February 15

Louis XV's Birthday

Rip Torn as Louis XV


Louis XV

After the dazzling, multifaceted talents and dynamic energy of Louis XIV (September 5), his great-grandson and heir, Louis XV was a major disappointment,  Crippled by his self-indulgence, promiscuity, laziness, and indifference to the political challenges within France and the rest of Europe. Louis failed to rule effectively and plunged the country into near bankruptcy and  caused his nation to despise the monarchy - the two factors that led to the French revolution. Louis seemed to be aware of the forces of anti-monarchism threatening his family's rule and yet failed to do anything to stop them. Popular legend holds that Louis predicted, "After me, the deluge" ("Après moi, le déluge").

Louis is remembered more for his series of mistresses than by any aspect of his reign  -  two of which, Madame de Pompadourand Madame du Berry   captured and fascinated the world's' s imagination and interest for nearly three centuries. Louis XV has been a principal character in more than 30 films, many of which focused on his mistresses, Tthe most memorable portrayals of Louis were by John Barrymore in Marie Antoinette (1938), Red Skelton in Du Barry was a Lady (1943), André Luguet in Madame du Barry (1954), and Rip Torn in Marie Antoinette (2006).

Louis' initial sexual escapades were homosexual, not because of sexual preference but by his Regent's (Philippe II, Duke of Orléans) fear of allowing any ambitious young girls from taking advantage of the young king's sexual inexperience. The young boys with whom Louis shared his first sexual experiences were rounded up and exiled. When Louis asked what had happened to his friends, the young monarch was told that they were caught pulling up fence posts in the royal park and were banished for their vandalism.

After this scandal, Louis was quickly married of to Maria Leczinska the daughter of the dethroned and exiled Polish king, Stanislas Leczinski Although several years older than Louis and relatively plain, Louis was attracted to her ripe, Rubenesque sexuality. Unfortunately, Marie was sexually frigid  and preferred cooking instead. Louis' sexual frustrations eventually led him to a series of other women

Louis's first four mistresses were the de Nesle sisters, only one of which,
Madame de Chateauroux, was attractive. However, like her sisters, she was a self-centered golddigger. She demanded a grand house in Paris,  jewels, and a monthly income. Any children that might be born were to be legitimized . Louis XV, deeply in love, accepted all her demands. Although Madame de Chateauroux used and abused the king, she was probably the great passion of his life.  In August of 1744, the king became seriously ill and it was apparent he might die. To prepare himself, he knew he had to dismiss his mistress and ask the queen to his side. When the people realized that she had been dismissed, they threw rotting vegetables at her carriage and jeered at her.

But Louis recovered and for some unknown reason took up with the remaining de Nesle sisters who were not only ugly, but also untalented, selfish, and generally unbearable. The sisters never bathed and the husband of one of them, the rather masculine Madame de Vintamille,  once remarked "'This bitch smells like a monkey." Due to their smell or Louis' increasing appreciation of beauty and class, the de Nesle dynasty was eventually replaced by the brilliant and talented Madame de Pompadour . Eventually her age, increasing  weight, and wrinkles led Louis to search for younger sexual partners  De Pompadour became the king s royal procuress, recruiting young bourgeois girls for her former lover's pleasure and who were housed  were placed in the king's private whorehouse (Le Parc aux Cerfs). Louis' aging sexual passions were eventually directed exclusively towards his last official mistress, Madame du Barry who  was required to produce aphrodisiac dishes to tempt the king's libido. However, du Berry also created a peach and almond torte which she named after her lover, biscuit de peche, a la royal (the King's Peach Torte)

Louis's obsession with aphrodisiacs helped popularize mushrooms in French cooking because of the belief that because of their phallic shape, the fungi were aphrodisiacs.  To ensure a continued supply, Louis  created the first commercial mushroom farms  n which thousands of the fungi were grown in twenty miles of underground caves and tunnels outside of Paris. The majority of mushroom dishes termed  a la royal commemorate Louis XIV's passion for the fungi.

Biscuit de peche, a la royal
(The King's Peach Torte)

Torte Ingredients
1 1/2 cups whipping cream 
2 tsp vanilla   

1 1/2
cups flour  
1 1/2
cups ground almonds
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup fresh peaches, stoned, pealed, and diced into 1" cubes
powdered sugar
& flour for baking pans

Filling Ingredients
1 cup soft butter
3&1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup peach brandy
4 egg yolks
  1. Preheat oven to 350º F.
  2. Butter 4  8" pans on bottom and sides. Place parchment or waxed paper circles (liners) on bottom of pans and butter tops of liners. Flour pans and tap against counter to remove excess flour.
  3. Beat cream and vanilla together in a chilled bowl until stiff. Beat egg yolks in a separate bowl until they are thick and lemon colored (about 5 minutes). Fold yolks into whipped cream
  4. Mix flour, Sugar, almonds, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl. Fold mixture gently into whipped cream-egg mixture. Fold in diced peaches.
  5. Pour batter evenly into cake pans. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Allow cakes to cool in their pans for 10 minutes. Then invert cakes over cake racks and allow to cool completely .Carefully peal off paper liners.
  6. Make filling by beating butter, sugar, lemon juice, and brandy together in a bowl. Then add egg yolks ate at a time, beating mixture thoroughly after each yolk. Filling should beaten until it is light and fluffy.
  7. Place first layer on cake dish.  Cover top with ate half of filling (Don't frost sides). Place second layer over first and spread remaining half of filling over it. Top with third layer and dust with powdered sugar.

Serves 10 - 12

© 2010 Gordon Nary