Marie Leszczyńska

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This is the correct spelling of the surname in modern Polish; various other spellings are also used in English and French.
Marie Leszczyńska
Marie Leszczyńska, reine de France (original copy) by Jean-Marc Nattier.png
Portrait by Jean-Marc Nattier, 1748
Queen consort of France and Navarre
Tenure 4 September 1725 – 24 June 1768
Spouse Louis XV of France
Issue
Louise Élisabeth, Duchess of Parma
Princess Henriette
Princess Louise
Louis, Dauphin of France
Philippe, Duke of Anjou
Marie Adélaïde, Duchess of Louvois
Princess Victoire
Sophie, Duchess of Louvois
Princess Thérèse
Louise, Abbess of Saint Denis
Full name
Maria Karolina Zofia Felicja Leszczyńska
House House of Bourbon
House of Leszczyński
Father Stanislaus I of Poland
Mother Catherine Opalińska
Born (1703-06-23)23 June 1703
Trzebnica, Poland
Died 24 June 1768(1768-06-24) (aged 65)
Versailles, France
Burial Basilica of Saint-Denis, Paris, France
Signature
Religion Roman Catholicism
Styles of
Queen Marie Leszczyńska of France as consort
Reference style Her Majesty
Spoken style Your Majesty
Alternative style Madame

Marie Leszczyńska (Polish pronunciation: [ˈmarja lɛʂˈtʂɨɲska]), born Maria Karolina Zofia Felicja Leszczyńska (Trzebnica, 23 June 1703 – Versailles, 24 June 1768) was a queen consort of France. She was a daughter of King Stanisław Leszczyński of Poland (later Duke of Lorraine) and Catherine 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 was the longest-serving queen consort of France.

Background[edit]

Maria Karolina Zofia Felicja Leszczyńska h. Wieniawa[1] was the second daughter of Stanisław Leszczyński and his wife Katarzyna Opalińska. Her older sister Anna Leszczyńska (1699–1717) died at the age of 18 of pneumonia.

Maria's early life was troubled by her father's political misfortune. Ironically, King Stanisław's hopeless political career was eventually the reason why his daughter Maria was chosen as the bride of King Louis XV of France. Devoid of political connections, his daughter was viewed by the French as being free from the burden of international alliances.[citation needed]

She was born in Trzebnica, Lower Silesia, the year before her father was made king of Poland by Charles XII of Sweden, who had invaded the country in 1704. In 1709, her father was deposed when the Swedish army lost the military upper hand in Poland, and the family was granted refuge by Charles XII in the Swedish city of Kristianstad in Scania.[2] During the escape, Marie was separated from the rest of her family; she was later found with her nurse hiding in a crib in a stable, although another version claims it was actually a cave in an old mineshaft.[3] In Sweden, the family was welcomed by the Queen Dowager Hedwig Eleonora and became popular members of the society life on the estates of the nobility around Kristianstad. In 1712, they also visited Medevi, the spa of the Queen Dowager.[4] Beginning with this period in her life, Marie spoke the Swedish language - with a Scanian accent - and while Queen of France was known to welcome Swedish ambassadors to France with the Swedish phrase: "Welcome, Dearest Heart!". In 1714, Charles XII gave them permission to live in the Swedish province of Zweibrücken in Germany, where they were supported by the income of Zweibrücken: they lived there until the death of Charles XII in 1718.[5]

Very close to her father, Maria shared his exile in Wissembourg in the French province of Alsace, a place suggested by Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, a nephew of Louis XIV and Regent of the Kingdom of France during Louis XV's minority.

The family was supported by a pension from the Regent and, while living in Wissembourg, Maria was asked for her hand in marriage by Louis Henri de Bourbon, Prince of Condé, who became Louis XV's prime minister at the death of the Regent in December 1723. That same year, the young king fell ill and, fearing the consequences of the unmarried king dying without an heir, the prime minister suggested marrying the young king.

Marriage[edit]

Marie Leszczynska
Maria Leszczyńska in 1730, by Alexis Simon Belle
Arms of Marie as queen of France

Maria was on a list of 99 eligible European princesses to marry the young king.

Cardinal Fleury, who wanted for the king a royal bride who would not drag France into any complicated political alliances, supported the marriage. One factor in the choice of Marie was the fact that she was old enough to have children, while the former designated bride, the Infanta Mariana Victoria of Spain, was too young to bear children.

The marriage by proxy took place on 15 August 1725 in the Cathedral of Strasbourg, Louis XV represented by his cousin the Duke of Orléans, Louis le Pieux.

Louis and Marie first met on the eve of their wedding, which took place on 5 September 1725, at the Château de Fontainebleau. Marie was twenty-two years old and Louis fifteen. The young couple was reported to have fallen in love at first sight.[citation needed].

The announcement of the wedding was not received well as the royal court; as the father of Marie had been a monarch for only a short time, she was thought to be a poor choice. There were rumours before the wedding that the bride was ugly, epileptic and sterile.[6] However, Marie was popular among the people from the beginning, such as when she handed out money on her way to her wedding in Fontainebleau.

Cardinal de Fleury, who had been Louis's tutor, was appointed Grand Chaplain to Marie[citation needed].

Upon her marriage, Maria's Polish name was modified into French as Marie Leczinska.

The young couple's marriage was initially a happy one. In August 1727, Maria gave birth to her first children, twin daughters named Louise Élisabeth and Henriette Anne, at the Palace of Versailles. The elder twin, Louise Élisabeth, later married the Infante Felipe of Spain and eventually became the Duchess Consort of Parma. Through Louise Élisabeth, Marie became an ancestor of Juan Carlos I of Spain. The long-awaited Dauphin, Louis, was born on 4 September 1729 to the immense relief of the country, whose royal family had a history of failing to establish a secure male line of succession. In all, Marie bore her husband 10 live children, seven of whom survived to adulthood. She is known to have had a close relationship with all of her children.

After the difficult birth of Princess Louise in 1737, which nearly took her life[citation needed], Marie had no more children. In 1738, she refused Louis entrance to her bedroom, and after this, their private relationship ended, though the formal marriage continued in spite of her husband's infidelities.

Louis XV was a notorious womaniser. Several of his mistresses, particularly Madame de Pompadour, who was introduced at the court of Versailles in 1745 on the occasion of the marriage of the Dauphin Louis, eventually eclipsed the Queen's social status. Most of her husband's romantic affairs were conducted with her knowledge, and she either simply accepted them, or was powerless to stop them[citation needed]. Throughout, she displayed an attitude of discretion and dignity and maintained a civil relationship towards Madame de Pompadour.[citation needed]

Issue[edit]

Queen[edit]

Portrait of Marie Leszczynska, Queen of France, circa 1748 by Charles-André van Loo.

Queen Marie never managed to acquire political influence. She made an attempt to involve herself in politics at the very beginning of their marriage when she, in 1726, asked Louis to appoint the unpopular Prince of Condé as a Cabinet minister, despite her father's warnings. King Louis took her attempt to become involve in politics very badly, and after 1726 she was completely separated from affairs of state and any political influence on Louis. In 1733, she declared her support to her father in his demand on the Polish throne. Queen Marie, as well as her mother, maintained a political correspondence with Margareta Gyllenstierna, the spouse of Arvid Horn, with whom she had made the acquaintance during her stay in Sweden.[7]

Queen Marie represented the king many times in ceremonial rituals at the court of Versailles during his many absences.

Louis provided her with a large apartment in the palace where she could live more informally with her circle of friends. Among her most noted guests as the de Luynes couple. She was given an allowance of 96,000 livres for pleasure, charity and gambling, which was not considered to be very large[by whom?]. She enjoyed a game called cavagnole, and was often in debt because of the reluctance of her husband and father to pay her losses.

Marie was a devout Roman Catholic. Her major contribution to life at Versailles was the weekly event of Polish choral concerts. She was also a great lover of music and painting and the protector of many artists. She met the castrato Farinelli in 1737, and, in 1764, the young Mozart, whom she found very charming. During his visit to Versailles, she acted as an interpreter for her husband and family who did not understand German. She also started a correspondence with Voltaire, for whom she secured a pension.

During an era when France was a very powerful nation, often in conflict with Austria, the Austrian ambassador to France, Florimond Claude, Comte de Mercy-Argenteau (who later helped secure the marriage of the Dauphin and Marie Antoinette), was said to have been romantically involved with the queen, but this seems highly unlikely and was disregarded as court gossip. Marie was known for her good manners, grace, and piety.

Her daughter-in-law, the dauphine, died at the age of 20 after giving birth to a daughter Marie Thérèse. The queen, very fond and loving of her only son, encouraged him to take as his second wife the Duchess Marie-Josèphe of Saxony, 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 father. In honour of him, several of the queen's grandsons received the name Stanislas at their christening.

Death[edit]

Marie Leszczynsaka was truly a people's queen. Her death on 24 June 1768 at the age of 65 was a huge blow to the French monarchy. She was buried at the Basilica of St Denis and her heart deposed at the Church of Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours in Nancy (Lorraine).

In Culture[edit]

  • 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 marshal Maurice de Saxe she remarked: "How sad, that we cannot sing "De Profundis", for a man thanks to whom we sang so often "Te Deum""

References[edit]

  1. ^ According to Polski Słownik Biograficzny which agrees with the entry for Louis XV in Burke's Royal Families of the World, where she appears as Marie-Caroline-Sophie-Félicité.
  2. ^ Lundh-Eriksson, Nanna (1947). Hedvig Eleonora (in Swedish). Wahlström & Widstrand. 
  3. ^ Lundh-Eriksson, Nanna (1947). Hedvig Eleonora (in Swedish). Wahlström & Widstrand. 
  4. ^ Lundh-Eriksson, Nanna (1947). Hedvig Eleonora (in Swedish). Wahlström & Widstrand. 
  5. ^ Lundh-Eriksson, Nanna (1947). Hedvig Eleonora (in Swedish). Wahlström & Widstrand. 
  6. ^ Christine Pevitt Algrant (2003). Madame De Pompadour: Mistress of France. Grove Press. p. 26. 
  7. ^ Norrhem, Svante (2007). Kvinnor vid maktens sida : 1632-1772. (Women alongside power: 1632-1772) Lund: Nordic Academic Press. Libris 10428618. ISBN 978-91-89116-91-7 (Swedish)


This article incorporates information from the equivalent article on the French Wikipedia.

Further reading[edit]

  • Zieliński, Ryszard (1978). Polka na francuskim tronie. Czytelnik.

Ancestry[edit]

Marie Leszczyńska
Born: 23 June 1703 Died: 24 June 1768
French royalty
Vacant
Title last held by
Maria Theresa of Spain
Queen consort of France and Navarre
4 September 1725 – 24 June 1768
Vacant
Title next held by
Marie Antoinette