This is Madame de Maintenon. Also known as Françoise d’Aubigné and Madame Scarron. Françoise was born to a Huguenot father while he was serving time in prison. It was because her father’s family and the circles they associated with that led her to the court of the palace of Versailles.
I found about about her when I was watching the series, Versailles, on Netflix. She is most known for her role in the court of Louis XIV. She was the second wife, but the marriage was morganatic, meaning that her husband’s title and the privileges that came with it did not pass to any children they had together; therefore she never became the queen consort. Even without that title, she was still influential in her own way, becoming one of the king’s closest advisors.
When I spent my weekend in Chartres, we zipped over to Maintenon to visit the chateau and gardens as well as the unfinished aqueduct that sits at the back of the property. There’s nothing more that I love than a fabulous chateau with gorgeous gardens and amazing architecture! I had not put two and two together that this was the same estate that was being talked about in the series I was watching. And when I realized where we were at, I was tickled pink!
Françoise came into the light of the King when his mistress, Madame de Montespan, had her first child. She became the royal governess of Saint-Germain. Françoise became the nanny to Madame’s son and the King took notice. She arrived to the court of Versailles originally because of the connections of her late poet husband, Paul Scarron. When her husband died, the queen dowager of Austria kept paying her pension so she could stay where she was. But, when the dowager died, the king suspended the pension. She crossed paths with Madame de Montespan, the kings secret mistress, when she was preparing for her departure to Lisbon to be a new lady-in-waiting for the Queen. Madame de Montespan took such a fancy to her that she asked the king to reinstate her pension that would allow her to continue to stay in Paris.
Because of her hard work, the King returned the favor and paid her a large sum of money. With this, she was able to purchase the estate that is Maintenon. Later, the king awarded her with the title Marquise de Maintenon, inciting jealousy in Madame de Montespan. The relationship between Madame de Montespan and the King eventually fell apart and the Marquise of Maintenon (formerly Madame Scarron) became closer and closer and eventually leading to their secret marriage.
The Aqueduct of Vauban
At the back of the estate lies the remnants of a once great aqueduct. The idea of this gigantic structure was to provide a continuous flow of water to the fountains, lakes, and waterfalls at the palace of Versailles, but this was too hefty of a project financially and was eventually abandoned due to the lack of money.
Construction began in 1685 with the hopes of the Eure river providing water to the waterworks of Versailles. The aquedauct was designed by the famous Blondel, who took his inspiration from the Pont du Gard. Today, you are only able to see the first level, but the original plans had 3 levels that reached a towering 240 feet tall! This proved to be too expensive so only one level was kept, which you can see above. The aqueduct was going to travel some 50 miles to Versailles, but only 18 miles of the structure was complete before the project was abandoned due to lack of finances.
It is still an impressive structure that stands today. You are not able to go up to it directly, The pictures above were taken as close as you can get. There is a fence that cuts the rest of the property off from the public. Even still, the tenacity of this structure is impressive and if it were to have finished, it would have been even more fantastic.