Yes, I feel it; even though I had on my conscience all the sins that can be committed, I would go, my heart broken with sorrow, and throw myself into Jesus’ arms, for I know how much He loves the prodigal child who returns to Him.Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus
Manuscript C, 36 verso
On 6 June 1710, Sr. Louise de la Miséricorde, O.C.D. (Louise of Mercy) died in the Carmel of Notre-Dame des Champs, Faubourg Saint-Jacques, which was the first Carmel founded in Paris by the Carmelites from Spain—Venerable Anne of Jesus and Blessed Anne of St. Bartholomew and their companions—with Madame Acarie’s foresight and genius.
Sr. Louise was the former Louise Françoise de La Baume Le Blanc, Duchess of la Vallière, first mistress of King Louis XIV of France (he had several). She bore him five children, only two of whom survived infancy (Marie Anne and Louis) and were legitimized.
In 1670, after a long illness that turned her thoughts toward the Four Last Things, the Duchess of la Vallière longed for a life of penance desiring to live in reparation for her life of public sin. It is well known that she publicly apologized to Queen Marie-Thérèse. As the story is told in English, “My crimes were public, my repentance must be public, too.”
She entered the Carmel of Notre-Dame des Champs and received the habit 2 June 1674, making her perpetual profession 3 June 1675, at a mature 30 years of age. It is said that Queen Marie-Thérèse was present for her veiling ceremony and was accorded the privilege of placing the black communion veil upon her head.
As you see in our featured image, the 1865 painting by Schmitz after artist Pierre Mignard includes one key phrase engraved at the base on the column; it epitomizes the motivation of the Duchess of la Vallière to embrace the hidden life of Carmel: Sic transit gloria mundi. Others would leave the court and join her at the Carmel of the Incarnation, as well.