WCW: Madame de Montespan

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Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart, Marquise of Montespan was the most glamorous of King Louis XIV’s many mistresses and his official maitresse en titre for a number of years. She was noble herself and married with two children when she caught Louis’s eye. She was with the king from about 1666 to 1691 and the two had seven children together (it’s from this line that the cadet house of Orléans descends). Her downfall was the legendary “affair of the poisons” — in which a number of courtiers, including Montespan herself, were accused of poisoning a number of other courtiers. Montespan was exiled and ended her life well cared for in a convent.

We could still TOTALLY use a good biopic about Montespan, but she has been on screen a number of times:

 

Si Versailles M’Etait Conté (1954)

Played by Claudette Colbert in this collection of vignettes set at the palace of Versailles.

1954 Si Versailles m'était conté1 1954 Si Versailles m'était conté1

 

L’Affaire des Poisons (1955)

A French film about the affair of the poisons. She was played by Danielle Darrieux (the elderly Madame de Rosemonde from Dangerous Liaisons! Okay and many many French movies).

1955 L'Affaire des poisons 1955 L'Affaire des poisons

 

Angélique et le Roy (1966)

Played by Estella Blain and bouffanted up in this sequel to Angélique Marquise des Anges.

1966 Angélique et le Roy

So much polyester curtain fabric!

1966 Angélique et le Roy

I like how the bows give her a Nellie Olsen touch.

 

L’Affaire des Poisons (1977)

A French TV movie, with Dominique Blanchar as an older Montespan.

1977 L'affaire des poisons

 

L’Allée du Roi (1996)

Sarah loved her character (played by Valentine Varela) in this story of her successor, Madame de Maintenon.

L'Allée du Roi 1996 L'Allée du Roi 1996

 

Vatel (2000)

Apparently she (Marine Delterme) has a small role in this, but I blocked it out because I hate Gerard Depardieu that much.

2000 Vatel

Don’t panic, this is a behind-the-scenes shot.

2000 Vatel

 

Le Roi Soleil (2005)

Okay, so this was a musical theater production, but I am totally amused by the Bollywood costuming so needed to include it. That’s Lysa Ansaldi as Montespan.

2005 Le roi Soleil

 

A Little Chaos (2014)

Jennifer Ehle as Montespan — and her gaposis — was probably my favorite thing about this film!

Jennifer Ehle, A Little Chaos (2014)

 

Versailles (2015- )

As someone who only made it through the first few episodes of this TV series, I am constantly getting photos of Montespan (Anna Brewster) confused with the queen.

Versailles (2015- ) Versailles (2015- )

Ha, she was in the The Tudors!

Snark Week meme triceratops

 

Coming Up

Still crossing my fingers that The Marquis gets made! Ohpleaseohplease!

 

Who’s your favorite Montespan?

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About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

20 Responses

  1. Elizabeth Mahon

    I have an author friend who is dying to write a novel about Montespan but she keeps getting told by the gatekeepers of publishing that no one knows who she is.

    Reply
    • Tiffani Angus

      Your friend needs to write that book! 1) The ‘gatekeepers of publishing’ are sometimes wrong, and 2) it’s through novels that so many people get turned on to real history.

      Reply
    • LadySlippers

      What Tiffani said!!!

      Please encourage her to follow her dreams and her gut. 🌷

      Reply
  2. picasso Manu

    L’Allée du roi was the best one, in my opinion, and even if she wasn’t the lead, Athenais had decent screen time. And “Si Versailles m’était conté” is even more fun when you know Sacha Guitry was both giving work and slightly getting even with all his exes… And there were a LOT of exes!

    Reply
  3. Northcountrygal

    Just for historical accuracy: the Orleanist line in the French royal family originates with Louis XIII’s younger son, Philippe, Duke of Orléans, the famous (and homosexual) Monsieur, not with Madame de Montespan

    Reply
        • Janet Nickerson

          Louis XIV had the youngest of his illegitimate daughters by Montespan marry his Orleans nephew. When the betrothal was announced, the duchess d’Orleans, Liselotte, was so annoyed that she all but turned her back on Louis and later slapped her son across his face in view of the court. Two other illegitimate daughters married into cadet branches of the House of Bourbon. There have been a couple of bios of Montespan; see ‘Love & Louis XIV’ by Antonia Fraser and ‘Athenais’ by Lisa Hilton.

          Reply
          • Lexy

            I confirm that: Mme de Montespan’s daughter married Philippe of Orleans’s son, her cousin; and their daughter married the duke of Berry, Louis XIV’s third legitimate grandson by the Grand Dauphin ( though it was an awful wedded life, she… Had issues.)

            Reply
  4. M.E. Lawrence

    A touch O.T. but REALLY?! “She was played by Danielle Darrieux (the elderly Madame de Rosemonde from Dangerous Liaisons).”

    Ahem. Danielle Darrieux was a top French film star from the ’30s throughout the last century. She was also the heroine of my favorite French film “The Earrings of Mme. de…” (Ophuls’s greatest, and one I watch at least once a decade. It’s like reading Colette: I always notice and learn something new.) Darrieux is more than worthy of a WCW. She worked her way from sexy-young-thing to great tragic actress. She’s also the greatest looking 90-year-old ever: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Earrings_of_Madame_de%E2%80%A6

    Reply
  5. Jeff Faulk

    I enjoyed Versailles (the show) personally. First season was better than the second though, and Georges Blaghden (I think that’s his name) is still too much of a modern-day pretty boy version of Louis for me to take him seriously. Needs a bit of flab. Philippe is awesome, though. Completely worth watching for him.

    Honestly Montespan doesn’t get treated very well by the end of the second season though, but that’s what happens when one is playing fast and loose with history for the sake of drama…

    Reply
    • ekolint48

      The second season of that show had me seriously questioning whether they had changed some of the writing staff. They were so quick to kill off too many interesting characters and I am very ambivalent about going into another season of the program.

      Reply
  6. themodernmantuamaker

    I was transfixed by Jennifer Ehle’s Montespan – like, does she just not age or something!? She was utterly exquisite!

    Reply
  7. Lexy

    I realize that of course she is never shown as she was IRL, aka chubby which after 11 pregnancies and a taste for sweet food turned into BBW ( Liselotte of Orleans once said at this time “Finally we look like each other!”); she even invented the lounge Levite dress to be more confortable ( and to hide her early pregnancies, hence the other name: Robe à l’Innocente)

    Reply

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