Pauline Félicité de Mailly
Early life and family
Pauline Félicité was born the second 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. Pauline Félicité had four full sisters:
- Louise Julie de Mailly, Mademoiselle de Mailly, comtesse de Mailly (1710–1751),
- 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 followed by Pauline Félicité, but it was Marie Anne who was the most successful in manipulating him and becoming politically powerful.
Pauline Félicité 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, Pauline Félicité was known as Mademoiselle de Nesle.
Mistress to Louis XV
In 1738, Pauline wrote to her elder sister, Madame de Mailly, the king's official mistress, asking to be invited to court. She received the invitation, and during her stay proceeded to seduce the king, who fell passionately in love with her.
Mademoiselle de Nesle then became the second official mistress of Louis XV, although her sister kept the position of maîtresse en titre. The king lavished her with gifts, the greatest being the castle of Choisy-le-Roi, newly decorated in blue and silver. To provide her an appropriate status at court, the king arranged for her to marry a nobleman only too pleased to leave the couple alone. On 28 September 1739, Mademoiselle de Nesle married Jean Baptiste Félix Hubert de Vintimille, marquis de Vintimille, comte du Luc (born 1720), who departed to the country after their wedding. The new marquise de Ventimille soon became pregnant by the king.
Madame de Vintimille was described as taller, louder, wittier than her older sister. She was much more ambitious than her older sister and predecessor, Madame de Mailly, and possessed a great desire for money and political influence; her arrogance quickly made her hated within the court and by the people.
Her corpse was placed at Lit-de-parade in the town of Versailles, but during the night the guards left the room to drink and a mob broke in and mutilated the corpse of "the king's whore".
Both the king and her older sister, Madame de Mailly, were deeply devastated by the death of their lover and sister, and Madame de Mailly is said to have begun to wash the feet of the poor as a Catholic sign of remorse.
The son of the king and Madame de Ventimille was named Louis after his father and given the title of duc de Luc. He so resembled his father that he was called Demi-Louis, "small Louis". He was raised by his aunt, Madame de Mailly. The king took care of his needs but never paid him much attention. Later, Madame de Pompadour wanted to marry her daughter to him, but the king would not allow it.
Depiction in Fiction
Pauline is one of the central characters in Sally Christie's The Sisters of Versailles (Simon&Schuster 2015), a novel about Louis XV and the notorious Mailly-Nesle sisters.
- Herman, Eleanor (2005). Sex With Kings. p. 115
- Herman, Eleanor (2005). Sex with Kings: 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge. Vipers Nourished in the Breast: William Morrow Paperbacks. p. 115 (An e-book link to read). ISBN 0060585447.
- Latour, Thérèse Louis (1928). Princesses, ladies & salonnières of the reign of Louis XV. Alfred A. Knopf. p. 44.
- Algrant, Christine Pevitt (2003). Madame de Pompadour: Mistress of France. Grove Press. p. 27. ISBN 0802140351.
- Albert Meyrac, H. S. Mingard, Mouffle d'Angerville (1924). The private life of Louis XV. John Lane. p. 77.