Anne de Rohan-Chabot, Princesse de Soubise
Anne-Julie de Rohan-Chabot was born in 1648 to Marguerite de Rohan and Henri Chabot. She was the third child born in a marriage that was a proper scandal.
Her mother was the only child of Henri de Rohan, Duc de Rohan, and her family held the rank of Prince étranger. As Henri de Rohan died, Marguerite became Duchesse de Rohan suo jure -in her own right- and being a beautiful woman, there we were many willed to become her Duc de Rohan. Louis de Bourbon, Comte de Soissons, showed an interest in her, so did Louis de Savoie-Nemours and Prince Rupert of the Rhine. She refused them all. Marguerite was already madly in love with a certain Henri Chabot, a nobleman far below her own rank. That was a bit of an issue. She was a princesse and he was a mere seigneur, who would rise to the rank of Duc should a marriage happen. Furthermore, it might lower her own status at court. She brought the matter to Anne d’Autriche, who acted Regent for Louis XIV, in 1645 and Marguerite was assured that she would “keep her status, her dignity of a princess, should she marry Henri Chabot” in a certificate issued by Louis XIV. They married shortly after.
Anne and her siblings received a very good education. Especially Anne shone with extraordinary good manners and virtuous conduct. She is was beautiful as her mother.
Aged fifteen and equipped with the suo jure title Princesse de Soubise, Anne married a other member of the House of Rohan in 1663. The twelve-year-old widower François de Rohan, a half-brother of the famous Marie de Rohan, Duchesse de Chevreuse. Aged seventeen, and already mother of a daughter, Anne woke the interest of the ten-year older Louis XIV.
Anne, red-haired and with almond-eyes, unintentionally woke a tingly feeling in the royal-groin area, much to the displeasure of her mother. At that time, Louis XIV shocked the court with showing his mistress Louise de la Vallière off and Marguerite feared her daughter might be next in line. She forbade her to approach the King and ordered her to leave court, to live with her husband and children in a less dangerous environment…. but once something captivates the eye, it is hard to forget about it.
Thus in 1669, as Anne visited Chambord as part of the court, without her mother being anywhere close, Louis XIV took his chance. The times were Louise de la Vallière was the one-and-only for him was over. A certain Madame de Montespan had taken her place by now. Everyone knew it, although Louise still acted as official favourite and Louis seemed unable to make a final decision. As beautiful and interesting la Montespan was, she could also be rather exhausting and demanding company…. while the Duchesse de la Vallière could be rather boring. Why not go for a third option? In autumn of 1669, rumours spread at court that Louis was now bedding the Princesse de Soubise.
The Marquis de Saint-Maurice sums the situation up in a letter dated October 4: “All Paris wants Madame de Soubise to have the upper hand of favour. She has already made the leap, those who tell me the news mark the time and place. For my part, I do not believe it. We had already tales of this nature several times, and Madame de Montespan has too many charms and wit to allow herself to be supplanted.” He was right. Although the royal-groin, and the rest of the royal-body, showed interest, Anne was no match for someone like la Montespan.
Anne returned to her husband and children to lead a quiet life…. until 1673. Aged twenty-five, and mother of six, she once again became a person of interest for Louis XIV.
Contrary to the husband of Madame de Montespan, who pretended she had died and made things difficult for Louis XIV, the Prince de Soubise saw the on-off interest Louis XIV had for his wife as a chance to gain importance and wealth. In 1669, the bedding rumours were followed by bastard rumours as Anne gave birth to a son shortly after. These rumours vanished as quickly as they appeared, but they seem to have been the source of an idea for the Prince de Soubise.
If the King has an interest in his wife, he may go ahead with whatever he intends to do with her… if then a child was born, even better. The King, for the sake of the child, would remain kind to the mother in case the affair came to an end… and the husband, if he proved to be no trouble, may expect some money for his silence.
It is not clear whether he actively shoved his wife into the direction of the King, but Anne, being pregnant, became dame du palais to Marie-Thérèse in January the following year. Five months later she gave birth a son.
Her husband claimed said son, Armand-Gaston-Maximilien de Rohan, as his own, while it was widely speculated that it was actually a royal-bastard. “In consideration of his services“, the Prince received quite a bit of money from Louis XIV. This son, although never acknowledged by Louis XIV and claimed as his own by the Prince, received plenty of support from the King during the years and was made Grand Almoner de France in 1713. In first, there was not much of a similarity between Louis and the boy, but as he grew older the Bourbon features were hard to deny.
The affair of the Princesse de Soubise and Louis XIV continued in a sort of on and off for the next two years. As Madame de Montespan spent some time away from court to “take the waters” in the summer of 1676, Anne was again at the King’s side. In first he was fascinated by her beauty, then by her spirit, but Anne turned cold and calculating over the years. She became more and more attached to possessions and what she could gain.
Thanks to Madame de Sevigne’s letters, we know how the Princesse de Soubise signalled Louis XIV that she was available for a secret rendezvous. Whenever her husband was away for an evening, Anne wore large emerald earrings when attending the King’s dinner or supper.
While the affair lasted, Anne was of course on Madame de Montespan’s list of people she wanted to get rid of. She tried her very best to bad-talk her and, since Anne was often in delicate health, Montespan nicknamed her a pomme gâtée au-dedans. In the end, like many others before and after her, Anne fell victim to Louis XIV’s fickle moods. The Sun King had always more than one love interest. Next to the Princesse and Madame de Montespan, there was also Madame de Ludres and various others he turned to. She was simply not able to hold his interest. Louis was torn between all these women and whenever one fell out of favour, a younger and more beautiful one was eager to take the place. Louis’ on off affair with Anne continued until she lost her incisors, reportedly during childbirth. The King could not look at her anymore afterwards.
Anne spent the rest of her life in relative comfort, either at court or her Parisian home. She died there, aged sixty, on 4 February 1709 due to a cold.