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Mademoiselle de Choin, the Maintenon of the Grand Dauphin


Companion of Louis de Bourbon son of Louis XIV, called “Monseigneur”, she was too caricatured by the memorialist Saint Simon. To use her terms, "La Choin" is a "fat, crushed girl, too tall, too strong, too tanned, very stinking and with a disgusting face". And yet, the young woman succeeded in making herself appreciated by the King and Madame de Maintenon; she will remain a worthy and beautiful figure of the 17th century.

A young noblewoman

Marie-Thérèse Emilie Joly de Choin was born in Bourg en Bresse on August 2, 1670. Her family of former nobility of Savoy occupies a very important place in the region and has ramifications at the Court. His father Guillaume Claude de Joly is a knight, baron de Choin, grand bailiff of Bresse and governor of Bourg; his mother Anne Clémence Bonne de Grolée de Mépieu is of high Dauphinois lineage; the girl therefore received a careful education in a distinguished environment. She entered the Court directly with her aunt, maid of honor to the Princess de Conti, who was the daughter of Louis XIV and Louise de la Vallière. In his living room a large number of courtiers throng, but also his half-brother the Grand Dauphin, called “Monseigneur”.

Although Saint Simon called her "a person of spirit without ambition or interest whatsoever, very decent, cheerful, naturally free and who loved the table and to talk", the others agreed that she had "very beautiful eyes, dignity in the soul, gentleness, infinite pleasures in conversation, in a word Melle de Choin did not please, she charmed ”.

Monsignor really in love

At the Princess of Conti, the courtiers throng around Melle de Choin who seduces, to the great desolation of the princess. The Grand Dauphin, around thirty years old, a young widower since April 1690 with three children, has obviously noticed the young lady and falls under her spell. As he is always at his half-sister's house, malicious people imagine that he is in love with her! Monsignor does not care and sends sweet notes to Marie Thérèse who does not react at all. Meanwhile, the rumor of incest and the scathing remarks of courtiers reach the ears of the princess; and to reassure her, Marie Thérèse shows her the tickets received: perhaps jealous, certainly offended, the princess asks her to be discreet, or even to leave the place.

Monsignor does not understand the absence of the young woman whom he begins to love tenderly and goes to the news. Learning of his half-sister's reaction, he no longer invites her to Meudon; the princess who loves this place so much, reconsiders her decision, but in the meantime Marie Thérèse, ready to leave the Court, retires to the Hospitaller Sisters of Paris.
Her aunt, the Princess de Conti, and Madame d'Epinoy, the friend, all come together to make her reconsider her decision; nothing works. As a last resort, we send Madame de Maintenon who obtains the submission of Marie Thérèse. Monseigneur is reassured and happy; he sends her new tender notes.

As the salons of Versailles are conspiratorial nests, and after having been involved in a mail affair, Marie Thérèse is once again removed, sent to the abbey of Port-Royal, then after authorization to leave it, she lodges with a cousin. She leaves the service of the Princess of Conti to take refuge with Mme d'Epinoy. Faced with the repeated assaults of Monsignor, Mme d'Epinoy suggests to Marie Thérèse that she find other accommodation: she will go and live in the Faubourg Saint Jacques. The Grand Dauphin is once again worried about the disappearance of his beloved and will take a long time to find the new address, until he shows up at his door. Without results ! She flees, but he finds her and waits patiently for part of the night, in front of her home! We realize that he is really in love ...

These hide and seek inevitably reach the ears of the monarch who decides to send Marie Thérèse to a convent in the provinces. But out of solidarity, perhaps from experience, Mme Maintenon succeeds in making him listen to reason because "there is no trade between them, we must praise the mores and virtue of Melle de Choin".

A new "Madame de Maintenon"

In the long run, given the number of tickets received, Marie Thérèse will read them and understand that she is loved and not just wanted, especially since once the Bishop was able to enter the apartment, he threw himself at her feet! But before going any further, she asks for the king's consent ... They will meet at the castle of Meudon, very discreetly: she arrives early, in a modest cab and waits for the Grand Dauphin in an entresol of her apartment. A little later, she will be able to take a maid with her, but will never be noticed. Its circle of visitors widens ... to the children of the Grand Dauphin. It has become an open secret, but we will never see them together elsewhere.

Presumably, the union between the Grand Dauphin and Melle de Choin would have been celebrated in Meudon in 1695, validated verbally by the king and a child would have been born ... Saint Simon reveals that Melle de Choin is sleeping in the large apartment of the Duchess of Bourgogne, that she is seated in an armchair while the two duchesses (the daughters-in-law) are only entitled to the stool, which she would call them by their direct name while refraining from saying "Her Royal Highness" , speaking like a mother-in-law dryly and without consideration!

On the other hand, the courtiers agree that Monsignor has changed. As he was dissipated, a spendthrift, overeating at the table, he became charitable, pious, sober and found peace of heart and mind. Mme de Maintenon and the king appreciate the couple for several reasons. Invited to Marly, they respectfully decline the proposal; likewise, the young woman does not get involved in politics and refuses all money; in fact, she went so far as to tear up the will that the Grand Dauphin has just written before leaving for the army, granting her a pension of 1,000 ecus; and when Louis XIV comes to Meudon for a few days, because he likes to come there, Melle de Choin is content to prepare the apartments and to disappear when the monarch arrives.

A discreet end

Meudon is in turmoil in the spring of 1711, the Grand Dauphin is ill. Melle de Choin cannot stay by his side, just stay in the castle. On April 14, she learns of her death through the rumor that runs through the corridors of the castle! She then moved in with a cousin, served faithfully by a servant, completely cut off from the Court, while acquiring the esteem of the new dolphin. The king, who was moved and who appreciated his discretion, awarded her an annual pension of 12,000 pounds which she would distribute in part to charities. She will continue as she always has done, with discretion and piety. In the spring of 1732, Marie Thérèse Emilie Joly de Choin fell ill and died in Paris on April 13 or 14, 1732, twenty-one years after her beloved. Her funeral is discreet like her.

Based on an article by Claude Vigoureux - historian, published in the review "Château de Versailles".


Video: Jean-Louis Florentz, Prélude de LEnfant noir Béatrice Piertot (September 2021).