From the Garden Snake to the Toad : Madame Palatine on the Ministers of the Grand Siècle
Forster, Elborg, "From the Garden Snake to the Toad : Madame Palatine on the Ministers of the Grand Siècle", dans Cahiers du XVIIe siècle, 1989, vol. III, 1.
Elisabeth Charlotte, Duchesse d’Orleans, was fondly known in Germany as Liselotte von der Pfalz, and in France as Madame, for such was the title given to the wife of the King’s brother, who was known as Monsieur. In 1670, when the 19-year-old Liselotte was married to the only brother of Louis XIV, Monsieur, Duke Philippe d’Orleans, was a 31-year-old widower. His marriage to Henrietta of England, rumored to have died through poison, had been a notorious disaster, since (among other problems), Monsieur was more interested in beautiful boys than in women. But for Elisabeth Charlotte’s father, a German prince-elector whose land lay close to powerful and aggressive France, a family alliance with the French royal house looked like a possibility of protecting his land, and perhaps even to play the role of mediator between the Holy Roman Empire and France. That is why Liselotte was made to convert to Catholicism and married to Monsieur — "as a political lamb," and "against her will and desire, out of pure filial obedience." Inconsolable to her dying day that her sacrifice had been in vain — for it was precisely because of the "Orleans war" over her presumptive inheritance that her homeland, the "dear Palatinate," was exposed to the most dreadful devastation — she suffered for fifty years from neverabating homesickness. Her "greatest occupation" as she put it, was letter-writing (she wrote about forty a week for fifty years !) and her greatest consolation was her cultural dowry, which she lovingly preserved and cultivated as a secret treasure that seemed vastly more important to her than the possession of wealth, power, or beauty.
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