An amazing portrait, allegedly of Madame la Duchesse de Chateauroux by Nattier. Madame de Chateauroux was one of the most rapacious and notorious of the mistresses of Louis XV before he turned his back on the grasping but lovely ladies of the aristocracy and made the middle class Madame de Pompadour his mistress instead.
Amusingly, the beautiful and seductive Madame de Chateauroux was the youngest of five daughters of the Marquis de Nesle and Mailly, only one of whom did not become a mistress of the young King. Her eldest sister, Louise Julie, the Comtesse de Mailly was first into the King’s bed in 1732 before being succeeded by the second sister, Pauline Félicité, the Marquise de Vintimille who became royal mistress in 1740.
However, in 1742, Marie Anne, the Marquise de Tournelle and youngest and most beautiful of the sisters was introduced at court by the Duc de Richelieu and quickly superceded both of her elder sisters in the King’s affections, eventually being created Duchesse de Chateauroux by her smitten royal lover, who also arranged for her eldest sister, who was still his official mistress to be sent away from court.
Marie Anne’s triumph did not last long as she died very suddenly on the 8th December 1744. The story goes that Louis XV became seriously ill while overseeing his troops in Metz and had to have the last rites, which involved officially dismissing his mistress so that he could be recieved into heaven in a state of grace. When the news of his subsequent recovery reached the mournful Marie Anne in Paris, she was so thrilled that she immediately called for a rather unseasonable bath to be prepared so that she could look and smell her best for her lover. Only to be killed by the subsequent chill that she caught.
After her death, Louis XV rather half heartedly consoled himself with her elder sister, the third Mailly girl: Diane Adélaïde, the Duchesse de Lauraguais, but she was soon replaced by Madame de Pompadour. One can only wonder how the fourth girl: Hortense Felicité, Marquise de Flavacourt felt about this – I imagine her patiently waiting for her turn in the spotlight for all those years only to be disappointed.