…after numerous miscarriages, plus the lack of affection between Louis XIII and Anne of Austria, we have a stormy night story in which Papa Louis cannot go out and has to settle for his wife, the queen. There are stormier possibilities, but what matters in this fairy tale is that at the end the baby Sun King pops out as a miracle of the rain. Two kids only, both with the same woman? How could such an asexual gentleman produce such an oversexed progeny, the twenty-three children of Louis XIV and more than twenty-three of Louis XV?
There is an interesting little institution established at the court of Versailles and Madame de Maintenon, the future second, the secret wife of Louis XIV, is in charge of raising the royal bastards. A very strict etiquette regulates the delicate web of this family. Even at a masque ball the kids don’t mix; for the legitimate children are princes and princesses, while the illegitimate are dukes and duchesses. The bastards play an important political role: the king bastardizes the other families of high nobility who compete with his family: he marries his bastards up and this brings the other line down.
No cinderellas? Yes cinderellas! Madam de Maintenon is young and beautiful, the Sun King is old and ugly. It could be the other way around: the king’s first cousin is ugly but her husband is quite a ladies’ man. And then there is a secret marriage of the king’s young and handsome son, who is to inherit the throne at the time, to that “…fat girl, dark, ugly, flat-nosed…;” wait, there is a better description, “…tiny, short-legged, round-faced, nose short and turned up, a big mouth full of rotten teeth that would fill with stench the room.” Sometimes an ugly duckling grows up to be a very ugly duck.