Saturday, February 26, 2011

Louis XIV's black daughter Louise Marie-Therese, the Black Nun of Moret

The above portrait, dated 1695, is displayed in the library of St. Genevieve in the Latin Quarter of Paris (bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, 10, place du Panthéon, 75005 Paris). An unsigned portrait, it's titled: Louise Marie-Therese, the Black Nun of Moret (1664-1732). Cloistered all her life, she is said to have taken the veil in 1695, at the late age of 31. A folder at St. Genevieve is said to bear the title, "Documents Concerning The Princess Louise Marie-Therese, Daughter of Louis XIV and Marie-Therese." The folder is empty.

On November 16 1664 Maria Teresa of Spain wife of Louis XIV of France the Sun king gave birth to a daughter named Marie-Anne de France in public in the Louvre one month prematurely. Laughter is said to have greeted her birth. She was the third child and second daughter of Maria Teresa of Spain. The child was born black, rumors ran wild in the court. The child was said to have been born black as ink from head to toe, covered with hair. and died on the 26 December 1664 and was buried at Saint Denis. Reasons giving at the time for the child being born black was Maria Teresa of Spain was supposedly frightened by a black page before the child's birth and that she drink too much hot chocolate. End of story? No!

It was said that the black child was fathered by an African dwarf named Nabo, a young man from Dahomey brought from his country to France he became one of the Queen's favorites. No less than 6 memorialists have devoted paragraphs to Louise Marie-Thérèse : she is mentioned in the memoirs of Madame de Maintenon, the Grande Mademoiselle, Madame de Montespan (whose so-called memoirs were written by Philippe Musoni years after Montespan's death), Duke of Saint-Simon, Voltaire and Cardinal Dubois (who is probably not the author of his own Memoirs).

Maria Theresa with Her son, the Dauphin, Louis of France, Pierre Mignard 1661

Madame de Montespan

Madame de Montespan wrote

I have already told how the envoys of the King of Arda, an African prince, gave to the Queen a nice little blackamoor, as a toy and pet.This Moor, aged about ten or twelve years, was only twenty-seven inches in height, and the King of Arda declared that, being quite unique, the boy would never grow to be taller than three feet.

The Queen instantly took a great fancy to this black creature. Sometimes he gambolled about and turned somersaults on her carpet like a kitten, or

frolicked about on the bureau, the sofa, and even on the Queen's lap.

As she passed from one room to another, he used to hold up her train, and

delighted to catch hold of it and so make the Queen stop short suddenly,

or else to cover his head and face with it, for mischief, to make the

courtiers laugh.

He was arrayed in regular African costume, wearing handsome bracelets, armlets, a necklace ablaze with jewels, and a splendid turban. Wishing

to show myself agreeable, I gave him a superb aigrette of rubies and

diamonds; I was always sorry afterwards that I did so.

The King could never put up with this little dwarf, albeit his features were comely enough. To begin with, he thought him too familiar, and

never even answered him when the dwarf dared to address him.

Following the fashion set by her Majesty, all the Court ladies wanted to

have little blackamoors to follow them about, set off their white

complexions, and hold up their cloaks or their trains. Thus it came that

Mignard, Le Bourdon, and other painters of the aristocracy, used to

introduce negro boys into all their large portraits. It was a mode, a

mania; but so absurd a fashion soon had to disappear after the mishap of

which I am about to tell.

The Queen being pregnant, public prayers were offered up for her according to custom, and her Majesty was forever saying: "My pregnancy

this time is different from preceding ones. I am a prey to nausea and

strange whims; I have never felt like this before. If, for propriety's

sake, I did not restrain myself, I should now dearly like to be turning

somersaults on the carpet, like little Osmin. He eats green fruit and

raw game; that is what I should like to do, too. I should like to--"

"Oh, madame, you frighten us!" exclaimed the King. "Don't let all those whimsies trouble you further, or you will give birth to some monstrosity, some freak of nature."

His Majesty was a true prophet. The Queen was

delivered of a fine little girl, black as ink from head to foot. They

did not tell her this at once, fearing a catastrophe, but persuaded her

to go to sleep, saying that the child had been taken away to be


The physicians met in one room, the bishops and chaplains in another. One

prelate was opposed to baptising the infant; another only agreed to this

upon certain conditions. The majority decided that it should be baptised

without the name of father or mother, and such suppression was

unanimously advocated.

The little thing, despite its swarthy hue, was most beautifully made; its

features bore none of those marks peculiar to people of colour.

It was sent away to the Gisors district to be suckled as a negro's

daughter, and the Gazette de France contained an announcement to the

effect that the royal infant had died, after having been baptised by the


The little African was sent away, as may well be imagined; and the Queen

admitted that, one day soon after she was pregnant, he had hidden himself

behind a piece of furniture and suddenly jumped out upon her to give her

a fright. In this he was but too successful.

The Court ladies no longer dared come near the Queen attended by their

little blackamoors. These, however, they kept for a while longer, as if

they were mere nick-hacks or ornaments; in Paris they were still to be

seen in public. But the ladies' husbands at last got wind of the tale,

when all the little negroes disappeared.

La Grande Mademoiselle

La Grande Mademoiselle was not present at the birth, but was informed of the situation shortly after, by Philippe, the King's brother. She wrote

Monsieur {the kings brother} told me ... that the baby girl, which she [the Queen] had given birth to, resembled a small Moor that Monsieur de Beaufort had brought, who was very pretty, the one who was always with the queen; that when it was remarked that her baby resembled [the Moor], he was removed; that the little girl was horrible; that she would not live; that I must take care not to say so to the queen, nor that [the baby] would die.

Saint Simon

Saint-Simon's account

People were astonished this year, that while the Princess of Savoy was at Fontainebleau, just before her marriage, she was taken several times by Madame de Maintenon to a little unknown convent at Moret, where there was nothing to amuse her, and no nuns who were known. Madame de Maintenon often went there, and Monseigneur with his children sometimes; the late Queen used to go also. This awakened much curiosity and gave rise to many reports.

It seems that in this convent there was a woman of colour, a Moorish woman, who had been placed there very young by Bontems, valet of the King. She received the utmost care and attention, but never was shown to anybody. When the late Queen or Madame de Maintenon went, they did not always see her, but always watched over her welfare. She was

treated with more consideration than people the most distinguished; and

herself made much of the care that was taken of her, and the mystery by

which she was surrounded. Although she lived regularly, it was easy to see she was not too contented with her position. Hearing Monseigneur hunt in the forest one day, she forgot herself so far as to exclaim, "My brother is hunting!"

It was pretended that she was a daughter of the King and Queen, but that she had been hidden away on account of her colour; and the report was spread that the Queen had had a miscarriage. Many people believed this story; but whether it was true or not has remained an enigma.

Madame de Montestpan

My readers remember the little negress who was born to the Queen in the

early days,--she whom no one wanted, who was dismissed, relegated,

disinherited, unacknowledged, deprived of her rank and name the very day

of her birth; and who, by a freak of destiny, enjoyed the finest health

in the world, and surmounted, without any precautions or care, all the

difficulties, perils, and ailments of infancy.

M. Bontems, first valet de chambre of the cabinets, served as her

guardian, or curator; even he acted only through the efforts and

movements of an intermediary. It was wished that this young Princess

should be ignorant of her birth, and in this I agree that, in the midst

of crying injustice, the King kept his natural humanity. This poor child

not being meant, and not being able, to appear at Court, it was better,

indeed, to keep her from all knowledge of her rights, in order to deprive

her, at one stroke, of the distress of her conformation, the hardship of

her repudiation, and the despair of captivity. The King destined her for

a convent when he saw her born, and M. Bontems promised that it should be so.

At the age of three, she was withdrawn from the hands of her nurse, and Madame Bontems put her to be weaned in her own part of the world.

Opportune,--[She was born on Sainte Opportune's Day.]--clothed and

nourished like the other children of the farmer, who was her new patron,

played with them in the barns or amongst the snow; she followed them into

the orchards and fields; she filled, like them, her little basket with

acorns that had been left after the crop was over, or ears of corn that

the gleaners had neglected, or withered branches and twigs left by the

wood-cutters for the poor. Her nude, or semi-nude, arms grew rough in

the burning sun, and more so still in the frosts. Her pretty feet, so

long as the fine season lasted, did not worry about being shod, and when

November arrived with its terrors, Opportune took her little heeled

sabots like the other country children. M. and Madame Bontems wrote

every six months to inquire if she were dead, and each time the answer

came that the little Moor was in wonderful health.

The pastor of the neighbouring hamlet felt pity for this poor child, who

was sometimes tormented by her companions on account of her colour. The

good cure even went so far as to declare, one day when there was a

sermon, that the Virgin Mary, if one was to believe respectable books,

was black from head to foot, which did not prevent her from being most

beautiful in the sight of God and of men.

This good cure taught the gentle little orphan to read and pray. He often

came to her farm to visit her, and probably he knew her birth; he was in

advanced age, and he died. Then Opportune was placed with the

Augustinian ladies of Meaux, where Bossuet charged himself with the task

of instructing her well in religion and of making her take the veil.

The lot of this young victim of pride and vain prejudices touched me in

spite of myself, and often I made a firm resolution to take her away from

her oppressors and adopt her in spite of everybody. The poor Queen,

forgetting our rivalry, had taken all my children into her affections.

Why should not I have shown a just recognition by protecting an innocent

little creature animated with her breath, life, and blood,--a child whom

she would have loved, I do not doubt, if she had been permitted to see

and recognise her? This idea grew so fixed in my, mind, that I resolved

to see Opportune and do her some good, if I were able.

The interest of my position had led me once to assure myself of the

neighbourhood of the King by certain little measures, not of curiosity

but of surveillance. I had put with M. Bontems a young man of

intelligence and devotion, who, without passing due limits, kept me

informed of many things which it is as well to know.

When I knew, without any doubt, the new abiding-place of Opportune, I

secretly sent to the Augustinians of Meaux the young and intelligent

sister of my woman of the bedchamber, who presented herself as an

aspirant for the novitiate. They were ignorant in the house of the

relations of Mademoiselle Albanier with her sister Leontine Osselin, so

that they wrote to each other, but by means of a cipher, and under seal,

addressing their missives to a relative.

Albanier lost no time in informing us that the little Opportune had begun

to give her her confidence, and that the nuns took it in very good part,

believing them both equally called to take the veil in their convent.

Opportune knew, though in a somewhat vague way, to what great personage

she owed her life, and it appeared that the good cure had informed her,

out of compassion, before he left this world. Albanier wrote to


"Tell Madame la Marquise that Opportune is full of wit; she resembles M.

le Duc du Maine as though she were his twin; her carriage is exactly that

of the King; her body is built to perfection, and were it not for her

colour, the black of which diminishes day by day, she would be one of the

loveliest persons in France; she is sad and melancholy by temperament,

but as I have succeeded in attracting her confidence, and diverting her

as much as one can do in a purgatory like this, we dance sometimes in

secret, and then you would think you saw Mademoiselle de Nantes dance and


"When any one pronounces the name of the King, she trembles. She asked

me to-day whether I had seen the King, if he were handsome, if he were

courteous and affable. It seemed to me as though she was already

revolving some great project in her brain, and if I am not mistaken, she

has quite decided to scale the fruit-trees against our garden wall and

escape across country.

"M. Bossuet, in his quality of Bishop of Meaux, has the right of entry

into this house; he has come here three times since my arrival; he has

given me each time a little tap on my check in token of goodwill, and

such as one gets at confirmation; he told me that he longs to see me take

the veil of the Ursulines, as well as my little scholar; it is by that

name he likes to call her.

"Opportune answers him with a stately air which would astound you; she

only calls him monsieur, and when told that she has made an error, and

that she should say monseigneur, she replies with great seriousness, 'I

had forgotten it.'"

Mademoiselle Albanier, out of kindness to me, passed nearly two years in

this house, which she always called her purgatory, but the endeavours of

the superior and of M. Bossuet becoming daily more pressing, and her

health, which had suffered, being unable to support the seclusion longer,

she made up her mind to retire.

Her departure was a terrible blow to the daughter of the Queen. This

young person, who was by nature affectionate, almost died of grief at the

separation. We learnt that, after having been ill and then ailing for

several weeks, she found the means of escaping from the convent, and of

taking refuge with some lordly chatelaine. M. de Meaux had her pursued,

but as she threatened to kill herself if she were taken back to the Abbey

of Notre Dame, the prelate wrote to M. Bontems, that is to say, to the

real father, and poor Opportune was taken to Moret, a convent of

Benedictines, in the forest of Fontainebleau. There they took the course

of lavishing care, and kindness, and attentions on her. But as her

destiny, written in her cradle, was an irrevocable sentence, she was

finally made to take the veil, which suited her admirably, and which she

wears with an infinite despair.

I disguised myself one day as a lady suitor who sought a lodging in the

house. I established myself there for a week, under the name of the

Comtesse de Clagny, and I saw, with my own eyes, a King's daughter

reduced to singing matins. Her air of nobility and dignity struck me

with admiration and moved me to tears. I thought of her four sisters,

dead at such an early age, and deplored the cruelty of Fate, which had

spared her in her childhood to kill her slowly and by degrees.

I would have accosted her in the gardens, and insinuated myself into her

confidence, but the danger of these interviews, both for her and me,

restrained what had been an ill-judged kindness. We should both have

gone too far, and the monarch would have been able to think that I was

opposing him out of revenge, and to give him pain.

This consideration came and crushed all my projects of compassion and

kindness. There are situations in life where we are condemned to see

evil done in all liberty, without being able to call for succour or


Voltaire age 24


It was suspected, with much likelihood, that a nun of the abbey of Moret was his [the King's] daughter. She was extremely tanned [basanée: and resembled him. The king gave her twenty thousand ecus for a dowry, placing her in this convent. The opinion that she had of her birth made her overly-proud, about which her superiors complained. Madame de Maintenon, on a trip from Fontainebleau, went to the convent of Motet, and wanting to inspire more modesty with this nun, she did what she could to debunk the idea which nourished her pride. "Madame," the nun told her, "the trouble which a lady of your station takes to purposely come here in order to tell me that I am not a daughter of the king, persuades me that I am." The convent of Moret still remembers this anecdote.

After reviewing the facts in this 300 plus year old case and connecting the dots it is my personal opinion that Louise Marie-Thérèse also known as The Black Nun of Moret was the child of French Queen Maria Theresa of Spain and her black Page Nabo. There are aspects of this case that people have looked over. Here is some background info

Louis was faithful to his wife for the first year of their marriage. He enjoyed the legitimate passion that his wife felt for him. However, the couple would later have difficulty in matching their personalities. While all Paris glorified the good looks of the King, Marie-Thérèse continued to put on weight with her delight in hot chocolate and to withdraw into her circle of dwarfs. It seemed Marie-Thérèse was always the last to know that her husband had found a new mistress. Marie-Thérèse continued to spend much of her free time playing cards and gambling, as she had no interest in politics or literature. Consequently, she was viewed as not fully playing the part of Queen designated to her by her marriage. As time passed, Marie-Thérèse grew more docile and the King continued and increased his romantic adventures. As time went on the King left her to her own devices, with her hot chocolate, Spanish maids and collection of dwarfs.

At the time Marie-Thérèse gave birth to the child Marie-Anne de France it was know that the child was born one month prematurely or was she. The child was thought to be born one month prematurely because everything at Versailles was documented even the conjugal duties of the king and queen. At the time in there marriage there were very few. Once it was know that the queen was pregnant it would have been calculated to the Kings last conjugal visit. But what if someone got there a month before? The adultery thesis has been questioned for century's because the Queen was a very pious woman. We know in our day in time that some of the biggest pious people have been caught in scandal. It was Documented that Nabo was seen to be under the Queens dress a lot. Maybe something happen under there that she did not know about that resulted in a child nine months latter.

After this black child was born Marie-Thérèse favorite Nabo was sent for by the king and he disappeared never to be seen again. Marie-Anne de France was said to have died a little over a month latter on 26 December 1664. Or did she? I think it was a cover up over a embarrassing problem. Here is where the story of Louise Marie-Thérèse comes in the child's name is changed from Marie-Anne de France to Louise Marie-Thérèse. Let's look at the changed name the child's new name incorporates both King's and Queens name. The first name of Louise the female version of Louis The Sun's kings name and Marie-Thérèse after the Queen. The Black Nun of Moret was born on the same date as the Queen' child Marie-Anne de France November 16 1664.

Saint-Simon mentions that Louise Marie-Thérèse convent was visited sometimes by the Queen and later by Madame de Maintenon, he also mentioned that they didn't always see her but always watch over her welfare. The nun however seemed convinced of her Royal birth, and it is told by Saint-Simon that she once greeted the Dauphin as "my brother". A letter sent on June 13, 1685, by the Secretary of the House of King to Mister De Bezons, general agent of the clergy, and the pension's patent of 300 pounds granted by King Louis XIV to the nun Louise Marie-Thérèse on October 15, 1695, "to be paid to her all her life in this convent or everywhere she could be, by the guards of the Royal treasure present and to come" confirm this opinion.

Father Claude Du Molinet (1620–1687), librarian of Sainte Geneviève abbey seams to believe that the Nun was the child of a Queen. He commissioned a series of twenty-two pastel portraits of the Kings of France, from Louis IX to Louis XIV, made between 1681 to 1683 and included in this series is a portrait of a black Nun alluding to her Royal birth. A folder at St. Genevieve is said to bear the title, "Documents Concerning The Princess Louise Marie-Therese, Daughter of Louis XIV and Marie-Therese." The folder is empty.

After the Queen's death Why would The Sun King give a anonymous black French nun a pension of 300 pounds a year that he upped to 350 pounds a year {a lot of money for the time} for the rest of her life. I believe he was looking out for her just as his wife had looked over her. It is still debated and is unconfirmed that The Black Nun of Moret was French Queen Marie-Thérèse's child but connecting the dots and the historical documents a lot of people believe The Black Nun of Moret was the child of French Queen Marie-Thérèse.

A letter sent on June 13, 1685, by the Secretary of the House of King to Mister De Bezons, general agent of the clergy, and the pension's patent of 300 pounds granted by King Louis XIV to the nun Louise Marie-Thérèse on October 15, 1695, "to be paid to her all her life in this convent or everywhere she could be, by the guards of the Royal treasure present and to come"

A letter sent on June 13, 1685, by the Secretary of the House of King to Mister De Bezons, general agent of the clergy, and the pension's patent of 300 pounds granted by King Louis XIV to the nun Louise Marie-Thérèse on October 15, 1695, "to be paid to her all her life in this convent or everywhere she could be, by the guards of the Royal treasure present and to come"


  1. Thbank You for this very intresting story. It was a pleasure to read..........Julian

  2. What a story. Life at court... Destinies...

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  4. First, it would have been very difficult for the newly married Infanta of Spain to have given birth to anything other than a Child of France in 1661, as she had been married to Louis XIV only the year before and the marriage wasn't consummated until August or September of 1660. Second, throughout her life Maria Theresa was the soul of propriety; reared in the strict Spanish court and only slightly educated, at Versailles she maintained her modesty and pious dullness for the rest of her life. I cannot imagine that such a person would have taken a lover. Third, Louis XIV always treated her with the utmost respect and visited her bed nearly every night, which he considered his duty as her husband. If she'd been pregnant, don't you think he'd have noticed? Fourth, every birth of every Queen of France was attended by the whole court, awful as was for the poor woman in labor. Fifth, where on earth could a reigning Queen of France have gone in order to deliver an illegitimate child? Sixth, the bearing of an illegitimate child by the wife of a reigning monarch was high treason. Seventh, having endured the first act of "Las Meninas" last evening, it was obvious that Ms. Nottage wasted eight years of research; she could have found everything I've written above directly on the Internet. I myself know these things without the aid of the Internet because I am a professional historian and have read a very great deal in the primary sources. Finally, and relevant only to the genre of slander-as-entertainment -- which is what "Las Meninas" is -- I think the authors of tendentious fictions disguised as historical fact are beneath contempt.

    1. Sir, you are correct. Once a rumor starts, people always want to believe in mystery. Its no different than "Americans never stood on Moon" or Martians are alive and well in New York. I appreciate your simple explanation as the only truthful one here.

    2. I have to say when watching Versailles I did think when watching the episode of when the Queen gave birth to a black daughter. I was a little surprised and sceptical too, as many Historical Dramas do add scenes to attract audiences who would not normally watch and be interested in history. I then thought I would look it up on the internet and came across this article and yes we do know that the internet is full of false information, but there are credible articles on history out there too. It is known that the Queen had a Jester called Nabo. I have also asked a friend of mine who has studied this period of history of the French Court and the Sun King and said she has herd of a royal baby being black and that of a black nun and the connections to the Queen Maria Teresa. I have also looked at other articles on this subject and they all mention a black child born to the Queen and a Nun too. I have come to the conclusion that I have to keep an open mind and this piece of history is now assigned to the past.

  5. Thanks for posting. Links to sources would be helpful. You may get some new hits here because the birth of the black child is the culminating incident of the first episode of the Canal+ production of 'Versailles', first shown in Canada Nov 2015, and on in the UK currently. I gather from Wikipedia that it comes to the US in Oct 2016. Difficult to know what really happened after 350 years, but certainly seems to have touched a nerve with Hoodlum, above, anyway!

  6. Amazing. Wow. I have only just watched a documentary and also the first drama episode. Thank you so much for sharing this facts as I was not sure how true.

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  9. So interesting. I stumbled upon this researching more on Nabo after watching the first episode of the series Versailles.

  10. History is repeating itself. I am the daughter of Charles de la Gueronniere and my mother is African American. I also have a brother. We were not accepted by some family members.

  11. It seems extremely unlikely that the black nun was the queen's child, much more likely the king's as he was a rampant womanizer who would have had sex with anyone of interest including an exotic black woman he would have initially been curious about regarding what sex would be like with.

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  15. When watching the first episode of Versailles I did often wonder if the episode concerning the Queen giving birth to a black daughter was actually true. I knew she had a black jester called Nabo and that Royal Courts at the time did have black servants. I have recently watched Versailles again and thought I would look this up and see if this was a true event and actually happened. I was amazed to find it was actually true, but on the other hand not that surprised. I found your article interesting and yet a little sad. It showed how lonely the Queen was. I am glad that the little baby did survive and became a Nun and that she was acknowledge and that the King did acknowledge her too after the Queen died. Very interesting and when watching these Historical Dramas you often wonder if some scenes are added to attract wider audiences who normally would not be interested in history.

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