Versailles season 2: Who was Madame de Montespan, King Louis' mistress?

Who was Madame de Montespan?

Versailles often treads the line between fiction and reality, but Madame de Montespan was very much a character based in real life.

By all accounts Françoise Athénaïs de Montespan – born in 1604 – was the official and most beloved of King Louis’ mistresses during his reign.

Historian Greg Jenner explains in the historical guide to Versailles, that Madame de Montespan was one of the many hearts conquered by the King.

Mr Jenner said: “Louis loved the thrill of the chase when it came to beautiful, charming women” and Athénaïs was no exception to this.

But there was more to Madame de Montespan than meets the eye and besides her charming looks, she was known for her devilish ambitions.

Saint-Simon, a memoir writer at Versailles, described Athénaïs as being at the centre of the royal court.

In his memoirs he remarked that her social circle was “the epicentre of the court, its pleasures and its fortunes, a source of both hope and terror for ministers and generals.”

She is described as a lover of arts and luxury, with the walls of her apartments covered in paintings.

King Louis who had as many as 20 women in his life, was very fickle when it came to his interests – he would often abandon his mistresses when they fell pregnant.

But despite having as many as seven of the King’s illegitimate children, Madame de Montespan never truly lost his affection.

Unfortunately for her, she was implicated in the infamous Affair of the Poisons – a murder scandal where several members of the aristocracy were charged with witchcraft and poisoning. 

She was forced to live the latter part of her life in exile, but never fell out of the King’s good grace and lived out the rest of her life on a royal pension.

Madame de Montespan died in 1707 in the convent of Saint-Joseph in Paris.

Who plays Madame de Montespan?

English actress and model Anna Brewster, 31, stepped into the role of the King’s mistress.

Ahead of season two, Anna said the series was going to shock many members of the audience.

“But we hope that people realise that we’re just trying to be as truthful as possible about how things would have been,” she said.

She went on to further say things in Versailles would get “intense”.

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