Gary McCollim, a wonderful historian, posted this recently to the Louis XIV Yahoo list group. He answers very clearly the “urban legends” about the conception of Louis XIV.
[blackquote]”We have all heard the story of how on a stormy night in December (December 5?) 1637, King Louis XIII was forced to seek shelter for the night in his palace at the Louvre where his queen Anne of Austria lived. Since there was only one bed fit for the king to sleep in, he spent the night with his estranged wife and nine months later she gave birth to Louis XIV. This is the night of Saint-Germain.
[blackquote]”In reading Jim Collins’ history of France, he discusses this myth and provides bibliographic citations for reading further on this story. Jim puts his faith in A. Lloyd Moote’s biography of Louis XIII. Moote relies on the journal of Louis XIII‘s doctor Hérouard who meticulously followed the king’s health until Hérouard’s death in 1628. During the time Louis XIII and Anne of Austria were married, they slept together at least twice a week up to 1628. After that time, we do not have the kind of record of their relationship to follow.
[blackquote]”Moote dismisses various spurious stories about Louis XIII and the paternity of Louis XIV. For example, Mazarin was in Rome during the time when Anne of Austria became pregnant and during her pregnancy. Yet, Moote says he has been told in all seriousness by scholars that Mazarin was the father of Louis XIV.
[blackquote]”Anne of Austria may have had as many as five miscarriages during her 23 year marriage to Louis XIII before she gave birth to Louis XIV. I say may because some of these pregnancies may have been hysterical, products of her imagination and failure to menstruate when expected. She did have two miscarriages that are believed to have been real, the last in 1626.
[blackquote]”Moote shows that Anne of Austria had reconciled with Louis XIII with the encouragement of Cardinal Richelieu during 1637 with the reconciliation made official by two memoires written on 17 August 1637. Prior to that final reconciliation, the king and queen had been estranged with the queen suspected of corresponding with her brother the king of Spain. She agreed to cease such correspondence along with other issues that troubled the always suspicious Louis XIII. Thereafter, marital relations resumed between the two royal spouses leading to the queen’s pregnancy and the birth of Louis XIV.
[blackquote]”By Moote’s reading (and Collins’ as well), the myth of the night of Saint Germain was a product of royal propaganda designed to show that Louis XIV was a product of divine intervention, indeed he was the God-given, the Dieudonné. Thus, those who find the story incredible are correct but not because Louis XIV was the product of an illicit relationship between Anne of Austria and another man but because we were ignorant of the fact that Louis XIII and Anne of Austria had resumed their sexual relationship several months earlier.”
Thank you, Gary!
I realize this discussion is over 6 years old, but I still think it apropos to point out that for this royal couple to finally produce a child after decades of unfruitful married life was most definitely a real stroke of luck for the dynasty. Not many such prolonged periods of apparently mutual infertility end so happily, even with today’s technology. It is therefore understandable why doubts arose and persist.
How interesting for you to respond now, Rugeirn, although this matter is certainly a question of eternal interest to historians. I’ve read that the Queen herself credited her pilgrimage to a church in the south devoted to the Virgin Mary. I believe, too, that she had had pregnancies, but never carried to term. A miracle indeed!
My goodness — where was I when all of you posted these wonderful comments? I’m scrolling though my blog looking for a detail on Versailles and I come upon these notes. Thank you!
And thanks to Catherine, especially, for the detail about the prayers (and pilgrimage, I recall) to Our Lady of Consolation in Thiezac, in Auvergne. I’ve read (where? oh where?) that the Queen credited these prayers to her ability to carry a child to term, at last.
I’m very pleased to have seen this post. The hoary old legend of Louis XIV’s illegitimacy is still floating around … witness that Levy person’s books which try to place Mazarin in France at the time.
I’ve read two comments attributed to Louis XIII on the matter, and I think he sums it up. One paraphrases as: “It is hardly miraculous if a husband who sleeps with his wife gives her a child,” and the other says it is a sign of God’s grace that they should have so beautiful a child “after my wife’s four unhappy miscarriages”. To me the latter sums it up: the miraculous side of it was Anne carrying to term at last.
It’s curious that the writers who like to sneer that Louis was not the father of his eldest son, go very quiet on the matter of Philippe d’Orleans’s paternity. You could hardly get a closer father-son likeness than between him and Louis, and nobody that I know of (except the novelist Margaret Irwin) has suggested that he was illegitimate.
Louis Dieudonne was conceived thanks to a combination of the following:
(1) his mother’s fervent prayers to Our Lady of Consolation in Thiezac, in Auvergne, hence her gift of the beautiful lace altar cloth one can still admire there
(2) Anne taking the waters in nearby Vic
(3) Louis XIII’s semen.
So it was a mix of divine and human intervention, very much in keeping with the times.
Hi Sandra. In all the history that I’ve researched I’ve very often read about Louis XIV’s miraculous conception…The people at the time thought that the spiritual conception came from the novenas they made for the Queen. It was also believed that Anne of Austria and Louis XIII regularly went to Forges-les-Eaux to help them conceive. That would somehow explain why the people thought him to be the Dieudonné.
Having spent several years researching the reign of Louis XIII, and having debated this subject with myself numerous times – for what it’s worth – I agree that Louis XIII was Louis XIV’s father.
Anne of Austria had several miscarriages, all of them Louis’ children.Te marital ‘Bolster’ was placed in her bed regularly. She was handed several putative lovers on plates…the most famous being Buckingham. But she never took any of them.
For me – the paternity of Anne’s children had as much, if not more, to do with her own marital fidelity (or coldness as has been postulated) as Louis’ ability to father children. Or the legend of the storm.
My opinion only – but certain portraits of Louis XIV and Charles II show too close a family likeness to ever truly believe that Richelieu or Mazarin or anyone else fathered the God-given child.
Anne reconciled herself with Richelieu and then betrayed virtually everyone who had helped her in the previous twenty odd years to secure her son’s throne. Mother love or maybe the absolute certainty that her son was a French Bourbon!