Marie-Josèphe de Saxe, Dauphine of France, wife of Louis the Dauphin, was the mother of Louis XVI. It is said that her little grandson, the tragic Louis XVII, resembled her a great deal, as can be seen in the portrait below. It gives further lie to the ridiculous rumor that Count Axel von Fersen fathered Louis-Charles (Louis XVII).
Daughter of the Elector of Saxony, Marie-Josèphe was destined to become the mother of three Kings of France. Two of her children were eventually to die on the guillotine while another became a Venerable of the Church. In the meantime, she lost many babies and children to early deaths, including the beloved Duc de Burgogne, whose death from tuberculosis was to haunt Louis XVI, as well as possibly infecting him with the same disease.
At a time when the French court was ruled by Madame de Pompadour and influenced by the philosophes, there came into the midst of such a loose and free-thinking environment a devout Catholic princess. Marie-Josèphe faced enormous challenges. In addition to a husband who was still in love with his first wife, Maria-Theresa of Spain who had recently died, the new Dauphine had to contend with the anti-religious element at Versailles, which prevailed in spite of the pious queen and princesses.
Little by little Marie-Josèphe won the love and respect of her husband as they worked together to educate their surviving children, especially in solid religious formation, while striving to maintain the Catholic faith at the court in spite of the blatant immorality of Louis XV. With her restrained yet kindly and dignified manner, the Dauphine became greatly loved; it is said she even got on well with Madame de Pompadour.
Marie-Josèphe cared for her husband in his fatal illness and followed him to the grave two years later in 1767. It was a great tragedy for her five remaining children, for whom the strong influence of such a mother was irreplaceable. Although Marie-Josèphe was against the Austrian alliance, her death before the arrival of Marie-Antoinette of Austria in France was unfortunate, since she of all people would have been most fitted to give loving guidance to her vivacious daughter-in-law, adrift in a foreign court. Share