Françoise-Madeleine d’Orléans, Duchesse de Savoie
Françoise-Madeleine was born on 13 October in 1648 as third child and daughter of Gaston de France and his second wife Marguerite de Lorraine.
The little girl received the style Mademoiselle de Valois, from one of her father’s properties, and spend much of her early years in the French countryside. Her papa was fond of intrigues and the result of one of these was exile in his chateau at Blois.
As a grandchild of a King, Françoise-Madeleine was a petit-fille de France and entitled to be called a Royal Highness. Mademoiselle de Valois was often sick and of weak health as a child, which made her mother insist to keep her close and not send her off to be educated somewhere else.
She was raised together with her older sisters Marguerite-Louise and Élisabeth, with whom she got along very well, under supervision of their governess Madame de Rare. Another young girl she got along with quite well was Louise de La Vallière. Louise’s stepfather Jacques de Courtavel, Marquis de Saint Rémy, served in the Household of Gaston and Louise as companion to the three sisters. Since they were roughly the same age, all of them were educated together and shared a passion for the same things. Music and dancing.
As it is always with princesses of royal blood, marriage and marriage prospects play a big role early on in their lives. This also applied to Mademoiselle de Valois. Towards the end of the 1650’s, as Louis XIV reached an age in which marriage was unavoidable, parents all over Europe hoped that one of their daughters might be the future Queen of France… and so did Gaston and Marguerite. They hoped that per chance their oldest daughter Marguerite-Louise might be the lucky one. The King and Gaston had made peace by then again and it would have been the perfect way to show that King and uncle are on the same side of things again. Unbeknown to them, Cardinal de Mazarin had his eyes on a different bride already.
Christine de France, Gaston’s sister, did not know of that either. She hoped that one of her daughters might be selected. Christine was the dowager Duchesse de Savoie and not only had daughters, but also an unmarried son. Since these things are usually very complicated, one thing leads to the next.
Louis XIV’s bride was announced and was neither a daughter of Gaston nor one of Christine… and so the game continued. A different marriage was arranged for Marguerite-Louise, but there was a bit of a problem with that. Marguerite-Louise had a lover and was not willed to leave said lover for her chosen groom. She had to do it in the end and her lover, Charles de Lorraine, was in turn engaged to a certain Marie-Jeanne-Baptiste de Savoie. This Marie-Jeanne was a daughter of Duc Nemours and his wife Élisabeth de Bourbon, a granddaughter of Henri IV. Charles and her were engaged… but then Charles changed his mind, due to Louis XIV annexing his properties and left court. The engagement was declared void. Marie-Jeanne wasn’t just some random girl one could do such a thing with, she was a someone and as such it caused a scandal. So, Christine de France proposed to have her son, the Duc de Savoie, marry Marie-Jeanne.
Cardinal de Mazarin did not quite agree with the suggestion and suggested a different bride for Charles-Emmanuel II. Mademoiselle de Valois. She was young, pretty and perfectly lovely. Everyone agreed and Mazarin began to negotiate a marriage contract. The deed was done in time, for Mazarin died shortly after.
Françoise-Madeleine, fourteen years old, was married to Charles-Emmanuel II on 4 March in 1663 at the Louvre. The new Duchesse left France for her new home and met the hubby for the first time on 3 April, as they were married in person. Both then travelled to Turin, where they arrived on 15 June. They got along very well and were very fond of each other. Françoise-Madeleine also bonded quickly with her mother-in-law Christine. Françoise-Madeleine did her best to please both of them and succeeded. She was often at the side of her husband, also when he went hunting, but then health problems returned. A French doctor was allowed to look after her, but her condition was often so bad that she was bound to bed for days. When that was the case, Christine kept her company… although she was not feeling too great either.
The new Duchesse celebrated her fifteen birthday in October 1663. Christine de France died at the end of December the same year. And Françoise-Madeleine followed her only two weeks later. The Duchesse was so very affected by the death of her mother-in-law, that her own condition became worse and worse. She died, aged fifteen and childless, on 14 January in 1664, leaving her husband inconsolable. He ordered to have a majestic funeral arranged and she was buried at Turin Cathedral, where she still rests today.
Charles-Emmanuel married a second time. The bride was Marie-Jeanne-Baptiste de Savoie and he had a son with her, Victor Amadeus II, who married Anne-Marie d’Orléans, the youngest daughter of Philippe de France and his first wife Henriette d’Angleterre.