Catherine Charlotte de Gramont, Princesse de Monaco
Catherine-Charlotte de Gramont was born in either 1638 or 1639 as second child and first daughter of Antoine III de Gramont and his wife Françoise-Marguerite du Plessis de Chivré. Her father being a great military commander, her mother a great beauty and her older brother the infamous Comte de Guiche.
Mademoiselle de Gramont spent much of her youth with the nieces of Cardinal de Mazarin, who were nicknamed the Mazarinettes, and received a education superior to most others. In company of the Mazarinettes, she learned everything necessary to become a grand dame of the court with a brilliant future. That future came in form of Louis de Monaco, heir to the Principally of Monaco.
His father, Honoré II, Sovereign Prince of Monaco, took it into mind to strengthen the bonds his small realm had with France. Previously, Monaco was on more friendly terms with Spain, but Honoré II saw the French were on the rising and this could be of advantage to him. Thus Louis XIV, still a child himself, acted as Godfather for his son Louis. (You can presume the Monaco Louis was named Louis in honour of the French Louis. This was usually the case when the French Louis acted as Godfather. Hence why there are so many Louis around.) It was also decided that, when of age, Louis de Monaco should be married to a high-ranking lady of the French court.
Said to be stunningly beautiful, very witty and ‘as fresh as a sorbet‘, Catherine-Charlotte was the chosen one. To crown the deal, papa Honoré II put a ducal title for his son on top, so they had a bit of a standing at court because although Louis was the son of a foreign ruler, he did not count as foreign prince. This rank could only be given by Louis XIV himself and Louis did not bestow it upon the Monacos. Louis would not gain it until way later. Cardinal de Mazarin, to which papa Honoré II was pointed as the wife search started, was the one to suggest Mademoiselle de Gramont as such. She was a few years older than the groom, but very attractive, and she knew the French court, was part of it. Thus it would smoothen the groom’s way to make a name for himself there and more importantly, to make himself agreeable to Louis XIV.
Catherine-Charlotte’s papa liked the idea as well. He promised to provide her with a dowry of 300,000 livres, but did not quite manage to gather that much money… Mazarin kindly granted him a loan. Thanks to Mazarin, the whole thing was also a bit delayed. The Cardinal was busy with getting Louis XIV hooked with the Spanish Infanta Marie Thérèse. Louis de Monaco thus travelled all the way to the Pyrenees to meet his bride. According to Cardinal de Mazarin, all ladies were quite taken with Louis de Monaco… apart from his bride.
The wedding took place on March 30, 1660 at the Gramont château of Pau. A lavish affair. Mademoiselle de Gramont, richly decked out with all sorts of bling, became Her Serene Highness the Hereditary Princess of Monaco and Duchesse de Valentinois. Mazarin sent her a jewel covered crown for the occasion and all guests agreed the bride looked like a Queen. Catherine-Charlotte had to leave France and her friends for the small Monaco and was not really pleased about it. She was way too used to the French style of life… and her many admirers… talk had it the new Princesse was more friendly with her cousin, then known as Marquis de Puyguilhem, than she was supposed to be.
Madame de Monaco spent some time in her new realm, keeping herself busy with decorating, but did not like it too much there and thus returned, with husband, to France. There, in 1661, pretty much nine months after their wedding, Catherine-Charlotte gave birth to a healthy heir, named Antoine. But then papa Honoré II died on January 10 in 1662 and Catherine-Charlotte’s hubby succeeded him as Sovereign Prince of Monaco, forcing them to return to Monaco. In the same year, Catherine-Charlotte gave birth to twins, and that four days after the death of Honoré II. It were two daughters and named Maria Teresa Carlotta and Giovanna Maria Devota.
The couple took just had sorted their affairs as new Prince and Princesse, as they were recalled to France by Louis XIV. Catherine-Charlotte rejoiced. She was not at all impressed with the prospect of living in Monaco.
Back in France, Madame de Monaco was honoured with the position of lady-in-waiting to Henriette d’Angleterre. Both were familiar with each other and quite close. The Princesse became a jewel of Louis XIV’s court.
Lively and beautiful, all the young man at court flocked to her, which earned her the nickname Le Torrent. The Prince had it not so easy in France. Although quite handsome and apparently fiery, yet a bit timid, he was very proud of his rank, avaricious, as well as ignorant of the customs of the court. As Madame de Monaco was asked if she loves him, her reply was ‘I do not love him. He is not in fashion.‘
She loved someone else and again the rumours started about her being rather friendly with her cousin the Marquis de Puiguylhem, future Duc de Lauzun, and he was not the only one loved by Catherine-Charlotte. It did not go unnoticed of course, which lead Madame de Sévigné to call Madame de Monaco a person greedy for pleasure.
Beauteous as she was, Louis XIV’s interest got stirred as well. At this time in his reign, Louis bedded Mademoiselle de La Vallière, but said Mademoiselle had to withdraw from court to hide her scandalous pregnancy. It was apparently Henriette d’Angleterre who shoved the Princesse de Monaco towards Louis XIV in hopes the sparkling Princesse might distract the King so much, that plain La Vallière will be swiftly forgotten. Madame had a bit of an issue with her based on the fact that a intrigue meant to keep herself in favour, had placed La Vallière into the King’s bed. That first part of the plan, to have Monaco befriend France, worked out superbly and Catherine-Charlotte became mistress of the King. Rumour had it that at the same time, she also had an affair with Henriette d’Angleterre, but there is nothing that can prove this. Both women were rather close, but this most likely to Henriette d’Angleterre having a bit of a thing going on with Madame de Monaco’s bother, who at the same time was the official lover of Louis XIV’s brother.
The Princesse de Monaco lead quite the wild life during this period of time. Her relationship to Louis XIV did not last long, however. Mademoiselle de La Vallière knew all about it and even tolerated it. At some point Louis grew tired of Catherine-Charlotte and returned into the arms of his Louise. Here’s when things get a little confusing. According to some accounts, Catherine-Charlotte maintained her relationship to the Marquis de Puiguylhem while she was with Louis XIV, which did enrage Louis and he had the Marquis de Puiguylhem thrown into the Bastille for six months… according to others, she preferred Louis over the Marquis, which did enrage the Marquis and he made fun of her, she then told Louis of it and the Marquis ended up in the Bastille.
What was her husband up to in the meanwhile? Louis XIV kept him busy by sending him to various diplomatic and military missions. After her affair with Louis XIV, Catherine-Charlotte got herself another few rather prominent lovers. One of them was the Chevalier de Lorraine and her affair with him destroyed her friendship with Henriette d’Angleterre…. by now, in 1668, Louis XIV wasn’t too amused with all the ado about the many lovers of Catherine-Charlotte anymore and it was suggested she should leave France for a while.
Madame de Monaco returned to her small realm, after spending some time at the court of Genoa with Monsieur de Monaco. There she gave birth to her sixth child. After Antoine in 1661, Maria Teresa Carlotta and Giovanna Maria Devota in 1662, Catherine-Charlotte gave birth to another two daughters, Teresa Maria Aurelia in 1663 and Anna Ippòlita in 1664. Now, in 1669 she gave birth to her second son Francesco Onorato.
The Franco-Dutch war allowed the Princesse de Monaco to return to France. Her husband was ordered by Louis XIV to participate and a new position as lady-in-waiting was offered to her. Catherine-Charlotte had been informed of the cruel death of her former friend Henriette d’Angleterre while being in Monaco, now she entered the household of France’s new Madame, the German Liselotte von der Pfalz and immediately became friends with her although she also maintained a friendly relationship with the new Madame’s enemy aka the Chevalier de Lorraine. Her friendship with the Chevalier brought her also the friendship of his lover and husband of Madame.Later, Madame de Monaco’s first-born son Antoine married a niece of the Chevalier, Marie de Lorraine, in 1688. Upon the occasion, the Monacos finally received the right to call themselves foreign princes.
All her affairs took a toll on her relationship with her husband and the couple separated in 1672. Catherine-Charlotte did not return to Monaco anymore afterwards. Three years after the separation, she gave birth to her last child. A daughter again. The child received the name Amelia and died in infancy.
Catherine-Charlotte’s days were nearly numbered as well. She suffered of bone tuberculosis and her health declined swiftly. Although separated from her husband, he visited her every day. Her Serene Highness Madame la Princesse de Monaco died aged thirty-nine in Paris on June 4 in 1678. According to Madame de Sévigné, the malady made the head of the Princesse look like a skull covered all over with black marks.
What a shame that she is not in the “Versailles”. How many extra juicy threads could be added to the script… 😉 La Marquise did not live long but how intensely!
*la Princesse, not la Marquise of course….
Aurora von Goeth
That is the issue I and many others have with Versailles. Louis’ court is so very full with interesting people, there is not really a need to bring fiction into it. The story has already written itself with a whole bunch plot twists, drama and intrigue.