Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart, Marchioness of Montespan (1641–1707), better known as Madame de Montespan, was the most celebrated maîtresse en titre of King Louis XIV of France.
Born into one of the oldest noble families of France, the House of Rochechouart, Madame de Montespan was called by some the true Queen of France during her relationship with Louis XIV due to the pervasiveness of her influence at court during that time. By 1666 Madame de Montespan was trying to take the place of Louis XIV’s mistress, Louise de La Vallière. The first of the seven children that Madame de Montespan bore to the king was born in March 1669 and was entrusted to one of Madame de Montespan’s friends, Madame Scarron (the future Madame de Maintenon) to raise.
Montespan’s ‘reign’ lasted from around 1667, when she first danced with Louis XIV at a ball hosted by the king’s younger brother, Monsieur, until her alleged involvement in the notorious Affaire des Poisons in the late 1670s.
She found herself in trouble with the church when in 1675 a priest refused to give her absolution which was necessary for her to make her Easter communion, demanding: ‘Is this the madame that scandalises all France? Go abandon your shocking life and then come throw yourself at the feet of the ministers of Jesus Christ.’ Despite the birth of two more children her hold over the king was weakening and his interests were turning to Angélique de Fontanges. Madame de Montespan is alleged to have resorted to magical potions to regain his affections. In the fevered atmosphere of the Affaire des Poisons she was even suspected by some of poisoning Angélique de Fontanges.
By 1680 Madame de Maintenon had completely replaced Madame de Montespan in the king’s affection.