Louis XIV, the so-called “Sun King,” had no shortage of mistresses…but none were as fascinating, or as scandalous, as the one known as Madame de Montespan. From her ruthless climb to the top to her reign as the “False Queen of France”—and all the way to her disturbing downfall, the beautiful Madame de Montespan’s story has it all.
1. She Was Born Into Privilege
We’ll call her Madame de Montespan, but she was born Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart. The descendant of one of France’s most powerful families, her father was a prince and her mother was a lady-in-waiting to the Queen. It’s no wonder that she would later think of herself as the true Queen of France. After all, she had the pedigree for it—but she wasn’t the only one.
2. Her Sister Did It First
While the young Françoise was away at the Convent of Saint Mary getting an education in all things holy, her older sister Gabrielle was getting a different kind of education altogether. Gabrielle, by then a fixture in the French court, had married well—but her directness had enchanted King Louis XIV, and the two began an affair.
That’s right, Madame de Montespan’s older sister had beat her to the punch. But hey, this kind of thing ran in the family.
3. Her Father Betrayed Them
When Françoise and her siblings were growing up, her father had a number of affairs with notorious courtesans. His wife begrudgingly accepted his infidelity—until one day, when he finally went too far. He all but left his wife for his very-much married mistress, and the two lived together openly for the next two decades.
This heartbreak left Françoise’s mother bereft—and the young girl took it to heart as well. Watching her mother mourn the loss of her husband deeply influenced her, and would come back to haunt her later in life.
4. She Walked Into A Disaster
Françoise officially entered the French court at the age of 20, where she was maid-of-honor to the king’s sister-in-law, Princess Henrietta Anne, who everyone called Madame. Well, when she walked into that role, she got way more than she bargained for. The king’s brother Philippe, who people referred to as Monsieur, was known for his gay affairs. In fact, he’d often flaunt them in front of his long-suffering wife.
Françoise was stuck in an awkward position, to say the least. But oh, it would get so much worse.
5. She Got In The Middle
She may have worked for Madame, but Françoise enchanted Monsieur with her charm and wit. When the couple quarreled, Françoise stepped outside of her role and actually took his side—but that’s not all she did. Many believe that she also had a brief affair with the king’s brother. See what I meant when I said two can play at that game?
Even though Madame was used to her husband having affairs, Françoise’s betrayal devastated her. Françoise, on the other hand, was already moving on—and moving up.
6. She Had Her First Love
Françoise’s father was in dire straits financially after living it up with his mistress and paying for his oldest daughter Gabrielle’s dowry. As a result, Françoise’s prospects for marriage weren’t exactly as golden as her prestigious last name should’ve guaranteed. Regardless, one suitor caught her eye—the Marquis de Noirmoutier. Françoise fell hard, but sadly, her first heartbreak was on its way.
7. She Lost Both Prospects
Françoise’s father much preferred the Marquis d’Antin for his daughter’s hand. Sadly, this family conflict would be settled in one bloody and brutal instant. Both Marquis became involved in a duel gone wrong, even though the king had outlawed the practice. When the dust settled, the Marquis d’Antin was dead, but that’s not all.
Louis XIV had decreed that the survivors of the botched duel would face execution, and so the Marquis de Noirmoutier fled the country, never to return. Françoise was alone again—but not for long.
8. She Found Comfort Elsewhere
Françoise mourned the loss of her prospective fiancé—well, both prospective fiancés, really. When the Marquis de Montespan, the younger brother of the Marquis d’Antin, came to visit her, they bonded over the tragedy. In fact, they bonded a little too hard, and the Marquis de Montespan fell head over heels for Françoise.
Considering how much writing exists out there about how beautiful and charming she was, it’s not surprising—but something else definitely was.
9. They Rushed Into It
The families of Françoise and the Marquis de Montespan drew up a marriage contract and signed it on the same day. Exactly one week after the death of Françoise’s last fiancé. Yup, she and everyone else moved on very quickly. Perhaps a little too quickly—and there might have been a desperately scandalous reason behind it. Nine months after they’d all signed the contract, Françoise gave birth to her first child.
To some historians, this close timing was a little suspicious. However, it’s also unlikely that anyone would’ve known she was pregnant. As such, it wasn’t a public scandal—but oh, there would be plenty of time for those in her future.
10. The Honeymoon Period Was Brief
After her quickie marriage, Françoise became the Marquise de Montespan. At first, it seemed like the union was built on love as much as financial considerations—but quickly, the cracks began to show. The Marquis loved spending, even though the couple didn’t have a lot of money. On top of that, his family had a black sheep uncle. The disgrace was so bad that the court had barred the whole family from royal events.
Without her husband to watch over her, Madame de Montespan had all the opportunity in the world to get into trouble.
11. He Wanted To Live Decadently
What was Louis XIV’s court like? Well, it had been something of a work in progress up until his reign. His grandfather’s court had been rough, and his father’s had been remarkably dull. In contrast, Louis XIV wanted his to be filled with fun, vivacious courtiers and beauty in all forms—and not just art, decoration, and dress. He wanted beautiful people, too. Unfortunately, his wife was not exactly up for the job.
12. He Had A Wandering Eye
Louis XIV’s wife Maria Theresa was a great political fit, but she wasn’t exactly a looker. On top of that, she didn’t have the wit to keep up with the charming courtiers Louis had filled his court with, and their clever jokes sailed right over her head. So, much like the men who’d come before him, Louis XIV had many affairs with a series of women, each more beautiful and charismatic than the last.
In that sense, Françoise was the perfect fit. But there was also the fact of her marriage—and that her husband desperately wanted to join her in court.
13. Her Husband Sucked
The Marquis de Montespan was willing to do anything to get back in the king’s good graces—and this included begging, borrowing, and maybe even stealing. See, the king’s military was a pay-to-play operation. Montespan was supposed to pay to bring his own forces and equipment to battle. He put himself and Madame de Montespan into great debt to do so, but it was all for nothing.
The battle he wanted to fight for the king was over before it began, and they were out the money he’d borrowed to participate. If Madame de Montespan had a problem with any of this, she was too busy to show it.
14. She Tried To Make It Work
Madame de Montespan faced major problems in her marriage, but there was one bright spot. As mentioned earlier, she became pregnant nearly immediately. Although childbirth was risky business in those days, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl. Things should have been blissful, but while Madame de Montespan seemed tranquil on the surface, she was paddling furiously underwater to stay afloat.
15. She Desperately Needed The Work
When she tied the knot, Madame de Montespan automatically lost her position as maid-of-honor to the king’s sister-in-law. After all, it’s maid, not matron. With her husband’s spending problem, she desperately needed to score another court position—and she had her sights set high. Queen Maria Theresa needed ladies-in-waiting, and there was room for two marquesses.
The position came with money and housing, and Madame de Montespan would stop at nothing to make sure that she got the job.
16. She Wanted The Spotlight
Madame de Montespan used her favor with the king’s brother to get in the door and landed the job as the queen’s lady-in-waiting. Her sense of victory was tragically brief. This position brought her closer to an old friend, Louise de la Vallière, who had become the king’s chief mistress. When de Montespan observed just how lavishly her friend was living, she was green with envy.
De Montespan had an already-legendary wit and beauty, but where had it gotten her? Shuffling behind the oft-ignored queen, with a shiftless husband. She was miserable about it.
17. She Played The Long Game
With her good looks and charm, Madame de Montespan could’ve easily hopped into bed with the notoriously lustful King Louis XIV. But she wasn’t just in it for the sex. No, she wanted a lot more than that—and she knew that patience would be the name of the game. So, she remained at a distance. In the meantime, she got pregnant and gave birth to a son, Louis Antoine.
Throughout the next two years, Madame de Montespan appeared modest and unassuming—but really, she was waiting to make her next, cunning move.
18. Their Lives Changed Drastically
Madame de Montespan and Louis XIV’s mothers died within weeks of each other in 1666. Both mourned in their own way—but the tragedies also caused a series of dramatic changes. Madame de Montespan found herself more unmoored from her family and husband than ever, whereas Louis found a new sense of freedom.
His mother had always disapproved of his infidelity, but with her gone, he was able to publicly flaunt his affair with Louise de la Vallière. However, this newfound freedom came with some unexpected side effects.
19. He Rejected Her
It turns out that the clandestine nature of their affair had been the spice keeping Louis XIV’s relationship with Louise de la Vallière afloat. Now that she could attend events with him, it was clear that Louise wasn’t as charming or clever as some of the other ladies in the court…like, say, Madame de Montespan. As she upped the flirting ante, Louis noticed. However, his reaction was cold as ice.
The king wrote about Madame de Montespan, “She does what she can, but I don’t want her.” Ouch. But then again, maybe he was overcompensating…
20. She Had Great Timing
Louise de la Vallière suspected that her old friend Madame de Montespan had set her sights on the king, but she was comfortable in her position and didn’t worry about anyone supplanting his affections. It was a fatal mistake. In late 1666, both the queen and Louise de la Vallière were pregnant at the same time. The king found himself a little lonely…and who was there to entertain him but Madame de Montespan.
Everything was going according to her plan—but she was about to face an unexpected hiccup.
21. She Froze
Madame de Montespan knew that Louis XIV wanted her, and she had to wait until the right moment to give in to his advances—but her reaction to her own success was stunning. Out of nowhere, de Montespan completely balked. It was as if the realization of the serious situation she was getting herself into finally overwhelmed her.
De Montespan begged her husband to take her to their country estate, but in a classic show of disinterest, he declined. It would be a decision he’d come to regret.
22. She Was Up To The Challenge
Louis XIV longed to go into battle—but he also couldn’t be without his creature comforts. For that reason, he often took the most spirited ladies from the court along with him for the journey, so he wouldn’t get too bored on the road. On one such journey, Madame de Montespan joined the king, and the queen met them partway through the journey.
Sensing that she was losing her grip on the king, Louise de la Vallière unexpectedly showed up as well. Her plan completely backfired, and Louis XIV was furious. Madame de Montespan, of course, used this to her advantage.
23. They Sealed The Deal
It was during this trip that Madame de Montespan and Louis XIV finally went from friends to lovers. They still had to hide their relationship from both the queen and de la Vallière. The combination of the trysts and the secrecy surrounding them, ahem, “invigorated” the king. He went on to a legendary series of military successes over the trip that continued throughout the next decade. But that’s not the only thing he got up to…
24. She Knew How To Satisfy
As mentioned before, Louis XIV was notoriously libidinous. Well, he’d more than met his match with Madame de Montespan. Courtiers said that they did the deed at least three times each day and that sometimes the king wouldn’t even wait until her entourage left the room to get things started. Their relationship was an open secret in the court. Still, they kept it hidden from the queen—or at least, they tried to.
25. Someone Told On Them
In late 1667, the queen received an anonymous letter—and its contents were shocking. It exposed the affair between her lady-in-waiting, Madame de Montespan, and her husband Louis XIV. De Montespan and one of her friends claimed it wasn’t true. Somehow, it worked, and the queen even said that she wouldn’t let anyone turn her against two such loyal women. Oh, honey…yikes.
26. He Had High Expectations
Madame de Montespan and Louis XIV were certainly passionate—but there was a devastating dark side to his ardor. Louis expected that his women have boundless energy both in and out of the bedroom, and never wanted to hear a complaint from them. When they escorted him while traveling, this meant no bathroom breaks and little sleep.
When they were pregnant, he didn’t want to hear any complaints about the physical pain and expected them to bounce back to regular life within hours of giving birth. Madame de Montespan was young and up to the challenge—but that kind of blind obedience can’t last forever.
27. They Partied Hard
Madame de Montespan was game to go along with the king’s high energy, even higher libido, and love of the finer things in life, be that in the form of food, dancing, or parties. In return, he showered her with gifts and threw lavish balls, races, and ballets in her honor. But still, Louise de la Vallière remained the “official” chief mistress. De Montespan began to wonder if their union would last.
28. He Showed Who He Loved
He may not have given her a title—yet—but the king showed his devotion to Madame de Montespan in other ways. When he built up Versailles to make it the seat of his power in France, he made sure her apartments had 20 rooms. In comparison, his poor wife had only 11. He also constructed the Trianon for her, a beautiful pavilion covered in porcelain tiles, surrounded by fragrant trees.
This wasn’t exactly the discreet behavior they’d exhibited before, and there was one factor they’d failed to account for.
29. She Was Still Married
Sure, they had the dim-witted queen fooled, but had they completely forgotten the fact that Madame de Montespan was married? Well, it was almost more like her husband had forgotten her. He was still off wasting his money in petty battles at the Spanish border. To keep him there and keep him complacent, the king made sure to lavish him with praise for his efforts.
Somehow, this ruse worked…at first.
30. He Knocked Her Up
Madame de Montespan had been able to effortlessly hide her affair from her husband—but in the autumn of 1668, disaster struck. She was pregnant, and due to her husband’s very infrequent visits to Paris, there was no way to hide the fact that it wasn’t his child. Her friends reported that her anxiety took over, and she appeared pale and bedraggled.
Louis helped her hide the pregnancy and have a secret birth—but they couldn’t keep what was happening hidden forever.
31. Her Family Okayed It
Madame de Montespan could no longer conceal her affair with the king. When her family and in-laws found out, their reaction was hilarious. Both her father and father-in-law apparently celebrated it, knowing that being the king’s mistress was a profitable position. However, she didn’t quite have the same luck when it came to her husband.
The Marquis de Montespan wasn’t going to take it sitting down. He wanted a scandal.
32. He Tried To Ruin Everything
Madame de Montespan’s husband showed up at any Parisian high society event he could find and would tell anyone who would listen what a scoundrel the king was. There was just one problem—no one cared. At that point, they all knew that Louis XIV had a bevy of mistresses. What was another one, let alone one who was married to such a bore?
His plan backfired, but that didn’t mean that he stopped trying to ruin things for them.
33. He Went After Her
In the weeks that followed, Madame de Montespan was the victim of multiple attacks from her husband. At first, it was just verbal, until it escalated into physical abuse—but then it got even more disturbing. The Marquis began frequenting brothels, saying he hoped to get syphilis so he could pass it on to the king through his wife.
At first, the king hung back—but finally, he stepped in to protect the woman he loved.
34. She Was Finally Free
Louis XIV had Madame de Montespan’s husband sent to prison for a week for questioning his authority. Once the man cooled down, the king banished him to his country estate. Still, it came with a heartbreaking sacrifice. The Marquis took Madame de Montespan’s three-year-old son with him when he left, and she wouldn’t see him again for another nine years. And the theatrics didn’t stop there.
35. She Was Dead…To Him
When the Marquis de Montespan returned home, he dressed his carriage all in black. When people asked him about the style update, he snapped that he was mourning his wife, who “disappeared.” He then held a mock funeral for her on their family lands, complete with a dummy he dressed in her clothing and buried. His mourning carriage was adorned with huge horns to symbolize his cuckoldry by the king.
Based on this behavior alone, I’d say Madame de Montespan chose the right man when she stuck with the king.
36. She Didn’t Want To Be Second Fiddle
Even after all that, Louise de la Vallière remained the king's chief mistress. Madame de Montespan was tired of the regular schemes and ministrations to keep the king’s attention. One day, while with a friend, they decided to consult some “sorcerors”—a surprisingly common practice for court ladies. The woman they visited, Mariette, said some words over Madame de Montespan’s head and sent her away with a mysterious powder.
37. She Charmed Him—Literally
The powder was likely an innocent aphrodisiac, which Louis XIV’s doctor certainly knew when he helped Madame de Montespan out by administering it to the king. Madame de Montespan didn’t know it at the time, but later on, it would set off a chain of events that would spell her eventual downfall. For now, it was just one part of her plan to finally rid the court of de la Vallière.
38. She Tried To Get Out Of It
Another part of her plan to elevate her position involved finally ridding herself of her husband. Madame de Montespan asked for a separation, citing cruelty, and demanded her dowry. Since the Marquis had already misused the money instead, she had the upper hand. It took years to even reach the courts, but it was a definitive move in the right direction.
39. She Made Enemies
Madame de Montespan had a number of allies within the court—but as the years wore on, she also began to gather enemies. One in particular was an old friend, the Comte de Lauzun. Even though he’d once helped her during one of her secret pregnancies, she’d turned on him when the opportunity arose for him to marry the king’s cousin.
Heartbroken, he vowed revenge—and he had his sights set on Madame de Montespan.
40. He Turned On Her
Lauzun threatened her whenever he could until it finally reached a point where she told the king she feared for her life. When Louis XIV asked Lauzun why, his answer was jaw-dropping. Not only did he tell Louis that Madame de Montespan had slept with the king’s brother so many years ago, but he also claimed to have slept with her as well.
The plan backfired completely. The king sent Lauzun away for ten years. Regardless, for Madame de Montespan, the trauma was lasting, and she grew more and more paranoid.
41. She Had To Send Them Away
One of the duties that came with being Louis XIV’s unofficial mistress was hiding those inevitable pregnancies and the products of them. However, it’s not as sinister as it seems. Madame de Montespan had a total of seven children with the king, but because of her complicated marital situation, she couldn’t raise them herself.
Instead, she entrusted them to a loyal and pious old friend, a widow named Madame Scarron, who raised them. You know what they say about keeping your enemies closer? Well, Madame de Montespan was doing just that—but she just didn’t know it yet.
42. He Recognized Her Children
Both Madame de Montespan and Louis XIV visited the children when they could without raising suspicion—but in 1673, the King decided to attempt a daring maneuver. He wanted to show his dedication to Madame de Montespan by legitimizing his children with her. However, this had never been done before without naming the mother. He found a workaround, of course—he was the king, after all.
Between this and the fact that Louise de la Vallière was finally planning to leave the court, Madame de Montespan was one step closer to her goal of being chief mistress.
43. She Finally Left Him
Finally, the other shoe dropped. The court granted Madame de Montespan a separation from her husband in 1674. Freed of that unpleasant situation and the haunting presence of de la Vallière, she was finally exactly where she wanted to be. The next years were full of unbridled joy for both de Montespan and Louis XIV. But unfortunately, such bliss is often short-lived…
44. She Was A Perfect Match
In these years, Louis XIV was all about glory. Particularly, about glorifying himself. Everything he did reflected that, as did Madame de Montespan herself. Of course he wanted her. She was the best-looking, the wittiest, and came from the most prestigious family. Her material possessions had to match this glory—and so, she gained the nickname “Quanto,” as in “How much?”
This owed to her predilection for spending. But she also used this to outsmart her own king.
45. She Knew How To Manipulate Him
Madame de Montespan knew that Louis XIV had a weird thing about jewels, so while she would accept gifts from him, she never asked for jewelry, and would instead borrow jewels to wear for events. This pleased the king to no end…and resulted in him showering her with bigger jewels than he’d ever given his own wife. Clever girl! Of course, she could also show her greedy side…
46. She Got What She Wanted
When he finally made her his chief mistress, Louis XIV offered to build Madame de Montespan another hideaway like the Trianon at Versailles. Instead, she demanded an entire chateau. It wound up costing 2 million livres. She also expected prestigious appointments for all her family members—even though they were basically being paid off in exchange for her “virtue,” as it was.
She had no issue throwing tantrums and demanding results when she didn’t get her way. It’s no wonder that people began to think of her as the true queen of France.
47. She Could Only Do So Much
However, despite the proliferation of that title, it’s something of a historical fallacy. Madame de Montespan had basically no political influence over Louis. Sure, she stacked the court with friends and family, but that was about as far as the king let it go. With that said, she was becoming almost as famous as the king and queen—and as the story of her love with Louis XIV spread beyond the court, she witnessed fame’s dark side.
48. She Had A Strange Strategy
Madame de Montespan deliberately filled her staff with “virtuous” and/or “homely” ladies to keep Louis XIV’s eyes on herself. However, there was an unexpected side effect to this. Madame Scarron, the governess who cared for the king’s children with Madame de Montespan, was the polar opposite of the ultra-dramatic chief mistress. Louis valued her so much that he gave her the title of Marquise de Maintenon.
She was calm, pious, and smart in a more intellectual way than her counterpart. Was that just what Louis was looking for? Only time would tell.
49. She Fought With A Rival
Tempers occasionally flared between de Montespan and de Maintenon, but they tried to keep things copacetic when they could. However, de Maintenon was hiding something from de Montespan. She thought that the way they’d carried on their affair was sinful, and she wanted to save the king’s soul. When de Montespan wasn’t looking, de Maintenon was building a retinue of allies—including one very powerful bishop.
50. They Turned On Her
Despite the fact that her situation surely went against a variety of Catholic teachings, Madame de Montespan remained devout—which made the betrayal at Versailles all the more heartbreaking. On Easter of 1675, she went to confession, only to be refused by the priest and then in turn by his superior. They both cited her “scandals” as the reason.
When she turned to Louis, he asked someone higher-up for help. It backfired spectacularly.
51. They Broke Them Up
The aforementioned bishop—friends with Madame de Maintenon—castigated the king for his affair. Surprisingly, his words had a serious effect, and the king agreed to break it off. When Madame de Montespan heard what happened, she locked herself in her room for two days straight. She’d now seen how easy it was for him to be convinced to leave her—and she began to panic.
52. He Broke Her Heart
Madame de Montespan took an extended leave from the court and from her position as chief mistress, hoping the king would come begging for her. The bishop continued to plead with him not to. In the meantime, Queen Maria Theresa, who had stopped seeing de Montespan after the affair became “official,” came calling on her, hoping to be friends now that the affair was over.
It really did seem like it was a done deal—but Madame de Montespan wasn’t ready to give up what she’d fought so hard for yet.
53. He Couldn’t Stay Away
It was an entire year before Madame de Montespan saw Louis XIV again—but at first, he just avoided being alone with her. Heartbroken, she went to a retreat in Bourbon while he was away. When they both returned to Paris at the same time, his reaction shocked the entire court. At a ball held by his wife, he ran across the floor to greet Madame de Montespan when she entered the room.
Absence does make the heart grow fonder, after all…
54. She Won Him Back
This dramatic reunion wasn’t over yet. Louis XIV was still holding onto his vow to remain faithful to his marriage, so a group of witnesses followed him to Versailles when he went to visit de Montespan. It was her last chance to win him back, so she came up with a plan. So she deployed a weapon she’d always kept holstered before: She cried in front of him.
Within minutes, they were bowing to the witnesses and heading to her bedroom.
54. She Defied The Odds
The queen wept. Madame de Maintenon was mad at the bishop who’d fumbled the situation. And Madame de Montespan and Louis XIV? They were more in love than ever. The next two years went as the happy ones previously had gone. Life was filled with parties, food, wine, and three bedroom sessions together a day. But the king’s appetite was harder to keep up with as the years went on.
55. He Strayed
Madame de Montespan spent years as Louis XIV’s main mistress—but they were hiding a dark secret behind bedroom doors. Even when Louis XIV had two mistresses at a time, it still wasn’t enough. According to courtiers, he would often finish his “encounter” with Madame de Montespan, only to then take one of her ladies-in-waiting while she got dressed again. The man seriously had an appetite.
56. She Should’ve Known Better
Occasionally, much to Madame de Montespan’s chagrin, these dalliances would turn into full-blown affairs. One such romance nearly threatened her position, until Louis XIV tired of the woman and cut her off completely. If Madame de Montespan was just a bit smarter, she would’ve seen it as a huge red flag for what was to come…
57. She Was Manipulating Her
One New Year’s Day, Madame de Montespan received a beautiful gift, ostensibly from her son. But there was a hidden meaning behind it. It was a book of letters to her, which his governess, Madame de Maintenon, had bound. But really, the letters emphasized his connection to de Maintenon and his devotion to his father, who most definitely read it.
It was a way for Madame de Maintenon to worm her way between the king and his chief mistress—and it certainly wasn’t the only one.
58. She Didn’t See It Coming
Madame de Montespan knew that de Maintenon was her biggest threat—so when a beautiful young woman named Marie Angélique de Scorailles came to court, she completely discounted her appeal. She even pushed the king toward her, hoping to distract from their governess. Big mistake. Soon enough, Louis was sneaking off to sleep with Marie Angélique.
When Madame de Montespan found out, she threw tantrums and yelled at the king. Even bigger mistake. He had no patience for it, and it drove a wedge between them.
59. She Was Worn Down
The decadent lifestyle at court had gotten to Madame de Montespan. So had the nine pregnancies she’d gone through in her life. She was no longer the sprightly young thing Louis XIV had fallen for, and now she had to deal with Marie Angélique taking her place in his heart. There’s even a story about her “accidentally” releasing her pet bears into the apartments Louis XIV had given Marie Angélique.
At this point, de Maintenon was the king’s dear friend. Marie Angélique ruled his bedroom. And Madame de Montespan remained his official mistress. But only one could walk away as victor…
60. She Outlasted Her
Passion isn’t love, and its fleeting nature made Marie Angélique its victim eventually. The king tired of her, but she wasn’t willing to accept it. A difficult pregnancy had made her ill, and someone—or, maybe Marie Angélique herself—began to spread rumors that someone was trying to poison her. It seemed preposterous…until tragedy struck. She died soon after, at the age of 20.
The gossip about potential poison intrigue seemed much more interesting than the ruling by a coroner that natural causes had taken her life. Madame de Montespan was down one rival—but up one scandal.
61. People Turned On Each Other
Poison was the subject of the day at the French court, as one of their own had recently been executed for giving poison to her family. Just like the Salem witch trials, people began accusing anyone and everyone of poison plots. People accused one of the king’s old lovers, Olympe Mancini, of poisoning a number of courtiers. Many thought that she’d threatened to poison Louis XIV himself, saying “come back to me, or you will be sorry.”
She avoided any trouble by fleeing France—but her story was just the beginning of the “Affaire des Poisons.”
62. They Never Forgot Her
Remember that little incident where Madame de Montespan purchased an aphrodisiac from a “sorcerer”? It had actually gone to court back in 1668 before she was even chief mistress. However, officials close to her had kept her name out of everything. Well, years later, it came back to haunt her. Just because she’d never been formally implicated didn’t mean that people hadn’t whispered about her involvement.
When Parisian investigators began detaining those they suspected of selling poisons and performing black magic, they began to spill names—and one kept coming up: Madame de Montespan.
63. He Tried To Save Her
She wasn’t the only though, as they implicated many important members of the king’s court. It humiliated Louis XIV and imperiled his power and legacy. One of the collaborators of the woman who’d originally sold de Montespan an aphrodisiac was named Lesage. At first, he implicated her sister. Louis tried to hide their involvement—but it was a losing battle.
64. He Said Horrible Things
Finally, Lesage spoke out against Madame de Montespan—and the accusations were truly disturbing. He said that he’d collaborated with the most notorious poison dealer in the city, La Voisin, and claimed that de Montespan had come to them for help. First, she wanted to get rid of Louise de la Vallière, her old rival. Then, he said that La Voisin had plotted to use de Montespan’s proximity to the king to send a poison letter to him. And it didn’t stop there.
65. The Stories Were Jaw-Dropping
Other witnesses claimed that Madame de Montespan used black magic to keep the king’s love. There were tales about praying to the devil and a black mass performed by a priest over de Montespan’s naked body. Somehow, that wasn’t even the craziest story. One claimed that de Montespan and La Voisin had been sacrificing babies and putting their remains in Louis XIV’s food for over a decade. Yikes.
These were obviously quite far-fetched—but one disturbing story stuck.
66. She Tried To Save Her
Lesage’s final accusation was chilling. Playing into the rumors of the day, he claimed that Madame de Montespan had been the one to poison her rival, Marie Angélique. However, in this matter, Madame de Montespan had an unexpected ally—La Voisin herself. While she admitted to many transgressions, she said that she’d never once dealt with Madame de Montespan or anyone in her household.
Sadly, this proclamation wouldn’t be enough to save the chief mistress.
67. She Was At The Center Of It All
The courts declined to pursue these accusations against Madame de Montespan, and nothing was ever proven. Still, the damage was done. The sheer amount of people close to Louis XIV who had been implicated in the Affaire des Poisons was shocking. The courts tried many and convicted some. The king had scores of “poisoners” executed.
Even though Louis tried to make things right, it all cast a very negative light on the French courts—and Madame de Montespan in particular.
68. It Was The Final Nail In The Coffin
Madame de Montespan had kept her relationship with Louis XIV going against the odds. They’d kept their affair a secret for years, and then defied scores of courtiers and religious officials who denounced their love. She’d dealt with dozens of rivals and had only let them knock her off her peg once or twice. She'd even personally burned the papers that implicated her in the Affaire des Poisons.
But still, the scandal was too much for Louis XIV to bear.
69. She Had To Stay
If Louis were to eject Madame de Montespan from the court, it would only confirm the suspicions about her involvement in the Affaire des Poisons. And so, she stayed on. The king still visited her, but only long enough to make it appear as if they were still together. As a result, she had to deal with something only nominally worse than punishment: Watching her former lover fall in love with another woman before her eyes.
70. She Finally Retaliated
The queen’s passing in 1680 actually mercifully interrupted all of this drama. However, in death, Queen Maria Theresa dealt her former rival, Madame de Montespan, the insult she’d never been able to deliver on earth. She left a special ring to Madame de Maintenon. The gift had a dual meaning. It was to thank her for both resisting the king’s advances, and for coming in between the king and de Montespan. How touching, right?
71. She Watched It Happen
With the queen out of the way, the king and Madame de Maintenon began a relationship. Madame de Montespan had to watch from the sidelines as her former friend transformed the king from party boy to…a devout and contrite middle-aged guy. He banned rouge, cleavage, and even bare arms. Madame de Montespan complained in letters but put on a brave face in the court.
After all, she had no other choice.
72. She Lost It All
After her downfall, Madame de Montespan stayed in the French court for a whopping—and presumably painstaking—ten years. She entertained with her famous wit, but she had no power, and all the fun had been taken away from court life. But when it all ended, it was still completely devastating.
One day, her eldest son showed up with a message—and its contents were utterly brutal.
73. Her Son Turned On Her
Madame de Maintenon had long ago turned de Montespan’s eldest son against her, so it was really adding insult to injury when the king made him take a message to de Montespan that demanded she “retire from the court and from Versailles.” However, Madame de Montespan was down but not out—and she had one final fight left in her.
74. She Fought Back
Infuriated, Madame de Montespan confronted her former lover and whipped insult after insult at him. He interrupted, claiming he’d done everything to make her happy and had spent years putting up with her complaints. Her reply was unforgettable. She shot back, “And I, Monsieur, [have put up with] your odor!” If someone were to hit me with an insult that cutting, I personally would never recover.
75. She Finally Left Him
That was the end of the line for Madame de Montespan. She packed her bags and headed off to the chateau Louis had built her when he’d made her chief mistress. For the rest of her life, she split her time between there and the abbey where her sister lived. Eventually, she ended up at a convent, where they made her a mother superior—if only those priests who had refused her confession could see her now.
76. Her Son Was Terrible To Her
Madame de Montespan may have got the final word with Louis XIV, but her son had one last cheap shot for her. He took her apartments at Versailles and removed all the priceless furniture, decorative objects, and art she’d decorated it with—and destroyed it all. But that’s not the worst part. The king then pressured her to give up her chateau to the son who so hated her as a wedding present.
Not only did she agree, but she also sent lavish gifts to both the groom and bride. As a thank you, her son refused to let her attend. This one really lived up to his position at birth, if you catch my drift.
77. She Finally Succumbed
As if the one-two punch of her son’s betrayal hadn’t been bad enough, Madame de Montespan suffered two more losses that spelled her doom. First, the king’s brother passed—they’d always remained close—and then, she lost her sister as well. Her health rapidly declined. In May 1707, she died at the age of 67. Sadly, her former lover couldn’t simply let her rest.
78. He Wouldn’t Let Them Mourn
While Madame de Montespan had fraught relationships with her older children, her younger three daughters grieved her loss deeply—but their father’s reaction was cold as ice. He wouldn’t let them wear the traditional mourning clothes for her or attend the funeral. Louis XIV turned the tables on her, citing the fact that he’d never named her as their mother when he legitimized them.
As he said to a duchess, “I cannot mourn for someone who, for me, has been dead for some years.” On the contrary, Madame de Montespan’s one-time rival Madame de Maintenon wept at the news of her passing.
79. They Falsely Accused Her
Why did so many come forward to accuse Madame de Montespan in the Affaire des Poisons? After all, it seemed like her role was relatively small and innocent. Well, modern historians have suggested a disturbing reason behind it. They’ve speculated that the man behind the interrogations inflicted severe physical abuse on the suspects until they talked, and that’s not all.
Many of the suspects who named de Montespan only came forward after the execution of La Voisin, the most notorious of them all. By naming de Montespan, the other suspects could stir up a lengthy investigation that would prolong their lives.
80. She Repented Her Sins
In her final years, Madame de Montespan’s scandalous reputation wore on her heavily—and some say she tried to pay a gruesome price for her sins. Some claimed that in between marathon bouts of prayer, she would wear undergarments made of rough hair or a metal corset with points on the inside. However, de Montespan herself disputed these claims and said that she preferred to distribute her fortune to charities instead.