Saturday, April 19, 2008

Queen Marie Leszczynska

Marie Leszczynska (1703-1768) was the queen of Louis XV, and the grandmother of Louis XVI. She was the last Queen of France before Marie-Antoinette. According to Jean Chalon, the author of Chère Marie-Antoinette, Queen Marie tightened up the rigorous court etiquette that Marie-Antoinette later relaxed because it was so suffocating. The daughter of a dethroned monarch and wife of a blatantly unfaithful husband probably needed the highly ritualized pomp to boost her morale and her rank more than did the "daughter of the Caesars." Yes, Marie Lesczynska's father was the dethroned king of Poland and her early life was complicated by upheaval and exile. Yet for this very reason, she was chosen to be the bride of the teenage Louis XV, because she had no political entanglements at all. Her father Stanislaus Leszczynski was delighted when asked for his daughter's hand, as is related here:
A messenger arrives from Versailles with a letter for Stanislaus. Shock! Delight! He rushes to where his wife and daughter sit talking and working at their needle-crafts.
"Down on our knees in thanks to God!"
"Are you restored to the Polish throne?"
"Heaven is still more gracious: you are queen of France."
They embraced with tears, and knelt to thank God for having delivered them from their trials.
At age 22 Marie married the 16 year old king. She was pretty and very devout. They were happy and in love for about a decade; the queen gave birth to ten children. Later, she was blamed for throwing Louis XV out of bed on certain holy days, but that may be just gossip. Perhaps she had a health problem, who knows? At any rate, Louis began a career as a womanizer, his most famous mistress being Madame de Pompadour, who ruled France at his side.

Queen Marie quietly devoted herself to her faith and her family. Courtiers mocked her Polish ways and called her La Polonaise even as later they would call Marie-Antoinette L'Autrichienne. All of Marie's children were as religious as she was; her youngest daughter Madame Louise became a Carmelite nun and a Blessed of the Church. Some of her grandchildren were quite pious as well, especially Louis XVI, Madame Clothilde, and Madame Elisabeth. Clothilde was declared a Venerable and Louis XVI and Madame Elisabeth can be regarded as martyrs in that they would not surrender their religious principles. When she died in 1768, Louis XV sincerely mourned the mother of his children, and we hope he regretted causing her such pain with his infidelities.


Hans Georg Lundahl said...

I blush.

When writing about my nation's king Charles XII who dethroned her father, I said about Stanislaus Leszczynski "his name was never famous" and the history teacher wrote "can't you remember it, Hans". Touché. But now I do remember it.

Did you know that the Palatine dynasty in Sweden (Charles X Gustavus, Charles XI, Charles XII, Ulrika Eléonora) were a branch of the Wittelsbachs?

elena maria vidal said...

I had no idea. What happened to the Vasas?