Madame de Maintenon
Wife of Louis XIV
Francoise d’Aubigne Maintenon was born at Niort, November 27, 1635, and died at St. Cyr, April 15 1719. Her birthplace was a prison, Chateau Trompette, where her father, Constant d’Aubigne, Baron of Surimeau, was confined for having killed his wife and her lover, whom he caught in the very act of adultery.
The mother of Francoise was the daughter of the governor of the prison, whom d’Aubigne had persuaded to marry him secretly. In 1639 he was discharged from prison, and with his wife and children emigrated to Martinique, where he died in the utmost poverty. His widow returned to France, and was soon followed by her daughter, who, after many diverse changes and much suffering from poverty and ill treatment on the part of her relatives, found herself, at the age of fifteen, in Paris, an inmate, in a dependent and almost menial position, of the house of her godmother, the Countess de Neuillant.
The comic poet Scarron, who was a paralytic and a cripple, lived in the same street with the Countess de Neuillant, became interested in the young, beautiful, and intelligent girl, whose adventures had been related to him and furnished money to enable her to enter a convent, which poverty had before prevented her from doing. Francoise called to thank her benefactor, and at their first interview he proposed to her to become his wife. After a week’s deliberation she consented, and they were married in 1651. She was at this time exceedingly beautiful, graceful, and witty, and the house of Scarron soon became the resort of the most brilliant intellects of Paris. Scarron died October 14, 1660, leaving his young widow nearly penniless, his pension ceasing at his death.
In 1669 she became governess to the children of Louis XIV by Madame de Montespan, much to the dissatisfaction of the king. His first impression of the young woman was not a good one. At first did not like the extreme gravity and reserve of the young widow. And was not at all pleased to have her as the governess of his children.
The opinion of the king was soon to change. Francoise’s talents and wisdom, soon attracted Louis’ attention, and she became his confidant and adviser, was made marchioness. She then took the name of Maintenon from an estate. The king wanted her for his mistress, but she resolutely refused him. Since she would not submit to his request to be his mistress, she became his wife by a secret marriage in 1683. From this time until his death, Louis was greatly under her influence. After the death of Louis, she retired to the convent of St. Cyr.