Presenting the Bourbon Dynasty series I did using lenticular flip technology. The Bourbons are particularly fascinating because of the range of depravity, brilliance and sheer stupidity they possessed. Starting with Henry IV who made France a stable prosperous country after the decadence of the Valois and the bloodshed of the religious wars. Of course, Henry was assassinated. Peaking with the ambition and sensual glory of Louis XIV with the building of Versailles. And climaxing with the beheading of Marie Antoinette during the reign of terror.
There are 42 pieces in the Bourbon Dynasty.
Each one pieces in this series measures 10 inches by 8 inches without the frame. All will be available in my store once we finish constructing it.
Henry IV, The Great (1553-1610)
Henry IV: The founder of the Bourbon Dynasty. Henry succeeded the corrupt Valois dynasty by converting to the Catholic faith( “Paris is worth a mass.” He was not only a brilliant soldier but a compassionate and generous man. He, like all the Bourbons, drank a great deal of wine, hunted anything that moved, had a series of over 60 mistresses and was a glutton. However what he had in life we wanted for all his subjects (“a chicken in every opt on Sundays”). He was assassinated by a man who thought he was told by God to do it.
Note: It is said that Henry IV smelled like a goat.
Note on Lenticular: The cicada is a symbol of rebirth and survival. The Bourbons gave France a chance at renewal and Henry was definitely a survivor.
Marie De Medici: The Scheming Idiot ( 1575-1642)
Wife of Henry IV she was referred to as “a fat Florentine banker” because of her Italian roots. She had a vile temper and was highly jealous. She also had a deluded notion that she was capable and destined to rule France. She spent her time scheming and plotting her way to power. After her husband was assassinated she became regent for her son, Louis XIII.
Louis XIII booted her out of France.
Note: As insensitive and ignorant as Marie de Medici was, she had the taste and vision to commission Rubens to paint an enormous allegorical chronicle of her life that is now housed in the Louvre. It is a perfect example of Marie de Medici propaganda, but glorious nonetheless.
Note on Lenticular: The Dodo bird was extinct in the 17th century due to the flightless bird’s inability to stop sailors from eating them. They are therefore represent things that are obsolete and foolish. The peacocks feathers show an attempt by the dodo to appear more accomplished and glamorous than it actually is.
Gabrielle d’Estrées: The Perfect Mistress ( 1572-1599)
The great love of Henry IV’s life. Gabrielle truly loved him in return. She was beautiful, tactful, kind and generous by nature. Note: Gabrielle’s face turned black during her death throes.
Note: She apparently had a talent for not making enemies.
Note on Lenticular: The gold rings represent Henry’s wish to marry Gabrielle.
Henriette d’Entragues: The Greedy ( 1579-1633)
Ambitious, haughty and pretty, Henriette schemed her way into Henry IV’s bed. She knew how to manipulate Henry’s weaknesses and played a game of hot and cold until she had him in the palm of her hand.
Upon Henry’s assassination Henriette was exiled from court. She lived another 23 years and died unmourned and alone.
Note: While she was alive Henriette was referred to as a “malignant wasp”.
Note on Lenticular: The rocks represent the impossible situation Henriette put Henry in by making him sign a document promising to marry her. Her rich dress and impossible jewels symbolize her ostentatious greed.
Louis XIII, the Not-Quite-There ( 1601-1643)
No son has ever been more different than his father. Louis was a neurotic, timid and distrustful child. His mother, Marie de Medici, didn’t like him and had him whipped every morning. Louis became king at the age of 8.
Louis was an inverted, melancholy and isolated man who would find himself paralyzed by his stutter. He was probably homosexual.
He married Anne of Austria when they were both 14. On their stormy wedding night Louis had to be carried, crying to their marriage bed.
Louis was always sickly. He died of gastric tuberculosis at the age of 41.
Note: Louis had a congenital condition where he had two rows of teeth. When he was a child his doctors cut the membrane under his tongue making it dangle unattractively. This contributed to his stammer and difficult manner of expression.
Note on Lenticular: The flip shows Louis being carried, weeping to his marriage bed. The Louvre is shown deserted with only two windows lit where he coupled with his wife during a thunderstorm.
Anne of Austria: Queen of the Waiting Game ( 1601-1666)
Actually born and raised in Spain, Anne married Louis XIII when she was only 14. She was a member of the powerful House of Hapsburg.
She was vain and lazy but had beautiful skin and thick chestnut hair. She was specially proud of her hands which were said to “be made to hold a scepter”.
After 23 years Louis was tricked into sleeping with his wife and result was his heir, Louis XIV. His son was called the God-Given and was considered somewhat of a miracle.
She spent her energies protecting and raising her sons till their majority. She also indulged in both feverous piety and gambling.
Note: Anne loved jewelry. She specially liked bracelets because they drew attention to her hands.
Note on Lenticular: The background shows the violence of the Fronde( a civil war between the monarchy and the nobility) and the reverse shows Anne’s main purpose in life, her son Louis XIV and the crown she protected.
Le Grand Conde: The Rebel Without a Cause ( 1606-1660)
Louis II de Bourbon, Duc d’Enghien, Known as Le Grand Conde, was a cousin to Louis XIV. He was loud, ugly, not trustworthy, kinky and undoubtedly brave in battle.
He rebelled against Louis XIV. Condé was in and out of favor.
Although miserably married he was the father of three children. He was also flagrantly gay and was fond of shoving his hand down the pants of those he fancied.
Note: Louis XIV gave him a pink diamond when he was accepted back to court. The diamond is called Le Grande Conde.
Note on Lenticular: The image of Conde is an illumination of the rebel angels triumphing over the devil. The devil being Conde.
La Grande Madamoiselle: The Denied ( 1627-1693)
Anne Marie Louise d’Orleans, Duchess of Montpensier was the daughter of Louis XIII’s brother, Gaston. She was the cousin of Louis XIV. As an only child she became one of the richest women in Europe.
She was desperate to marry. Her only great love was the smarmy, short, impoverished and surprisingly sexy duc de Lauzon. Louis called off the marriage. Her heart was broken.
La Grande Mademoiselle spent her life as a big-boned, horse faced woman in a court of beauties. Even worse, she was a spinster. Although very intelligent she was the butt of many jokes. Versailles was a cruel place.
Note: She introduced the composer Lully to the court of Louis XIV.
Note on Lenticular: While La Grande Madamoiselle holds a miniature of her true love Lauzon, the flip shows Louis famous shoes breaking her marriage ring.
Louis XIV, the Sun King ( 1638-1715)
Louis XIV is the longest reigning monarch in European history. He was king for over 72 years. He was known as the “Sun King”.
His wars and his mania for building nearly bankrupted France. Those who suffered most were the poor and Louis was famously callous to their plight.
On one hand he was extremely polite and courteous to all. He was hard working and punctual. He was a great supporter of the arts. He was sexy, sentimental and pious. He enjoyed enormous meals. On the other hand Louis was intolerant, ruthless, religiously bigoted and indifferent to the discomfort, inconvenience or suffering of others. Louis was aggressive in war but for his own glory not for justice. He was a notorious libertine. In the end, Louis XIV was an arrogant hypocrite.
Louis lived so long that he outlived his time. The court had become calcified.He died an agonizing death due to gangrene in his leg.
Note: As a young man Louis XIV was a talented ballet dancer. As a teenager he starred in a court ballet dancing the role of Apollo. Hence, the Sun King was created.
Marie Mancini: The First ( 1639-1715)
Marie Mancini was one of the nieces of Cardinal Mazarin, the chief minister of the young Louis XIV. Her family originated in Italy and exported to the court of France in order to marry advantageously.
The young Louis was besotted with her and wanted to marry her. This was, of course, not to be. Louis’ mother was violently opposed to any idea of marriage. Her uncle, Mazarin was horrified.
Marie and her sisters were forced to return to Italy.
In Italy she married Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna – an Italian prince.
Note: When departing Versailles Louis XIV gave Marie a small spaniel puppy with the words “I belong to Marie” engraved onto his silver collar.
Marie Thérése: The Chocolate Eater ( 1638-1683)
Marie Therese was an Infanta of Spain and the heiress of the Spanish Empire for most of her childhood. However, as part of the peace treaty between France and Spain she was married at 22 to the charismatic Louis XIV.
Louis found his dumpy wife to be a bore, however his did not prevent him from parading a steady stream of public mistresses in front of her.
But she eventually retreated to her suite of rooms to sulk, drink hot chocolate, eat garlic and converse with her half mad Spanish dwarfs. Marie Therese became very fat and her teeth turned black.
Note: Legend has it that Louis and Marie Therese had a black daughter who had been whisked out of Versailles and given to a convent to raise. She really existed. Her name was Marie Therese and was known as the “Black Nun of Moret”. It is highly debatable concerning her parentage.
Note: Her portrait was painted many times by Valesquez.
Louise de La Valliére: The Violet ( 1644-1710)
Louise de la Valliére was the first official mistress of Louis XIV( or “mistresse en titre”). Their affair began when she was 17. The Abbé de Choise reported that Louise “had an exquisite complexion, blond hair, blue eyes, a sweet smile . . . [and] an expression [at] once tender and modest.”
Louise had five children by Louis XIV, of whom only the last two survived infancy.
She longed for a nunnery.
Her wish was finally granted and was admitted to a Carmelite convent in 1664. The day she left Versailles, she threw herself at the feet of the Queen, begging forgiveness: “My crimes were public, my repentance must be public, too.”
Françoise-Athénaîse, marquise de Montespan: The Vixen ( 1640-1707)
Athénaîse de Montespan was a blazingly beautiful woman with huge blue eyes, golden hair and a voluptuous figure. She was greedy, clever, sensual, demanding, temperamental and charming. She had a scathing wit that could flash from funny to damaging. She was expensive and glorious, like Versailles itself. And she was married. Athénaîse was Louis XIV’s second official mistress.
“The Affair of the Poisons” investigation eventually lead to Montespan. Louis hushed up further investigation but Montespan was all but finished.
Montespan retired from court to live in a convent for the rest of her days.
Note: When she died there was no funeral. Louis forbade their remaining children to wear mourning.
Marie Angélique de Scorailles: The Beautiful Plank ( 1661-1681)
Angelique was born into a family of minor nobility. As she grew into a stunning beauty her family saw that she could be their ticket to wealth and social success by sending her to Versailles.
Though beautiful and ethereal Angélique was “as stupid as a basket”. Louis became embarrassed every time she opened her mouth. But that didn’t stop him from experiencing a rejuvenating renewal of sexual energy.
She became pregnant. She had a miscarriage and died a slow death from bleeding.
Note: Angélique was known as La Fontages. Today she is best remembered for a hairstyle she created when she and the King were out hunting. Her hat became tangled with a tree branch and she then tied up her hair with a ribbon leaving lovely tendrils of curls on her shoulders. It is known at a “fontage”.
Françoise d’Aubigné, marquise de Maintenon: The Rock ( 1635-1719)
Françoise d’Aubigné, was the impoverished, pious widow of the crippled poet Scarron when she was employed by Madame de Montespan to care for her and the king’s brood of illegitimate children.
Maintenon became a close friend and confident of the king’s. He ended up spending much of his time in her company. Louis trusted her judgment. She resisted the temptation of becoming his mistress.
Louis married Maintenon in a secret ceremony. She considered marriage to be her duty in order to provide Louis with divine salvation.
When Maintenon married Louis she was probably a virgin. She often complained about having to have sex so frequently. But Louis’ soul’s salvation was her duty.
Note: Madame de Maintenon was known for wearing only black or dark colors. However the fabrics were sumptuous. Her undergarments were luxurious. She was proud not to wear any jewelry but the cross that hung around her neck was studded with huge pearls and diamonds from the King’s collection.
Louis, le Grand Dauphin: The Damaged ( 1661-1711)
Louis was the son of Louis XIV and thus the Grand Dauphin.
His tutors beat him and so he grew up with a horror of books and learning.
Louis was a tall, fat and blonde. He was lazy and fairly dull. His greatest hobby was hunting wolves, which he eliminated from the Ile de France. However, he was good natured and brave in battle.
Note: Louis was attracted to ugly women. In a court famous for its beauties this was considered very unusual.
Marie Anne of Bavaria: The Pathetic ( 1660-1690)
This poor princess was ugly by the standards of her time. She had a large, bulbous nose and rotten teeth. But she was well educated and spoke fluent French and Italian. She was a graceful dancer and a clean eater(!).
Her husband, Le Grand Dauphin was delighted with his bride.
She gave birth to a son, the Duc de Bourgogne in a crowded bedroom during a heat wave. She was in labor for two days.
Note: After giving birth, the exhausted Marie Anne was covered with a freshly flayed sheep skin. Nancy Mitford noted that the Dauphine was probably past caring.
Marie Emilie de Joly de Choin: La Belle Poitrine ( 1670-1732)
The second, morganatic wife of the Grand Dauphin, she definitely satisfied his taste for ugly women. Marie Emilie had a huge chest with which the Grand Dauphin played like a timpani!
In her way, she was devoted to the Grand Dauphin, sharing his taste in paintings and country living. They lived a quiet life away from court.
Upon her husband’s death Marie Emilie found that he had given her a vast fortune in his will. She declined to take the money.
Note: Marie Emilie was having a scandalous affair with one of her patroness’ guards while at the same time beginning her romance with the Grand Dauphin. The lover was exiled.
Louis , Dauphin, Duc de Bourgogne: Le Petit Dauphin, The Conscientious ( 1682-1712)
Louis was named Le Petit Dauphin because his father was the heir to the throne, Le Grand Dauphin. Grandson of the Sun King, Louis was a beautiful baby who grew into an obstinate, difficult child. Somehow his tutors beat the stubbornness and tantrums out of the boy and he grew up to be shy and very religious. Also a little dull.
He met his match in his bride Marie Adélaîde of Savoy. He married her when she was 12. She found Louis to be a bore.
Marie Adélaîde became mortally sick with the measles. Six days after she died he succumbed to the same illness at the age of 29.
Note: Louis’ surviving son, the two year old Duc d’Anjou, was spared becoming fatally ill with the measles only because he was kept away from the court’s doctors by his nurse. Doctors in that age tended to accelerate their patients to the grave by purging them and bleeding them to death. The Duc d’Angou grew to be Louis XV.
Marie Adélaîde of Savoy , Dauphine: The Life Force ( 1685-1712)
When Marie Adélaîde arrived at the court of Louis XIV to marry his grandson Le Petit Dauphin, she immediately became a star. Louis XIV was enchanted by her and her staid, conservative new husband fell madly in love with her.
Marie Adélaîde lived for pleasure; dancing and gambling till dawn.
Marie Adélaîde came down with measles and died. Her husband followed her 6 days later. They are buried together in the royal mausoleum in St. Denis.
Note: With regard to her severe, religious husband, Marie Adélaîde is said to have said that he should have married a nun.
Philippe, duc d’Orleans : The Grandfather of Europe ( 1640-1701)
Known as Monsieur, he was the younger brother of Louis XIV. Philippe was the founder of the Orleans branch of the Bourbon dynasty. His descendents ended up occupying most of the Catholic thrones of Europe to this day. Not bad for a flaming homosexual.
He also had two wives with whom he managed to have several children.
After a violent argument with his brother the king over the way his son was being treated, Philippe was killed by a stroke.
Note: His second wife, Elizabeth Charlotte burned all the letters he wrote to his male lovers over the years lest they “fall into the wrong hands”. The heavy perfume from the burning letters made her nauseous.
Note on Lenticular: The famous fountain that Philippe added to the garden at his country residence, Saint Cloud, is known as La Grande Cascade. It is the only feature of that spectacular chateau that has survived.
Henrietta d’Angleterre : The Flirt ( 1644-1670)
Henrietta was a charming woman who was highly strung, graceful and, imprudently, a bit of a flirt. Today she might have been diagnosed with anorexia nervosa.
Her flirtations were not appreciated by her touchy homosexual husband, Philippe , duc d’Orleans.
Against Philippe’s wishes Henrietta went to England to negotiate a secret diplomatic agreement between Louis XIV and her brother Charles II.
Soon after Henrietta’s return she fell violently ill. She soon died. There was suspicion of poison. However she died of an abcess on her liver.
Note: Her first child was rumored to have been sired by one of Philippe’s lovers. Or, perhaps, his brother the king. Both unlikely.
Note on Lenticular: The blue flower is that of the Chicory plant. A tonic could be made from this plant and was used for everyday ailments. This was the tonic that Henrietta drank before she died.
Elizabeth Charlotte, duchess d’Orleans: The Gossip ( 1652-1722)
Elizabeth Charlotte was the second wife of Philippe the duc d’Orleans. She was known as Madame.
She was a tall, butch and unsophisticated woman. She had no sense of fashion and was proud of it.
Madame had three children by Philippe. After the third child they agreed that they no longer had to sleep together. Philippe returned to his boyfriends and Madame enjoyed her abstinence and letter writing.
Her great talent was the flood of thousands of letters she wrote to her relatives full of gossip, invective and descriptions of the people and events happening at Versailles. Historians know a lot about Louis XIV’s court because of Madame’s letters.
Madame lived well into the 18th century.
Note: When her husband was compelled to have sex with Madame he draped holy medallions and relics around his private parts to insure that he could perform. Apparently they worked!
Philippe, Chevalier de Lorraine: The Vicious Boyfriend ( 1643-1702)
As “beautiful as an angel” the penniless Chevalier de Lorraine became the lover of the duc d’Orleans, the brother of the king, in 1658
Their relationship was suffused with the domination by Lorraine over Orleans. Manipulation, bullying, greed and humiliation were the ways Lorraine used Orleans to his advantage. He was a nasty piece of work.
Note: Lorraine was involved in a homosexual scandal at Versailles in which several young nobles formed a “club”. Louis XIV’s legitimized son by his first mistress, Louis de Bourbon, Count de Vermandois was inducted into this club at the age of 13. Lorraine is said to have demanded the young man’s semen to sign a pledge to the club. The king was outraged by this activity and sent Lorraine into exile in Rome.
Philippe II d’Orleans, Regent: The Practical ( 1674-1723)
The eldest son of Monsieur and Madame, Philippe grew up as nephew of the King, Louis XIV. He was highly educated in all the arts and sciences. He was, perhaps, the most accomplished of all the Bourbons.
He was viewed with suspicion by Louis XIV and denied Philippe any active part in his army or government. Whenever Philippe was given a minor duty in the army he proved to be a courageous soldier. But this was not enough to slack the ennui and boredom of his daily life.
After the death of Louis XIV he became the Regent for the five year old Louis XV. He surprised everyone by becoming a efficient administrator and left Louis XV with a stable France.
However, Philippe was a notorious womanizer and drunk. He was rumored to have had over 100 mistresses
Note: It was rumored that Philippe had an affair with his own daughter, the widowed Duchess de Berry. She was totally depraved and drank so much that she would vomit and roll over the carpet in front of guests. She died at 24, worn out by excessive drinking and the birth of an illegitimate child.
Françoise Marie de Bourbon, duchesse d’Orleans: Madame Lucifer ( 1677-1749)
Born the illegitimate child of Madame de Montespan and Louis XIV, Françoise Marie rarely saw her parents. She was officially legitimized by her father when still a child and she developed an almost obsessive pride in her royal lineage.
She agreed to marry her cousin the fabulously rich Philippe the duc d’Orleans. The marriage was not happy and Philippe called her Madame Lucifer. Her antagonism was based on a mix of vanity, pride and her dicey illegitimate origins.
Françoise Marie died at the age of 71, miserable, lazy and spiteful to the last.
Note: Where Françoise Marie was uninterested in sex her children were among the most notorious sex addicts in history.
Louis XV, the Enigma ( 1710-1774)
Louis XV was the Hamlet of kings.
Louis grew into a very handsome man. He had an inquisitive nature and was well educated. His interests ranged from botany to architecture to physics.
He married the princess Marie Leszczyñska of Poland and together they had ten children. But he became bored by his dull wife and proceeded to the end of his life to have many official mistresses and one-night-stands.
In his youth Louis XV was a very popular king. He was nicknamed “The Beloved”. But that popularity rapidly sank as France’s economy dragged and Louis had a series of diplomatic and battlefield blunders.
Louis XV was essentially not cut out to be a king. He lacked the vision, energy and ruthlessness to be an effective ruler. He was easily bored and prone to distraction and melancholy. He was lazy and avoided work.
Louis XV died a horrible death by smallpox at the age of 64. He was hastily buried with little ceremony.
Note: Legend has it that Louis XV said “Aprés moi, le deluge” or “After me, the deluge” which prophesizes the coming revolution.
Marie Leszczyñska: The Dull ( 1703-1768)
Marie Leszczyñska was the wife of Louis XV. She was handsome instead of pretty and rather dull. She was good-natured, pious and essentially good.
When the marriage took place her 15 year old husband enthusiastically took her to bed and managed to make love to her seven times. Needless to say Marie Leszczyñska became pregnant and gave birth to ten children in ten years.
Marie Leszczyñska understood her roll as Queen. She performed her duties with punctuality and commitment. But she never became a power at court and preferred to embroider altar clothes than to intrigue and gossip.
Marie Leszczyñska was beloved by the French people for her piety, kindness, charity and modest behavior. When she died at the age of 65 it was a blow to the prestige of the monarchy.
Note: Unaccustomed to the luxury and abundance of food and drink at the French court, Marie almost died shortly after her marriage. She had managed to eat nine dozen oysters and downed four flagons of beer at one sitting. She was given last rights but survived.
Mesdames de France: The Mean Girls
Marie Adélaîde de France ( 1728-1800)
Victoire de France ( 1733-1799)
Sophie de France ( 1734-1782)
These three spinster daughters of Louis XV refused to marry any man who was less than a king. Such was their sense of rank that anything less than a crown would diminish their status in the world.
All three were accomplished in music, art and charitable acts only Adélaîde had any political ambitions( mostly to stay close to her father). They were all ferociously pious to the point of bigotry.
During the Revolution they left France because they were frightened and horrified by the new form of religion that was being imposed. In 1799 they moved to Corfu where Madame Victoire died of breast cancer. Adélaïde died less than a year after.
Note: Madame Adélaïde may have been the person behind the phrase “let them eat cake”. Adélaïde was kind hearted regarding the poor but didn’t have a clue about the real world. She may have been referring to pie-crust.
Note on Lenticular: The flower is the Coboea, the symbol of gossips.
Louis, Dauphin: The Plump Bigot ( 1729-1765)
Dauphin Louis was the polar opposite of his father, Louis XV. He was brought up by Jesuits and was very conservative and chaste. When asked about his favorite activity he replied “I like vegetating.” Needless to say, he was boring company.
Dauphin Louis was very fat, due to a glandular condition.
Three of his sons became Kings of France.
Note: Dauphin Louis was so much in love with his first wife that he left instructions for his heart to be buried with hers. It was a tradition with French royalty that their hearts be separated and interred with elaborate ceremony.
Wives: Marie Therese Rafaela of Spain, Marie Josephe of Saxony
Marie Therese Rafaela was perhaps the love of Dauphin Louis’ life. She was very much like him. She died giving birth to their only child. Dauphin Louis had to be dragged from her deathbed by his father and had to endure courtiers asking him about remarriage before his wife was buried.
Note: She was considered ugly because she had red hair.
Marie Josephe married the Dauphin Louis a year after his first wife died. He was still mourning her and she displayed a sensitivity, tact and kindness that soon won him over.
After several miscarriages Marie Josephe had a six children.
Note: Two of her children would be executed by the guillotine in the Reign of Terror. They were Louis XVI and daughter Elizabeth.
Madame de Pompadour: The Glamorous ( 1721-1764)
Madame de Pompadour: The cultured and influential mistress of Louis XV. She was beautiful and charming, her main responsibility was keeping the king amused. However she was also frigid and had fragile health and died too soon.
Pompadour reigned over the court for almost twenty years. Her largest task was to keep the melancholy king entertained. She did this with an amusing wit and a talent to amuse. She acted in plays and operas.
Note: It is said that the Marquis shaped diamond was created by Louis XV to resemble the mouth of Madame de Pompadour.
Madame du Barry: The Whore with the Heart of Gold( 1743-1793)
Madame du Barry, the beautiful second mistress of Louis XV. She was ther stereotypical “whore with the heart of gold”. Extravagant and loving she made Louis’ last years good ones. She was loathed by much of the court and specially by Marie Antoinette. After Louis XV’s death du Barry retired to her country estate and almost escaped the revolution. Through a series of naive miscalculations she ended up being dragged to the scaffold where she struggled and pleaded for her life.
Note: The spectacular diamond necklace behind the scandal and trial of “the affair of the necklace” was originally offered to Madame Du Barry for two million livres( twenty million dollars). Louis XV died before his could purchase it for her. Lucky for her!
Louis XVI: The Bumbling Locksmith( 1754-1792)
One of the most misunderstood of the Bourbon kings, Louis was a kindly, well intentioned and gentle. He had the misfortune to reign during the raging currents of the French revolution where his hesitation, lack of imagination and his lack of self-confidence doomed him.
Beheaded in the terror. He died with great dignity.
Louis intended to be a good father to his people and he said “It may be considered politically unwise, but it seems to me to be the general wish and I want to be loved.”
Note: A typical breakfast for Louis XVI consisted of four chops, a roasted chicken, a thick slice of ham, four baked eggs and a bottle and a half of champagne.
Marie Antoinette: The Catalyst ( 1755-1793)
Marie Antoinette: The most famous of the Bourbons. Naive and spoiled, Marie Antoinette was clueless about France and her role as queen. When the revolution descended upon her she showed her true mettle becoming brave and eloquent in her defense. She was condemned to death on trumped up charges.
Her head was cleanly cut off to the roar of crowd. She was 38 years old.
Note: Marie Antoinette accidentally stepped on the foot of her executioner. “Pardon me, Sir, I did not mean to”, she said. She was wearing purple satin slippers.
Louis-Charles, Louis XVII: The Abused ( 1785-1795)
Louis Charles: The tragic dauphin of France during the French revolution. He was imprisoned with his family and watched as his parents were dragged to their execution. He was horribly abused and died a while still a child of tuberculosis. Louis-Charles was briefly King Louis XVII.
Note: Louis-Charles’ body was subjected to an autopsy and the attending physician removed his heart and smuggled it out. Later he offered the preserved heart to the restored Louis XVIII, but he could not bring himself to take. The heart bounced from one owner to another till DNA tests were done to confirm that the heart was indeed that of Louis XVII. The heart is now encased in a crystal egg and is interred in the royal crypt at Saint Denis.
Note: There was a mystery about the death of Louis-Charles. Some believed that he escaped his prison and lived. Over 100 claimants came forth over the years. All of them were either delusional or imposters.
Note on Lenticular: The background is a handwriting exercise by Louis-Charles.
Marie Thésése, Madame Royale, duchesse de Angouleme: The Righteously Bitter ( 1778-1851)
Marie Thésése was the first child of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI. She grew up in the glamour of Versailles and was very close to her parents. However she lacked her mother’s charisma and came across as a bit stodgy and haughty.
She was thrown in prison with the rest of her family during the French Revolution. She suffered through the death of her parents and other family members.
After the Terror she was sent to her relatives in Austria. Today she would be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and survivor’s guilt.
She returned to France with the defeat of Napoleon. She hid a profound suspicious of the French people and was uneasy in crowds. She focused on making France as much like her parent’s time; which of course was impossible.
She was exiled a second time to England on the abdication of her uncle, Charles X. She died in Austria of pneumonia.
Note: Marie Thésése never confirmed her brother’s death while he was in prison. She tried to discreetly find out what happened to him but it remained a mystery. She met and was pursued by many false Louis XVIIs during her lifetime. The search increasingly became disappointing and a constant reminder of the horror of the revolution so she stopped in 1830.
Louis XVIII: The Ungrateful ( 1755-1824)
There are so many Louis’ in the Bourbon Dynasty that we’ll call this one Louis Stanislas.
Louis XVIII: He always felt that he would have been a better king than his brother. Louis XVIII was cynical, selfish, opportunistic and wielded a cruel wit. Whatever Louis’ coldness and insensitivity to others, he was a pragmatist and gave France its first parliamentary system.
Louis Stanislas was an opportunist and pragmatist during an era of extremists. He looked like a warm, fuzzy grandpa but he was calculating and cold.
Note: Louis Stanislas, Louis XVIII was the last French king to die while he reigned.
Marie Josephine of Savoy: The Closeted ( 1753-1810)
Marie Josephine arrived at Versailles at the age of 17 to marry the portly Louis Stanislas, the brother of the Dauphin and future Louis XVI. Her new husband found her filthy.
Marie Josephine was essentially ignored by the entire court. She became morose and swiftly became an alcoholic. She fell in love with Madame de Gourbillion and their passionate love affair lasted a lifetime.
She died of dropsy(an accumulation of liquids in the body) surrounded by the exiled French court who hated her.
Note: Louis Stanislas was forced to buy the incriminating letters to her lesbian lover when he returned to France to sit on the throne.
Charles X: The Unlucky ( 1757-1836)
Born the best looking of all of Louis XV’s grandsons, Charles’ early years were spent being demanding, spoiled and nasty to many of the people round him. He slid by on his looks and considerable charm. Many women could not resist him.
When Charles succeeded to the throne he did everything he could to thwart reform of any kind. He only reigned for 6 years.
He disastrously revoked the constitution. The result was the July Revolution.
Charles abdicated in favor of his ten year old grandson. His wishes were ignored by his cousin Louis-Philippe who proclaimed himself king.
Charles was exiled to England where he was met by an indifferent, cold populace and creditors.
Note: In a letter of Leopold I, king of the Belgians, to the Queen Victoria before her accession, dated the 18th of November 1836, “Poor Charles X is dead… History will state that Louis XVIII was a most liberal monarch, reigning with great mildness and justice to his end, but that his brother, from his despotic and harsh disposition, upset all the other had done and lost the throne.”
Marie Thérése of Savoy, Comtesse de Artois: The Boring ( 1756-1805)
Marie Thérése was the second Savoyard princess to marry a grandson of Louis XV, the Conte Artois( future Charles X). The Austrian ambassador, Comte de Mercy-Argentau wrote to the Empress of Austria that she was “silent and interested in absolutely nothing.” Apparently everyone agreed with him, including Marie Thérése’ husband.
Whatever her blankness in history, she was a good mother.
Marie Thérése died in exile in 1805, 20 years before her husband became Charles X.
Note: Marie Thérése’ husband found her so repellent that her forbade her presence at the wedding of their son, the duc d’Angouleme to Marie Antoinette’s daughter.
Note on Lenticular: Boring as a glass of water. Dull as a plank.
Louis-Philippe: The Usurper ( 1773-1850)
Louis-Philippe was born the male heir to the duc d’Orleans. The House of Orleans is the branch of the Bourbons that originated from Louis XIV’s brother. The gay one.
Louis-Philippe grew into an idealist young man who could never reconcile his ideals with the real world.
The French government proclaimed Louis-Philippe king after the ouster of Charles X. Louis-Philippe found himself in an impossible situation but he was very popular with the people and so he accepted the crown and tried to make the best of a bad situation. The Bourbons never forgave him. He was the first bourgeois king, called the “Citizen King”.
The industrial and agricultural depression of 1846 brought increased discontent. Louis-Philippe’s reaction was to become increasingly repressive. When he refused to give the right to vote to the poor and lower bourgeoisie it was the last straw. The country blew into open rebellion and Louis-Philippe was forced to abdicate.
Louis-Philippe died in 1850.
Note: Louis-Philippe survived seven assassination attempts.
Marie Amalie of Naples and Sicily: The Housewife ( 1782-1866)
Her mother was the beloved sister of Marie Antoinette( Hapsburg) and her father was descended from Louis XIV( Bourbon). As a child Marie Amalie watched the horror of the French Revolution and the beheading of her aunt and uncle.
It is ironic that Marie Amalie would marry the son of the despicable Louis-Philip Egalité who voted for the death of her uncle, Louis XVI and had a hand in Marie Antoinette’s execution. Apparently it was love at first sight.
Marie Amalie focused her life on raising her children
Note: Perhaps her most dazzling legacy is the diamond and sapphire parure that is on exhibition in the Louvre.
Note on Lenticular: The closest counterpart in history is our own Mamie Eisenhower, the quintessential 50’s housewife and mother.