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Bathilde d'Orléans

Bathilde d'Orléans
Princess of Condé

Spouse Louis Henri, Prince of Condé
Louis Antoine, Duke of Enghien
Full name
Louise Marie Thérèse Bathilde d'Orléans
Father Louis Philippe d'Orléans
Mother Louise Henriette de Bourbon
Born (1750-07-09)9 July 1750
Château de Saint-Cloud, France
Died 10 January 1822(1822-01-10) (aged 71)
Paris, France
Burial Royal Chapel, Dreux, France
Religion Roman Catholicism

Bathilde d'Orléans (Louise Marie Thérèse Bathilde; 9 July 1750 – 10 January 1822) was a French princess of the blood of the House of Orléans. She was sister of Philippe Égalité, the mother of the executed Duke of Enghien and aunt of Louis Philippe I, King of the French. Married to the young Duke of Enghien, a distant cousin, she was always known as the Duchess of Bourbon following the birth of her son. She was known as Citoyenne Vérité during the French Revolution.


Descended from both Louis XIV of France and his younger brother, Philippe of France, Duke of Orléans, Bathilde was born a princesse du sang and as such was addressed with the style of Serene Highness. The daughter of the Louis Philippe d'Orléans, Duke of Chartres and his wife, Louise Henriette de Bourbon, Bathilde was born at the Château de Saint-Cloud, some ten kilometers west of Paris, on 9 July 1750. She was known unofficially at court as Mademoiselle reflecting her rank as the most senior unmarried princess of the blood at the court. Her mother died in 1759 when Bathilde was just eight years old. Her father, pressured by his mistress, Madame de Montesson, sent her to a convent. During her time at the convent, she became a very spiritual person, a trait that would remain with her all her life.


Initially, Bathilde was considered as a possible bride for a distant cousin, Ferdinand, Duke of Parma, the favourite grandson of King Louis XV of France. However, that marriage never materialised. Finally, in 1770, when she was twenty years old, she was allowed to leave the convent and marry her younger cousin, the Duke of Enghien, the son and heir of the Prince of Condé and Charlotte de Rohan. The young duke also held the rank of prince of the blood, however he was descended from a younger branch of the house of Bourbon. The couple married on 20 April 1770 at the palace of Versailles in front of the court. From marriage, she was known as the Duchess of Enghien till the birth of her son two years later.

Her husband was only fourteen at the time. Unfortunately, he tired of her rather quickly after only six months. Despite little contact, their periodic rapprochements eventually allowed her to give birth to a son named Louis Antoine Henri de Bourbon. The scandal of her husband's adultery came out in 1778, and the consequences fell entirely on her shoulders. The couple separated in 1780. As a separated spouse, she was never received at court and was forced to reorganise her life in the gilded solitude of the Château de Chantilly. Later, she also lived for a time with her father and his second wife, Madame de Montesson, at their château at Saint-Assise. When her father died, in 1785, her brother Philippe, became the Duke of Orléans. It was around this time that Bathilde bought a house in Paris called the Hôtel de Clermont and the château de Petit-Bourg.

In her isolation, she discreetly had an illegitimate daughter (Adelaïde-Victoire) with a young navy officer named Chavalier Alexandre Amable de Roquefeuil. Later, she passed the child off as the daughter of her secretary, in order to keep the little girl close to her.

In 1787, she purchased the Élysée Palace from Louis XVI and had a hamlet constructed there; inspired by the Hameau de Chantilly at her Château de Chantilly, it was itself called the "Hameau de Chantilly". She lapsed from Christianity and devoted herself to the occult, studying the supernatural arts of chiromancy, astrology, dream interpretation, and animal magnetism. She spent time painting and raising her son. Her salon was renowned throughout Europe for its liberty of thought and the brilliant wits who frequented it.


During the French Revolution, just like her brother Philippe Égalité, Bathilde discovered democracy. She fell out with her royalist husband and son, who both chose to leave France after the storming of the Bastille. As the Ancien Régime crumbled, she took the name, Citoyenne Vérité (Citizeness Truth). Threatened by the new revolutionary government, she offered her wealth to the First French Republic before it could be confiscated.

In April 1793, her nephew, the young Duke of Chartres (future Louis Philippe, King of the French), fled France and sought asylum with the Austrians. In retribution, the National Convention decreed the imprisonment of all Bourbons remaining in France. While other members of the Orléans family still in France were kept under house arrest, Bathilde, Philippe Égalité and his sons were imprisoned in the Fort Saint-Jean in Marseille. Badly rewarded for her fidelity to the democratic ideals of the Revolution, she survived a year and a half in a prison cell. In November of the same year, her brother was guillotined. Miraculously spared during the Reign of Terror, Bathilde was liberated during the Thermidorian Reaction and returned to her Élysée residence in Paris. Poverty-stricken, she was forced to rent out most of the palace.

In 1797, the Directoire decided to exile the last of the Bourbons still living in France. With her sister-in-law, Louise Marie Adélaïde de Bourbon, duchesse d'Orléans, Bathilde was made to get into an old coach with all her remaining worldly goods and was sent to Spain with her illegitimate daughter. Despite being forty-seven years old at the time, during the months which this journey took, she had an amorous intrigue with a handsome twenty-seven-year-old police officer (gendarme) under whose responsibility she had been put. The two maintained a correspondence during her exile.

Relegated to a place near Barcelona, Bathilde founded, despite her small means, a pharmacy and dispensary for the poor, and her house became a gathering place for those who needed aid. She became completely republican during this time period, despite her exile. In 1804, she learned that Napoléon I, whom she admired, had had her only son, Louis Antoine, Duke of Enghien, kidnapped, and executed by firing squad in the moat of the Château de Vincennes. For ten years, the emperor kept the mother of his most famous victim from setting foot in France. Bathilde got her revenge in 1814, when the people, seeing in her the mother of the "Martyr of Vincennes", cheered her as she travelled the route back to Paris.

Return to France

In 1815, at the start of the Bourbon Restoration, Louis XVIII traded with her the Hôtel Matignon for the Élysée Palace. Bathilde promptly installed a community of nuns on the premises and charged them with praying for the souls of the victims of the Revolution. Her family, in the new moral order of the day, wanted to see her rejoin her husband after a separation of thirty-five years, but she refused. Instead, she resumed her affair with the police officer who had escorted her to Spain in 1797. Unfortunately, he was to die of an illness three years later. In 1818, upon the death of her estranged father-in-law, she became the last princesse de Condé.

In 1822, while she was taking part in a march towards the Panthéon, she lost consciousness, and drew her last breath in the home of a law professor who taught at the Sorbonne. After her death, her nephew, Louis-Philippe, wanting to give an air of respectability to her bohemian lifestyle, burned the manuscript of her memoirs and a file on her young police officer located in the war archives. She was buried in the Orléans family chapel her sister-in-law, the Duchess of Orléans, who had died in 1821, had built in Collégiale de Dreux in 1816, as the final resting place for the Orléans family.


Kingdom of France portal
  1. Louis Antoine de Bourbon, Duke of Enghien (2 August 1772 – 21 March 1804) died without issue.


Titles, styles, honours and arms

Titles and Styles

  • 9 July 1750– 24 April 1770 Her Serene Highness Mademoiselle
  • 24 April 1770 – 2 August 1772 His Serene Highness The Duchess of Enghien
  • 2 August 1772 – 18 May 1818 Her Serene Highness The Duchess of Bourbon
  • 18 May 1818 – 10 January 1822 Her Serene Highness The Princess of Condé

References and sources

  • Translated from the French World Heritage Encyclopedia article of the same title, which lacks sources.
  • Some of this information is found in the Memoires of Henriette Louise de Waldner de Freundstein, the Baroness d'Oberkirch, Volume Two.
  • [1]

External links

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