Images of the past

A chronologue of beauty

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Louise Marie Adelaide,Duchesse d'Orleans

Louise Marie Adelaide de Bourbon by Auguste de Chattilon

Louise Adelaide was the only daughter and heiress of the very wealthy Duc de Penthievre and his wife Maria  Teresa Felicitas d'Este a princess of Modena.Her parents marriage produced seven children six of whom sons,one of whom was the Prince de Lamballe so the unfortunate Princesse de Lamballe was her sister in law and another the young Duc de Chateauvillain,who all died young and heirless leaving Louise Adelaide a very rich and very eligible heiress.She was married to the young Duc de Chartres the future Philippe Egalite,Duc d'Orleans which a a very prestigious marriage considering the illegitimate descent of her family through the Comte de Toulouse,son of Louis XIV and his mistress Madame de Montespan.She was very much in love with her husband but he was a libertine and unfaithful to her from the start and kept many mistresses.

Duc de Penthievre by Nattier

Maria Teresa Felicitas d'Este,1750

Family of the Duc de Penthievre having chocolate,1768

Jean Marie de Bourbon Duc de Chateauvillain,1750 by Michel van Loo

Duc de Penthievre and his daughter,Jean Baptiste Charpentier le Vieux

One of her husband's mistresses was the comtesse de Genlis who was put in charge of educating the children of the Duchesse d'Orleans as their governess.Surprisingly after she ended her romantic liason with the duke the two women became quite friendly even though they had very different political and social views with Marie Adelaide being a conservative and a monarchist and Madame de Genlis having very liberal views.After her son,the young Duc de Chartres who would became Louis Philippe King of the French,joined the radical liberal Jacobite Club the relationship between the two women became bad with the  duchesse blaming the governess for installing liberal views on her children and thus managing to estrange them from her due to their unbreachable  views.By this time her only communication with her husband was through letters due to his machinations to dethrone the Bourbons and the King his cousin and gain the throne for the Orleans branch.

Duc d"Orleans,1779 after Joshua Reynolds

Family of the Duc d' Orleans,1776 Edouard Cibot 

Salon of the Duc d'Orleans,1770 by Carmontelle  

Comtesse de Genlis,1791 Francois Guerin

Due to her increasing estrangement form husband and children the duchess was a very unhappy woman.She is described around this time by the baronne d'Oberkirh as having:...always a melancholic expression which nothing could cure.She sometimes smiled,she never laughed..".Her sadness is visible in the portrait by Madame Vigee-Le Brun painted on the eve of the French Revolution in 1789.She is wearing white a color traditionally worn by royalty while in mourning.On her belt there is a Wedgwood medallion of Poor Maria a reference to her unhappy life.

Miniature of Louise Adelaide playing the Harp,1780s

Duchesse de Orleans,1789 Vigee-Le Brun

The duchess was a very fashionable woman described as being the best dressed woman at Versailles and Paris the best dressed place in Europe.She always wore the newest trends and was even more fashion forward than the Queen,the sartorioally obsessed Marie Antoinette.She was flamboyant in her dress and always the first to wear the latest trends,inventing new hairstyles and having an eye for mixing colors and fabrics to best effect.She could always afford the best of everything being immensely rich.

Duchesse d'Orleans,1770 Carmontelle 

Duchesse d'Orleans,1776 Louis Edouard Rioult

Louise Marie Adelaide de Bourbon,1777 by Duplessis

But her fortunes changed dramatically during the Revolution when she lost all her possessions,lost her husband to the guillotine and was imprisoned to await execution.Her life was spared due to the fall of Robespierre.While in prison she fell in love with Jacques-Marie Rouzet a fellow prisoner and they became lovers.After their release they were immediately exiled to Spain where they lived together and he became her chancellor obtaining the title of Comte de Felmont.She was reunited with her daughter Adelaide and her eldest son Louis Philippe but she was never to see her younger sons the Duc de Montepensier and the Comte de Beaujolais.who were exiled to America and died young of tuberculosis.She lived in exile for seventeen years returning at the time of the Bourbon Restoration in 1814.After regaining much of her inheritance she died of breast cancer in 1821 and did not live to see her son becoming the King of the French.

Louis Phillipe Duc de Chartres future King of France

Louis Phillipe,1792

Adelaide de Orleans,Francois Baron Gerard

 Antoine de Orleans Duc de Montepensier,1797

Louis de Orleans Comte de Beaujolais,1797 Jacob Frans Gregorious


  1. Buenas tardes,
    El retrato en miniatura de Luisa Adelaida de Borbón, tocando el arpa que ilustra su artículo, pertenece a mi colección privada. Le ruego en virtud de los derechos de propiedad, que en el pie de texto figure su procedencia: Martínez Lanzas-de las Heras Collection. Spain.

  2. Beautiful portraits..I am looking for a portrait of the Dwarf Richebourg who was employed by Louise Marie Adelaide de Bourbon, Duchess d'Orleans app.1781 as "Sommelier" but was kept as a curiosity being just 60 cm tall, Became famous, 16 years in her employ dressed as a baby with wet nurse carrying secret messages in and out of Paris. I cannot find a picture of him and what is shown as him on the internet is a Court Dwarf that lived 100 years earlier, the engraving dated 1710 shows my Ancestor Jacob Reis in Vienna, not Paris where Richebourg lived. My Vienese Dwarf died in 1758 also at the age of 92 supported by the Imperial Court of Vienna annually. Very similar story
    but two different individuals. Any idea where I might find a portrait ofthe "little spy" Richebourg?
    Thank you
    Mark Rosen