three pairs of lovers with space

LETTERS FROM LISELOTTE 1681-1720

 

Princess Elisabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate of the Rhine (1652-1722), nicknamed “Liselotte”, was the second wife of Philippe Duke of Orleans, known as “Monsieur” (and always thus referred to in her letters), the only brother of the French King Louis XIV. Her vast and candid correspondence with her relations and friends is a major source for knowledge of private life at the French court over more than half a century, and especially for sexual behaviour at the top of society.

Elisabeth Charlotte Duchess of Orleans with a Moorish Page by François de Troy 1680

Half of the letters presented here were to Liselotte’s beloved aunt, the Duchess Sophie of Brunswick-Lüneburg, from 1692 the Electress of Hanover, but six were to her younger and unmarried half-sisters the Raugravines Luise and Amalie Elisabeth of the Palatinate of the Rhine, and six to the Princess of Wales.

Liselotte wrote letters in French, but the large majority, including all the intimate ones were in her native German. Unfortunately, most of these have not been translated.  Presented here is everything on Greek love in two translations into English of selections from her correspondence Letters from Liselotte, Elisabeth Charlotte, Princess Palatine and Duchess of Orléans, “Madame”: 1652–1722, translated by M. Kroll (London, 1970) and A Woman’s Life at the Court of the Sun King: Letters of Liselotte von der Pfalz, Elizabeth Charlotte, Duchesse d’Orléans, 1652–1722, translated by Elborg Forster (Baltimore, 1984). In addition to these, selections have been translated for this website from Briefe der Herzogin Elisabeth Charlotte von Orleans an die Kurfuerstin Sophie von Hannover edited by Eduard Bodemann (Hannover, 1891, 2 vols.), Briefe der Herzogin Elisabeth Charlotte von Orleans edited by W. L. Holland (Stuttgart, 6 vols., 1867-81) and Elisabeth Charlottens Briefe an Karoline von Wales edited by H. F. Helmot (Annaberg, 1909)

The twenty-four letters here are presented in the order they were written, which does not correspond to the happenings they describe, since the later ones look back on Liselotte’s life.

 

To the Duchess Sophie of Brunswick-Lüneburg, Saint Cloud, 13 April 1681

The Chevalier de Lorraine, Monsieur's lover when they were 15 and 18, depicted as Ganymede by Baldassare Franceschini

[ . . . ] I know some fine stories, one of which I simply must tell Your Grace: I heard it three or four days ago, and it happened in a Jesuit college. The Chevalier de Lorraine[1] claims that it is his son who did this trick and that he does this sort of thing all the time. One of the pupils at the college was full of mischief of all kinds, ran around all night long, and did not sleep in his room. So the reverend fathers threatened him with a tremendous beating if he did not stay in his room at night. The boy goes to a painter and asks him to paint two saints on his buttocks, on the right cheek Saint Ignatius of Loyola and on the left Saint François Xavier, which the painter did. With that the boy tidily pulls up his breeches, goes back to his college, and starts making all kinds of trouble. When the reverend fathers catch him at it, they tell him, “This time you’ll be whipped.” The boy begins to struggle and plead, but they say that pleading will not do him any good. So the boy gets down on his knees and says, “O Saint Ignatius, o Saint Xavier, have pity upon me and perform a miracle for me to prove my innocence.” With that the fathers pull down his breeches, and, as they lift up his shirt to beat him, the boy calls out, “I am praying with such fervor that I am certain my invocation will be heard!” When the fathers see the two painted saints, they exclaim: “A miracle! the boy whom we thought a rogue is a saint!” And with that they fall on their knees to kiss the behind and then call together all the pupils and make them come in procession to kiss the holy behind, which all of them do. [Forster, pp. 30-31]

 

To the Duchess Sophie of Brunswick-Lüneburg, Versailles, 14 April 1689

"Monsieur", aged 13, dressed for his brother's coronation in 1654

We are told that the women of a small county in Ireland have revolted against King James and taken up arms for the Prince of Orange.[2] It must be for the glory and honour alone, for no one can say that he has any kindness for their sex – he is believed to have very different inclinations. [Kroll p. 52]

 

To the Duchess Sophie of Brunswick-Lüneburg, Saint Cloud, 20 May 1689

[…] If my children were in my power, they would give me great pleasure; but when I think that my daughter is already surrounded by such people that I cannot say a word in her presence from fear that I will get into trouble, and when I see that Monsieur is bound and determined to make the Marquis d’Effiat my son’s governor,[3]  even though this man is my worst enemy and will set my son against me as much as he has set Monsieur against me, then I must confess that the children are giving me more chagrin than pleasure. The King has not permitted Bethune to leave Poland in order to become my son’s governor, so I am very much afraid that it will be the above-mentioned marquis, who is the most debauched fellow in the world, and particularly in the worst respect. If he becomes my son’s governor, I can be quite sure that he will teach him all the worst vices, and this gives me little pleasure. […] [Forster p. 63]

 

To the Duchess Sophie of Brunswick-Lüneburg, Versailles, 26 August 1689

The Marquis of Effiat in 1688

I must tell Your Grace that my adversaries have put it into Monsieur’s head to make his master of the horse my son’s governor. But because I, along with all of France, know that this man is one of the most disreputable and debauched characters in the world, I have asked Monsieur to give my son another governor. This I have done because I think that it would not be to my son’s honor if people thought that he is d’Effiat’s mistress, for there is no doubt that there is no greater sodomist in France than he, and that it would be a bad beginning for a young prince to start his life with the worst debauchery imaginable. To this point Monsieur replied that he had to admit that d’Effiat used to be debauched and loved the boys, but that he had corrected himself of this vice many years ago. I said that it was not many years ago that a good-looking young German who was here made his excuses to me for not calling on me as often as he wished because he was bothered so much by d’Effiat whenever he came to the Palais Royal, and that this proves that he has not corrected himself as many years ago as his friends claim. But even supposing that he had not indulged in this vice for a few years, I told Monsieur, I do not believe that my only son should be used to find out whether or not the lord master of the horse can get along without his pages and thus be considered a depraved and dissolute person by those who do not know of d’Effiat’s conversion; this, I said, was bound to ruin his reputation. I added that I find it strange indeed that a blackguard who only years ago, without showing respect for either Monsieur or myself, had purposely gotten one of my maids of honor with child and insisted that she be delivered in this very house and who constantly keeps whores and knaves in the Palais Royal, should be my son’s governor and therefore in a position to set a bad example for my son. I also pointed out to Monsieur that I had other reasons to ask him not to entrust my son to this man, namely that he is my worst enemy, that Monsieur should remember how before his own eyes I have convicted him of lying in everything he had said about me and that indeed he had asked my forgiveness on bended knees in Monsieur’s presence, and that, in short, nothing could be more painful to me than to see this godless wretch rewarded with my only son for all the evil he has done me, for trying to cut off my honor with his lies, and for making me the target of Monsieur’s unending hatred, so that I can expect nothing but hatred from my son as well if this man were  to be his governor. I granted that Monsieur is the lord and master and that he can place my son in the hands of anybody he sees fit, but that d’Effiat would have neither my approval nor my consent as long as he lives. And that if it were to be my misfortune that my son be given this governor, no one should blame me for apologizing to the whole world and for letting everyone know that this had been done against my will.

Liselotte's son, the Duke of Chartres, in 1686, aged 11 or 12, by Nicolas de Largillière

At first Monsieur said that Madame de Maintenon[4] had been greatly in favor of this and had tried to gain the King’s consent;  to this I replied that that is a bad sign for Monsieur and my son, for if His Majesty allowed my son to fall into these hands it would be a sign that he no longer cared about him, since the King is so well aware of d’Effiat’s many vices that he has often spoken to me about them, which is true; as for Madame de Maintenon’s approval, I told Monsieur that this particular case should make him suspicious, for her love for Monsieur du Maine,[5] whom she has brought up and whom she loves as if he were her own child, is such that she must wish him  to surpass my son in virtue; therefore she would be only too happy to approve d’Effiat as my son’s governor, but that this very approval should open Monsieur’s eyes and show him how unsuitable this governor would be for his son. When d’Effiat saw that I was so adamantly opposed, he said at first that he did not want the position, but later he changed his mind and sought it more eagerly than ever. Monsieur had already let me know, albeit with some annoyance, that d’Effiat did not want to become governor and had not been appointed for that reason, but that this had nothing to do with me. I answered laughingly that by this compliment Monsieur spared me the trouble of thanking him, but that I was so glad that I could not refrain from thanking not only Monsieur but d’Effiat himself.

"Monsieur" by Pierre Mignard

That night I was of good cheer and thought that everything was well; but later Monsieur’s confessor was sent to me, and when I went to Paris, Comtesse de Beuvron[6] told me that Monsieur had also sent his chancellor to her to transmit a proposition to me. Since both, alas, come to the same thing, I will report them to Your Grace together, and my reply as well; the only difference between the two was that the message brought by the confessor was not as frightfully harsh as the one to Comtesse de Beuvron. Whether the good Jesuit put the thing a little more gently for me, I do not know. Monsieur’s message was this: that he had firmly decided to make d’Effiat governor whether I consented or not; that therefore I would be well advised to yield in this matter; and that if I did this in a gracious manner, he would send me a carte blanche on which I could write whatever I pleased; in addition he promised to receive the Comtesse de Beuvron again, to treat her well, and to seek to please me in every possible way. However, if I should remain stubborn and say that this is being done against my will, it would happen anyway, the only difference being that he would make life miserable for me, forbid the Comtesse de Beuvron ever to see me again, refuse every request I would ever make, distress me in every way, cause every kind of scandal that would upset me most, and thereby show that he was master in his own house. . . . Since then the King has chosen a governor for the Duc de Bourgogne, one of the most virtuous men in the world; and therefore I wrote to His Majesty, begging him to make the choice for my son as well, but he neither wrote nor spoke to me in reply. What the end of all this will be, time will tell. Monsieur sulks a bit about it, but I act quite as usual and as if nothing had happened and try to be as polite as ever I can. Every day someone is sent to me to try to persuade me. I am surprised that Monsieur has not written to Your Grace to enlist her help as well, but I believe he feels that this will not do, since Your Grace may have heard that this d’Effiat is also suspected of having given the late Madame[7] the poison which, they say, the Chevalier de Lorraine had sent from Rome through Morel; this accusation, whether it be false or true, makes another fine recommendation to entrust my son to him.  [Forster pp. 65-67]

 

To the Duchess Sophie of Brunswick-Lüneburg, Saint Cloud, 21 September 1689

Louis XIV in 1692 by Pierre Mignard

To let Your Grace know the sequel to this story, I have spoken to the King. His Majesty says that it is sheer lies that he wants d’Effiat as his nephew’s governor. On the contrary, he said that he had kept Monsieur from making this appointment for a whole year. To which I answered that I very humbly beg His Majesty to do my son the added favor of choosing an honorable man and to propose him to Monsieur; and this the King promised me. Since then they wanted to threaten me again, but I said that I am not afraid and almost cited the proverb, “He who dies from threats shall be buried (by your leave) with farts.” I let them know that I know quite well that they have lied. Since then everything has been quiet, and I have learned through the grapevine that the King is keeping his promise and that there is indeed hope that my son will have a different governor. God grant that we will be given an honorable man! Béthune is needed by the King, so he cannot be the one, which I regret very much. For if it had been he, I would have had no fears that he would stir up my son against me.[8] [Forster pp. 67-68]

 

To the Duchess Sophie of Brunswick-Lüneburg, 6 September 1690

On the stay in Paris of Sophie’s third son Maximilian Wilhelm:

So long as he makes it seem that he detests women and likes boys, he will be allowed to do what he likes, and he will be the best friend of the King’s confessor[9] if he so wishes. [Bodemann I 125]

 

To the Electress Sophie of Hanover, Versailles, 13 February 1695

Monsieur's son-in-law Vittorio Amedeo II Duke of Savoy aged 14 or 15, by Jacob Ferdinand Voet, ca. 1681

Where in the world does one find a husband who loves only his spouse and does not have someone, be it mistresses or boys, on the side? If for this reason wives were to go in for the same behavior one could never be sure, as Godfather[10] so rightly says, that the children of the house are the rightful heirs. Does the young duchess[11] not know that a woman’s honor consists of having commerce with no one but her husband, and that for a man it is not shameful to have mistresses but shameful indeed to be a cuckold?...

Your Grace would not believe how coarse and unmannerly French men have become in the last twelve or thirteen years. One would be hard put to find two young men of quality who know how to behave properly either in what they say or in what they do. There two very different causes for this: namely, all the piety at court and the debauchery among men. Because of the first, men and women are not allowed to speak to each other in public, which used to be a way to give young gentlemen polish. And secondly, because they love the boys, they no longer want to please anyone but one another, and the most popular among them is the one who knows best how to be debauched, coarse, and insolent. This habit has become so ingrained that no one knows how to live properly any longer, and they are worse than peasants behind the plough…. [Forster p. 87]

 

To the Electress Sophie of Hanover, Fontainebleau 12 Oct. 1695

You made me laugh by what you said about the chateau de derriere. It is true that people here think of King William[12] as belonging to that brotherhood, but they say he is less taken up with it now. [Kroll p. 70]

"A boy who might do" being readied for trying out as a page to Monsieur: a scene from Joffé's film Vatel (2000)

To the Electress Sophie of Hanover, Versailles, 7 March 1696

[…] I will tell my dearest Ma Tante how everything is here, and I will begin with Monsieur. All he has in his head are his young fellows, with whom he wants to gorge and guzzle all night long, and he gives them huge sums of money; nothing is too much or too costly for these boys. Meanwhile, his children and I barely have what we need. Whenever I need shirts or sheets it means no end of begging, yet at the same time he gives 10,000 talers to La Carte so that he can buy his linens in Flanders. And since he knows that I am bound to find out where all the money goes, he is wary of me, afraid that I might speak about it to the King, who might chase the boys away. Whatever I may do or say to show that I do not object to his life, he still does not trust me and makes trouble for me with the King every day; even says that I hate the King. […] Indeed, the King is so well aware that Monsieur likes me to be treated with contempt that whenever there is trouble between them, the reconciliation always amounts to extra favors for Monsieur’s beloved boys and had treatment for me. All the silverware that came from the Palatinate Monsieur has melted down and sold, and all the proceeds were given to the boys; every day new ones show up, and all of his jewelry is being sold, pawned, pledged, and given to the young men so that if - God forbid - Monsieur should die today, tomorrow I would be thrown upon the King’s mercy and not know where to find my daily bread. Monsieur says quite loudly and does not conceal from his daughter and from me that since he is getting old now, he feels that there is no time to lose and that he means to spare no expense to have a merry time until his end; he also says that those who will live longer than he will just have to see how they can get along and that he loves himself more than he loves me and his children. And indeed he practices what he preaches. […] [Forster pp. 90-91]

 

To the Electress Sophie of Hanover, Versailles, 18 January 1697

The King does only what his old trollop[13] wants and will hate even those whom he loves most if she says so. Monsieur is only interested in his boyfriends’ welfare and cares about nothing else. All the others are false too, and a bunch of stable grooms and petty valets are lords and masters over just about everything. A week ago he again gave 100,000 francs to a fellow by the name of Contades to buy Rubantel’s company.[14] All his fine jewels and diamonds are being sold one by one. […] [Forster p. 98]

I don’t wish any harm to the mignons, and I chat amicably and politely with them. [Bodemann I 273]

 

To the Raugravine Luise of the Palatinate, Versailles, 5 December 1697

Liselotte's son by Jean-Baptiste Santerre

[…] I do not know whether it would not be better for me and for my son if he had to participate in a few more campaigns, for this country is too full of dreadful temptations for young people, and they gain more honor from war than from just hanging around here and going in for debaucheries, for which – just between us - my son has only too much inclination. He thinks that since he only loves women and is not interested in the other debauchery, which is now more common here than in Italy, he should even be praised and thanked; but I do not like his life at all. […] [Forster p. 104]

 

To the Electress Sophie of Hanover, Versailles, 16 March 1698

Monsieur is keener than ever on the boys and now takes lackeys out of the antechambers; every last penny he has is squandered in this way, and some day his children will be complete beggars, but he does not care about anything but providing for these pleasures of his. He opposes me in everything and avoids me at all times; he lets himself be ruled completely by these rakes and everything in his and my house is being sold for the benefit of these fellows. It is shameful what goes on here. My son has been completely captivated by Monsieur’s favorites; since he loves women, they act as his pimps, sponge off him, gorge and guzzle with him, and drag him so deeply into debauchery that he cannot seem to get out of it; and since he knows that I do not approve of his ways, he avoids me and does not like me at all. Monsieur is glad that my son likes his favorites and not me and therefore puts up with everything from him. […]  [Forster p. 106]

 

To the Electress Sophie of Hanover, Versailles, 7 July 1701

That Monsieur has not remembered me in his will is not surprising, it cannot be. In this country the husband cannot bequeath anything to the wife, nor the wife to the husband; but what he gives her during his lifetime is hers to keep. But Monsieur preferred to give it to those who amused him, for it turns out that three young fellows alone were given incomes of a hundred thousand talers each. […]

What will become of my financial affairs I do not know, but there is no doubt that I will not have enough to live according to my rank unless the King helps me…. The poor late Monsieur left things in a complete shambles and has not provided for me at all, for he could have done this during his lifetime, though not in his will; but he has preferred to distribute everything among his boyfriends, who loved him much less than I did.  [Forster pp. 134 & 136]

 

To the Raugravine Amalie Elisabeth of the Palatinate, Fontainebleau, 12 October 1701

William III King of England etc., Liselotte's second cousin

King William often changes his favourites, and they say he has another in place of Albemarle. It is not surprising that the Queen had no rivals during her lifetime. People who have those inclinations do not bother much about women. On this subject, I have become so knowledgeable here in France that I could write books on it. [Holland I 239]

 

To the Raugravine Amalie Elisabeth of the Palatinate, Versailles, 13 December 1701

What they say of King William is all too true; but all heroes were like that: Hercules, Theseus, Alexander, Caesar, all of them were like that and had their favourites. Those who have this taste [for sodomy] and believe in Holy Scripture imagine that it was only a sin as long as there were few men in the world and what they practised could hurt the human race in preventing the birth of a greater number of men. But at present, when the world is fully populated, they consider it a simple amusement. They hide it as much as they can in order not to scandalise the common people, but it is openly spoken of among people of quality. They consider it an urbanity, and they don’t fail to say that, since Sodom and Gomorrah, God our Lord has not punished anyone for this reason. You will find me knowledgeable on this subject; I have heard it often spoken of since I have been in France. [Holland I 257]

 

To the Raugravine Amalie Elisabeth of the Palatinate, Fontainebleau 30 September 1705

Nothing is more ordinary in England than this debauchery. It is English people who have affirmed this to me themselves.  All those who came with my lord Portland[15] to Paris led a frightfully debauched life there.  I was told that my lord Westmorland,[16] my lord Raby[17] and three or four others were not ashamed to declare their inclinations. If you don’t want to abhor people, dear Amelise, surround yourself with few people. Reading the Bible will not do anything. Ruffigny,[18] who was one of the elders of the church of Charenton, is one of the worst of the clique.  He and his brother La Caillemotte[19] were Protestants and always reading the Bible, but did worse than any of those who are here, and understood very well the jokes when one poked fun at them. La Caillemotte used to say “I have to love men, for I am too ugly to be loved by women.” There are also many in Germany who practice this debauchery. The Count of Zinzendorff, who was sent here by the Emperor, changed colour whenever he saw a well-made page and was so excited that it was shameful to see. You ask why they want to taste forbidden pleasures, but it has been thus since Adam: people prefer forbidden dishes to permitted dishes. Believe me, one finds these buggers in every country. [Holland I 416]

         

To the Raugravine Amalie Elisabeth of the Palatinate, Versailles, 3 December 1705

Liselotte in later life, by Hyacinthe Rigaud, 1713

Where have you and Luise been that you know so little of the world? It seems to me that one does not have to live at court very long to know all about it; but if one were to hate all those who love young fellows, one could not like - or at least not hate - six persons here. There are various kinds of such people; some of them hate women like the plague and can only love other men, others love both men and women … some only go for children of ten or eleven, others want young fellows between seventeen and twenty-five, and these are the most numerous; some of the debauched characters love neither men nor women and have their pleasure by themselves, but there are fewer of them than of the others. Some also engage in debaucheries of various kinds, with animals or people, whatever comes their way. I know one man here who boasts that he has done it with everything, even down to toads. Ever since I learned this, I loathe the sight of this fellow. He was in my late husband’s service and is a really wicked person, without any brains at all. So there you see, dear Amelise, that the world is even worse than you ever thought . […] [Forster pp. 161-2]

 

To Caroline, Princess of Wales, Paris, 25 February 1716

I won Monsieur over during the last three years of his life. We even used to laugh together about his weaknesses. He no longer listened to accusations and tales about me. He had confidence in me and always took my side, but before that I used to suffer dreadfully. I was just beginning to be happy when the Almighty took poor Monsieur from me, and I saw the work and trouble of thirty years disappear in an instant. [Kroll]

 

To Caroline Princess of Wales, 5 June 1716

In the army he [Condé[20]] was used to young cavaliers; when he returned he could not tolerate women. [Helmot 13]

 

To Caroline Princess of Wales, 13 July 1716

This Morel[21] had a spirit like the devil, … He stole, he lied, he swore; he was an atheist and a sodomite; he kept a school of it, and sold boys like horses. He went to the Opera stalls to conclude his deals there. [Helmot 289]

 

To Caroline Princess of Wales, 13 June 1717

Philippe, Chevalier de Lorraine

The Count of Vermandois[22] was likeable and well-made. He squinted a little, but not much.  I know well that rumour said that M. the Dauphin[23] debauched him, but I would forfeit my head that it’s not true, for M. the Dauphin was not at all one of the sect. He only liked women. Those who debauched poor M. de Vermandois were the Chevalier de Lorraine[1] and his brother the Count of Marsan; they taught him the fine art. [H. F. Helmot 284-5]

 

To Caroline Princess of Wales, Saint Cloud,16 November 1717

Count Zinzendorff […] is an Austrian perfect in appearance, elocution and manners. As he was visiting at Versailles the Great and the Little Stable, Monsieur le Grand summoned twenty pages expert in horseback acrobatics and got them to perform in their shirts. On seeing that, Count Zinzendorff was so moved that he could not eat, and was ill with desire. It is he also who launched the fashion of soliciting pages at the Tulieries by whistling. That was told to my son, who could not believe it. He went alone to the Tulieries, started to whistle and saw running up several in livery, and amongst them one of his own pages. The latter almost fell backwards and was chased away forthwith. [Helmot 47-8]

 

To Caroline Princess of Wales, 14 October 1718

Note that the direct speech reported in this extract was given by Liselotte in its original French rather than in German:

Louis Count of Vermandois by Pierre Mignard

The Count of Vermandois[22] was naturally good. The poor boy loved me as if I were his real mother. When all was discovered on the subject of his debaucheries, I was truly very angry with him, for I had warned him very loyally that I would stop loving him. He took that to heart and sent to my house every day, and pleaded with me to allow him to say only a few words. I held out for four weeks. In the end, I summoned him. He fell on his knees before me, wept bitterly and asked my forgiveness: he wanted to correct himself, I had to give back my friendship without which he could not live, and help him again with my advice. He told me his whole story. He had been horribly seduced.

When the Dauphine lay in of the Duke of Burgundy, I said to the King, "I hope your Majesty will not upon this occasion refuse a humble request I have to make to you." The King smiled and said: “What then are your requests?” I answered: “Forgiveness for poor Mr. de Vermandois.” He smiled and said: “You are a good friend, but for M. de Vermandois, he has not yet been punished enough for his crimes.” I said: “The poor boy is so repentant of his faults!” The King said: “I do not yet feel myself able to see him. I am still too angry with him.” Several months elapsed before the King would see him; but the young man was very grateful to me for having spoken in his behalf; and my own children could not be more attached to me than he was. He was well made, but his appearance, though not disagreeable, was not remarkably good; he squinted a little. [Helmot 115]

 

To the Raugravine Luise of the Palatinate, Saint Cloud, 21 April 1720

The Château de Saint Cloud, Liselotte's home,  engraved by Antoine Aveline ca. 1720

It is quite certain that our Germans used to be virtuous, but now I hear that they always bring back many vices from France, especially sodomy, which is dreadful in Paris and brings all other vices in its train. […] [Forster p. 248]

 

[1] Philippe, the Chevalier of Lorraine (1643-1702) had become the lover of Monsieur when he was fifteen and Monsieur eighteen. He remained an enormous influence on him, partly through procuring boys for him once his own looks had faded (Primi Visconti, Mémoires sur le Cour de Louis XIV (Paris, 1908) 130-1), hence he was frequently mentioned in Liselotte’s letters.

[2] The Prince of Orange was the title of nobility recognised by Catholics for William III, the Protestant King who had overthrown the Catholic James II in England and was then contesting Ireland with him. Liselotte had known him when they were children, they being second cousins.

[3] Liselotte’s son was then fourteen. The post of his governor was vacant through death. The Marquis of Effiat was Antoine Coëffier de Ruzé d’Effiat (1639-1719), a nephew of the Marquis of Cinq-Mars, the best-known youth loved by Louis XIII.

[4] Maintenon was Louis XIV’s mistress. Liselotte often lamented her great influence on the King.

[5] The King’s legitimated son by Madame de Montespan.  Maintenon herself was childless.                      

[6] Madame’s good friend and former lady-in-waiting, née Théobon.  [Translator’s note]

[7] Monsieur’s first wife, whose death was blamed by many (including herself) on poison.

[8] In the end, [her son] Philippe was given the Marquis d’Arcy as his governor. His preceptor was Abbé Dubois. Both were excellent educators. Dubois served as prime minister when Philippe became Regent during the minority of Louis XV. [Translator’s note]

[9] Father François de la Chaise (1624-1709).

[10] Liselotte’s godfather was Georg Wilhelm Duke of Celle (1624-1705), brother of Sophie’s husband.

View of the estate of Saint Cloud by Étienne Allegrain ca. 1720

[11] Electress Sophie’s daughter-in-law, who was caught in a scandalous adultery [Translator’s note] 

[12] “King William”, the third of that name, was the King of England, Scotland and Ireland referred to in an afore-quoted letter of 1689 by his former main title of “Prince of Orange”. Both letters allude to his sexual partiality for male youth.

[13] Louis XIV’s mistress, Madame de Maintenon, referred to earlier.

[14] Military commissions, like court and government offices, were personal property and as such could be bought and sold. However, if the owner did not acquit himself of his duties to the satisfaction of the crown, he could be forced to sell his commission. [Translator’s note] 

[15] William Bentinck 1st Earl of Portland (1649-1709), was a close childhood friend of William III King of England, who sent him as ambassador to France from January to June 1698 with a large and distinguished entourage.

[16] Vere Fane, 5th Earl of Westmorland (1678-99), who was only nineteen when he went on the embassy to Paris.  According to his brother, “growing to be a very handsome man with performing his exercises in a good manner and becoming to be an accomplished gentleman, the King took great delight in him so that he became a favourite.” (Autobiographical Notes by Thomas, 6th Earl of Westmorland: British Museum Add. Ms. 34223).  The King was William III, whose sexual attraction to youths was frequently alluded to be Liselotte, thrice in quotes on this page.

[17] Raby is given in an unquoted part of the next letter on this page as an example of those who “love both men and women”, so he is of no Greek love interest.

[18] Henri de Massüe, Marquis of Ruvigny (1648-1720), who had emigrated to England in 1685.

[19] Pierre de Massüe, seigneur of La Caillemotte, who had died in 1690.

[20] Louis Prince of Condé (1621-86) was a great French general known as “le Grand Condé”.

[21] Antoine Morel de Volonne, who had been a Provençal friend of Monsieur and Liselotte’s steward from 1673 to 1683.

[22] Louis Count of Vermandois (1667-83) was a legitimated son of Louis XIV by a mistress.  When he was fourteen he joined a secret order of young nobles called the Holy Fraternity of Glorious Pederasts. “He accepted with good grace being visited by one of the Grand Masters of his choice, and was able to designate himself his partners in pleasure.” He then recruited his friends.  When his furious father heard about it, the culprits were all exiled from court, Vermandois himself having first confessed and been flogged before him. He died miserably and unforgiven seventeen months later. (Dirk Van der Cruysse, Madame Palatine, princesse européenne (Paris, 1988) pp. 176-7).

[23] The dauphin was Vermandois’s eldest half-brother, then aged nineteen, and heir to the throne.