Princess Marie Adélaïde of France

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Marie Adélaïde
Duchess of Louvois
Jean-Marc Nattier, Madame Adélaïde de France (1750).jpg
Madame Adélaïde in 1750
Born (1732-03-23)23 March 1732
Palace of Versailles, France
Died 27 February 1800(1800-02-27) (aged 67)
Triest, Italy
Burial Basilica of Saint-Denis
Full name
Marie Adélaïde de France
House Bourbon
Father Louis XV of France
Mother Marie Leszczyńska
Religion Roman Catholicism
Signature Marie Adélaïde's signature

Marie Adélaïde de France,[1] (23 March 1732 in Versailles – 27 February 1800 in Trieste), was the fourth daughter and sixth child of King Louis XV of France and his consort, Marie Leszczyńska. She was named after her paternal grandmother, Marie Adelaide, Dauphine of France. As the daughter of the king, she was a fille de France. She was referred to as Madame Adélaïde from 1737 to 1755 and from 1759 to her death, and simply as Madame from 1755 to 1759.

Originally known as Madame Quatrième ("Madame the Fourth"), until the death of her older sister Louise Marie in 1733, she became Madame Troisième, ("Madame the Third"). Adélaïde also possessed the Duchy of Louvois with her sister Madame Sophie from 1777, and which had been created for them by their nephew Louis XVI, in their own right.



Madame Adélaïde was raised at the Palace of Versailles with her older sisters, Madame Louise Elisabeth, Madame Henriette and Madame Marie Louise, along with her brother Louis, Dauphin of France. Her younger sisters received their education at the Abbaye de Fontevraud, because the cost of raising them in Versailles with all the status they were entitled to was deemed too expensive by Cardinal Fleury, Louis XV's chief minister. Adélaïde was expected to join her younger sisters in Fontevraud, but she was allowed to stay with her brother and her two eldest sisters in Versailles after a personal plea to her father.[citation needed]

She was put in the care of Marie Isabelle de Rohan, Duchesse de Tallard. According to Madame Campan, "Madame Adelaide, in particular, had a most insatiable desire to learn; she was taught to play upon all instruments, from the horn (will it be believed!) to the Jew’s-harp." [2]

Reign of Louis XV[edit]

Madame Adélaïde de France (1749) by Jean-Marc Nattier

Adélaïde was never married. By the time she had reached the age when princesses were normally married, in the late 1740s, there were no potential Catholic consorts of desired status available, and she preferred to remain unmarried rather to marry someone below the status of a monarch or an heir to a throne. [3] Marriage suggested to her were liaisons with the Prince of Conti and Prince Francis Xavier of Saxony, neither whom had the status of being a monarch or an heir to a throne. She became the head of the group of the four unmarried, younger sisters; the others were Madame Victoire, Madame Sophie and Madame Louise. The King referred to them by nicknames: he called Madame Adelaide ‘Logue’ [Tatters], Madame Victoire ‘Coche’ [Piggy], Madame Sophie, ‘Graille’ [Mite], and Madame Louise, ‘Chiffie’ [Rubbish].[4]

Adélaïde was described as intelligent and beautiful, but also as very haughty and mindful of her rank: "Madame Adelaide had more mind than Madame Victoire; but she was altogether deficient in that kindness which alone creates affection for the great, abrupt manners, a harsh voice, and a short way of speaking, rendering her more than imposing. She carried the idea of the prerogative of rank to a high pitch."[5] She was the only one of the unmarried sisters with political ambition, and she attempted unsuccessfully to gain political influence through her father the king, her brother the Dauphin, and eventually through her nephew, the next Dauphin.[6]

Madame Adélaïde, as well as her siblings, attempted without success to prevent their father's liaison with Madame de Pompadour, which began in 1745. In the early 1750s, when the health of Madame de Pompadour was deteriorating, Adélaïde, who was a good rider, became the favorite and close companion of her father for a time, during which she often accompanied him during his riding and amused him with conversation. Their new close relationship, and Adelaide's status as the most beautiful among her sisters, caused rumors that they had an incestuous relationship.[7] A rumor also claimed that Adélaïde was the true mother of Louis de Narbonne (born 1755) by her father.[8] There is nothing to indicate that these rumors were true, and Adélaïde's close relationship to her father was, in any case, a temporary one.

The first years following the death of Madame de Pompadour in 1764, the King did not take another official royal mistress, and after the death of the Queen in 1768, circles at court imagined that as soon as the King recovered from his at that point depressive mood, the choice would be between either providing him with a new Queen, or a new official royal mistress. [9] Madame Adélaïde, who detested the idea of a new royal mistress, encouraged the solution of her father marrying again to prevent it. She reportedly preferred a Queen who was young and beautiful but lacked ambition, and who could thus attract and distract her father from state affairs, leaving them to Madame Adélaïde; she supported the Dowager Princess de Lamballe as a suitable candidate for that purpose, and was supported in this plan by the powerful Noailles family.[10] However, the Princess de Lamballe was not willing to encourage the match herself, and her former father-in-law, the Duke of Penthievré, was not willing to consent, and the marriage plan never materialized.[11] The King was then suggested to marry Archduchess Maria Elisabeth of Austria, The a famed beauty, but when she suffered from smallpox which badly scarred her face, marriage negotiations was discontinued. Instead, Louis XV introduced his last official maîtresse-en-titre, Madame du Barry, to court in 1769, whom Madame Adélaïde came to despise.

In the last years of their father's reign, Adélaïde and her sisters were described as bitter old hags, who spent their days gossiping and knitting in their rooms.[12] Reportedly, they seldom dressed properly, merely putting on panniers covered by a coat when leaving their rooms.[13] Madame Campan described the sisters and their life in the years around 1770: "Louis XV. saw very little of his family. He came every morning by a private staircase into the apartment of Madame Adelaide. He often brought and drank there coffee that he had made himself. Madame Adelaide pulled a bell which apprised Madame Victoire of the King’s visit; Madame Victoire, on rising to go to her sister’s apartment, rang for Madame Sophie, who in her turn rang for Madame Louise. The apartments of Mesdames were of very large dimensions. Madame Louise occupied the farthest room. This latter lady was deformed and very short; the poor Princess used to run with all her might to join the daily meeting, but, having a number of rooms to cross, she frequently in spite of her haste, had only just time to embrace her father before he set out for the chase. Every evening, at six, Mesdames interrupted my reading to them to accompany the princes to Louis XV.; this visit was called the King’s ‘debotter’,—[Debotter, meaning the time of unbooting.]—and was marked by a kind of etiquette. Mesdames put on an enormous hoop, which set out a petticoat ornamented with gold or embroidery; they fastened a long train round their waists, and concealed the undress of the rest of their clothing by a long cloak of black taffety which enveloped them up to the chin. The chevaliers d’honneur, the ladies in waiting, the pages, the equerries, and the ushers bearing large flambeaux, accompanied them to the King. In a moment the whole palace, generally so still, was in motion; the King kissed each Princess on the forehead, and the visit was so short that the reading which it interrupted was frequently resumed at the end of a quarter of an hour; Mesdames returned to their apartments, and untied the strings of their petticoats and trains; they resumed their tapestry, and I my book." [14]

In 1770, the fourteen-year-old Marie-Antoinette became Dauphine by marriage to Madame Adélaïde's nephew the Dauphin, the future Louis XVI of France. Adélaïde did not approve of the match and declared that if she had any say, she would not have sent for an Austrian. [15]Because of the close relationship between the Dauphin and his aunts, Marie-Antoinette also initially came close to the Mesdames her first years in France as the senior royal women at court. The Mesdames use to alternate with the Countess of Provence in accompanying Marie Antoinette on official assignments.[16] Madame Adélaïde tried to win the Dauphine's support against Mme du Barry and repeatedly enticed the Dauphine to snub Madame Dubarry. This created a serious riff in the relationship between the King and Marie-Antoinette, and in 1772, the empress Maria Theresa thwarted the plot of Madame Adélaïde by forcing Marie-Antoinette to acknowledge Mme du Barry officially for the sake of foreign policy. This discontinued the friendship between Marie Antoinette and Madame Adélaïde, who would bear subsequent malice toward Marie Antoinette and was reportedly the first person to call her "the Austrian".

Reign of Louis XVI[edit]

Madame Adélaïde and her sisters attended to the their father, dying Louis XV, on his deathbed: because of the risk of catching his illness, the Princes, including the Dauphin, were not allowed near him, but his daughters, being female and therefore of no political importance because of the Salic Law, were allowed to attend him until his death.

After her brother the dauphin's death in 1765, followed in 1767 by that of his second spouse, Marie-Josèphe, Madame Adélaïde took custody of the late dauphine's papers, with instructions concerning their son, Louis Auguste, should he become king. The papers were opened on 12 May 1774, after the death of Louis XV, who was succeeded by his grandson Louis Auguste as Louis XVI. Three distinguished names were suggested for the position of Prime Minister (Premier Ministre), that of Jean-Frédéric Phélypeaux, comte de Maurepas, Emmanuel-Armand de Richelieu, duc d'Aiguillon, and Jean-Baptiste de Machault d'Arnouville.

In 1777, Madame Adélaïde was created Duchess of Louvois in her own right by her nephew the King. The Mesdames did not get along well with queen Marie-Antoinette. During the reign of Louis XVI, they often preferred to reside in their own Château de Bellevue at Meudon, rather than attending court. At Bellevue, they hosted many members of the old court nobility which came to be in opposition to the queen.

After the Revolution[edit]

Madame Adélaïde and her sister were present at Versailles during the Parisian women's march to Versailles on 6 October 1789, and accompanied the rest of the Royal Family to Paris. However, they did not take up residence at the Tuileries with the royal family, but preferred to retire to the Château de Bellevue at Meudon.

Revolutionary laws against the Catholic Church caused them to leave France for Italy on 20 February 1791 with a large entourage. On their way, they were arrested and detained for several days at Arnay-le-Duc before they were allowed to continue their journey.

They visited their niece Clotilde, sister of Louis XVI, in Turin, and arrived in Rome on 16 April 1791. As a result of the increasing influence of Revolutionary France, they traveled farther afield, moving to Naples in 1796, where Marie Antoinette's sister, Marie Caroline, was queen.

They moved to Corfu in 1799, and finally settled in Trieste, where Victoire died of breast cancer. Adélaïde died one year later. Their bodies were returned to France by Louis XVIII at the time of the Bourbon Restoration, and buried at the Basilica of Saint-Denis.



See also[edit]


  1. ^ Achaintre, Nicolas Louis, Histoire généalogique et chronologique de la maison royale de Bourbon, Vol. 2, (Rue de L'École de Médecine, 1824), 154.
  2. ^ Madame Campan, Memoirs of the Court of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, Project Gutenberg
  3. ^ Joan Haslip (1991). Marie Antoinette. ISBN. 
  4. ^ Madame Campan, Memoirs of the Court of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, Project Gutenberg
  5. ^ Madame Campan, Memoirs of the Court of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, Project Gutenberg
  6. ^ Joan Haslip (1991). Marie Antoinette (in Swedish). ISBN. 
  7. ^ Joan Haslip (1991). Marie Antoinette (in Swedish). p. 38. ISBN. 
  8. ^ Joan Haslip (1991). Marie Antoinette (in Swedish). p. 39. ISBN. 
  9. ^ Hardy, B. C. (Blanche Christabel), The Princesse de Lamballe; a biography, 1908, Project Gutenberg, retrieved 2-05-17
  10. ^ Hardy, B. C. (Blanche Christabel), The Princesse de Lamballe; a biography, 1908, Project Gutenberg, retrieved 2-05-17
  11. ^ Hardy, B. C. (Blanche Christabel), The Princesse de Lamballe; a biography, 1908, Project Gutenberg, retrieved 2-05-17
  12. ^ Joan Haslip (1991). Marie Antoinette (in Swedish). ISBN. 
  13. ^ Joan Haslip (1991). Marie Antoinette (in Swedish). ISBN. 
  14. ^ Madame Campan, Memoirs of the Court of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, Project Gutenberg
  15. ^ Madame Campan, Memoirs of the Court of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, Project Gutenberg
  16. ^ Joan Haslip (1991). Marie Antoinette (in Swedish). ISBN. 


Further reading[edit]

  • Antoine, Michel, Louis XV, Librairie Arthème Fayard, Paris, 1989, (French).
  • Castelot, André Charles X, Librairie Académique Perrin, Paris, 1988, (French).
  • Lever, Évelyne, Louis XVI, Librairie Arthème Fayard, Paris, 1985, (French).
  • Lever, Évelyne, Marie Antoinette, Librairie Arthème Fayard, Paris, 1991,(French).
  • Lever, Évelyne, Louis XVIII, Librairie Arthème Fayard, Paris, 1988, (French).
  • Zieliński, Ryszard, Polka na francuskim tronie, Czytelnik, 1978, (Polish).