"Caroline began last night before the Bessboroughs and all of us assembled, reading out loud a letter of Madame de Maintenon..."Madame de Maintenon, or Françoise d'Aubigné was a simple widow whom the great Sun King, Louis XIV fell in love with later in his life. She was very pious Catholic so when the king set his eyes on her, she made it known she would not become a royal mistress. Her allure was so great that Louis resorted to marrying Madame de Maintenon, but in secret. She was never recognized as queen but there was an unspoken knowing among all at Versailles that she was to be regarded with the same respect a queen would have. Although she was not always popular with those close to Louis such as his family, Françoise and her simplicity kept the king grounded and their relationship was that of two friends who respected each other.*
Harryo continues her account,
"...in which she excuses her conduct toward Louis and says, ['If I did not go to his room, to whom would he be able to confide his secrets'] or words to that effect, and describing in short scenes too what we are so often witnessing. This was to lead to every sort of question to Lady E.,whether Madame de Maintenon was right in her conduct, whether she was ambitions or only making generous sacrifices, etc. I fancied Lady E. was embarrassed."Three years later Bess married the Duke of Devonshire, in a marriage that was not so secret.
*For further reading, a new biography on Madame de Maintenon has just hit shelves this summer.