Successful and Unsuccessful Lovers of the Rich and Powerful in History

Successful and Unsuccessful Lovers of the Rich and Powerful in History

Natasha sheldon - November 1, 2019

Successful and Unsuccessful Lovers of the Rich and Powerful in History
Portrait of Madame de Montespan by an unknown artist. Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain


13. Madame de Montespan was feared by her fellow courtiers — until she was supplanted and fell from grace.

Françoise Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart or Athénaïs de Montespan was the official mistress of Louis XIV of France for 13 years. Together, she and Louis had seven children — six of whom Louis legitimised. Louis installed de Montespan in luxurious apartments near his own from which she dominated the court, ruling with her wit and acidic tongue. De Montespan became a great patron of the arts, nurturing the careers of the actor and writer Moliere, the dramatist Philippe Quinault and the poet Jean de La Fontaine.

However,1680, de Montespan’s fading looks and terrible temper eroded the King’s interest in her, and Madame de Maintenon supplanted her. De Montespan remained at Versailles until 1691 when the Affair of the Poisons forced her from the court. She retired to the convent of Saint-Joseph in Paris where she died in 1707.


Successful and Unsuccessful Lovers of the Rich and Powerful in History
Madame de Maintenon by Pierre Mignard. Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain

12. Madame de Maintenon stole Louis IX’s from her friend and patron — and became his secret wife

The widowed Francoise Scarron first came to the court of Versailles at the behest of her friend Athenais de Montespan in 1669. She was meant to act as the governess to the children of de Maintenon and the King. Louis initially found her “unbearable” However, by 1675, Francoise had become the Marquise de Maintenon and supplanted de Montespan as Louis’s mistress. In 1683, de Maintenon became Louis’s secret wife after the death of Queen Maria Theresa.

Unlike De Montespan, de Maintenon established a more restrained royal court. She had a calmer influence on her husband and may have had a hand in some of his political decisions. On Louis’s death, she retired to Saint-Cyr, a school for girls she founded with the King.

Successful and Unsuccessful Lovers of the Rich and Powerful in History
Catherine I of Russia. Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain

11. Catherine I of Russia was the Russian peasant who became first the mistress and then the second wife of Peter the Great — and later Empress in her own right.

Marta Skowronska had an inauspicious start to life. Born a Lithuanian peasant in 1684, she was raised by a Lutheran minister in the town of Marienburg. When the Russians captured Marienburg in 1702, they took Marta as a prisoner. Oddly, her captivity marked a change in her fortunes. For Marta fell into the hands of an Imperial adviser — and caught the eye of Tsar Peter the Great.

Marta initially became the unhappily married Peter’s mistress and was baptized into the Russian Orthodox Church, taking the new name of Catherine. In 1712, the couple finally married after Peter divorced his first wife. Finally, on May 18th, 1724, Catherine was crowned Empress-consort of Russia. After Peter’s death, she became Empress in her own right.

Successful and Unsuccessful Lovers of the Rich and Powerful in History
Mary Hamilton, before her execution by Pavel Svedomsvy (1904) Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain

10. Mary Hamilton was Catherine I’s Lady in Waiting and Peter the Great’s mistress — and executed for Infanticide.

Mary Hamilton was a member of a Scottish family that emigrated to Russia during the reign of Ivan the Terrible. In 1713, she became a lady in waiting to Peter the Great’s new wife, Catherine I — and then the tsar’s lover. However, Mary’s also had another lover, Ivan Mikhailovich Orlov — who had deserted her for another woman. The desperate Mary tried to bride Orlov back to her by stealing from Catherine. Over the next two years, the unfortunate lady became pregnant twice, aborting one child and drowning the other soon after its birth in 1717. All was revealed when the authorities interrogated Orlov regarding some missing papers. He quickly informed them of Mary’s abortion, and the whole story of theft and murder soon followed. Mary confessed to killing her child, and on March 14, 1719, was beheaded for abortion, Infanticide and theft.

Successful and Unsuccessful Lovers of the Rich and Powerful in History
Madame de Pompadour by Jean-Marc Nattier, 1748. Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain.

9. Madame de Pompadour laid much of the groundwork for the French revolution.

The favorite mistress of Louise XV of France, Jeanne Antoinette Poisson is better remembered by history as Madame de Pompadour. However, de Pompadour was much more than the King’s lover. She acted as his closest adviser, instructing him over policy, making public statements on his behalf — and controlling who accessed him. People grew to resent de Pompadour’s extravagance and the debts she ran up. They also blamed her poor advice for France’s failure in the Seven Years’ War. Although she was a famed patron of the arts, Madame de Pompadour ensured that Louis’s reign was a disastrous one. She played her part in inadvertently sowing the seeds of discontent that bloomed into the French Revolution.

Successful and Unsuccessful Lovers of the Rich and Powerful in History
Marie Duplessis by Camille Roqueplan. Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain

8. Marie DuPlessis’s tragic death became a literary inspiration

In February 1847, 23-year-old French courtesan Marie Duplessis died of tuberculosis, alone and in debt. Marie had been the lover of several famous men, including Alexandre Dumas the younger. However, her tragic death at such a young age somehow captured the imagination of Paris, and the dead Marie became a muse. Within a year of her death, her former lover Dumas had made her the heroine of his novel, La Dame aux Camelias. The book, in its turn, became a play, making Dumas a great deal of money and ensuring Marie’s immortality.

Successful and Unsuccessful Lovers of the Rich and Powerful in History
Lola Montez by Carl Buchner. Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain

7. Another of Dumas’s ex-lovers, Lola Montez managed to lose King Ludwig of Bavaria his throne

In the 1840s, Irish dancer Elizabeth Gilbert began a tour of Europe Elizabeth decided she needed a more glamorous persona and so the “Spanish Dancer” Lola Montez was born. Lola was a great hit — especially with the men. Alexandre Dumas was just one of her lovers. However, King Ludwig, I of Bavaria was particularly smitten by her. He made Lola a countess and allowed her to rule Bavaria through him. Ludwig’s advisers were so enraged that they rebelled against him and forced him to abdicate. Once Ludwig was no longer a King, Lola left him.

Successful and Unsuccessful Lovers of the Rich and Powerful in History
Caroline Lacroix. Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain.

6. Caroline Lacroix was the teenage mistress of the King of Belgium who became his wife on his deathbed

Caroline or Blanche Lacroix was a sixteen-year-old barmaid and part-time prostitute when she met the elderly Leopold II of Belgium in Paris in 1900. The sixty-five-year-old monarch was charmed by Caroline and immediately set her up as his mistress. The couple caused a scandal because of the age difference and the perception that Caroline controlled her elderly lover. She was nicknamed “Queen of the Congo” as the press blamed her love of luxury for the money Leopold brutally extracted from the colony. However, Leopold’s reign — and his relationship with Caroline survived. The couple had two sons, and in 1909, when it was apparent the King was dying, he married Caroline. She died in France, comfortably provided for by her husband.

Successful and Unsuccessful Lovers of the Rich and Powerful in History
“Daisy” Greville, Countess of Warwick. Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain

5. Daisy Greville was the aristocratic mistress of Edward VII who ran as a labor MP

Frances Evelyn Daisy Grenville could have married Prince Leopold, the youngest son of Queen Victoria. Instead, after marrying Francis, Lord Brooke, the Future Earl of Warwick in 1881, Daisy became the mistress of Leopold’s brother, the future Edward VII. Daisy was Edwards’s mistress for nine years and the inspiration for the music hall song “Daisy, Daisy.” Also, despite being a landed aristocrat, she was a socialist who favored nationalization and invested vast sums of money in good works. Daisy attempted to involve Edward in her schemes, but he grew weary of her efforts and discarded her. However, Daisy was not put off. In 1923, she stood as a Labour candidate in Warwick and Leamington. She didn’t win, but she did at least lose to Anthony Eden, a future British Prime Minister.

Successful and Unsuccessful Lovers of the Rich and Powerful in History
Alexander Zoubkoff. Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain

4. Alexander Zoubkoff ruined Queen Victoria’s granddaughter

Princess Victoria of Prussia was the sister of Kaiser Wilhelm II and Queen Victoria’s granddaughter. Her first marriage was an arranged one with a German Prince, Alexander of Schaumburg-Lippe. However, when her husband died, Victoria was determined to marry for love. Then she met a Russian waiter and dancer called Alexander Zoubkoff. Victoria embarked on an affair with him and in November 1927, the couple married, despite her family’s disapproval. Victoria was 62 and Alexander was 27. Unsurprisingly, there was no happily ever after for the princess. In November 1929, Victoria served her toyboy lover divorce papers after he left her for a barmaid — having cleaned her out financially.

Successful and Unsuccessful Lovers of the Rich and Powerful in History
Eva Braun (Scenes from Eva Braun’s private motion pictures) Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain

3. Eva Braun was “the unhappiest woman in Germany” according to Hitler’s Chauffeur.

Quite what Eva Braun saw in Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler is uncertain. Today, Hitler is notorious for his policies of death and genocide. But on a personal level, it seems he didn’t treat his young mistress particularly well. Eva had met Hitler when she was 17 years of age, and over time, the pair formed a relationship. However, Hitler frequently ignored and sidelined his mistress, banishing her from the room when he had guests. Eva was left to eat alone, with only Hitler’s photograph for company. Eva’s diary was full of complaints about her lover’s neglect and Hitler’s chauffeur, Erich Kempka, described her as “the unhappiest woman in Germany.” But Eva stuck with her “Wulf” for 16 years, refusing to leave him when was clear Germany had lost the war. The couple were marrying just before they committed suicide together in 1945.

Also Read: 10 Women from the Life and Crimes of Adolf Hitler.

Successful and Unsuccessful Lovers of the Rich and Powerful in History
Clara Petacci, Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain

2. Like Eva Braun, Clara Petacci died with her lover, Mussolini. However, she didn’t have a choice between life or death.

Clara Petacci first became Mussolini’s lover when she was 19 and Mussolini was 48. The pair separated for two years and reunited in 1936 when Clara became the dictator’s permanent mistress. Clara received private apartments, bodyguards and a chauffeur. Mussolini was no more faithful to her than he was to his wife, and other women visited him daily. But Clara was his closest confidant and “amore” — in death as well as life. Clara may have chosen to stay with Mussolini after his downfall in April 1945. However, she had little choice but to die with him as Italian partisans captured and shot the pair soon after. Clara’s body was then hung upside down on public display, next to her lover.

Successful and Unsuccessful Lovers of the Rich and Powerful in History
Valentina Istomina, Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain

1. Valentina Istomina survived as Stalin’s lover by staying quietly in the background.

Joesph Stalin was renowned for his cruelty to the Soviet people and his wives and children. However, there was one woman who was close to him who he spared his cruelty. For eighteen years, Valentina Istomina was Stalin’s housekeeper and his lover. The pleasant and agreeable “Valechka” navigated her life with Stalin by staying in the background. She cared for him in a quiet, unassuming way, never seeking to appear more than his employee — and keeping well out of politics. All of this could have been a simple survival technique. However, it seems Valechka did genuinely care for Stalin. When the dictator was on his deathbed, Valechka came to say goodbye. She placed her head on Stalin’s chest and remained there, wailing at the top of her voice.


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