Élisabeth Marguerite d'Orléans

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Isabelle d'Orléans
Duchess of Guise
Portrait by Pierre Mignard
Born(1646-12-26)26 December 1646
Palais du Luxembourg, Paris, France
Died17 March 1696(1696-03-17) (aged 49)
Palace of Versailles, France
Carmel of the Faubourg Saint-Jacques, Paris
SpouseLouis Joseph, Duke of Guise
IssueFrancis Joseph, Duke of Guise
Élisabeth Marguerite d'Orléans
FatherGaston, Duke of Orléans
MotherMarguerite of Lorraine
ReligionRoman Catholicism
SignatureIsabelle d'Orléans's signature

Élisabeth Marguerite d'Orléans (26 December 1646 – 17 March 1696[1]), known as Isabelle d'Orléans, was the Duchess of Alençon and, during her husband's lifetime, Duchess of Angoulême. She was a daughter of Gaston d'Orléans and a first cousin of Louis XIV of France. She has no descendants today. She was suo jure Duchess of Alençon and Angoulême.


Élisabeth d'Orléans was born in Paris at the Luxembourg Palace, then called the Palais d'Orléans, and now the seat of the Senate of France.[2] The palace had been given to her father on the death of his mother, Marie de' Medici in 1642. Élisabeth was known by her first name, Élisabeth, but she always signed Isabelle. One of five children, she was not raised with her siblings but in a convent, because she was destined to become abbess of Remiremont and was styled as such.


Known as Mademoiselle d'Alençon until her marriage, Isabelle (Élisabeth Marguerite) was acquainted with the young Louise Françoise de La Baume Le Blanc, who was to become duchesse de La Vallière, mistress of Louis XIV, and who grew up at Blois in the entourage of Isabelle's sister Marguerite Louise d'Orléans. It was assumed that Isabelle's older and more beautiful sister, Marguerite Louise, would marry Louis, and that Françoise Madeleine would marry another European prince. A possible match was one with Charles Emmanuel II, Duke of Savoy, who later married her younger sister on 4 March 1663.

Another possible spouse was her cousin Henri Jules de Bourbon - the future Prince de Condé and Prince du Sang. This was dropped as Henri Jules preferred the German Anne Henriette of Bavaria who was a granddaughter of the Queen of Bohemia.

The choice for Isabelle (who was humpbacked)[3] fell upon a "foreign prince (prince étranger) naturalized in France": Louis Joseph de Guise. The Duke of Guise was the titular head of the House of Guise, a cadet branch of the House of Lorraine of which Isabelle's mother was a member.

Isabelle and the Duke were married at the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye on 15 May 1667 in the presence of the Court and the Princes of the Blood. Her husband, four years younger than she was, was not only under the legal control of his aunt and guardian, the "magnificent" and proud Mademoiselle de Guise (Marie de Lorraine de Guise), but in day-to-day protocol, he was treated by Isabelle as the social inferior that he was. From her marriage to her death, Isabelle d'Orléans was known to the French as Madame de Guise. Her brief union with the Duke of Guise produced one child:

An engraving of Francis Joseph de Lorraine when he was Duke of Guise.


Isabelle's husband died in 1671, from smallpox contacted on his way back from a visit to the court of Charles II, King of England. Her son inherited his father's titles: duc de Guise et de Joyeuse and prince de Joinville.

At the death of her mother in 1672, she moved into the Luxembourg Palace along with the little Francis Joseph. Still unable to walk unaided at age four, he was dropped by his nurse and died from a head injury in 1675. He died at the Luxembourg Palace.[5] Upon her son's death, she became the Duchess of Alençon and Angoulême in her own right.[6]

After the death of her son, Isabelle (whom the French knew as "Madame de Guise") spent every summer in her duchy of Alençon and most winters at the royal court. When in Paris, she would stay at the Luxembourg Palace which had been ceded to her after her mother's death in 1672. (Haunted by her little son's death throes there, she found it difficult to stay very long at the Luxembourg.) In 1672 she created a private apartment for herself at the abbey of Saint Pierre de Montmartre, where she often saw Mlle de Guise and her sister, the abbess. After 1675, this little circle expanded when Isabelle's sister Marguerite Louise, Grand Duchess of Tuscany, left her husband, moved into an apartment within the abbey walls, and was kept under what amounted to house arrest. Always very devout, Isabelle commissioned religious pieces from Marc-Antoine Charpentier, the composer of Mlle de Guise.[7] She also commissioned secular works (operas and pastorales) from him, some of which were performed at the royal court.

Isabelle was a fervent supporter of her cousin Louis XIV's policies to bring Huguenots back into the Catholic fold. As early as November 1676, when she supervised the conversion of a Protestant lady, Isabelle commissioned from Marc-Antoine Charpentier the first of a succession of oratorios that recounted how St. Cecilia had won over her bridegroom and his brother to Christianity. The probable author of the libretti was Philippe Goibaut, a protégé of the two Guise women. After the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in October 1685, she created a house for "New Converts" in her duchy of Alençon and actively converted the local Huguenots.

In 1694, she gave the Luxembourg Palace to Louis XIV.[8] She died in 1696 at the Palace of Versailles and was buried in the Great Carmel of Paris, among the nuns.

The fortune that she had accumulated was willed to her older and only surviving sibling, Marguerite Louise, Grand Duchess of Tuscany.



  1. ^ "Redirect Notice". images.google.co.uk. Retrieved 2022-11-23.
  2. ^ "The Luxembourg Palace". Senate of France. Retrieved 2009-02-15.
  3. ^ ↑ ...bossue et contrefaite à l'excès, elle avait mieux aimé épouser le dernier duc de Guise en 1667 que de ne se point marier... Mémoires de Saint-Simon, Louis de Rouvroy Saint-Simon, ed. Hachette et Cie, 1881.
  4. ^ The Hôtel de Guise was sold by the Guise family to the Prince of Soubise in 1700, and renamed Hôtel de Soubise.
  5. ^ Patricia M. Ranum, Portraits around Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Baltimore, 2004, pp. 405-11
  6. ^ Abbé Rombault, "Élisabeth d'Orléans ...", in Bulletin de la Société historique et archéologique de l'Orne 12 (1893), pp. 476ff, especially p. 483 for her residence at Alençon and her solemn entry as duchess on 11 September 1676.
  7. ^ For Isabelle d'Orléans, see Patricia M. Ranum, Portraits around Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Baltimore, 2004, pp. 336-44, 405-425; and [1]
  8. ^ The History of Paris from the Earliest Period to the Present Day: Containing a Description of Its Antiquities, Public Buildings, Civil, Religious, Scientific, and Commercial Institutions... Original from the New York Public Library, Digitized 2007-06-08: Published by G. B. Whittaker. 1825. p. 43. palais Elizabeth Louis 1694.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  9. ^ a b Anselme 1726, pp. 145–147.
  10. ^ a b Anselme 1726, pp. 147–148.
  11. ^ a b Anselme 1726, pp. 143–144.
  12. ^ a b Leonie Frieda (14 March 2006). Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France. HarperCollins. p. 386. ISBN 978-0-06-074493-9. Retrieved 21 February 2011.
  13. ^ a b Cartwright, Julia Mary (1913). Christina of Denmark, Duchess of Milan and Lorraine, 1522-1590. New York: E. P. Dutton. p. 538.
  14. ^ a b Messager des sciences historiques, ou, Archives des arts et de la bibliographie de Belgique (in French). Gand. 1883. p. 256.

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