Elisabeth Charlotte of Bavaria, Princess Palatine and the second wife of Louis the 14th’s brother and the Duke of Orleans, or ‘Monsieur’ (the traditional title given to the eldest living brother of a French king), is one of my favourite ancestors. Larger-than-life; sincere; courageous; she would share her thoughts with everyone; she enjoyed cold cuts, a culinary preference she passed down to us; she had a definite liking for scatology; and, most importantly, she wrote countless letters to her relatives and her friends. Her letters are the most extravagant, the most entertaining and, the most unusual documents about Louis XIV’s court.
So, in one of her letters, which I gladly quote in its entirety here – keeping the Princess Palatine’s incomparable style intact – she tells a ghost story. For ease of reading, please take note that in this letter: the Queen mother is Anne of Austria, mother of Louis XIV; King François is François 1st who was largely responsible for having Fontainebleau built; and the-late-Madame, is the first wife of the Duke of Orleans, Monsieur, or in other words it refers to Henrietta of England who died young, his spouse before the Princess Palatine. With regards to Monsieur le Dauphin, he is the Grand Dauphin, the only son of Louis XIV. And the Dauphine is the Princess of Bavaria the Grand Dauphin’s wife.
And now: enjoy.
The queen mother had apartments build above the gallery in Fontainebleau; her ladies in waiting were obliged to spend the night in that long gallery. They say that they saw King François walking around dressed in a green and flowered dressing gown; but he never honoured me by appearing in front of me. I must not be in favour with the sprits. I slept for ten years in the room where the-late-Madame died, and I could not see anything.The first time Monsieur le Dauphin slept there, his aunt, the-late-Madame, appeared before him; he told me so himself.
Once he was in bed, nature called: he got up, sat on the commode that was close to his bed and he started to relieve himself. When he was in the middle of this, he heard the assembly room door open; that same evening there had been a grand ball hosted in that assembly room.
He saw a woman come in, well turned-out, wearing blue clothing, a beautiful yellow skirt, and yellow ribbons on her head; she was turning her head towards the window.
Monsieur le Dauphin thought that it was the Duchess of Foix; he started to laugh and think about how frightened the lady would be once she saw him sitting there in his nightshirt. So he coughed to make her turn her head and eyes towards that side, which she did, however instead of Duchess of Foix, it was the-late-Madame in front of him, looking just as she had when he saw her last. Instead of frightening the lady, he was the one who was so spooked that he bounded with all his might towards the bed where Madame la Dauphine was sleeping.
This brisk movement woke her and she said:
“What are you doing Monsieur jumping about like that?”
He replied “Go to sleep, I’ll tell you tomorrow”
Monsieur le Dauphin maintained all of his life that this story was true. What I believe in all of this is that Monsieur le Dauphin, who had a habit of sitting on his commode for a long time, had fallen asleep there, and what he saw in his dreams was the story he told.