Bonne de Pons, Marquise d’Heudicourt

Bonne de Pons was born between 1641 and 1644 in Poitou to Pons de Pons, Seigneur de Bourg-Charente, and his wife Elisabeth de Puyrigaud. Bonne is the youngest of the couple’s three children, having an older brother, Renaud de Pons, and an older sister, Marie Elisabeth de Pons.

Bonne’s family was of old nobility and related to many great names, among them César Phoebus d’Albret, Comte de Miossens, who was not only a cousin of Madame de Montespan, but also distantly related to Louis XIV. Due to his military achievements and his faithful attachment to Cardinal Mazarin and Anne d’Autriche, the Comte de Miossens became a Marshal of France in 1653. As such, the Marshal d’Albret called Bonne and her sister Marie-Elisabeth to Paris. Young and quite beautiful to behold, Bonne and her sister had many admirers, but there was a little problem. Both were brought up as Protestants, which stood in the way of them finding suitable husbands. The prospect of such was of more importance and both, like many other girls brought up in the Protestant faith, converted. Marie-Elisabeth was swiftly married off to the brother of the Marshal d’Albret, Francois-Amanieu d’Albret, on November 26 in 1659 and Bonne became, thanks to the connections of the Marshal and the protection of Monsieur, a fille d’honneur to Louis XIV’s Queen Marie-Thérèse.

It did not take too long until the pretty Bonne, with a complexion white as milk and a beautiful throat, stirred interest in the young men of the court and the King himself. Bonne did see this as her great chance to perhaps become the Sun King’s next mistress, the current one being Mademoiselle de La Vallière, and tried her very best to capture the King’s heart or at least his lasting interest. It worked out and Bonne swiftly found herself in the bed of Louis XIV. Gossip of the time says that Mademoiselle de La Vallière feared the influence Bonne had with the King after he started to not only visit her bed, but also started see her as a confidant. Mademoiselle de La Vallière was not too happy with that and the atmosphere got a little tense. Word of it reached Bonne’s Marshal uncle and he called her back to him to Paris under the pretext that he was ill.

Bonne would not return to court for quite a while and instead lived in the house of her uncle, who, as Saint-Simon says, had the best company of all of Paris. His salon there was a place of frequent comings and goings, and Bonne’s beauty attracted many new visitors, some of good families and eager to marry her. In Paris, Bonne also meets many people celebrated for wit and charm, like the widow of the poet Scarron, Françoise d’Aubigne. It was there, in the Hôtel d’Albret, were Françoise d’Aubigne met Madame de Montespan. Bonne became friends with both women and rumour has it that she also became the mistress of her uncle during this time.

In 1666, Bonne married Michel Sublet, Marquis d’Heudicourt and Grand Louvetier de France. The Grand Louvetier was a position within the maison du roi and his responsibility concerned the organisation of boar and wolf hunts, hence the name. Saint-Simon describes the circumstances of the marriage like this: “The Marshal d’Albret, did not know what to do with Mademoiselle de Pons, he found a Sublet, of the family of the Secretary of State de Noyers (François Sublet de Noyers), who was blinded by the beauty and good birth of the girl. He married her to gain the support and protection of the Marshal, who in order to give him a position, bought for him, upon agreeing on the marriage, the office of Grand Louvetier, which the Marquis de Saint-Herem sold in order to acquire the Governorship of Fontainebleau.”

Four children were born to them: Michel de Sublet, Marquis d’Heudicourt, who was killed in service of the King in 1693 at Nerwinde. Louise de Sublet, born in 1668, became a dame du palais of the Dauphine and married Jean-François Cordebeuf de Beauverger, Marquis de Montgon. Pons-Auguste de Sublet, born in 1676, became Grand Louvetier de France after the death of his father and Marquis d’Heudicourt after the death of his older brother. Gaston-Armand de Sublet, became the Abbé de la Roë and Bishop d’Evreux.

The new Marquise d’Heudicourt returned to court and received her famous nickname there, la Grande Louve after the office of her husband. As Marquise d’Heudicourt she was now also related by marriage to Madame de Montespan, which she found to be the King’s current mistress. It became pretty clear to Bonne that, while she might have a chance to replace a Mademoiselle de La Vallière, she would never be able to lure the King’s affections away from a Madame de Montespan. Thus instead of undermining Madame de Montespan, she made sure to be good friends with her, which also allowed her to gain Louis XIV’s confidence again. 

Bonne de Pons, Marquise d’Heudicourt, in circa 1660.

Being in a place of confidence with both Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan, Bonne knew of the children fathered by the King Madame de Montespan had given birth to. Her daughter Louise is almost of the same age as them and Bonne allowed to bring her up together with them at the Palais de Vaugirard in Paris. This was partly done to hide the fact that it were the King’s children and Louise was sometimes introduced as their cousin or even sister.

Unfortunately for Bonne, she could not keep the secret for too long. In a letter to her lover Monsieur de Béthune, who was the Polish ambassador, and in another to the Marquis de Rochefort, she spilled the beans about the relationship and the children born in it. For Bonne this meant disgrace and exile. She lost all her friends at court and not even her very good friend Françoise d’Aubigne dared to stick with her for fear of damaging her own reputation and fortune. Bonne was forced to depart for the château d’Heudicourt, located in the Normandy, and was not allowed to return to court for many years. In 1673, Bonne visited briefly as described in a letter by Madame de Sévigné, who writes that it has been a long time since she was last seen and if she had not gotten quite fat, she would probably returned to good graces. Madame de Sévigné also writes of little Louise, saying that she is pretty as an angel and hung at the King’s neck, who was much softened by her presence.

It was not until three years later that she was formally recalled to court, thanks to Madame Scarron, who now was the Marquise de Maintenon. The Marquise had repeatedly asked Louis XIV to allow Bonne to return, but he felt too insulted in first. As the influence of Madame de Maintenon grew, she insisted on having Bonne by her side and Louis did finally allow it, saying “I know your heart is kind, Madame, as for me, I do not forget so easily that she has insulted me, but as I only care to please you, I shall see that she can return.” Madame d’Heudicourt was far from being a beauty anymore as she returned to court as protégé of Madame de Maintenon. She has become almost lame and has great difficulties to walk. Her withered beauty became a topic of ridicule at court. At a party in 1685, she was even insulted by Marie Joseph de Poitiers who hinted that her face was a bit of a mood-killer. Nevertheless, Bonne managed to become a part of the court again. At Versailles, she and her husband occupied the apartments 100 and 100A in the aile des Princes, facing the cour de la Surintendance. Apartment 100 had four rooms, three with fireplaces, and apartment 100A eleven entresols with four fireplaces. According to Saint-Simon, this apartment was a sanctuary to which only those wanted were allowed.

Bonne de Pons, having a ‘hideous face’ but a good spirit in her later days, died there on January 24 in 1709. Saint-Simon writes “The court was delivered of a domestic demon with the name Madame d’Heudicourt, who died at eight o’clock in the morning, at Versailles, on Thursday, the 24th of January. I have spoken sufficiently of her, of her fortune and of her marriage, of her close intimacy with Madame de Maintenon, which lasted all their lives. She had grown old and hideous. One could not have more wit or pleasure, or know more things, or be more pleasant, more amusing, more entertaining, without wanting to be so. Nor could one be more gratuitous, more continually, more desperately wicked, and consequently more dangerous in the most familiar privation in which she spent her life with Madame de Maintenon and the King. Ministers, children of the King and his bastards, all knelt before this bad fairy, who knew only how to harm and never serve. Madame de Maintenon and the King lost a lot of fun, and the world, at the expense of whom she lived, gained much, for she was a soulless creature.”

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