Marie Angélique de Scorailles was King Louis XIV’s favorite mistress—until her suspicious demise. Her true-love affair with the Sun King had his other mistresses sharpening their knives.
1. She Was Louis XIV’s Favorite…Until
Marie Angélique de Scorailles rose to prominence as King Louis XIV’s mistress. But, while her beauty was boundless, she was brainless. The doe-eyed duchess became the focus of King Louis XIV’s former mistress’ venomous jealousy. Then her untimely demise became the focus of the scandal-ridden Affair of the Poisons. Or was it witchcraft?
2. Her Family Had No Money
Marie Angélique de Scorailles was born in Upper Auvergne in 1661 at her family’s historic castle, Château de Cropières. Her family was one of the oldest aristocratic families in all of France and her father, the Comte de Rousaille, was King Louis XIV’s Lieutenant. But there was one thing that her family didn’t have: money.
3. She Was Her Family’s Last Hope
By the time that Marie Angélique de Scorailles entered the scene, her family’s fortunes had dwindled considerably. Even though they were one of the oldest and most respected noble families in France, they could barely rub two pennies together. However, de Scorailles’ birth marked a considerable change in the family’s fortunes. If de Scorailles survived, that is.
4. She Was Too Pretty For The Provinces
Over the years, de Scorailles grew into an ever more beautiful young woman. Before long, her breathtaking beauty gave her penny-pinching parents a brilliant idea. She was too pretty to live in the provinces. In Paris, they could turn her beauty into cold hard cash. Unfortunately, sometimes you need money to make money.
5. Her Family Cared More About Money
According to some of de Scorailles’ contemporaries, her family was unscrupulous in their pursuit of wealth. They would have done anything to get their fortune back. As one contemporary source put it, “her [de Scorailles’] relatives [...] had more love for their fortune than for their honor”. Somehow, they managed to scrape up enough cash to send the 17-year old girl to court in Paris.
6. She Was A Maid-Of-Honor
With her cobbled-together wares, de Scorailles arrived in Paris, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Her beauty must have concealed her relative poverty because her first appointment at court was a prestigious one. She became the maid-of-honor of Elizabeth Charlotte, Duchesse de Orléans, King Louis XIV’s sister-in-law by way of his brother, Philippe I, Duke of Orléans.
7. She Was Childish
From the time that she arrived in Paris, de Scorailles started turning heads—and hearts—with her beauty. Contemporary sources described her as “fair, with glossy flaxen hair” and large light gray eyes that held a “look of childish wonderment”. She would have to grow up fast, however, if she was going to survive.
8. She Was A Heroine
With her easy grace and childish innocence, de Scorailles became a favorite at court. The other courtiers marveled at her skin that was “white as milk” and her “rose-pink” cheeks. They even went so far as to call her “a genuine heroine of romance”. Of course, every good heroine needs a good villain. Sometimes, that villain wins.
9. She Had A Good Heart
Unsurprisingly, de Scorailles settled into her new role as the Duchesse de Orléans’ maid-of-honor with ease. Famously, the duchess declared that de Scorailles was “lovely as an angel, from head to foot” and praised her “good heart”. However, it seems that beauty and a friendly disposition were the only things that de Scorailles had going for her.
Sign up to our newsletter.
History’s most fascinating stories and darkest secrets, delivered to your inbox daily. Making distraction rewarding since 2017.
10. She Was Dumb As A Doornail
While every courtier, from the highest to the lowest, couldn’t help but remark at de Scorailles’ beauty and grace, she had another, less favorable, trait. They couldn’t help but notice that her pretty head was pretty empty. Behind her back, they whispered that she was “as stupid as a basket” while the Duchesse de Orléans openly called her a “stupid little creature”.
De Scorailles had unwittingly stepped into the hornets’ nest.
11. Her Role Was Cursed
As the maid of honor to the Duchesse de Orléans, de Scorailles had unwittingly joined a cast of ill-fated or unscrupulous characters who had affairs with King Louis XIV. One of her predecessors had been Louise de La Vallière who had served as maid-of-honor to the first Duchesse de Orléans, Henrietta of England. It was a doomed role to begin with.
12. She Replaced The “Queen Of France”
By the time that de Scorailles had arrived at court 1678, King Louis XIV had replaced Louise de La Vallière as his mistress with another maid-of-honor of the Duchesse de Orléans. He was seemingly enraptured with the Marquise de Montespan. In fact, their affair was so intense that the court had taken to calling de Montespan the “true Queen of France”.
However, de Scorailles would become the Queen of Louis’ Bedchamber.
13. She Broke Up A Fight
The Marquise de Montespan fiercely guarded her relationship with King Louis XIV. But, after bearing seven children for the philandering king, everyone could see that the affair was beginning to fizzle out. At first, it seemed like Louis XIV was falling in love (or lust) with his children’s governess, the Marquise de Maintenon.
And that’s when de Scorailles wandered into the lion’s den.
14. She Beguiled The King
It seemed likely that a fight for King Louis XIV’s affections between the powerful Marquises de Montespan and de Maintenon was about to break out. Then, unexpectedly, King Louis XIV met the bright-eyed “heroine of romance”, de Scorailles, at his brother’s home. Like everyone else at court, he fell victim to her beauty and charms.
She would fall victim to something far more sinister.
15. She Made A Powerful Enemy
Just as her family had intended, de Scorailles found favor in the king’s eyes thanks to her jealousy-inducing beauty. At first, the Marquise de Montespan thought that Louis XIV’s infatuation with de Scorailles would pass like the bloom on a rose. But, when it became apparent that Louis XIV intended to replace her with de Scorailles, she became despondent—and desperate.
16. She Was Making Money
By March of 1679, just a year after arriving at court, de Scorailles had managed to secure a healthy allowance for herself and her family—just as they had intended. But it came with a dark side. In the process, she had unintentionally replaced the vengeful and vindictive Marquise de Montespan as King Louis XIV’s preferred mistress. She was just too innocent to suspect anything.
17. Her Love Put Her At Risk
At first, the Marquise de Montespan was despondent. She wrote to one of her friends, “All is very quiet here; the king only comes into my room after mass and after supper”. But, as the King’s love for de Montespan waned, his desire for de Scorailles only grew more and more intense. The more he showed it, however, the more he endangered her.
18. She Made The King Feel Young
The French court couldn’t help but notice that de Scorailles, with her brilliant guilelessness and innocence, had brightened the Sun King’s disposition. Contemporary sources state that, in de Scorailles’ presence, Louis XIV “felt young again”.
He even dressed more stylishly, decorating his outfits with “diamonds, ribbons and feathers”.
19. She Had Eight Horses
King Louis XIV’s outward display of love for de Scorailles only made her love him more. But it made de Montespan absolutely green with jealousy. Or grey. Grey like the pearl grey carriage, along with eight gorgeous horses, that Louis XIV gifted to de Scorailles. If she didn’t watch her back, she would end up in a different kind of carriage.
20. She Was The Best-Dressed
At a big ball in the early spring of 1679, Marie Angélique de Scorailles made an entrance that would cement her place as Louis XIV’s favorite mistress. She appeared at the society event “in great brilliance”, wearing an outfit put together by de Montespan’s own court dressers. Without even trying to, de Scorailles had become a trendsetter.
21. She Was On The Hunt
While on a hunt in the forests of Fontainebleau, de Scorailles set another trend. This time, while maneuvering through the woods, her hair got caught on a tree branch and became disheveled. Ever the ingénue, she later appeared in front of Louis XIV with her hair tied loosely in a ribbon, falling in curls down to her shoulders.
The informality of her appearance might have landed anyone else on the guillotine.
22. She Was A Trendsetter
Far from being insulted at de Scorailles’ casual “frontage” hairdo, Louis XIV loved it. In fact, he loved it so much that the very next day, every woman at court showed up with the same relaxed hairdo. Everyone, that is, except for de Montespan—who let her jealousy show.
She claimed the look was in “bad taste”. Someone would have to teach de Scorailles some lessons.
23. She Was Just A Pretty Painting
Fueled by jealousy, de Montespan did everything she could to diminish de Scorailles’ position at court. She went around calling de Scorailles nothing more than a “beautiful painting”. She even took aim at Louis XIV, saying that he must not be a very “fastidious” man if he bothered with someone from the provinces like de Scorailles.
24. She Just Wanted To Be Friends
Not surprisingly, the court overwhelmingly sided with the dainty (if dunderheaded) Marie Angélique de Scorailles. In fact, letters from the era even reveal that the court was gleeful in de Montespan’s fall from grace. However, de Scorailles never wanted to embarrass King Louis XIV’s former mistress. She just wanted peace.
25. She Extended An (Expensive) Olive Branch
While de Montespan fumed over de Scorailles’ unstoppable rise in popularity, de Scorailles tried to smooth things over. In an effort to show de Montespan that she meant no harm to her, de Scorailles showered the aging mistress and all of her children with expensive gifts. Unfortunately, it never crossed her mind to buy her a bear cage.
26. She Made Others Angry With Jealousy
With de Montespan’s jealous rage boiling over like a pot of water over an open flame, the court at Versailles became a dangerous place—especially for de Scorailles. But the unsuspecting naïf could never have guessed exactly how far the envious and evil de Montespan would go to remove her from court. In a permanent sense.
27. She Had Rude Guests
In a curious turn of events, somehow, two “pet bears” broke free from their menagerie. The untamed beasts roamed the halls of Versailles, terrorizing the court. Eventually, they ended up in de Scorailles’ apartments where they proceeded to tear the place apart with merciless savagery. The “random” event had the air of intentionality about it.
28. She “Bear-ly” Escaped
The “pet bears”, as it turned out, belonged to none other than de Montespan. The fact that these two beasts somehow managed to find the apartments belonging to de Scorailles seemed almost too coincidental. Fortunately, de Scorailles had not been home at the time as, possibly, de Montespan had hoped. But de Scorailles was not safe yet.
29. She Was Pregnant
Despite de Montespan’s best efforts, the love between Marie Angélique de Scorailles and Louis XIV only grew stronger. They even developed a permanent bond. By 1679, de Scorailles had become pregnant with one of Louis XIV’s children. Flush with love and hope, de Scorailles looked forward to bearing her lover’s child and elevating her family further.
Sadly, it would not come to pass.
30. She Lost Everything
By all appearances, de Scorailles was a young and healthy woman in her prime childbearing years. So, when she prematurely gave birth to a stillborn boy in January 1680, the news shocked the Parisian court.
Then things got worse. The ordeal had taken a dramatic toll on de Scorailles’ health. In fact, her beauty seemed to have faded some.
31. She Broke Up
Tragically, the physical exertion of her miscarriage had left Marie Angélique de Scorailles “wounded in the service of the king”. Her worst scars, however, were emotional ones. When she recovered in April of 1680, Louis XIV gifted her the title of “Duchess de Fontanges” along with a healthy pension of 80,000 livres. In other words, he was breaking up with her.
32. She Fled The Court
To heal her wounds (emotional and physical) de Scorailles retreated from court to the Abbey of Chelles. It’s not entirely clear what she did while there or, indeed, how long she stayed away from court. But it couldn’t have been too long. Given what happened next, it’s possible that the love between her and Louis XIV was still strong.
Just like de Montespan’s jealousy.
33. She Fell Mysteriously Ill
By early 1681, Marie Angélique de Scorailles began experiencing inexplicable symptoms such as a high fever. Fearing for her health, she traveled to the Abbey of Port-Royal to recover. But, even there, under the watchful eye of the nuns, her condition only worsened. Then, in March, something truly baffling happened to the ailing mistress.
34. She Lost Another Baby
According to some reports, tragedy once again came knocking at de Scorailles’ door. In March of 1861, de Scorailles yet again gave birth prematurely. This time, allegedly, to a stillborn baby girl. Once again, the ordeal of childbirth took its toll on her health—but de Scorailles could sense that this would be different.
She would not recover.
35. She Knew The End Was Coming
Predicting that her end was nigh, Marie Angélique de Scorailles begged to see her former lover, King Louis XIV. The king was so moved by de Scorailles still-burning affections that he rushed to her side. Once he saw how she was suffering, he couldn’t help holding back the tears and wept for the loss of his favorite mistress.
It all ended so suddenly.
36. She Was Happy To Go
As de Scorailles lay in her bed, she could feel the life seeping out of her—almost as if by sorcery or witchcraft. But, even to the very end, she remained an unsuspecting “heroine of romance”. As she drew her final breaths, she sighed, “having seen tears in the eyes of my King, I can [expire] happy”. She wasn’t the only one smiling in the end.
37. She Left Behind A Mystery
The inexplicable illnesses leading up to Marie Angélique de Scorailles’ untimely demise had everyone at court scratching their heads—and it led to disturbing rumors. People began whispering about witchcraft and poisons.
Even before her body had turned cold, however, de Montespan went about discrediting her former adversary for the king’s affections. But vicious gossip might not have been the extent of her involvement.
38. She Never Got To Say Her Final Goodbyes
Without missing a beat, de Montespan began casting doubt on de Scorailles’ final days and months. She, along with others at court, claimed that de Scorailles had long since fallen out of favor with King Louis XIV. She asserted that he never visited her at the Abbey of Port-Royal and, possibly, that there had never been a second miscarriage.
So, what, then, had caused de Scorailles’ drastic decline in health?
39. Her Autopsy Was Strange
Suspiciously, King Louis XIV did not want anyone to perform an autopsy on de Scorailles’ body. But her family—devastated at the loss of their money-making mistress—prevailed in getting an autopsy.
What the doctors found, however, when they opened up her body only opened up more questions. And cast more dispersions on de Montespan.
40. Her Lungs Were Appalling
In all, six doctors performed the autopsy on de Scorailles’ (still, we imagine, beautiful) remains. What they uncovered, however, was troubling. They found her lungs in “appalling condition”, noting that the right lung was full of a strange “purulent matter”. What’s more, is that her chest was flooded with an indeterminate fluid.
Disregarding their bizarre discoveries, all six doctors concluded that de Scorailles had passed of natural causes.
41. She Was The Focus Of The Affair Of The Poisons
Despite the medical findings, de Scorailles’ untimely demise became the focus of the Affair of the Poisons. There was just too much bad blood between King Louis XIV’s mistresses for anyone to believe that de Scorailles had simply been unlucky.
The scandal really broke out, however, when Marguerite Monvoisin, the daughter of the famed sorceress La Voisin, pointed a finger directly at de Montespan.
42. She Crossed A Sorceress
Marguerite claimed that her mother, prior to her own untimely demise in 1680, had confided in her about a terrible plot. She claimed that La Voisin had met in secret with two of her lovers, Bertrand and Romani…as well as de Montespan.
Allegedly, de Montespan had commissioned the sorceress and her poisoners to get rid of de Scorailles.
43. She Purchased Poisonous Things
According to Marguerite’s accusations, Bertrand was meant to sell “poisonous stuffs” to Marie Angélique de Scorailles. Simultaneously, Romani was supposed to ensure the delivery of gloves contaminated with poison into de Scorailles’ hands.
If there was any truth to the matter, then only those closest to de Scorailles would know the dreadful details.
44. Her Servant Was An Occultist
Françoise Filastre, one of de Scorailles’ servants and a secret occultist, then made a shocking confession. She claimed that de Montespan had involved her in the plot to poison the late Duchesse de Fontanges.
However, it then came out that she had given her confession under a rather extreme form of duress. She might have made it all up.
45. Her Servant Made It All Up
Before walking off to the hangman’s noose, Filastre recanted her devastating testimony against de Montespan. She claimed to be nothing more than a humble servant to her ill-fated mistress, de Scorailles. Her final words were, “All I said is false. I did that for me to be free of pain and torment”.
But the accusations didn’t end with Filastre.
46. She Just Had Pneumonia
Historians have since tried to perform their own autopsy, sifting through the details of the case. The historian Antonia Fraser, for example, asserted that there was no witchcraft or poisoning involved in de Scorailles demise. As far as Fraser was concerned, it was a simple case of tuberculosis leading to pleuro-pneumonia.
47. Her Miscarriages Did Her In
Alternative versions of the story suggest that de Scorailles’ two miscarriages had, in fact, been the nails in her early coffin. Records indicate that she bled heavily after her miscarriages, indicating that some of the placenta had become lodged in her uterus. Curiously, however, the six doctors who performed her autopsy never mentioned it.
48. She Had Cancer
One final theory for natural causes asserts that de Scorailles suffered a particularly rare form of cancer. It is possible that a cyst had formed on the placenta during one of her miscarriages. After she lost the baby, the cancer developed and, in time, led to her demise. However, the simplest explanation is probably the likeliest.
49. Her Best Friend Knew The Truth
Almost all of the contemporary sources point to de Montespan, poison and witchcraft as the culprits in de Scorailles’ tragic fall from grace and ultimate demise. In fact, if anyone knew for certain, it would be the Duchesse de Orléans, who had been De Scorailles’ first friend at court.
Well, the Duchesse claimed with absolute certainty that de Montespan had poisoned de Scorailles, administered through her milk.
50. Her Love Cost Her Her Life
We may never know the truth behind de Scorailles’ demise. The facts of the matter are obscured under a cloud of scandal and the fog of the Affair of the Poisons. All we know for certain is that she loved King Louis XIV and that, at least for a time, he loved her too. Sadly, that love probably cost her her life—before she even turned 20.