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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Francoise de Maintenon

b. 1635, Niort, France; d. 1719, Saint-Cyr, France

Born in a prison and passed from relative to relative, Françoise de Maintenon eventually came under the guardianship of the invalid author Paul Scarron. They married in 1652 and she cared for him until his death in 1660. Meanwhile, the marriage launched her into French literary society; as hostess of his salons, she met many powerful figures, including King Louis XIV. Soon after Françoise was widowed, the king placed her in charge of his children by a mistress, Madame de Montespan. She was then appointed lady-in-waiting to Queen Maria Theresa. After the queen’s death in 1680, Françoise secretly married Louis XIV and exerted behind-the-scenes influence on his rule, though how much is unclear.