Monday, May 18, 2009

Marie Leczcynska, Queen of France


John (Ad Orientem) said...

From Wikipedia (there are several excellent portraits on the source page)

Maria Leszczyńska, Queen Consort of France (Maria Karolina Zofia Felicja Leszczyńska; June 23, 1703 in Trzebnica – June 24, 1768 in Versailles) was a queen consort of France. She was a daughter of King Stanisław Leszczyński of Poland (later Duke of Lorraine) and Katarzyna Opalińska. She married King Louis XV of France and was the grandmother of Louis XVI, Louis XVIII, and Charles X. In France, she was referred to as Marie Leczinska. She is the longest serving queen consort of France.

Early Life

Maria Karolina Zofia Felicja Leszczyńska h. Wieniawa[1] was the second daughter of Stanisław Leszczyński and his wife Katarzyna Opalińska. Maria's early life was troubled by her father's political misfortune. Ironically, King Stanisław's hopeless political career was eventually the reason that his daughter Maria became queen of France.

Born in Trzebnica in Lower Silesia, she was born in the year before her father was made King of Poland by Charles XII of Sweden who invaded the country that year. Very close to her father, Maria was tutored while in her fathers exile in Wissembourg in Alsace near France. This place was a suggestion by the French de facto ruler Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, a nephew of Louis XIV and regent of France for the infant king Louis XV.

The family was supported by a pension from the Duke of Orléans, and during their time in Wissembourg, the young Maria was asked for her hand in marriage by Louis Henri, Duke of Bourbon who was a grandson of Louis XIV and the prime minister of France from 1723. The same year, the young king Louis XV (by then he had reached his majority) fell ill and the prime minister suggested a marriage between the young princess and the even younger king.


Cardinal Fleury - the replacement of the Duke of Bourbon as Louis XV's Prime Minister - wanted to find his king a royal bride who would not drag France into any complicated political alliances and supported the marriage. Upon her marriage, her name was modified into French as Marie Leczinska.

The young couple's marriage was initially happy and they had many children, most of whom were incredibly loyal to their mother. The first of her many children were born at the Palace of Versailles. Her eldest daughter, named Marie Louise Élisabeth was later the Duchess Consort of Parma and as such is an ancestor of Juan Carlos I of Spain. Louis XV was a notorious womanizer, and several of his mistresses—particularly the glamorous Madame de Pompadour—eventually eclipsed the Queen's social status at Versailles. Most of his affairs were with her knowledge, and she either simply accepted them, or was powerless to stop them.

Marie was a devout Roman Catholic. Her major contribution to life at Versailles was the weekly event of Polish Choral Concerts. Upon her arrival at Versailles, Marie popularised the robe a la Polonaise - a polish style dress a style that would remain popular till the reign of Marie's grandson Louis XVI of France. She also met the young Mozart, whom she found very charming and acted as a go between for her husband and family who did not understand German. She also started a correspondence with the famous Voltaire, for whom she secured a pension.


On September 4, 1725, she married Louis XV of France. They had ten children:

* Marie Louise Élisabeth (August 14, 1727 - December 6, 1759) Duchess of Parma, had issue;
* Henriette Anne (August 14, 1727- February 10, 1752) died unmarried, no issue;
* Marie-Louise (July 28, 1728 - February 19, 1733) died in childhood:
* Louis, Dauphin of France (September 4, 1729 - December 20, 1765) married Infanta Maria Teresa Rafaela of Spain; had issue then married Duchess Marie-Josèphe of Saxony and had issue;
* Philippe of France, Duke of Anjou (August 30, 1730 - April 17, 1733) died in childhood
* Marie Adélaïde (March 23, 1732 - February 27, 1800) died unmarried, no issue
* Victoire Louise Marie Thérèse (May 11, 1733 - June 7, 1799) died unmarried, no issue
* Sophie Philippine Élisabeth Justine (July 17, 1734 - March 3, 1782); died unmarried, no issue;
* Stillborn Child (March 28, 1735 - March 28, 1735)
* Thérèse-Félicité (May 16, 1736 - September 28, 1744) died in childhood
* Louise Marie (July 5, 1737 - December 23, 1787) was a nun, died unmarried, no issue

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Later Life

The birth of Marie's last child, Louise Marie was a child birth that nearly took her life: she was warned not to have any other children in her life and she did not. It was during this time that the king decided to take to his more famous mistresses, most prominently Madame de Pompadour who was introduced to the royal court at the wedding of her son Louis to Infanta Maria Teresa Rafaela of Spain - Louis XV's cousin. During an era when France was a very powerful nation, Austria was often in conflict with the French and the ambassador Count Mercy (who later helped secure the marriage of Louis XVI of France and Marie Antoinette) was said to have had an affair with the queen; this seems highly unlikely and was disregarded as court gossip. Marie was known for her good manners, grace and her piety.

Her daughter-in-law the infanta of Spain died at the age of 20 after giving birth to a granddaughter named Marie Thérèse. The Queen, very fond and loving of her only son encouraged the marriage of her Louis to Duchess Marie-Josèphe of Saxony, the daughter of her father's rival, Frederick Augustus Wettin of Saxony, King August III of Poland. Initially, this connection caused some friction between the Queen and her new daughter-in-law. However, the friction was soon overcome, reportedly because the young German princess was an admirer of the Queen's romantically unlucky father. In honour of him, several of the Queen's grandsons received the name Stanislas at their christenings.


Marie died in 1768, six years before her husband. His new mistress was a former prostitute, Madame du Barry. Marie's children and grandchildren sincerely grieved at Marie's death. At her death she was known as the Bonne Reine Marie -Good Queen Marie. Two years later, her grandson, the future Louis XVI was married to a young Austrian archduchess, Marie Antoinette.

In Culture

* Two of Marie's grandchildren met their deaths on the guillotine during the French Revolution: Louis XVI and Madame Élisabeth.

* Another two grandchildren, Louis XVIII and Charles X, became kings of France after the Bourbon Restoration in 1814.

* Marie is a major character in the novel The Royal Merry-Go-Round, the story of Louis XV's adventurous love life. In the anime Le Chevalier D'Eon, she is one of the characters manipulating many of the events in the story.

* Though presumed to be not too clever, Marie Leczinska was an author of at least a few quips. It is said that following the death of the Protestant marshall Maurice de Saxe she remarked: "How sad, that we cannot sing "De Profundis", for a man thanks to whom we sung so often "Te Deum""

Jeffrey Smith said...

Thank you. That quote is a gem. True, too.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know the name of the artist who painted this portrait?