The richest woman in France – Anne Marie Louise d’Orléans, Duchess of Montpensier – died on this day. She was a member of the French Bourbon royal family and a close relative of then ruling King Louis XIV, known as the “Sun King” (her father was the king’s uncle). The Duchess of Montpensier was known as “La Grande Mademoiselle” at the French royal court. The title “Mademoiselle” was traditionally given to the daughter of the king’s brother, who was “Monsieur”. It was a stylish court tradition, by which the highest positioned people at the court had the shortest titles. Thus, throughout France it was enough to say “Mademoiselle” and it was known that one was referring to daughter of the king’s brother, and not to any other single woman.
“La Grande Mademoiselle” inherited vast estates from her parents. She owned four principalities (Dombes, Luc, La Roche-sur-Yon, and Joinville), four duchies (Montpensier, Châtellerault, Aumale, and Saint-Fargeau), one marquisate, four counties and a number of feudal manorial estates. She was probably one of the richest heiresses in all of European history.
Because of this wealth, many powerful Europeans were interested in marrying her – the british king, the King of Portugal, and the Duke of Savoy. However, her cousin, French King Louis XIV, took great care not to let these estates slip from the hands of the Bourbon dynasty. Louis XIV was generally known for keeping his relatives on a short leash, including his own brother (as an absolutist king he could place in prison any person in the country with a single letter).
All in all, “La Grande Mademoiselle” remained unmarried for a long time. Eventually she fell in love with one of her courtiers who was of inferior social position. His name was Antoine Nompar de Caumont, and is known as the Duke of Lauzun. He was a very interesting person, and his personality seemed to attract women, although he was short in stature, and according to some contemporary sources, even ugly. King Louis XIV refused her request to marry him. Lauzun even ended up in the famous prison the Bastille and then the infamous Pignerol (where “The Man in the Iron Mask” was also imprisoned at one time). “La Grande Mademoiselle” died childless, and her vast wealth thus remained in possession of the royal family.