• fr
  • en

THE DUCHESS AND THE CONSTABLE

Louise Marie Adelaide de Bourbon was the daughter of the duke of Penthievre, only heir out of all the bastards of Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan. She was the richest heiress of all of France. Philippe of Orleans duke of Chartres, future Philipe Egalité, asked for her hand in marriage.

Louis XV advised his great friend and cousin the duke of Penthievre to refuse. The young duke of Chartres had a terrible reputation, but the duke of Penthievre was not unhappy to have this marriage revoke his illegitimacy, as his daughter would be marrying a legitimate Bourbon of Orleans. He accepted.

The duchess was to be very unhappy. Her husband cheated on her at every occasion but, unlike him, she had the privilege of surviving the Revolution. Although greatly impoverished by the Revolution, enough money remained for her to afford Belhomme’s pension. That crook ran a sumptuous hotel, a luxury hotel. There was scrumptious food, there was music, card games…all in all, one lived there as if under the old regime. The clients were all aristocrats wanted by the revolutionary tribunal in hiding.

Belhomme had acquaintances amongst the revolutionaries and, in exchange of a certain fee, his clients could survive as long as they had money. As soon as they could no longer pay, they would be handed over to the revolutionary tribunal, who would in turn send them to the guillotine.

Little by little, the clientele waned; the aristocrats were running out of money. By the time the 9th Termidor rolled by to see Robespierre overthrown, ending the Terror, only one client remained in the hotel, the duchess of Orleans, rich enough to pay until the end. Belhomme was immediately guillotined and the duchess remained alone in the hotel.

In the meanwhile, the duchess had become smitten by a constable named Rouzet, and with him savoured perfect love. However, they could not remain in France. A decree by the Directory exiled the rare survivors of the House of Bourbon. The duchess diligently departed with her beloved Rouzet.

They settled abroad and lived quietly, calmly, discreetly. Then, once again the situation changed. Napoleon’s reign, which had succeeded to the revolution, also came to an end, and the Bourbon could once again return to their country and their fortune. The duchess returned to Paris, still followed by Rouzet. She obtained from her cousin Louis XVIII, now the king, that her loyal constable be conferred a title, and so he became Count of Folmon.

Unfortunately, one day Rouzet died, much to the despair of the duchess. She had just had a pantheon built for their family in Dreux. Rouzet Folmon was buried with great pomp in a magnificent tomb.

Then, the duchess died in turn. Her son and heir Louis-Philippe could not tolerate his mother’s lover and maybe even husband. He resented this shameful alliance and the part Louis XVIII had played in it. Hence, the first thing he did was to unearth the unfortunate Rouzet, destroy his grave, and have him buried under an unmarked slab in the pantheon of Dreux.

My uncle the count of Paris knew the location. Hence, every November second, as we gathered at the Pantheon to pray for our deceased family members and visited their tombs, starting with that of Louis-Philippe, uncle Henri would show us the nameless slab under which was buried the constable.


by Prince Michael of Greece

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. All fields are mandatory.