Louis de France, le Grand Daupin or Monseigneur

1 Childhood and education of the Grand Dauphin

Louis de Bourbon dauphin de France is better known as 'Le Grand Dauphin', or in his own time as "Monseigneur'. He was born at Fointainebleau on 1 November 1661 to King Louis XIV and Maria Theresia of Spain. In the first seven years of his life he was raised by a group of women under the direction of Madame la marquise de Montausier governess of the children of France1. She was however also occupied as 'dame d'honneur' and after an incident whereby the dauphin had fallen from his crib she obtained her dismissal and was replaced by la maréchale de La Mothe2. For a while the grand dauphin did know a sister and a brother who lived a few years, but after 1672 he was a single child.

In 1668 the seventh birthday of the dauphin marked the moment that he passed into the company of men3. For this Charles de Sainte Maure duc de Montausier was appointed as governor of the Dauphin in 1668. He was assisted first by Périgny and then by two Huets and Fléchier. Périgny was 'reader of the chamber' and had to teach the Dauphin his letters. He was also charged with compiling the 'Mémoires pour l'instruction du dauphin' and was appointed as précepteur. He died in 1670 and was succeeded as précepteur by Bossuet, bishop of Condom and sous-précepteur Pierre-Daniel Huet bishop of Avranches. As reader he was replaced by Abbé Esprit Flèchier. His education was formally ended with his marriage in 1680.

This was a good set of teachers and casual observers thought that only his character had restrained the Grand Dauphin from profiting from this excellent team. The mémoires of Saint Simon and Madame de Caylus however indicate something else. The educators of the dauphin were so rude and 'pedagogically incompetent', that his instruction made him adverse to any learning. The truth of how the Grand Dauphin was mistreated during his education is contained the journal of Dubois and is reflected in many secondary writings about the education of the Dauphin.

2 The Grand Dauphin marries Marie Anne of Bavaria

On 7 March 1680 the Grand Dauphin married Marie Anne of Bavaria (1660-1690). Marie Anne was not very beautiful and perhaps also not a very optimistic personality, but the marriage seems to have had its good years. Most important result of this marriage was the birth of three sons:

  • Louis, Duc de Bourgogne (6 August 1682 - 19 February 1712), Dauphin on 14 April 1711
  • Philippe, Duc d'Anjou (19 December 1683 - 9 July 1746), Felipe V king of Spain on 1 November 1700
  • Charles, Duc de Berry (31 July 1686 - 5 May 1714), never became dauphin

3 The military career of the Grand Dauphin

When he had just reached the age of thirteen the grand dauphin went on his first campaign visiting the 1674 siege of Dole. In 1684 he accompanied his father to the siege of Luxembourg4.

In September 1688 the Grand Dauphin, then aged 26 commanded an army that invaded the empire. If one looks at the commanders present in his army, there can however be some doubt at who was to command. There were: Duras, Boufflers, Vauban and Catinat5. In combination with the numerical superiority of the French, the quick conquest of Philippsbourg may not be surprising. This army furthermore conquered the Pfalz and occupied Worms, Speyer, Mainz, Trier, Heilbronn and other places on both sides of the Rhine. He seems to have made himself populair with his soldiers during this campaign.

After the death of his wife the grand dauphin went on campaign again in 1690. This time it was again on the German front and with the Maréchal de Lorges. In this campaign nothing was achieved, except for burning and plundering the Pfalz and the electorates of Trier and Cologne.

In 1691 the dauphin was in the siege of Mons, but in that the king was also present. In May 1692 the Grand Dauphin was present in the siege of Namur, but this was in the company of the king, the duc d'Orleans and other generals. He therefore did not command. This was also the case in the first part pf 1693, when he was again in the same army as the king. In June 1693 the grand dauphin went to the Rhine, and there he was again in at least a position of nominal command. He did not achieve anything there. In 1694 the grand dauphin made his last campaign when he commanded the army of Flanders.

4 Mistresses of the Grand Dauphin

After his marriage turned sour the grand dauphin had a first mistress in Louise de Caumont, daughter of the Duc de la Force and fille d'honneur of his wife. His wife vainly tried to break this romance by arranging a marriage between Louise and the Comte de Roure, but this only made the romance more secret. After both were widows in 1690 the grand dauphin thought he could more liberaly be with her. Louis XIV however intervened by exiling Louise to Montpellier and refusing to recognize the dauphin's bastard.

The grand dauphin also had a short affair with Françoise Pitel (1662-1721). She had married J.B. Raisin in 1679 and was with the Comédie Française. With her the grand dauphin had a girl named mademoiselle de Fleury, but he did not recognize her. In 1715 the princesse de Conti was so thoughtful as to arrange that she could be married6 to M. Dubois d'Avaucourt in 1715. The king silently signed the contract.

The next mistress of the grand dauphin was Marie-Emilie de Jolie de Choin oldest fille d'honneur of the princesse de Conti-Vallière. He married her in secret in 1694, but she had an affair with mr. Clermont-Chatte, one of the officers of the guard. When the princesse de Conti found out De Choin was forced to leave the court in August 1694. From there she regularly went first to Choisy and then to Meudon. Later the affair became public and they together received guests at Meudon, La Choin playing a role similar to the one De Maintenon played at Versailles7.

5 Other pursuits of the Grand Dauphin

Hunting was one of the greatest passions of the grand dauphin. He especially liked hunting wolves. It might be instructive to look at the passtimes of the Grand Dauphin in the first two week of July 1686. On 1 July he went hunting for wolves. On 2 July he went to Marly and took the princesse de Conti with him. On 3 July he went hunting for wolves in the forest of Montmorency. On 4 July he went shooting in the parc. On 5 July the grand dauphin went to visit the Duc d'Orleans at Saint Cloud. On the sixth he went to Marly with the king. On 7 July he went walking in the parc. On 8 July he went hunting wolves. On 10 July he went hunting wolves. 11 and 12 July were spent with the Princesse de Conti. On 13 July the grand dauphin went hunting wolves. On 14 July he went to visit 'Mademoiselle' at Choisy.

6 The Grand Dauphin at Meudon

Up till 1693 the grand dauphin lived at Versailles, and thus largely under the eyes (and control) of the king. When the last will of the very rich Mademoiselle de Montpensier was opened in April 1693 it became clear that the Duc d'Orleans was her universal heir, but that the grand dauphin had been given the chateau of Choisy. This chateau de Choisy was a fashionable comfortable little palace on the Seine that had been recently constructed. It had cost about 800,000 livres to build8, but did not have any income attached. The gift might have been kind of an act of vengeance on King Louis. It enabled the grand dauphin to somewhat slip form the control of the king.

It was probably because of this lack of control that King Louis wanted to station the grand dauphin closer to Versailles. For this he chose the palace of Meudon, which was situated between Paris and Versailles and he proposed to its owner Madame de Louvois an exchange for Choisy. For this deal the chateau de Meudon was estimated at 500,000 francs and Choisy at 100,000 francs and the king paid 400,000 more. The Chateau de Meudon had been reconstructed by Abel Servien and recently been augmented by Louvois.

At Meudon the grand dauphin found a place to establish his own little court and to hoard all kinds of art collections and diamonds. After several augmentations the palace was however still not to his liking, and therefore he decided to construct a new palace in 1705. This was the Chateau neuf de Meudon. It was designed by Mansart and was a showpiece of architecture, but except for a part that was reconstructed as an observatory not much is left of it. Of the old chateau de Meudon significant remains are present.

7 Career

  • 1661 Born at Fontainebleau
  • 1668 Joins the society of men
  • 1680 Marries Marie Anne of Bavaria
  • 1674 present in the siege of Dole
  • 1684 present in the siege of Luxembourg
  • 1688 commanding in Germany
  • 1690 commanding in Germany
  • 1691 present in the siege of Mons with the king
  • 1692 present in the siege of Namur with the king
  • 1693 commanding on the German front
  • 1694 commanding in Flanders
  • 1695 establishes his own court at Meudon
  • 1711 dies

8 Notes


1) Actually: Gouvernante des enfants de France
2) Un Misanthrope à la cour de Louis XIV Montausier sa vie et son temps, By Am Roux, Paris 1860 page 145 about the dauphin falling from his crib. This also for the Montausier family
3) Histoire des famillies etc. Sorbonne 2007, page 871 has an article Education de Prince sous Louis XIV, le Grand Dauphin by François Lebrun
4) Nouvelle biographie générale etc.by Hoefer, vol. 31 page 1026 has the dauphin at Dole and Luxembourg
5) Madame de Maintenon, Peinte par elle-même by Amélie Suard, Paris 1828 vol I, page 253, about the composition of monseigneur's army.
6) Journal de marquis de Dangeau 26 May 1715 about the preparations for the marriage of mademoiselle de Fleury.
7) Journal de marquis de Dangeau 22 August 1694 with a note by Saint Simon about the affair with La Choin (spelled La Chouin by him).
8) Journal de marquis de Dangeau 6 April 1693 about the palace of Choisy having been built for 800,000 livres.