Artois was said to be handsome, charming, generous and impulsive. He was a horseman, a gambler and a playboy – the “Don Juan” of Versailles. (1) Artois was a close friend of Louis XVI’s wife, Marie Antoinette. The two of them indulged in expensive frivolities, like the construction of the Château de Bagatelle. Their activities highlighted the gulf between the royal family and ordinary French people, and added to the unrest that sparked the French Revolution.
In November 1773 Artois married Marie Thérèse of Savoy (the sister of Louis XVIII’s wife), with whom he had two sons: Louis Antoine, the Duke of Angoulême and Charles Ferdinand, the Duke of Berry. The marriage was a dynastic alliance rather than a love match. You can read about Artois’s true love for the married Louise de Polastron on Elena Maria Vidal’s Tea at Trianon blog.
After the storming of the Bastille in July 1789, Artois and his family left France. He lived briefly in Italy and in Germany before settling in England in 1792. The Prince Regent (later George IV) gave him a generous allowance. Artois lived in London and Edinburgh with Louise, while his wife remained on the continent (she died in Austria in 1805). When Louise died of tuberculosis in 1804, Artois reportedly swore a vow of perpetual chastity and became devoted to religion. He must have retained some of his earlier spirit, though; in October 1811 Countess Harriet (Harryo) Granville wrote from her estate of Trentham in Staffordshire:
Monsieur forgets we are all beyond our teens and plays at bo-peep, etc. with Lady Stafford and me. (2)(Read more.)