Madame de Ventadour

Charlotte de La Motte Houdancourt, Duchess of Ventadour (Charlotte Eléonore Madeleine; 16541744) was the governess of King Louis XV of France, great-grandson of King Louis XIV. She is credited with saving Louis XV from the ministrations of the royal doctors when he was ill as a child. She was the Gouvernante des enfants royaux, Governess of the Children of France like her mother, granddaughter, granddaughter in law and great grand daughter.

Charlotte de La Motte Houdancourt
Duchess of Ventadour
Louis Charles de Lévis (m. 16711717)
; his death
FatherPhilippe de La Mothe Houdancourt
MotherLouise de Prie
ReligionRoman Catholicism


Charlotte was the youngest of the three daughters of Philippe de La Mothe Houdancourt, Duke of Cardona and maréchal de France (d. 1657), and Louise de Prie, Marquise of Toucy, Duchess of La Motte Houdancourt, maréchale, governess to the children of France. Charlotte's sisters were:

Charlotte married Louis Charles de Lévis, Duke of Ventadour and governor of the Limousin (1647–1717), on 14 March 1671 in Paris.

The duke was generally considered "horrific" — very ugly, physically deformed, and sexually debauched[1] — yet the privileges of being a duchess compensated for the unfortunate match, e.g. le tabouret: In a letter to her daughter, Madame de Sévigné described an incident that took place at St. Germain during an audience with the Queen.

"… a lot of duchesses came in, including the beautiful and charming Duchess of Ventadour. There was a bit of a delay before they brought her the sacred stool. I turned to the Grand Master and I said, 'Oh, just give it to her. It certainly cost her enough,' and he agreed."[2]

Charlotte and Louis Charles had one daughter, Anne Geneviève de Lévis, born in February 1673. Anne Geneviève first married in 1691 Louis-Charles de la Tour d'Auvergne, prince de Turenne, the son of Maurice Godefroy de La Tour d'Auvergne, Duke of Bouillon, and his wife, Marie Anne Mancini.

After the death of her first husband, Anne Geneviève married secondly in 1694 Hercule Mériadec de Rohan, duc de Rohan-Rohan. Through this second marriage, Anne Geneviève de Lévis became the grandmother of Charlotte de Rohan (1737–1760), the wife of Louis Joseph, Prince of Condé (1736–1818).

Royal governess

Madame de Ventadour was appointed governess to the royal children in 1704.

In 1712, an outbreak of measles struck the French royal family, causing a number of significant deaths. First to die was the Dauphine, Marie Adélaïde of Savoy. Within a week of her death, her heartbroken husband, Louis the Dauphin, also died, leaving his sons Louis, Duke of Brittany, and Louis, Duke of Anjou, orphaned, and the elder son as heir to the throne.

The sickness, however, had not yet run its course: both the Duke of Brittany (now Dauphin) and the Duke of Anjou became ill with measles. The Dauphin was ministered to by the royal doctors, who bled him in the belief that it would help him to recover; instead, it merely weakened the young boy, who swiftly died, leaving the Duke of Anjou as Dauphin. Deciding that she would not allow the same treatment to be applied to the Duke of Anjou, Madame de Ventadour locked herself up with three nursery maids and refused to allow the doctors near the boy. Louis survived his disease, becoming King of France upon the death of his great-grandfather three years later.

Madame de Ventadour continued in her position as royal governess until 1717, when the boy king was deemed old enough to be raised by men. Her husband died in the same year. She then became Lady-in-waiting to Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate, Dowager Duchess of Orléans, widow of Philippe de France, Duke of Orléans, only sibling of Louis XIV.

She died at the Château de Glatigny, her residence in Versailles. Through her daughter she is an ancestress of the Princes of Guéméné of the House of Rohan, who presently live in Austria.


Anne Geneviève de Lévis Mademoiselle de Lévis, Princess of Turenne, Duchess of Rohan-Rohan, Princess of Maubuisson, Princess of Soubise (February 1673 20 March 1727)

  1. Married Louis Charles de La Tour d'Auvergne, Prince of Turenne in 1692 (son of Godefroy Maurice de La Tour d'Auvergne and Marie Anne Mancini) had no issue;
  2. Married Hercule Mériadec de Rohan, Duke of Rohan-Rohan in 1694 (son of François de Rohan and Anne de Rohan-Chabot, had issue.



  1. Syms, L.C. "Selected Letters of Madame de Sévigné" (American Book Company, 1898). P. 25.
  2. Letter from Madame de Sévigné to Madame de Grignan, April 1, 1771
Court offices
Preceded by
The Duchess of
La Ferté-Senneterre
Governess of the
Children of France

Succeeded by
The Duchess of Tallard
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