It was a secret marriage but everybody knew. After Louis XIV’s wife died, the King married his baby-sitter. Hers is a real Cinderella story, for Madame Maintenon was not even a baby-sitter of the legitimate kids, she baby-sat the bastards. This, together with the fact that she always rallied to the bastards’ cause, didn’t earn her too many fans at the Court. Princess Palatine, whose only son had to marry one of those illegitimate girls, simply called Maintenon the Mouse Crap. With Madame Montespan, Maintenon was at daggers drawn over the same issues and that is even before she replaced Montespan in the life of the King. Their quarrels reached such resonance that Louvois, the minister of War, had to be involved. If Madame Montespan was associated with the young Louis XIV — the pagan king, then Madame Maintenon gave us an aging monarch and a pious one, to the extent that she is often blamed for the transition. The ambiguity of her status gave Françoise a degree of flexibility no woman had previously enjoyed. We can say that she had the influence and power of the queen, while being spared the constraints of the Court etiquette. We could also add that it is under the French Revolution, when her grave was desecrated and the remains exposed to the jeering crowd, the veil of ambiguity was ripped and Marquise de Maintenon was finally treated as what she had always been, a Queen of France.
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