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

Pierre de Camboust, duc de Coislin, 1664 –1710: the Politest Man in France

Pierre de Camboust was a peer of France (sort of the aristocracy of the aristocracy) and a member of the Académie Français at age sixteen.  Other than that, there is little in the way of accomplishment to point to, save perhaps for being a prototype for Alphonse and Gaston. Most of what we know of him comes straight from that first-rate gossip,  Saint-Simon (1675 – 1755).  There’s really no point in paraphrasing.  Here follows S-S’s describing Pierre on the road with two of his brothers, the Chevalier and the Cardinal de Coislin:

“The party rested for the night at the house of a vivacious and very pretty bourgeoise. The Duc de Coislin was an exceedingly polite man, and bestowed amiable compliments and civilities on their hostess, much to the disgust of the  Chevalier. At parting, the Duke renewed the politeness he had displayed so abundantly the previous evening, and delayed the others by his long-winded flatteries.  When at last they left  the house, and were two or three leagues away from it, the Chevalier de Coislin said that in spite of all this politeness, he had reason to believe that their pretty hostess would not long be pleased with the Duke.  The Duke, disturbed, asked his reason for thinking so. Continue reading