal children made this possible.
She planned to move there in retirement when she would grow older. She never got there.
In 1678 the King gives her the title Marquise de Maintenon, after her estate. This is very convenient because in this period she becomes his mistress. A mistress needs to have some standing to get presented at court and allowed near the king. In this period, Madame the Montespan also still lives at Versailles. As it is getting awkward for Françoise to take care of the children of what is now her rival, she is appointed lady-in-waiting to the wife of the dauphin.
It takes another 3 Years for Madame the Montespan to leave court. Around 1680, she finally gives way to her former friend. Françoise becomes the official new mistress of the Sun King.
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Madame De Maintenon: The Secret Wife of Louis XIV By Veronica Buckley
Louis XIV and Madame de Maintenon are secretly married. There is some debate over the exact date, could be October 1683 or April or May 1697.
The marriage was a so-called morganatic marriage, a practice that was used frequently by royalty.
It meant that the Husband’s title and privileges can not be inherited by the wife (and children, if any). The marriage was not recognized in French law and Françoise would never become the official new Queen of France.
After the marriage, Madame the Maintenon was referred to as just 'Madame'.
However, the marriage was recognized by the Church, which is very important for the Sun King. In his old age, Louis becomes very religious and he is afraid of going to hell. He is 46, considered old at that time, and has lived a promiscuous life up until then. Little did he know he would live for another 32 years! He stays married and presumably, faithful to Madame de Maintenon until he dies in 1715. The couple has no children, which is no surprise since Francoise was already 49 when the marriage took place.
Proof of the status update of Madame de Maintenon was the move sometime after the ceremony. According to Saint Simon in his memoires: "...she astonished everybody by the apartments given to her at Versailles, at the top of the grand staircase facing those of the Kind and on the same floor. From that moment the king always passed some hours with her every day of his life; wherever she might be she was always lodged near him, and on the same floor if possible."
After the death of the King, Madame de Maintenon retires at Maison Royale de Saint-Louis in Saint-Cyr, the school for poor noble girls which she founded in 1684. When she dies on 15 April 1719 she is buried in the school chapel.
She never retires at the Chateau de Maintenon as she intended. She bequeaths this estate to her nice Françoise Charlotte d'Aubigné, the only child of her brother.