What goes where. An essential thing to learn, even more so for a King who has to father an heir and a few spare ones to make sure. In case of Louis XIV, we have some records as to how he learned what goes where and the woman who introduced him to the pleasure of horizontal bed gymnastics. Her name was Catherine Bellier and she was not a beauty by any means.
As Louis reached the tender age of 15 in 1653, his mother Anne d’Autriche, most likely with the agreement of Cardinal Mazarin, went on the mission to find someone suitable enough to show Louis how to use his little Louis. Not a easy mission, at all. Certain things had to be considered, such as an easy access to the King, the chosen woman must lack ambitions to raise herself above her current rank, she must be discreet, she must be experienced, but not too much, she must be clean and without any diseases, she must be charming, but not to a level of being too enchanting, after all the whole act will be quite bewitching enough already.
Anne’s eyes turned to one of her ladies-in-waiting nicknamed One-Eyed Catherine or Cateau-la-Borgnesse. As the nickname implies, the Lady in question was indeed missing an eye and not what was considered a beauty by 17th Century standards.
Catherine-Henriette Bellier, born in 1614, was the daughter of Martin Bellier and married Pierre de Beauvais, a textile merchant, on 23 February 1634. She found herself at court shortly after and is described as intelligent, plotting and a trusted companion to Anne and despite of being as ‘ugly as ugly can be’, Catherine had several love affairs, one of her lovers being the arch bishop of Sens. Oh la la.
With the approval, and instructions, of Anne, Catherine, nearly forty years old, draped herself seductively and sans garments on the bed of the king one autumn day in 1653. It must have been quite a sight for Louis as he returned to his bedroom after a short visit in the salle de bain… what exactly happened next will be left to our imaginations, but fact is Catherine did a quite satisfying job.
Catherine was rewarded for her service to the Crown with the nice sum of 2000 livres, along with the title of Baroness de Beauvais, two Parisian Townhouses and her own hotel particulier, the Hôtel de Beauvais, built by the royal architect Antoine Le Pautre in 1657. A few years later, on the very balcony of the Hôtel de Beauvais, Anne d’Autriche watched the wedding parade of Louis and Marie-Thérèse d’Autriche wind its way along the Rue Francois Miron towards the Louvre in company of Catherine and her husband.
Catherine and her husband lived quite the life, until he passed away in 1674 and was forced to withdraw from court life due to overwhelming debts, yet she made rare appearances at court from time to time and was always treated with the utmost respect by her royal pupil until her death on June 7 1689 in Arrou.
There are no surviving portraits of Catherine, but we can still see her today carved in stone on the facade of the Hôtel de Beauvais along with her husband and Anne d’Autriche.