The French Blue was one of the most prized possessions of Louis XIV. A humongous diamond that gave the illusion of a sun at its center when positioned against a gold background (fitting for the Sun King), it was stolen after the French Revolution. It reemerged in England as the Hope diamond, a 45.52-carat mineral that is arguably the most famous jewel in the world. Not until 2009 did experts confirm that, yes, the Hope Diamond and the French Blue were cut from the same stone.From here (with minor unattributed editing). Confirmation at Wikipedia:
It is estimated to be worth about $250 million.The jewel is believed to have originated in India, where the original (larger) stone was purchased in 1666 by French gem merchant Jean-Baptiste Tavernier as the Tavernier Blue. The Tavernier Blue was cut and yielded the French Blue (Le bleu de France), which Tavernier sold to King Louis XIV in 1668. Stolen in 1791, it was recut, with the largest section acquiring its "Hope" name when it appeared in the catalogue of a gem collection owned by a London banking family called Hope in 1839. After going through numerous owners, it was sold to Washington socialite Evalyn Walsh McLean, who was often seen wearing it. It was purchased in 1949 by New York gem merchant Harry Winston, who toured it for a number of years before giving it to the National Museum of Natural History in 1958, where it has since remained on permanent exhibition.
Fun fact: You can buy a plastic and cubic zirconia imitation of this gem as it is set today, that it is the same size, for about $20.
Also (with minor unattributed editing from the same source):
Louis XIV (1638-1715) was King of France was known as “the Sun King,” he inherited the French throne when he was only four years old. At 72 years and 110 days, his reign is the longest of any monarch of a sovereign state in European history. Anne of Austria, Louis’ mother, gave birth to her eldest son later in life—she was 37 when Louis was born and had suffered stillbirths before him. After dying of gangrene in 1715, Louis was buried in Saint-Dennis Basilica outside of Paris. His royal body remained undisturbed for about 80 years before being exhumed and destroyed by radicals in the French Revolution.
Louis performed 80 roles in 40 major ballets, often (though not always) in leading or god-like roles (of course). Throughout the 1660s, he founded the Académie Royale de Danse and the Académie d’Opéra, two critical elements in the evolution of French ballet.
Although he and his first wife, Maria Theresa, shared a mutual affection, the king was never faithful to her. Louis fathered 13 illegitimate children with three other women in addition to carrying on liaisons with countless other lovers. Later in life, Louis found himself taken by the piety and compassion of his children’s governess, Françoise d’Aubigné, otherwise known as “Madame de Maintenon.” He eventually married her. The union was never publicly declared, but it was an open secret at court.
The most powerful mistress of Louis XIV was clearly Madame de Montespan. She rose to chief mistress (maistresse-en-titre) by cultivating a friendship with his current chief mistress, Louise de La Vallière, and then swooping in to “temporarily” fulfill her friend’s “duties” when both Louise and the queen found themselves pregnant. To make rejection a little less embarrassing for La Vallière, he did (at first) keep the women in the same apartments, so he could visit Montespan without drawing suspicion. Montespan was no upstart. She was born on October 5, 1640, to one of the most ancient noble families in France, the House of Rochechouart. As the king’s mistress, her legitimized children with him would go on themselves to found royal houses in Spain, Italy, Bulgaria, and Portugal. Montespan possessed a legendary beauty by the standards of her day. With her peculiar and large blue eyes, thick “corn-colored” blonde hair, and her fashionably voluptuous figure, she was held as “astonishingly beautiful,” even for a king’s mistress. Montespan’s big break in the king’s bed came as both his queen and his main royal mistress became pregnant at the same time. Louise de La Vallière trusted Madame de Montespan to be a “temp” of sorts while she was closed away for childbirth. Madame lived the contract laborer’s dream by staying on the job long after La Vallière had given birth. According to lore, Montespan dropped towel to get on top. It’s said she first seduced the king by letting her bath wrap fall down as he happened to be spying on her shower. King Louis’s transition period from de La Vallière to Montespan was awkward for all involved. At first, he made his discarded lover (La Vallière) and current lover (Montespan) share an apartment. Both Louis and Montespan were married (to other people), so they were committing double-adultery. This arrangement was so Louis could visit his new squeeze without arousing the suspicion of Montespan’s husband. Altogether, Madame de Montespan had seven illegitimate children with Louis XIV. The first three children who survived were legitimized in 1673, after the lack of male heirs for Louis put the succession in crisis. Montespan was known for openly disrespecting Queen Maria Theresa in public—an act for which even the lovestruck Louis himself had to reprimand his mistress.
In 1679, Montespan was accused of using witchcraft and aphrodisiacs to stay ahead of King Louis’s other lovers. A midwife named Catherine Monvoisin, or La Voison, had been arrested as part of the Affair of the Poisons—and she had named the king’s chief mistress as one of her prolific clients. La Voison even alleged that Montespan performed black masses, a sacrilegious accusation that effectively destroyed Montespan’s reputation, regardless of the truth. In the specifics of La Voisin’s accusations against Montespan, the midwife alleged Montespan and a witch would call on the Devil to ensure the king’s love in his mistress. To seal the deal, they also sacrificed a newborn baby and used the blood and bones in a love potion for the king. It’s said the king’s food was poisoned for 13 years to keep his heart—and other parts—in line for her. It’s said that police up dug 2,500 baby corpses in La Voisin’s garden, all of whom were used in Montespan’s black mass love rituals. Of course, this is almost definitely a myth or exaggeration, as no contemporary evidence of such a mass grave exists.
How bad was health care in the late 1600s?
Only three of the seven children of the most powerful and wealthy kings in the world and in the entire history of France from one of his mistresses survived to adulthood.