The pale day started to decline, outside. A cold wind blew and an icy rain oozed from the loophole. We were in November 1635: Niort was under the dull weather, the keep under a gloomy torpor. And inside this small jail, a little girl was born…
She was called Françoise. Françoise d'Aubigné, grand daughter of the nice poet and warrior Agrippa d'Aubigné: the future madame de Maintenon, the famous mistress of Louis XIV! Oh, was she born in jail? Well, yes… thanks, daddy! Constant d'Aubigné, that was his name, was locked here for debts.
His wife didn’t want to leave him, so she was locked too. And the family was protestant: Françoise was baptised by a Catholic priest, and her godfather was the governor of Niort, duke of La Rochefoucauld… whose name was François!
What a start! Her aunt, Louise d’Aubigné, often came to see them. Chocked, she saw her brother so tired… and her sister-in-law, let’s not even talk: she was incapable of feeding her baby! Auntie Louise decided to take Françoise with her, just the time she grew older…
Yes, then the young Françoise spent her first years in the keep: to occupy her long, long days, she could count on her friend, the janitor’s daughter. But one day, this one blamed Françoise for being poor. Françoise answered: “Yes, that’s true, I’m not rich, but I least, I’m a real lady”!
Françoise left her keep in 1639, after her father's release. The end of problems? Not sure! Her dad refused to recant his protestant faith. So he had to run away in Martinique. During the journey on the boat, Françoise fell badly sick. They even thought she was dead! As they throwing her body to the sea, she suddenly woke up with a gasp; she was alive!
She became Mrs. de Maintenon, and she often talked about this story, in Versailles. Courtiers said to her: “Mrs., people don’t come back from that kind of thing for nothing…”