At the same time that the Duke de Saint-Simon, as Extraordinary Ambassador, is soliciting the hand of the Infanta of Spain for his master Louis XV, the future King of France, Philip V is sending the Duke d’Ossuna to the French court to fulfill the same mission concerning Mlle de Montpensier, one of the Regent’s daughters.
Since it was known that the Infanta was destined to occupy the French throne, Anna-Maria-Victoria has been the object of absolute idolatry. Her parents treat her like a little queen and allow her all her whims.
So, when the time for separation arrives, it is heart-rending for Philip V and his wife. To honour their daughter, they want to accompany her out to the front of the palace, but do not have the strength to do it and faint before they get there.
The exchange of the two princesses takes place on 9 January 1722 at the Franco-Spanish border, on Pheasant Island. Before leaving from Madrid, the Infanta had sent a Virgin’s belt to the King of France, and Cardinal Dubois takes it upon himself to give this weird wedding gift to his sovereign.
On its side, the French court, after the arrival of the Princess, is transformed into a Rosary fraternity. The Infanta and all that the Regency counts in young, beautiful and voluptuous women receive, from the hands of a monk, in the Church of Versailles, the pious sign of this adoption.
Spain responds to this consideration by making its future Queen attend an auto-da-fe. Louise-Elisabeth d’Orleans will have to get used to even stranger customs.
The husband chosen for Mlle de Montpensier is far from being the Prince Charming of her dreams. He has an agreeable face but, as the son of an elderly father, he was abandoned to the care of servants. This heir to the Spanish throne, received the educaton of a fawn.
Defiant and shy, submitted to a rigorous, absurd etiquette, he only wants to go hunting. The idea of his marriage troubles his senses so much that Mlle de Montpensier’s portrait has to be withdrawn from his bedroom.
He had decided that this perfect princess, as she had been described to him, must be a great huntress. So he had secretly had two guns made for her, with the intention of surprising her by this homage, which he thought was particularly delicate.
This serious adolescent, always morose, could not be suitable for the young fifteen-year-old scatterbrain, whose odd, even indecent, behaviour would cause scandal in this austere court, whose rigour did not at all suit her flaunted brazenness.
At thirteen-years-old, when she first arrives at the Spanish court, Mlle de Montpensier is not particularly ugly, but her manners are deplorable. Her grandmother writes: “I cannot say that Mlle de Montpensier is ugly: she has pretty eyes, her skin is fine and white, her nose is well-made, although rather narrow, her mouth is very small; for all that, she is the most disagreeable person that I have ever seen in my life; in everything that she does, speaking, eating, drinking, she is unbearable… ”
This unruly d’Orleans, who has a vocabulary usually heard in the guardhouse, throws unfortunate discredit on her native land. It had been thought at the Spanish court that she would bring the smile of youth, and the gracious manners of a princess raised a la francaise. What she brings are bad behaviour and bad language.
They would have excused her childish mischievousness caused by bad, or absent, education. It was more difficult to tolerate her vile language and her slutty ways.
Field-Marshal de Tesse writes to Morville: “I assure you that she has learnt many things at Palais-Royal that she has not forgotten… I quote a lady to whom she said, twenty-four hours ago,: “If I wanted to become a whore, would you like to be my madam…?””
Second part tomorrow.