Women's History Resource Site

King's College History Department


Madame de Maintenon

Francoise d'Aubigne was born in 1636 outside the walls of the Chateau- Trompette, "the Bastille of Bordeaux." Cardinal Richelieu had imprisoned her father, so her mother, Martinique, was forced to raise her daughter on the streets while living off charity from her relatives. 

Francoise d' Aubigne was a modest woman who had a reputation for dignity, austerity and piety. She was a strict Christian who believed in constant devotion to the Roman Catholic faith. While not ambitious, she was a good teacher. On April 4, 1652, Francoise d' Aubigne married the disabled Bohemian Starriest Paul Scarron. This marriage did not last very long as the poet Scarron was already a middle-aged man. Shortly after the death of her husband, Madame de Montespan chose Miss Aubigne to educate the illegitimate children of King Louis XIV. In 1670 Francoise gained the title of governess. Due to her unswerving devotion to his children, King Louis XIV began to seek her guidance and comfort. In 1674 King Louis gave the governess the new title Madame de Maintenon.

In July of 1683, six months after the death of Louis XIV's wife, Maria Theresa, King Louis secretly married Madame de Maintenon. Shortly after her marriage to King Louis XIV, Madame de Maintenon began to teach at the Chateau de Noisy which was located near Versailles. In 1686 she began to teach at a school called Saint Cyr that she and the King had founded. Madame de Maintenon ran this institution which educated two hundred daughters of the poor nobility from the area.

Madame de Maintenon ded influence on the King's decision making, especially in making him act more religious. Although King Louis had no theological background himself, she influenced him to participate in religious celebrations. Because Madame de Maintenon believed in strict education of the young people about Roman Catholicism, she is often blamed for the persecutions of the Protestants. Madame de Maintenon supported the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685.

Madame de Maintenon ended her life in quiet retirement at St. Cyr until her death in 1719. She has become an example of how a thoughtful woman could rise in the world of the absolute monarchs through her influence and prestige.


Annotated Bibliography

Mitford, Nancy. The Sun King. N.Y.: Harper and Row, Pub. 1966.
This source contained information primarily about King Louis XIV and contained only some basic information about Madame de Maintenon. It did not go into much detail about her and therefore can not be used for in-depth research on Madame de Maintenon.

Lossky, Andrew. Louis XIV And The French Monarchy. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1994.
This book contained more information about Madame de Maintenon, but it also focuses on Louis XIV. Therefore, it does not go into much depth with information about Madame de Maintenon. The problem with this source was it was not very explanatory and only mentions Madame de Maintenon in brief statements. It does not explain the view points and often becomes quite confusing.

Bernier, Oliver. Louis XIV A Royal Life. N.Y.: Doubleday Pub., 1987.
Although this source was very descriptive about the life of Louis XIV, Madame de Maintenon is barely mentioned. It did not supply enough information for extensive research on Madame de Maintenon.

Barker, Nancy Nichols. Brother to The Sun King. Baltimore, M.D.: John Hopkins University Press, 1989.
This source was not very helpful in describing Madame de Maintenon. It does not provide much detail about her. It describes her only very briefly in a few short places in the book. This book's focus is King Louis XIV and does quite well in describing him, but that was not helpful in researching Madame de Maintenon.

Boulenger, Jacques. The Seventeenth Century In France. N.Y.: Capricorn Books, 1963.
This source seemed to suffer from the same problems as the other sources did. It was not written about Madame de Maintenon so therefore it did not focus on her very much. All the information provided about her is brief and not very well explained.

Goubert, Pierre. Louis XIV And Twenty Million Frenchmen. N.Y.: Pantheon Books, 1966.
This source was not particularly useful because it did not seem to really describe Madame de Maintenon or her influences and actions. This book contained mostly information about King Louis XIV. This book was not organized very well and thus created confusion during the reading.

Ashley, Maurice. Louis XIV And The Greatness of France. London, Great Britain.: English Universities Press, 1946.
This source seemed to provide some basic information on Madame de Maintenon and provided a basic understanding of her life and her character. However, this source was also fairly general in its mentioning of Madame de Maintenon so it was not useful beyond getting a basic understanding of Madame de Maintenon.

"Women and Politics: Madame De Genilis." New Criterion, September 1996.
This source was useful in obtaining some background information on Madame de Maintenon. Until I found this source I was unaware that Madame de Maintenon was not her real name. I then was able to understand that the person I was searching for was referred to by a different name. This made finding other information easier.

WEBSITES:

"Louis XIV 1638-1715." Infoseek. http://www.ihi.ku.dk/~peterr/persons/louis14.
This source provided some very general information about King Louis XIV. It was not very descriptive or very in-depth information. This source provided some backround information on King Louis which was neccesary for the understanding of the times and events in french history.

"King Louis XIV the Sun King." Infoseek. http://www.chateauversailles.com/en/210.asp.
This site provided some background information on Louis XIV and his reign as King of France. It discusses some of his mistresses and how he came to be known as "The Sun King." It is rather useful and provides pictures of Louis XIV and of one of his mistresses.

"Louis XIV AN Absolute Monarch." Infoseek. http://www.chateauversailles.com/en/220.asp.

This site from the Chateau de Versailles includes information on Louis XIV and how he became the master of Versailles, as well as how he continuously put himself on public show to display his power. It also discusses the influence Madame de Maintenon had on him by getting him to become more devoted to Christianity. This site also provides various pictures of Louis XIV and also includes a picture of Madame de Maintenon.

"Maintenon, Franoise d'Aubign, marquise de." Encyclopedia Britannica. http://www.britannica.com/seo/f/francoise-daubigne-maintenon-marquise-de/.

This site gives a very thorough biography of Madame de Maintenon. It includes her early life as well as her role in the life of Louis XIV. It provides descriptive details about her, and discusses her role with the King. It states that she was the only one who maintained a dignified, decent climate for the King. It validates her as an ambitious woman with an exceptional destiny who did well with it.


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URL: http://departments.kings.edu/womens_history/demaintenon.html
Original written by Alan Mosca, 1998
Revised by
Tricia Tait, 2000 November
Last Revision: 2000 November 15

Copyright MMV Dr. Pavlac's Women's History Site
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