Madame Palatine’s Burn Book, Part 2On September 15, 2021 by Elyse
Bonjour! If you haven’t yet read Part 1, start there for the full scoop on Liselotte and her clique.
Last time, we patiently listened, er, read as Madame Palatine, aka Liselotte, vented in her 18th-century correspondence about her daddy issues, disobedient son and cringeworthy views on women in power. With all those grudges, how did she survive as long as she did in the notoriously ruthless French royal court? Fortunately for us, her Burn Book has all the answers.
She doesn’t get mad, she gets even.
Even as a child, Liselotte gave as good as she got:
The monks of the Convent of Ibourg, to revenge themselves for my having unintentionally betrayed them by telling their Abbot that they had been fishing in a pond under my window, a thing expressly forbidden by the Abbot, once poured out white wine for me instead of water.
I said, “I do not know what is the matter with this water; the more of it I put into my wine the stronger it becomes.” The monks replied that it was very good wine. When I got up from the table to go into the garden, I should have fallen into the pond if I had not been held up; I threw myself upon the ground and fell fast asleep immediately. I was then carried into my chamber and put to bed.
I wish someone would carry me to bed when I drink too much wine.
I did not awake until nine o’clock in the evening, when I remembered all that had passed. It was on a Holy Thursday; I complained to the Abbot of the trick which had been played me by the monks, and they were put into prison.– Elizabeth-Charlotte, Duchesse d’Orléans, Memoirs of the Court of Louis XIV and of the Regency, 1899
Liselotte’s drinking and tattle telling started at an early age, in case that wasn’t abundantly clear through her writing.
She’s a Ghostbuster.
Well, kind of. At the time, rumor had it Liselotte’s husband’s first wife, Princess Henrietta of England, had been poisoned. While today’s experts no longer give credence to that theory, no one bothered to tell her “ghost.”
A report prevailed at St. Cloud for several years that the ghost of the late Madame [Princess Henrietta] appeared near a fountain where she had been accustomed to sit during the great heats, for it was a very cool spot. One evening a servant of the Marquis de Clerambault, having gone thither to draw water from the fountain, saw something white sitting there without a head. The phantom immediately arose to double its height. The poor servant fled in great terror, and said when he entered the house that he had seen Madame. He fell sick and died.
Then the captain of the Chateau, thinking there was something hidden beneath this affair, went to the fountain some days afterwards, and, seeing the phantom, he threatened it with a sound drubbing if it did not declare what it was.
The phantom immediately said, “Ah, M. de Lastera, do me no harm; I am poor old Philipinette.” This was an old woman in the village, seventy-seven years old, who had lost her teeth, had blear eyes, a great mouth and large nose; in short, was a very hideous figure.
There Liselotte goes again. Seriously, did she not once meet anyone she considered attractive?
They were going to take her to prison, but I interceded for her. When she came to thank me I asked her what fancy it was that had induced her to go about playing the ghost instead of sleeping.
She laughed and said, “I cannot much repent what I have done. At my time of life one sleeps little; but one wants something to amuse one’s mind. In all the sports of my youth nothing diverted me so much as to play the ghost. I was very sure that if I could not frighten folks with my white dress I could do so with my ugly face. The cowards made so many grimaces when they saw it that I was ready to die with laughing.”– Elizabeth-Charlotte, Duchesse d’Orléans, Memoirs of the Court of Louis XIV and of the Regency, 1899
Philipinette was living her best life. When we’re 77 years old, may we all have that same playfulness, nonchalance about manslaughter and someone to bail us out of jail.
She’s a picky eater.
I seldom breakfast, and then only on bread and butter. I take neither chocolate, nor coffee, nor tea, not being able to endure those foreign drugs.– Elizabeth-Charlotte, Duchesse d’Orléans, Memoirs of the Court of Louis XIV and of the Regency, 1899
So this is where Gladys Mason gets her sanctimonious nutrition regimen.
Liselotte was on the keto diet before it was cool:
I eat no soup but such as I can take with milk, wine, or beer. I cannot bear broth; whenever I eat anything of which it forms a part, I fall sick instantly, my body swells, and I am tormented with colics. When I take broth alone, I am compelled to vomit, even to blood, and nothing can restore the tone to my stomach but ham and sausages.– Elizabeth-Charlotte, Duchesse d’Orléans, Memoirs of the Court of Louis XIV and of the Regency, 1899
TMI, Liselotte. But perhaps she had reason to fear certain foods:
The poor Duchesse de Berri was as much the cause of her own death as if she had blown her brains out, for she secretly ate melons, figs and milk; she herself confessed, and her doctor told me, that she had closed her room to him and to the other medical attendants for a fortnight that she might indulge in this way.– Elizabeth-Charlotte, Duchesse d’Orléans, Memoirs of the Court of Louis XIV and of the Regency, 1899
With that kind of victim blaming, not to mention the HIPAA violation, no wonder the duchess needed a sugar rush.
Her bark is just as bad as her bite.
Perceiving that [Madame de Fiennes] treated the King and Monsieur [Liselotte’s husband] with as little ceremony as any other persons, I took her by the hand one day, and, leading her apart, I said to her, “Madame, you are very agreeable; you have a great deal of wit, and the manner in which you display it is pleasant to the King and Monsieur, because they are accustomed to you; but to me, who am but just arrived, I cannot say that I like it. When any persons entertain themselves at my expense, I cannot help being very angry, and it is for this reason that I am going to give you a little advice. If you spare me we shall be mighty good friends; but if you treat me as I see you treat others, I shall say nothing to you; I shall, nevertheless, complain of you to your husband, and if he does not restrain you I shall dismiss him.” He was my Equerry-in-Ordinary.
When someone hurts my feelings, all I can do is blog about them. Liselotte, however, had other means of coercion at her disposal and wasn’t afraid to use them. Just ask the poor monks.
She promised never to speak of me, and she kept her word. Monsieur often said to me, “How does it happen that Madame de Fiennes never says anything severe of you?”
I answered, “Because she loves me.” I would not tell him what I had done, for he would immediately have excited her to attack me.– Elizabeth-Charlotte, Duchesse d’Orléans, Memoirs of the Court of Louis XIV and of the Regency, 1899
She’s a troublemaker.
I shudder to think about what would’ve happened had Liselotte become a mail carrier instead of a duchess:
I was the unintentional cause of making a quarrel between [Françoise Marie de Bourbon, the duchesse d’Orléans and Liselotte’s daughter-in-law] and the nun of Chelles [Louise Adélaïde d’Orléans, Françoise Marie’s daughter and Liselotte’s granddaughter]. . . I received a letter from my daughter addressed to Madame d’Orleans; and not thinking that it was for the Abbess [Liselotte’s granddaughter], who bears the same title with her mother, I sent it to the latter.
This letter happened, unluckily, to be an answer to one of our Nun’s, in which she had very plainly said what she thought of the Duc and Duchesse du Maine [Françoise Marie’s brother and sister-in-law], and ended by pitying her father for being the Duke’s brother-in-law, and for having contracted an alliance so absurd and injurious. It may be guessed whether my daughter’s answer was palatable to my daughter-in-law.
I am very sorry that I made the mistake; but what right had she to read a letter which was not meant for her?– Elizabeth-Charlotte, Duchesse d’Orléans, Memoirs of the Court of Louis XIV and of the Regency, 1899
Do we really think Liselotte was sorry? Even three centuries later, she’s still smirking:
With a combination of cunning, threats and a dash of mischief, Liselotte not only kept her head but thrived, eventually becoming first lady of the French court and one of the (admittedly many) women known as the “grandmother of Europe.”
Liselotte hobnobbed with aristocrats and royalty who were, unbelievably, even more outrageous than she was. Next time, she’ll report on who was cheating on their spouse, who was poisoning their rival and who she found repulsive (spoiler: everyone).
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Welcome to Second Glance History! This blog seeks to uncover the people and the stories forgotten by history and give them another read through a modern lens. Join me every week as we examine the differences that divide and the common threads that connect the then to the now.