January 24, 2024 | Brendan Da Costa

Suspicious Facts About Marie Angélique de Scorailles, The Doomed Mistress


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?Portrait of Marie Angélique de Scorailles - 17th centuryUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

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.

Château de Cropières - 2011Patrick, Flickr

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.

Portrait Of Marie Angélique De Scorailles - 17th centuryUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

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.

Portrait painting of Marie Angélique de Scorailles - 17th centuryUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

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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.

Portrait painting of Marie Angélique de Scorailles - 17th centuryUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

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.

Portrait of Elizabeth Charlotte, Princess Palatine - 1675Pierre Mignard I, Wikimedia Commons

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.Portrait of Marie Angélique de Scorailles, Duchess of Fontanges - circa 1680Pierre Mignard I, Wikimedia Commons

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.

Portrait painting of Marie Angélique de Scorailles - before 1905Louis-Marie Lanté, Georges-Jacques Gatine, Wikimedia Commons

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.Engraving Of Marie Angélique De Scorailles - 1681Nicolas de Larmessin, Wikimedia Commons

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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.

Portrait Of The Duchess Of Orléans (Elisabeth Charlotte Of The Palatinate) - 1680François de Troy, Wikimedia Commons

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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.Portrait of Louise de La Vallière  - 17th centuryPierre Mignard I, Wikimedia Commons

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.Portrait of Madame de Montespan - circa 1651-1675Unknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

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.

A drawing of King Louis XIV, that is hanging in the Palace of Versailles. - between 1700 and 1701Hyacinthe Rigaud, Wikimedia Commons

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.

Portrait of Louis XIV of France - circa 1670Museum of the History of France, Wikimedia Commons

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. Madame De Montespan Dressed As The Hunting Goddess Diana - 17th centuryPierre Mignard I, Wikimedia Commons

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.

Portrait painting of Marie Angélique de Scorailles - 19th centuryBoyer collection, Wikimedia Commons

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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. Portrait painting of Madame de Montespan - 17th centuryCircle of Pierre Mignard I, Wikimedia Commons

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”.

Portrait of Louis XIV of France - circa 1685Jean Nocret, Wikimedia Commons

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.A painting of a horse drawn carriage being pulled by two horses - 2016pixabay.com, Picryl

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.The Big Bal - 1500sRijksmuseum, Picryl

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.

Portrait of Marie Angélique de Scorailles - 17th centuryUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

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.

Portrait painting of Marie Angélique de Scorailles - 19th centuryBoyer collection, Wikimedia Commons

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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.Portrait painting of Madame de Montespan - circa 1650-1700Circle of Pierre Mignard I, Wikimedia Commons

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.

Portrait painting of Marie Angélique de Scorailles - 17th centuryUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

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.Portrait painting of Madame de Montespan with her kids - 17th centuryPierre Mignard I, Wikimedia Commons

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.

Madame De Montespan As Diana - 17th centuryCircle of Pierre Mignard I, Wikimedia Commons

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. Portrait Of Angélique De Fontanges - 17th centuryUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

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.

Portrait painting of Madame de Montespan holding her arm up - 17th centuryLouis de Chastillon, Wikimedia Commons

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.

Portrait of Marie Angélique de Scorailles looking at front - 1811Marie-Victoire Jaquotot, Wikimedia Commons

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.Sick woman in bed - 1798 - 1811Rijksmuseum, Picryl

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. Portrait of Louis XIV of France - 1685Henri Testelin, Wikimedia Commons

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.Abbaye De Chelles - 1650Bibliothèque nationale de France, Picryl

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.Presumed portrait of Marie Angélique de Scorailles - 17th centuryAttributed to Pierre Mignard I, Wikimedia Commons

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.

Marie Angélique de Scorailles late 17th or early 18th centuryUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

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.Portrait painting of Louis XIV on horseback - circa 1694Pierre Mignard I, Wikimedia Commons

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.Portrait of Marie Angélique de Scorailles, duchesse de Fontanges - between 1670 and 1700Unknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

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.

Portrait présumé de la Duchesse de Fontanges - turn of the 17/18th centuryStudio of Pierre Mignard I, Wikimedia Commons

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?Portrait of Madame de Montespan, mistress of Louis XIV of France - circa 1650-1690Unknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

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.Portrait engraving of Louis XIV of France - 1660Peace Palace Library, Wikimedia Commons

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.

An Old-Fashioned Renaissance Doctor - circa 1700Welcome Images, CC BY 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

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. Portrait painting of Marie Angélique de Scorailles - 19th centuryPierre Mignard I, Wikimedia Commons

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.

Portrait of Catherine Deshayes called La Voisin - from 1680 until 1682Antoine Coypel, Wikimedia Commons

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.

Portrait painting of Marie Angélique de Scorailles - 19th centuryJean Petitot, Wikimedia Commons

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.Portrait painting of Marie Angélique de Scorailles - 17th centuryPierre Mignard I, Wikimedia Commons

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.

Portrait painting of Madame de Montespan - 1666 - 1707Gérard Edelinck, Wikimedia Commons

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.Portrait image of Lady Antonia Fraser - 2010englishpen, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

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.

Portrait painting of Marie Angélique de Scorailles - 19th centuryBoyer collection, Wikimedia Commons

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.

Portrait of Marie Angélique de Scorailles - 1834Boyer collection, Wikimedia Commons

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.Portrait of Elisabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate looking at front - between circa 1670 and circa 1671Unknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

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.

Portrait of Louis XIV of France standing outside - 1701Hyacinthe Rigaud, Wikimedia Commons


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