Marie Angélique de Scorailles (1661-1681)

Marie Angélique de Scorailles was born in 1661 at the Château de Cropières in Upper Auvergne and her family sent her court hoping her great beauty would make their fortune. Marie Angélique arrived at court in 1678 and became the maid of honor to Elisabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate who was married to Philippe, duc d’Orléans, the younger brother of Louis XIV.

At court, Louis XIV was torn between two of his mistresses, Madame de Montespan and Madame de Maintenon, however when he saw Marie Angélique, he abandoned them both to pursue her. Although Marie Angélique was very beautiful, she was not very intelligent and Montespan realised the king would grow tired of her so she made plans to ensure Louis would chose her over Maintenon. Meanwhile, Louis presented Marie Angélique to court as his new mistress and he flattered her by showering her with gifts and wearing ribbons to match those she wore.

The attention soon went to Marie Angélique’s head and she began to parade around the court as if she were Louis’s queen and the king responded by showering with even more luxury. When Marie Angélique fell pregnant, Montespan was outraged, realising the king’s infatuation with his new mistress was more than a passing fancy and she deliberately released the two tame bears Marie Angélique had been given as a gift.

In January 1680, Marie Angélique gave birth prematurely to a stillborn boy which seems to have left her with permanent damage. Tiring of her, Louis bestowed on her the title of Duchess of Fontanges and a pension of 80,000 livres and she retired to the Abbey of Chelles. A few months later, a gravely ill Marie Angélique requested to see the king and stories circulated Louis had gone to visit her at the Abbey of Port-Royal where she lay on her deathbed. These stories were later denied by the court who reiterated the king had already forgotten all about Marie Angélique.

Marie Angélique died on 28 June 1681 but that was not the end of her story as rumours spread the young woman had been poisoned. At the time of her death, the Affaire des Poisons scandal was rocking the country and many of the accused mentioned Marie Angélique’s name while they were being interrogated. Marguerite, the daughter of Catherine Monvoisin, known as the sorceress La Voisin, testified her mother’s accomplices had poisoned Marie Angélique. Françoise Filastre, a worker in Marie Angélique’s household was soon arrested, and she later admitted to being a poisoner and abortionist. Filastre claimed Madame de Montespan had hired her to murder Marie Angélique so she could regain the love of the king but she later admitted her accusations had been false and she had only said such things to stop the torture.

Marie Angélique’s family requested an autopsy be done and the doctors found her lungs were in a bad state, however they were unable to determine whether she had been poisoned or not. The doctors did claim the young woman had been guilty of aborting her own children but this cannot be substantiated. Modern doctors have theorised Marie Angélique’s death was likely to have been caused by complications from the premature stillbirth which left her bleeding internally.