Marie Anne de Mailly-Nesle was one of the five famous de Nesle sisters, four of whom became mistress to King Louis XV of France. The first was Louise Julie, who received permission from her husband to become the King’s mistress in 1732. Even after she was officially recognized as maîtresse en titre, Louise didn’t use her position to gain riches or political power.
In 1738, Louise’s sister Pauline Félicité sent a letter asking to be introduced at court. Although Louise remained the official mistress, the King was seduced by and fell in love with Pauline. He arranged a marriage with the obliging Marquis de Vintimille, gave her a castle, but she died giving birth to a son in 1741. Richelieu began looking around for another mistress hoping that Louise, who wasn’t fond of him, wouldn’t regain the king’s favor. He decided on Marie Anne.
Marie Anne was the widow of the marquis de La Tournelle and already had another lover, the duc d’Agénois (who happened to be Richlieu’s nephew.) She didn’t feel like giving the young duke up, so she initially rejected the king’s advances. The king and Richelieu conspired to get rid of the rival. First, they sent the duc d’Agénois to fight the Austrians in Italy, but instead of dying in battle, he was only wounded and returned a
hero. There was a backup plan, however. Richelieu sent his nephew to Languedoc, where he had instructed a young woman to seduce him. She was very good at her job and soon had passionate letters from the young duke which she passed on to Richelieu. Predictably, when Marie Anne was shown the letters, she was furious and finally gave the king her attention.
But if the officials at court thought that Marie Anne would be more malleable than her sister, they were wrong. She demanded her sister’s place. Louis agreed, Louise was dismissed as the official mistress and as the queen’s lady-in-waiting and “got herself to a nunnery.” These positions were given to Marie, but not wanting the same fate to befall her in time, Marie Anne also demanded the title of duchess with a settled income. The king agreed making her Duchesse de Chateauroux.
Working with Richelieu, Marie Anne had some political influence behind the scenes, but it was short lived. She died in 1744 to be briefly followed by her sister, Diane Adelaide, Madame de Lauraguais. But the run of the de Nesle sisters was over. Within a few months the king had a new mistress, Madame du Pompadour.
Marie Anne was born on October 5, 1717. Find out what else happened on October 5 in Women’s History.