Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Duchess of Parma

Catherine Delors discusses the eldest daughter of Louis XV, Madame Elisabeth of France, the Duchess of Parma. To quote:
On August 14, 1727, Queen Marie Leszczynska gave birth to twin girls, the first born being Marie-Louise-Elisabeth, known as Madame Elisabeth, or simply, as the King's eldest daughter, Madame. Louis XV, who was only seventeen, had of course been hoping for a male heir, but he was nonetheless delighted by the birth of the girls. "People said I could not have children," he went around repeating, "and see, I made two!"

Elisabeth is his darling, his Babette. She has never been considered pretty, but she is bright, vivacious, willful. Yet dynastic politics lead Louis XV to arrange her marriage to her cousin, Philippe de Bourbon, younger son of the King of Spain. It is considered a mediocre match for a Fille de France ("Daughter of France") to marry a foreign prince unlikely to succeed to any throne, but Louis XV wants to reinforce the family ties with the Spanish Bourbons.

The bride is only twelve, and she is heartbroken when she must leave Versailles and her twin, Madame Henriette. "Tis forever, my God, tis forever," she sobs in the arms of her sister. Indeed it was often true at the time: as a rule a princess, once married abroad, never set foot again in her native country. That is, for instance, what happened to Marie-Antoinette. But, as she shall see, Madame Elisabeth will never allow herself to be bound by rules applicable to ordinary princesses.


Catherine Delors said...

Thank you, Elena. Elisabeth's twin Henriette is on for Friday (sorry, it know it sounds very casual for a princess...)

elena maria vidal said...

Not at all. I look forward to learning about Henriette.