She was not the best party in the world, she knew it very well … Deprived of a dowry, Marie Leszczynska was the daughter of a king without a crown, Stanislas Leszczynski, ephemeral ruler of Poland who had had to flee to Warsaw, driven from her throne by Augustus II of Saxony. However, it was she who had been chosen to become the future queen of France, that is to say one of the most influential women in the world. Louis XV had been promised for a time to the infant Marie-Anne-Victoire de Bourbon, but she was finally sent back to Spain, considered too young to become a mother.
If Marie Leszczynska was penniless – some chroniclers of the time often qualified her as “upstart” – she still had several qualities. First of all physical: “the size well proportioned and fine, the graceful bearing and not embarrassed in its movements, the nose a little long, not big nor red, nor like a parrot, moreover fairly well formed, the mouth neither big neither small, with rimmed and ruddy lips ”, describes the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who went to meet her in Poland. More than that, the young princess is literate, interested in history, genealogy and geography, speaking German, Italian, Latin, Polish and French as well without accent. “She dances cleanly, in a good air, plays the harpsichord, sings sometimes, has a soft voice …”, adds the Secretary of State who concludes: “It is a combination of all the virtues. “
When Louis XV first meets his new wife – to whom he was married in his absence in Strasbourg cathedral – he is pleasantly surprised by her physiognomy. The next day, the Duke of Bourbon, Prime Minister, wrote to the father of the bride, Stanislas Leszczynski, that the queen received from her husband “seven proofs of affection” during the night.
The first months, the king is indeed very in love, going to scratch in the middle of the night at the door of his new queen. Marie fulfilled with application her most important mission: from 1727 to 1737, she gave birth to ten children. However, she will turn out to be a careless mother, especially with her daughters, whom she sends to the Abbey of Fontevrault to be educated and to whom she will never visit.
After this uninterrupted flow of births, Marie Leszczynska forbids the king’s entry to her room, on the advice of her doctor who is worried about her health. In any case, his majesty already has some mistresses, who made him forget the arms of his queen. More discreet than her husband’s favorites – like the Pompadour – Marie nevertheless left her mark on the Versailles court. She also formed a circle of relatives – men and women – much more popular than that of the king. She regularly organizes evenings devoted to games or music, where courtiers throng.
However, Marie Leszczynska will never wallow in extravagance, like a Marie-Antoinette after her. On the contrary, his days are very regular, and often devoted to work and study. She reads a lot – in the “Poets’ room” which she has specially fitted out. She also devotes herself to painting, writing and music. Finally, she grants many audiences in her private apartments, especially to the king, who likes to come and consult her.
More surprisingly, Marie Leszczynska will always be very lenient with Louis XV’s favorite, Madame de Pompadour, saying that “since there is a mistress, she likes this one better than any other. She will not have to put up with too much the other royal mistress, the Du Barry, since the queen died on June 24, 1768, in Versailles. Six years before the king.
Louis XV and Marie Leczinska: Deceptions at Versailles, Secrets of History presented by Stéphane Bern, June 14 at 9:05 p.m.
SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWLETTER TO RECEIVE EVERY EVENING THE BEST OF