Élisabeth Charlotte d'Orléans

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Élisabeth Charlotte d'Orléans
Princess of Commercy
Portrait by the workshop of Pierre Gobert
Duchess consort of Lorraine
Tenure13 October 1698 – 27 March 1729
Born(1676-09-13)13 September 1676
Château de Saint-Cloud, Kingdom of France
Died23 December 1744(1744-12-23) (aged 68)
Château de Commercy, Duchy of Lorraine, Holy Roman Empire
(m. 1698; died 1729)
FatherPhilippe I, Duke of Orléans
MotherElisabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate

Élisabeth Charlotte d'Orléans (13 September 1676 – 23 December 1744) was a petite-fille de France and duchess of Lorraine and Bar by her marriage to Duke Leopold. She was regent of the duchy during the minority (1729–1730) and absence (1730–1737) of her son and suo jure princess of Commercy 1737–1744. Among her children was Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor, the co-founder of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine.

Early life[edit]

Portrait of Princess Élisabeth Charlotte (by Louis Ferdinand Elle the Younger, c. 1685)

Élisabeth Charlotte was born on 13 September 1676 at the Château de Saint-Cloud, located outside of Paris, France. She was the third child and first daughter of Philippe I, Duke of Orléans, Monsieur, and his second wife, Elizabeth Charlotte, Madame Palatine, the daughter of Charles I Louis, Elector Palatine. Her father was the only sibling of King Louis XIV of France. As a petite-fille de France, she was entitled to the style of Her Royal Highness, as well as the right to an armchair in the presence of the king.[1] At birth, she was given the style of mademoiselle de Chartres, taken from the name of one of her father's appanages. After the marriage of her two older half-sisters, Marie Louise and Anne Marie (born of the first marriage of their father to Henrietta of England), she was known as Madame Royale, according to her status as the highest-ranking unmarried princess in France.

As a child, Élisabeth Charlotte was described by her mother as 'so terribly wild' and 'rough as a boy'.[2] To her father's displeasure, she shared the frank opinions of her mother.[citation needed]


Her mother wanted her to marry as prestigiously as her sisters had. When her cousin's wife, Maria Anna, the dauphine, suggested she should marry her younger brother Joseph Clemens of Bavaria, Élisabeth Charlotte reportedly said, 'I am not made, madam, for a younger son'.[3] Élisabeth's mother initially wanted her to marry King William III of England but him being a Protestant prevented the marriage.[citation needed]

Proxy marriage of the Duke of Lorraine and Élisabeth Charlotte by an unknown artist

Joseph I, Holy Roman Emperor was also considered.[4] He was highly regarded, and the union would have been a way of reconciling the Bourbons and their traditional rivals, the Habsburgs. Her widowed cousin, Louis, Grand Dauphin was considered,[citation needed] as well as his son, Louis, Duke of Burgindy,[citation needed] and another cousin, the legitimised Louis Auguste, Duke of Maine,[citation needed] eldest son of Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan. Élisabeth Charlotte's mother opposed any match between her children and the legitimised offspring of the king.[citation needed]

Élisabeth Charlotte was finally married on 13 October 1698 at the Palace of Fontainebleau[citation needed] to Leopold, Duke of Lorraine, son of Charles V, Duke of Lorraine, and Archduchess Eleonora of Austria.The marriage was the result of the Peace of Ryswick, one of its conditions being that the Duchy of Lorraine, which had been the possession of France for many years, be restored to the House of Lorraine. Élisabeth Charlotte was an instrument to cement the peace treaty; her mother later said that her daughter 'was a victim of war'.

Duchess of Lorraine[edit]

The marriage was seen as a brilliant match by the House of Lorraine but some[clarification needed] regarded it as unworthy of a petite-fille de France.[citation needed] The bride a dowry of 900,000 livres. Because of these conflicts, some ladies of the royal family[clarification needed] used the death of a small son of the duke of Main to attend the wedding in mourning clothes.

To everyone's surprise, what had been expected to be an unhappy union[clarification needed] turned out to be a marriage full of love and happiness. After the birth of her children, Élisabeth Charlotte showed great maternal instinct and a naturally caring character.[citation needed] The marriage produced fourteen children, five of whom lived to adulthood. Three of them died within a week in May 1711 due to a smallpox outbreak.

Élisabeth Charlotte was religiously intolerant and supported the persecution of non-Catholics. She persuaded her husband to issue many oppressive laws against Protestants and Jews. During this time, over 280 religious dissenters were burned at the stake.[citation needed]

In June 1701, her father died after having a heated argument with Louis XIV at Versailles[5] about the duke of Chartres. Her brother thus became the new duke of Orléans and head of the House of Orléans. Her mother was left at the mercy of Louis XIV, who forbade her from going abroad.[citation needed] As a result, Élisabeth Charlotte was only able to see her mother if she went to Versailles; they maintained a correspondence, which was destroyed in a 1719 fire at the Château de Lunéville.

In 1708, after ten years of marriage, her husband took a mistress, Anne-Marguerite de Ligniville, Princess of Beauveau-Craon. Embarrassed, Élisabeth Charlotte took her mother's advice, remained silent and lived with her husband and his mistress. Around this time, she was also ill, suffering from heavy coughing, fainting, and fevers. Ligniville remained the favourite of the duke until his death in 1729.[6]

On the death of Louis XIV in 1715, her brother became the regent of France for the five-year-old king, Louis XV. In 1718, when she briefly visited the French court, her niece, Marie Louise, Dowager Duchess of Berry gave a lavish reception in her honour at Luxembourg Palace. More than a hundred hors d'œuvres, thirty-two soups, sixty entrées, a hundred and thiry hot and sixty cold entremets, and many other courses were served. Almost four hundred partridges and pheasants, eighty-two pigeons, and more than a hundred sweetbreads were used. Then, as dessert, a hundred baskets of fresh fruit, almost as much dried fruit, fifty dishes of iced fruit and more than a hundred kinds of compote was given.[citation needed] Upon leaving France, her husband was accorded the style of Royal Highness, usually reserved for members of foreign dynasties headed by a king.[citation needed]

Regent of Lorraine[edit]

Her husband died in 1729, leaving his wife regent of Lorraine for their son, Francis Stephen who had been raised in Vienna. He returned home in 1730 for the investiture of his mother as regent, but then continued to live in Austria.[citation needed] During this time, Élisabeth Charlotte tried to engage her daughter, Anne Charlotte to Louis XV; this project failed due to the intrigues of Louis Henri, Duke of Bourbon[citation needed]. She then tried to arrange a marriage for Anne Charlotte to her nephew, Louis, Duke of Orléans, who had been recently widowed, but the devout duke chose not to remarry.[citation needed]

Princess of Commercy[edit]

Unable to prevent her son from giving up the duchy of Lorraine to Stanisław Leszczyński when he married the Habsburg heiress, Maria Theresa, Élisabeth Charlotte moved into the Château d'Haroué in nearby Commercy. This commune was then made into a sovereign principality for her dowager years.[citation needed]

The Château de Commercy where she died in 1744

In 1737, her daughter, Elisabeth Therese married Charles Emmanuel III of Sardinia. She died in 1741, giving birth to Prince Benedetto, Duke of Chablais. On 7 January 1744 her youngest son, Prince Charles Alexander of Lorraine, married Archduchess Maria Anna of Austria, who died in childbirth on 16 December 1744.

Death and burial[edit]

Élisabeth Charlotte died of a stroke at the age of sixty-eight on 23 December 1744, one week after her daughter-in-law and grandchild.[citation needed] She was the last of her siblings to die and had outlived most of her children. Nine months after her death, her son Francis Stephen became Holy Roman emperor. She was buried in the funerary chapel of the dukes of Lorraine in the Church of Saint-François-des-Cordeliers church in Nancy.[citation needed]


In 1696, Charles Perrault dedicated his Les Contes de ma mère l'Oye, (known in English as Mother Goose Tales) to her. Élisabeth Charlotte authorised the construction of a hospital in Bruyères. In 1730, she offered to the church of Mattaincourt a gilded wooden shrine for the relics of Pierre Fourier, a former parish priest who had been beatified on 29 January 1730. The modern Basilica of Saint Pierre Fourier of Mattaincourt [fr] was built in 1853 on the site of this former church.


Portrait of Élisabeth Charlotte with her son Louis, hereditary prince of Lorraine, and a dog (by Pierre Gobert, 18th century).
  1. Léopold, Hereditary Prince of Lorraine (26 August 1699 – 2 April 1700); died in infancy.
  2. Élisabeth Charlotte Gabrièle of Lorraine (21 October 1700 – 4 May 1711); died of smallpox.
  3. Louise Christine of Lorraine (13 November 1701 – 18 November 1701); died in infancy.
  4. Marie Gabrièle Charlotte of Lorraine (30 December 1702 – 11 May 1711); died of smallpox.
  5. Louis, Hereditary Prince of Lorraine (28 January 1704 – 10 May 1711); died of smallpox.
  6. Joséphine Gabrièle of Lorraine (16 February 1705 – 25 March 1708); died in infancy.
  7. Gabrièle Louise of Lorraine (4 March 1706 – 13 June 1710); died in infancy.
  8. Léopold Clément, Hereditary Prince of Lorraine (25 April 1707 – 4 June 1723); died unmarried and without issue.
  9. Francis Stephen of Lorraine (8 December 1708 – 18 August 1765); married Archduchess Maria Theresa of Austria, had issue. Became the Holy Roman Emperor.
  10. Eléonore of Lorraine (4 June 1710 – 28 July 1710); died in infancy.
  11. Elisabeth Therese of Lorraine (15 October 1711 – 3 July 1741); married Charles Emmanuel III of Sardinia, had issue. Became queen of Sardinia.
  12. Charles Alexandre Emanuel of Lorraine (12 December 1712 – 4 July 1780); married Maria Anna of Austria and had no surviving issue. Had illegitimate children.
  13. Anne Charlotte of Lorraine (17 May 1714 – 7 November 1773); died unmarried and without issue. Became abbess of Remiremont, Mons and Essen.
  14. Stillborn daughter (28 November 1718)



  1. ^ Barker, Nancy Nicholas (1989). Brother to the Sun king: Philippe, Duke of Orléans. Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-0801861642.
  2. ^ Fraser, Antonia (2006). Love and Louis XIV. Anchor. p. 189. ISBN 978-1400033744.
  3. ^ je ne suis pas faite, madame, pour un cadet.
  4. ^ Joseph was suggested by Pope Innocent XII himself
  5. ^ Dufresne, Claude, les d'Orléans, CRITERION, Paris, 1991, p. 85, ISBN 2-903702-57-8.
  6. ^ Sarah Lebasch: Elisabeth-Charlotte d’Orléans, at siefar.org

Further reading[edit]

  • d'Orléans, Élisabeth Charlotte (2012). Lettres D'elisabeth-charlotte D"orléans, Duchesse De Lorraine, À La Marquise D"aulède 1715 - 1738: (publiées Par E. Alexandre De Bonneval.) (a. M. D. ... L'histoire De Lorraine... (French Edition). Nabu Press. ISBN 978-1273159985.

External links[edit]

Élisabeth Charlotte d'Orléans
Cadet branch of the House of Bourbon
Born: 13 September 1676 Died: 23 December 1744
French nobility
Preceded by Mademoiselle de Chartres
Succeeded by
French royalty
Title last held by
Eleonore of Austria
Duchess consort of Lorraine and Bar
Title next held by
Maria Theresa of Austria
Preceded by
New creation
Princess of Commercy
Succeeded by