Thursday, December 18, 2008

Madame Adélaïde de France

Catherine Delors continues her series on the daughters of Louis XV
. Here is an excerpt:
So after the twins Madame Elisabeth and Madame Henriette, Louis XV and Marie Leszczynska had another daughter, Marie-Louise, and two sons, Louis-Ferdinand and Philippe. Marie-Louise and Philippe both died in childhood, an all too commonplace tragedy at the time. Louis-Ferdinand, the eagerly awaited Dauphin, would be the father of the future Louis XVI.

The next royal daughter to survive to adulthood was Marie-Adélaïde, born in 1732, five years after her elder twin sisters. She was Queen Marie Leszczynska's sixth child in five years...

I have noted earlier that the atmosphere at Versailles, long before Marie-Antoinette ever set foot there, was particularly poisonous. Madame Adélaïde's beauty did not go unnoticed, and rumor accused her of an incestuous liaison with Louis XV, her own father, by whom she was supposed to have given birth to the Comte Louis de Narbonne. All serious historians now discount this story as vicious, unsubstantiated slander. Louis de Narbonne was simply the much-pampered son of Madame Adélaïde's favorite lady-in-waiting. He would become a diplomat and general during the Revolution and the Empire, and also one of Madame de Staël's many lovers, but that's another story.

Louis XV liked to give his daughters humorous nicknames. Adélaïde, for some reason, was Loque ("Rags.") Madame Campan, who was reader to the princesses, and sounds more than a little afraid of Madame Adélaïde, notes in her Memoirs that the princess had an abrupt, domineering manner and a choleric temper, that she had "an immoderate thirst for knowledge: she played all sorts of musical instruments, from the French horn to the Jew's harp." In addition to music, Madame Adélaïde occupied herself with the study of Italian, English, calculus, painting, the potter's wheel and watchmaking. A well-rounded mind, to say the least, if not an easy character.

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