The duke and his Belle in Aix-en-Provence
The most gorgeous townhouse in Aix: the pavillon de Vendôme!
But our story began with Louis de Bourbon, duke of Vendôme: king of France Henri IV’s grandson! His mum? Gabrielle d’Estrées, the king’ mistress!
Louis became ambassador of Provence in 1652 and settled in Aix. He bought a plot of land in the Cordeliers suburb with a garden and vineyards.
He raised his own country cottage! Hey, he wanted to be alone, away from the city… Why? He became a widower in 1657… and one day our duke fell in love with Lucrèce de Forbin-Solliès... a widow, too! Widow of Henri de Rascas, lord of Canet, Aix first consul. People nicknamed her la Belle du Canet!
Louis first asked king Louis XIV permission to marry her. No way! It was a misalliance! So the two lovers never married, but they truly loved each other: the Belle secretly met Louis, incognito, with a mask on her face, at night in his townhouse. Local peasants called them machoto (owls)!
Unfortunately, the duke passed away in 1669, at the age of 57. People used to say after that: Lei machoto an tua lou duc, ″the owls killed the duke″. And Lucrèce only survived 2 years...