Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Carmelite Nun

Terry Nelson at Abbey-Roads is wondering who this French Carmelite nun might be. It is from the early 1700's. We think it might be Louise de La Vallière, one of the early mistresses of Louis XIV, who later became a Carmelite. I contacted Sandra Gulland, author of Mistress of the Sun, and she also thinks there is indeed a resemblance.

Louise is an example of how an innocent young person of conscience can suffer unspeakably when getting sucked into a certain kind of lifestyle. Louise, born in 1644, came to Versailles as a maid of honor to Louis XIV's sister-in-law, the lovely "Minette" (Henrietta-Anne of England). Louise, virtuous and devout, fell in love with the king as he fell in love with her. She tried to resist his advances but eventually succumbed. She ran away to a convent in order to get away from him; he brought her back. She was a rare mistress, for she did not seek wealth and favors for herself or her family. She bore the king four children.

The fleeting happiness Mademoiselle de La Vallière shared with Louis was nothing compared to the overwhelming humiliations and torment inflicted upon her by courtiers, by the queen, and by her own conscience. Louis gradually lost interest in her and became involved with Madame de Montespan. Because Madame de Montespan was married, Louis forced Louise to maintain the pretense of being his mistress. She had to be constantly in the company of La Montespan so that when the king came to visit his new mistress it would appear that he was visiting Louise. However, the entire court knew the truth and Louise had to bear the scorn heaped upon a fallen, discarded courtesan. She became ill and almost died, but when she recovered she went to confession and became reconciled with God. She publicly knelt before the queen and begged forgiveness. Then, she entered a Carmelite monastery as Sister Louise of Mercy.

Louise spent the rest of her life in penance and prayer, praying especially for the king's conversion, which was realized when he married Madame de Maintenon, who was a friend of Louise. Both the queen and Madame de Maintenon came to visit her at the Carmel. Later Madame de Montespan visited as well, seeking spiritual guidance. Louise de La Vallière died in 1710. Share


Barbara Martin said...

Another interesting historical post. I had once worked in London, UK, near Blackfriars in a building built on the site of an old Carmelite monastery.

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you! Very interesting!