Louise Julie de Mailly
Early life, family and marriage
Louise Julie was born the eldest daughter of Louis de Mailly, marquis de Nesle et de Mailly, Prince d'Orange (1689 - 1767), and his wife, Armande Félice de La Porte Mazarin (1691 - 1729). Her parents had been married in 1709. Her mother was the daughter of Paul Jules de La Porte, duc Mazarin et de La Meilleraye (1666 - 1731), the son of the famous adventuress, Hortense Mancini, the niece of Cardinal Mazarin. Louise Julie had four younger full sisters:
- Pauline Félicité de Mailly, Mademoiselle de Nesle, marquise de Vintimille (1712 - 1741),
- Diane Adélaïde de Mailly, Mademoiselle de Montcavrel, duchesse de Lauraguais (1714 - 1769),
- Hortense Félicité de Mailly, Mademoiselle de Chalon, marquise de Flavacourt (1715 - 1763).
- Marie Anne de Mailly, Mademoiselle de Monchy, marquise de La Tournelle, duchesse de Châteauroux (1717 - 1744).
The only one of the de Nesle sisters not to become one of Louis XV's mistresses was the marquise de Flavacourt. Louise Julie was the first sister to attract the king, but it was Marie Anne who was the most successful in manipulating him and becoming politically powerful.
Louise Julie also had a younger half-sister, Henriette de Bourbon (1725 - 1780), Mademoiselle de Verneuil, from her mother's relationship with the duc de Bourbon, the chief minister of Louis XV from 1723 to 1726.
In her youth, Louise Julie was known as Mademoiselle de Mailly. On 31 May 1726, she married her cousin, Louis Alexandre de Mailly, comte de Mailly (b. 1694). Her husband died on 30 July 1743.
Mistress to Louis XV
Shortly after her marriage, Louise Julie caught the attention of King Louis XV, and was permitted by her husband to become a royal mistress. Although she became the king's mistress in 1732, Madame de Mailly was not officially recognized as his maîtresse en titre until 1738. Madame de Mailly did not use her new position at court to enrich herself or to interfere in politics, unlike her younger sister Marie Anne, who proved to be quite a successful political intriguer.
In 1738, Madame de Mailly received a letter from her younger sister Pauline-Félicité requesting to be invited to court. Madame de Mailly granted her sister's wish, but upon her arrival at court, Pauline-Félicité seduced the king and became his mistress.
While Madame de Mailly remained as the official mistress, the king fell in love with Pauline-Félicité and arranged for her to marry the marquis de Vintimille. He even gave Madame de Vintimille the castle of Choisy-le-Roi as a gift. Madame de Vintimille quickly became pregnant by the king, and she died giving birth to his illegitimate son, Louis, the duc de Luc, who looked so much like the king that he was called Demi-Louis, "small Louis". Madame de Ventimille's corpse was sent to Lit-the-Parade in the town of Versailles, but during the night, a mob broke in and mutilated the body of "the king's whore".
The king and Madame de Mailly were both devastated by the death of Madame de Vintimille and shocked by the mutilation of her body. In her despair, Madame de Mailly is said to have begun to wash the feet of poor.
Afterwards, the king's best friend, the manipulative duc de Richelieu, began to cast about for another candidate to fulfil his royal friend's desires as he did not want Madame de Mailly to regain the king's affections. He eventually decided upon the younger sister of both Madame de Mailly and Madame de Vintimille, Marie Anne, the widow of the marquis de La Tournelle.
At a masked ball on Shrove Tuesday, 1742, Richelieu led Marie Anne up to the king and introduced them. The beautiful marquise, however, at first rejected the royal advances. She already had a lover, the young duc d'Agénois (afterwards the duc d'Aiguillon), and was not inclined to give him up even for the king's sake. As a result, Louis conspired with Richelieu, who was d'Agénois's uncle, to rid himself of the young suitor. Richelieu was quite anxious to do anything to bring about a liaison between the king and Madame de La Tournelle because he knew Madame de Mailly did not view him in a kindly light. The result of their deliberations was that Louis, in imitation of the biblical David, sent his rival to fight the Austrians in Italy. Here, more fortunate than the husband of Bathsheba, the duc d'Agénois was only wounded, and returned to the court in glory.
Louis was in despair, but Richelieu, who was a resourceful man, was not one to lightly accept defeat. He sent his nephew to Languedoc, where a beautiful young lady had been instructed to seduce him. This she did most effectively; letters of a very passionate nature were exchanged; the lady despatched those which she received to Richelieu, and in due course they were brought to the notice of Madame de La Tournelle, who, furious at her young duke's deceitfullness, turned her attentions to the king.
But Madame de La Tournelle, who was by far the ablest as well as the most attractive of the de Nesle sisters, unlike Madame de Vintimille and Madame de Lauraguais, was by no means disposed to rest content with a divided empire and secret favours. She insisted that her older sister Madame de Mailly should be dismissed and she herself acknowledged in her place. Louis, who was already wearying of the tears and reproaches of the elder sister, consented; and the countess's post of dame du palais to Queen Marie Leszczyńska was taken away from her, and she was ordered to leave the court. Finding refuge in a convent, Madame de Mailly was to become quite religious.
- E. and J. de Goncourt, La Duchesse de Châteauroux et ses soeurs (1879)
- Toussaint, Anecdotes curieuses de . . . Louis XV (2 vols., 1905)
- J. B. H. R. Capefigue, Mesdemoiselles de Nesle et la jeunesse de Louis XV (1864)