Philippe Duc d’Orleans (1640 – 1701); Didn’t Ask, Didn’t Tell

Philippe Duc d’Orleans had the dubious distinction of being Louis XIV’s younger brother. It was not a position to be envied. Having the Grand Monarque as a sibling must have been trying sometimes in the extreme, but Monsieur, as Philippe was always called, had a way of getting out of the tedium of his proximity to power: he was gay.

In fact Monsieur was so very far out of the closet, in a place and at a time, when the “Italian vices” were punishable in all sorts of barbaric ways, that it staggers the mind now both that Monsieur could pursue his way of life relatively unobstructed, or that it was so often recorded by memoirists. We know that his brother Louis detested homosexuality, and yet he seems to have tolerated it in his brother, of whom, we understand, he was very fond. Continue reading

Henrietta d’Orleans, 1644-1670; Gather Ye Rosebuds

She is better known to history as the sister of Charles II of England and the sister in law of Louis the XIV of France.  It was the latter association which made the luck of Henrietta’s life.  She was the last child of Charles I  and his French Queen Henrietta Maria. She had gone with her mother into exile in France after her father’s capture and execution, and endured a cold and miserable childhood flitting about the backstairs of the French court, noticed by the young Louis only for her extreme lankiness.

After the Restoration of her brother Charles’s crown, Henriette went from being a skinny girl of no consequence, to being one of the most eligible young women in France.  She made a very grand marriage indeed (1661) to Phillippe d’Orleans, younger brother of Louis XIVContinue reading

Sir Thomas Urquhart, 1611-1660: A Man of Parts

Urquhart is best known as the first translator into English of Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantagruel, a work completed by Peter Anthony Motteux.

It is perhaps something of his nature to be attracted to his work.

The family is old, and was well stocked with real estate, which Thomas’ father spent a good deal of effort in squandering.  It came to such a cross that Thomas and his brother in frustration locked the old fellow up à la Mrs. Rochester, albeit only for a few days.  Afterwards father sued, but got nowhere with it, and family amity was eventually restored.   But nothing improved the finances of the estate, concerning which creditors hounded once the old man died. Continue reading