Bathilde d'Orléans (Louise Marie Thérèse Bathilde; 9 July 1750 – 10 January 1822) was a French princess of the blood of the House of Orléans. She was sister of Philippe Égalité, the mother of the Duke of Enghien and aunt of Louis Philippe I, King of the French. Married to the young Duke of Enghien, a distant cousin, she was known as the Duchess of Bourbon following the birth of her son. She was known as Citoyenne Vérité during the French Revolution.
|Princess of Condé|
Portrait attributed to Charles Lepeintre.
|Born||9 July 1750|
Château de Saint-Cloud, France
|Died||10 January 1822 (aged 71)|
(m. 1770; separated 1780)
|Issue||Louis Antoine, Duke of Enghien|
|Father||Louis Philippe I, Duke of Orléans|
|Mother||Louise Henriette de Bourbon|
Descended from both Louis XIV of France and his younger brother, Philippe of France, Duke of Orléans, Bathilde was born a princesse du sang and as such was addressed with the style of Serene Highness. The daughter of the Louis Philippe d'Orléans, Duke of Chartres and his wife, Louise Henriette de Bourbon, Bathilde was born at the Château de Saint-Cloud, some ten kilometres west of Paris, on 9 July 1750. She was known unofficially at court as Mademoiselle reflecting her rank as the most senior unmarried princess of the blood at the court. Her mother died in 1759 when Bathilde was just eight years old. Her father, pressured by his mistress, Madame de Montesson, sent her to be educated as a boarder at the Panthemont Covent in Paris.:49–51
Initially, Bathilde was considered as a possible bride for a distant cousin, Ferdinand, Duke of Parma, the favourite grandson of King Louis XV of France. However, that marriage never materialised. She first met her future husband, the Duke of Enghien, the son and heir of the Prince of Condé and Charlotte de Rohan, at the Palace of Versailles when attending the wedding of her brother in July 1769. The young duke also held the rank of prince of the blood, however he was descended from a younger branch of the House of Bourbon. His sister Louise Adélaïde attended the same convent as Bathilde, which gave the Duke a pretext to visit the convent and see Bathilde. Still just thirteen years old, the Duke asked for her hand and their parents agreed to the marriage. Bathilde's reservations about marrying someone so young were overcome by her desire to leave the convent, return to the bosom of her family and marry into such a prestigious family.:49-51
The couple married on 20 April 1770 at the Palace of Versailles in front of the court. Bathilde was nineteen and her husband was fourteen. Due to the age of the groom the marriage was not consummated and Bathilde returned to her convent. Before long, her husband had carried her off from the convent.:54 After only six months he began to tire of marriage and turned his attention to other women.:57 The periodic reconciliations between Bathilde and her husband eventually allowed her to give birth to their only son, Louis Antoine Henri de Bourbon, in August 1772.:58-59 From marriage until the birth of her son, she was known as the Duchess of Enghien; after the birth she was known as the Duchess of Bourbon.
Both husband and wife had lovers, and in 1776 Bathilde gave birth to a daughter Adelaïde-Victoire. Her father was a young naval officer, Alexandre Amable de Roquefeuil. The relationship ended in tragedy when de Roquefeuil drowned in Dunkirk harbour in 1786.:71 The scandal of the duke's adultery came out in 1778, and the consequences fell entirely on Bathilde's shoulders; she was believed to have commissioned a play from Pierre Laujon which featured a thinly disguised Duke of Bourbon and his mistress. The couple formally separated in 1780.:58-9
As a separated spouse, the duchess was never received at court, although she visited Marie Antoinette in the Petit Trianon at Versailles. She lived for a time with her father and his second wife, Madame de Montesson, at their château de Saint-Assise. When her father died, in 1785, her brother Philippe, became the Duke of Orléans. It was around this time that Bathilde bought a house in Paris called the Hôtel de Clermont and the château de Petit-Bourg. She was able to see her son once a week, and kept her daughter with her.:74-6
In 1787, she purchased the Élysée Palace from Louis XVI and had a hamlet constructed there; inspired by the Hameau de Chantilly at the Château de Chantilly. She became interested in the occult, studying the supernatural arts of chiromancy, astrology, dream interpretation, and animal magnetism. Her salon was renowned throughout Europe for its liberty of thought and the brilliant wits who frequented it.:90-1 Bathilde was the Grand Mistress of the French Masonic Lodge of Adoption, in parallel to her brother Philippe being the Grand Master of the male Freemasons in France.:90-1
During the French Revolution, just like her brother Philippe Égalité, Bathilde discovered democracy.:135 Her royalist husband and son both left France after the storming of the Bastille. As the Ancien Régime crumbled, she took the name, Citoyenne Vérité (Citizeness Truth). She offered her wealth to the First French Republic before it could be confiscated. In April 1793, her nephew, the young Duke of Chartres (future Louis Philippe, King of the French), fled France and sought asylum with the Austrians. In retribution, the National Convention decreed the imprisonment of all Bourbons remaining in France.:135-6
While other members of the Orléans family still in France were kept under house arrest, Bathilde, Philippe Égalité and his sons were imprisoned in the Fort Saint-Jean in Marseille. Badly rewarded for her fidelity to the democratic ideals of the Revolution, she survived a year and a half in a prison cell. In November of the same year, her brother was guillotined. Miraculously spared during the Reign of Terror, Bathilde was liberated during the Thermidorian Reaction and returned to her Élysée residence in Paris. Poverty-stricken, she was forced to rent out most of the palace.:136
In 1797, the Directoire decided to exile the last of the Bourbons still living in France. With her sister-in-law, the Duchess of Orléans, Bathilde was sent to Spain with her daughter. It was in Barcelona that she learnt of the death of her son, Louis Antoine, Duke of Enghien, kidnapped, and executed by firing squad in the moat of the Château de Vincennes.:169
Return to FranceEdit
In 1815, at the start of the Bourbon Restoration, Louis XVIII traded with her the Hôtel Matignon for the Élysée Palace.:228 Bathilde saw her husband frequently; there was talk of divorce or of reconciliation but nothing came of either.:193-4 promptly installed a community of nuns on the premises and charged them with praying for the souls of the victims of the Revolution. In 1818, upon the death of her estranged father-in-law, she became the last princesse de Condé. That year she founded, in memory of her son, l'hospice d'Enghien at Reuilly near Paris, a home for the elderly and especially former servants of the d'Orléans family. Catherine Labouré worked at the home. Bathilde spent the rest of her life helping orphans, the poor and infirm.:228-9
In 1822, while Bathilde was taking part in a procession to the Panthéon, she collapsed and lost consciousness. She was carried into the home of a professor who taught at the Sorbonne, where she died. After her death, her nephew, Louis-Philippe, wanting to give an air of respectability to her life, burned the manuscript of her memoirs. She was buried in the Orléans family chapel her sister-in-law, the Duchess of Orléans, who had died in 1821, had built in Collégiale de Dreux in 1816, as the final resting place for the Orléans family.:229
- Maury, Emmanuel (2019). Le dernier des Condé. Paris: Tallandier.
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