Philippe I Duc de Orleans

Brother of Louis XIV, Monsieur

21 September 1640 - 9 June 1701

Portrait of Philippe 1 d'orleans

Even though Philippe I died before the Spanish Succession war really commenced it is nice to know something of Philippe I of Orleans in order to put French Court life into perspective.

Childhood and adolescence of the Duke of Orleans

Philippe was Louis XIV's younger brother by two years and his upbringing was directed by Cardinal Mazarin. In general Mazarin's policy was directed at centralizing authority, meaning the whole country should submit to the king. This policy was also adapted in bringing up the royal family. So, while Louis XIV was brought up to rule, Philippe's education was not directed at being the smartest man at court. This meant he was not required to study much and was allowed to play a lot. I cannot say whether his upbringing brought up a feminine trait in his character, or this trait just surfaced during his youth, but Philippe later became known for it.

The looks of the Duke of Orleans

Saint Simon gives this portrait of his looks of Orleans: Monsieur was a little man with a belly. He always wore high-heeled shoes and was always dressed up in a feminine way. He was always covered with rings, bracelets, jewels, and wore a long black wide spread curly wig. He also had ribbons wherever he could put them; wore all kinds of perfumes, and was a fine model of cleanliness. He was accused of putting on an imperceptible touch of rouge.

Philippe's Character

According to Capefique Philippe I of Orleans was of soft manners, feminized habits, and courage in battle. In short an example of nobility that indulged in pleasure but also hurried to the battlefield. Philippe's wife Liselotte was a bit more explicit: (Philippe) had only feminine inclinations, loved to clean, was anxious about his teint and loved all female jobs and ceremonies. This did not mean that he was some kind of sissy. His wife: Monsieur kept himself well in battle, but never talked about it. And: Excepting when he was with the army, he would never get on horseback. The soldiers used to say that he was more afraid of being sun-burnt and of the blackness of the powder than of the musket-balls; and it was very true.

Here is some of what Saint Simon had to say (freely translated) of Philippe's character: The vast majority of the court was seriously affected by Monsieur's death. He had brought amusement, spirit and pleasantry to the court, and when he was gone it seemed to be lifeless and still. He had been concerned with the hierarchy, preference and distinction and had tried to have it observed by giving the example. He loved greatness and was of a kindness and honesty that attracted the court. The distinction he knew to make between people according to their qualities contributed to that. The way he received and his attention were always tuned to birth, dignity, age and merit. This behavior was full of natural dignity and executed with ease. His familiarity was obliging but in keeping with his natural grandeur. He visited and invited where he had to. This he did with a complete liberty and without diminishing the respect and grand air of the court in the least. He had learned all this from his mother and by keeping it up he ensured that the mass was always at the Palais Royal.

But Saint Simon also says this about Philippe's behavior: (Apart from the above good qualities) Monsieur had very courageously won the battle of Cassel and had always shown courage in the sieges where he had served. But apart from that, he had only the bad qualities of women. With more knowledge of the world than conviction and without a proper education, even though he knew much about noble houses, he was not capable to achieve anything. Nobody was so weak in body and mind, so timid, so easily fouled, so despised by his favorites and so often directed by others. He was quarrelsome, incapable of keeping any secret, suspicious and mistrustful. He was even fond of spreading rumors at his court in order to see what would get up, or just to amuse himself, telling one what another had said. With so many defects and devoid of any virtue, he had an abominable taste in choosing his favorites, and the gifts and the fortunes he bestowed upon them caused public scandal.

The one thing that indeed made Philippe's conduct scandalous was his affair with the Chevalier de Lorraine. Saint Simon stated that Philippe was smitten by the chevalier's good looks and showered him with money and benefices, while being 'ruled' by him. His first wife, Henrietta of England did not appreciate this however, and had the king banish the Chevalier de Lorraine. This banishment made Philippe burst into tears and beg the king to recall him, but that was to no avail. Henrietta died only a little later. According to Saint Simon she was poisoned by two of Lorraine's minions.

The relation of the Philippe d'Orleans to Louis XIV

Louis XIV was not childish in handing out wealth to Philippe I of Orleans. Philippe got the Palais Royal, the palais of Saint Cloud, a lot of titles and had his own Swiss guard. Louis was however very strict in keeping the hierarchy of his family intact, and was very strict in keeping Philippe subdued and out of any real power. This with a view to preventing any possible insurgents from having a 'royal' figurehead. Philippe's conduct towards Louis was in keeping with this and can be said to have consisted of familiarity mixed with submission. Saint Simon stated that nobody was so timid and submitted towards Louis as Philippe was, even flattering his ministers and mistresses. But, also that Philippe did continue to speak with familiarity to Louis, and that he disregarded a lot of the court ceremonies, but always did so with a profound respect.