Thursday, January 14, 2016

Marie-Josèphe de Saxe

Marie-Josèphe de Saxe, Dauphine of France, with her eldest son the Duc de Burgogne, who died at age nine.
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


Philippe said...

Marie-Josèphe de Saxe is a fascinating figure- imagine if the dauphin hadn't died, what kind of queen she would have made. Or if she had survived past 1770, the influence she might have had on Marie-Antoinette.

Although she was traditional for many things, she was also incredibly modern for her time and especially her station. A talented musician, the concerts and musical gatherings she hosted in her appartements in part helped to make popular the latest musical innovations and composers.

Especially interesting is that she played an important role in raising her children herself, like her famous daughter-in-law was to in the 1780s. With the dauphin teaching languages, she took up the history of religions, imparting this lesson to her children : All men are equal by natural right and in the eyes of God who created them." I can only imagine the effects such a lesson had on the future Louis XVI, especially, who in 1778 would form an alliance with the united American colonies who 2 years earlier had declared that "all men are created equal and blessed by their Creator with inalienable rights." Even the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of Citizen had a similar phrase, in which all men are born and live free and equal in rights.

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you, Philippe, for the additional information about such a great lady.

Lucy said...

Wonderful post, Elena:) I often wonder what life would have been like for Marie Antoinette had her mother-in-law been alive. I even think there is some resemblance between the two-not only in features but also in their devoutness, love for their children and feminine ways. Thanks for this great post.

elena maria vidal said...

You are welcome, Lucy! Thank you!

Gabriel Girl said...

She sounds like a wonderful role model. Kindness and non-judgemental modesty can win over all sorts of people.

Julygirl said...

Soounda like she was a 'voice crying in the wilderness' or wildness of the French Court. It would be encouraging to think she could have influenced the young Antoinette, but considering even M.A's mother, who was also a powerful mother figure, would wring her hands in exasperation at some of the antics of her headstrong daughter, I doubt that much could have been done. There were more powerful social influences at work in the French court which seduced the young future Queen.