Louis XV of France
Portrait by Maurice-Quentin de La Tour, 1748
|King of France|
|Reign||1 September 1715 – 10 May 1774|
|Coronation||25 October 1722
|Regent||Philippe d'Orléans (1715–23)|
15 February 1710|
Palace of Versailles, France
|Died||10 May 1774
Palace of Versailles, France
|Burial||Royal Basilica, Saint Denis, France|
(1725–68; her death)
|Father||Louis, Duke of Burgundy|
|Mother||Marie Adélaïde of Savoy|
Louis XV (15 February 1710 – 10 May 1774), known as Louis the Beloved (Louis le bien aimé), was a monarch of the House of Bourbon who ruled as King of France from 1 September 1715 until his death in 1774. He succeeded his great-grandfather Louis XIV at the age of five, until he reached maturity in 1723, his kingdom was ruled by Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, as Regent of France. Cardinal Fleury was his chief minister from 1726 until the Cardinal's death in 1743, at which time the young king took sole control of the kingdom.
His reign of more than 58 years was the second longest in the history of France, exceeded only by his predecessor and great-grandfather, Louis XIV; in 1748, Louis returned the Austrian Netherlands, territory won at the Battle of Fontenoy of 1745. He ceded New France in North America to Spain and Great Britain at the conclusion of the disastrous Seven Years' War in 1763, he incorporated the territories of the Duchy of Lorraine and the Corsican Republic into the Kingdom of France. He was succeeded by his grandson Louis XVI in 1774, who perished during the French Revolution. Two of his other grandsons, Louis XVIII and Charles X, occupied the throne of France after the fall of Napoleon I. Historians generally give his reign very low marks, especially as wars drained the treasury and set the stage for the governmental collapse and French Revolution in the 1780s.
- 1 Early life and the Regency (1710-1723)
- 2 Government of the Duke of Bourbon (1723-1726)
- 3 Rule with Cardinal de Fleury (1726-1743)
- 4 Personal Government (1743-1756)
- 5 Last part of his reign (1757–1774)
- 6 France of Louis XV
- 7 Legacy and historical judgement
- 8 Personal life
- 9 Titles styles, honors and arms
- 10 See also
- 11 Notes and citations
- 12 Additional references
- 13 Bibliography
Early life and the Regency (1710-1723)
Louis XV in his Coronation robes, by Hyacinthe Rigaud (1722)
Louis XV was the great-grandson of Louis XIV and the second son of the Duke of Burgundy (1682-1712), and his wife Marie Adélaïde of Savoy, the eldest daughter of Victor Amadeus II, Duke of Savoy. He was born in the Palace of Versailles on 15 February 1710. When he was born, he was named the Duke of Anjou, the possibility of his becoming King seemed very remote; the King's oldest son and heir, Louis Le Grand Dauphin, Louis's father and his elder brother were ahead of him in the succession. However, the Grand Dauphin died of smallpox on 14 April, 1711, on 12 February 1712 the mother of Louis, Marie Adélaïde, was stricken with measles and died, followed on 18 February by Louis's father, the Duke of Burgundy, who was next in line for throne. On 7 March, it was found that both Louis and his older brother, the Duke of Brittany, had the measles, the Duke of Brittany was treated in the traditional way, with bleeding. On the night of March 8-9, the Duke of Brittany died from the combination of the disease and the treatment, the governess of Louis, Madame de Ventadour, would not allow the doctors to bleed Louis further; he was very ill but survived.. When Louis XIV died on September 1, 1715, Louis, at the age of five, inherited the throne.
The Ordinance of Vincennes from 1374 required that the kingdom be governed by a regent until Louis reached the age of thirteen, the title of Regent was given to his nearest relative, his cousin Philippe, the Duke of Orleans. Louis XIV, however, distrusted Philippe, who was a renowned soldier, but was regarded by the King as an atheist and libertine, the King referred privately to Philippe as a Fanfaron des crimes ("braggart of crimes)" Louis XIV wanted France to be ruled by his favorite but illegitimate son, Duke of Maine (illegitimate son of Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan) who was the council; in August 1714, shortly before his own death, the King rewrote his will to restrict the powers of the regent; it stipulated that the nation was to be governed by a Regency Council made up of fourteen members until the new king reached the age of thirteen. Philippe was nephew of Louis XIV, was named president of the council, but other members included the Duke of Maine and his allies. Decisions were to be made by majority vote, meaning that the Regent could be outvoted by Maine's party. Orléans saw the trap, and immediately after the death of the King, he went to the Parlement of Paris, an assembly of nobles where he had many allies, and had the Parlement annul the King's will; in exchange for their support, he restored to the Parlement its droit de remontrance (right of remonstrance) - the right to challenge the King's decisions, which had been removed by Louis XIV. The droit de remontrance would impair the monarchy's functioning and marked the beginning of a conflict between the Parlement and King which eventually led to the French Revolution in 1789.
On 9 September 1715, the Regent had the young King transported away from the court in Versailles to Paris, where the Regent had his own residence in the Palais Royal, on 12 September, he performed his first official act, opening the first lie de justice of his reign at the Palais Royal. From September 1715 until January 1716 he lived in the Chateau de Vincennes, before moving to the Tuileries Palace; in February 1717, when he reached the age of seven, he was taken from his governess Madame Ventadour and placed in the care of Francois de Villeroy, the seventy-three year Duke and Marechal de France, named as his governor in Louis XIV's will of August 1714. Villeroy instructed the young King in court etiquette, taught him how to review a regiment, and how to receive royal visitors, his guests included the Russian Czar Peter the Great in 1717; contrary to ordinary protocol, the two-meter tall Czar picked up Louis and kissed him. Louis also learned the skills of horseback riding and hunting, which became the great passion of the young King; in 1720, following the example of Louis XIV, Villeroy had the young Louis dance in public in two ballets at the Tuileries Palace on February 24, 1720, and again in The Ballet des Elements on December 31, 1721. The shy Louis evidently did not enjoy the experience; he never danced in another ballet.
Czar Peter the Great of Russia picks up the young King (1717)
The Scottish economist John Law, whose Banque Royale and Mississippi Company collapsed
The King's tutor was the Abbé André-Hercule de Fleury, the bishop of Frejus, (later to become Cardinal de Fleury), who saw that he was instructed in Latin, Italian, history and geography, astronomy, mathematics and drawing, and cartography, the King charmed the visiting Russian Czar by identifying the major rivers, cities and geographic features of Russia. In his later life King retained his passion for science and geography; he created departments in physics (1769) and mechanics (1773) at the Collège de France., and he sponsored the first complete and accurate map of France, the Cartes de Cassini. Besides his academic studies, He received a practical education in government. Beginning in 1720 he attended the regular meetings of the Regency Council.
One economic crisis disrupted the Regency; the Scottish economist and banker John Law was named controller-general of finances. In May 1716, he opened the Banque Générale Privée ("General Private Bank"), which soon became the Banque Royal, it was mostly funded by the government, and was one of the earliest banks to issue paper money, which he promised could be exchanged for gold. He also persuaded wealthy Parisians to invest in the Mississippi Company, a scheme for the colonization of French territory of Louisiana, the stock of the company first soared and then collapsed in 1720, taking the bank with it. Law fled France, and wealthy Parisians became reluctant make further investments or to trust any currency but gold.
In 1719, France, in alliance with Britain and the Dutch Republic, declared war on Spain. Spain was defeated on both land and sea, and quickly sought peace. A French-Spanish treaty was signed on March 27, 1721, the two governments proposed to unite their royal families by marrying Louis to Maria Anna Victoria of Spain, the seven-year-old daughter of Philip V of Spain, who was himself grandson of Louis XIV. The marriage contract was signed on November 25, and the future bride came to France and took up residence in the Louvre. However, the Regent decided she was too young to have children soon enough, and she was sent back to Spain, during the rest of Regency France was at peace, and in 1720, the Regent decreed an official silence on religious conflicts. Montesquieu and Voltaire published their first works, and the Age of Enlightenment in France quietly began.
Government of the Duke of Bourbon (1723-1726)
On June 15, 1722, as Louis approached his thirteenth birthday, the year of his majority, he left Paris and moved back to Versailles, where he had happy memories of his childhood, but where he was far from the reach of public opinion, on October 25, Louis was crowned King at the Cathedral of Reims. On 15 February 1723, the king's majority was declared by the Parlement of Paris. officially ending the regency. In the beginning of Louis's reign, the Duke of Orleans continued to manage the government, and took the title of Prime Minister in August 1723, but while visiting his mistress, far from the court and medical care, Orleans died in December of the same year. Following the advice of his preceptor Fleury, Louis XV appointed his cousin Louis Henri, Duke of Bourbon, to replace the late Duke of Orléans as prime minister.
Marriage and children
One of the first priorities of the Duke of Bourbon was to find a bride for the King, to assure the continuity of the monarchy, and especially to prevent the succession to the throne of the Orleans branch of the family, the rivals of his branch, the 21-year-old Marie Leszczyńska, daughter of Stanisław I, the deposed king of Poland, was chosen. The marriage was celebrated in September 1725 when the king was 15. Between 1727 and 1737, she gave the king twelve children, eight girls and two boys, of whom one survived: the Dauphin Louis (1729-1765) The birth of a long-awaited heir, which ensured the survival of the dynasty for the first time since 1712, was welcomed with celebration in all spheres of French society; in 1747 the Dauphin married Marie-Josephe de Saxe, who gave birth to the last three Kings of France: Louis XVI, Louis XVIII, and Charles X.
The queen was pious and timid, and spent most of her time secluded with her own courtiers, she was a musician, read extensively, and played social games with her courtiers. After 1737 she did not share her bed with the King, She was deeply upset by the death of her son the Dauphin in 1765, and died on 24 June 1768,
Unigenitus, Jansenism and religious conflict
One of the first serious conflicts that disturbed the early reign of Louis XV was a battle within the Catholic Church over a Papal Bull called Unigenitus, the Bull was requested by Louis XIV of Pope Clement XI and granted on 8 September 1713. It was a fierce condemnation of Jansenism, a Catholic doctrine based largely on the teachings of Saint Augustine. Jansenism had attracted many important followers in France, including the philosopher Blaise Pascal, the poet Racine, aristocrats including Madame de Sévigné and Madame de Lafayette. The faculty of the Sorbonne, then primarily a theological college and a center of Jansenism, demanded clarification from the government, the Jansenists were allied with the Gallicans, theologians who wanted the Catholic Church in France to be distinctly French. The opposition to Unigenitus was particularly strong among the members of the Parlement de Paris, the assembly of the nobles, despite the protests, om 24 March 1730 Cardinal Fleury persuaded the King to issue a decree that Unigenitus was the law of France as well as that of the church. The government and church imposed repressive measures; on April 27, 1732 the Archbishop of Paris threatened with excommunication any member of the church who read the Jansenist journal, Nouvelles Ecclésiastiques. The Parlement, where Jansenism was strong, was strictly forbidden to discuss religious questions. Priests who did not accept the Bull were denied the authority to give final rites the dying. . The dissent caused by the repression of Jansenism continued to simmer through the reign of the King, it was not the only source of religious discontent; besides the Jansenists, several hundred thousand Calvinists continued to practice their religion, despite the threat of prison or banishment.
The policies of the Duke of Bourbon, including the increased persecution of jansenists and protestants, and the imposition of a new tax, the persecution of protestants, and the imposition of a new tax, the cinquantième, which applied equally to everyone, including religious figures who had previously been exempt, made the Duke increasingly unpopular, and rigid and cold personality of the Duke of Bourbon did not appeal to the young King, who increasingly relied on his old tutor, the Cardinal de Fleury, for advice. The King insisted that Fleury attend every meeting he had with the Duke of Bourbon, which infuriated the Duke, after the Duke attempted to have Fleury removed from the Court, On June 11, 1726, the King abruptly dismissed the Duke and exiled him to his estates, and announced that he would rule himself, with Fleury as his chief advisor.
Rule with Cardinal de Fleury (1726-1743)
Louis XV by Hyacinthe Rigaud (1730)
Cardinal de Fleury by Hyacinthe Rigaud
Stanisław Leszczyński, father-in-law of Louis XV and briefly King of Poland
Yirmisekiz Mehmed Çelebi Efendi Ottoman ambassador in Paris (1724)
Finances and control of dissent
From 1726 until his death in 1743, Fleury effectively ruled France with the king's assent, he dictated the choices to make, encouraged his indecision and flattered his pride. He forbade the King to discuss politics with the Queen, and exiled the eight daughters of the King to the Abbey of Fontevrault, on the surface it was the most peaceful and prosperous period of the reign of Louis XV, but it was built upon a growing volcano of opposition, particularly from the noble members of the Parlements, who saw the privileges and power reduced. Fleury made the Papal doctrine Unigenitus part of French law, and forbade any discussion, which caused the silent opposition to grow, he also downplayed the importance of the French Navy, which would prove be a fatal mistake in future conflicts with
Fleury showed the King the virtues of a stable government; he kept the same Minister of War, Bauyn d'Angervilliers and controller of the currency, Philibert Orry, for twelve years, and his minister of foreign affairs, Germain Louis Chauvelin, for ten years. His minister of the Navy and household of the King, the Conte de Maurepas, was in office the entire period; in all he had just thirteen minister over the course of nineteen years, while the King, in his last thirty-one years, employed forty-three.
Louis's controllers-general of finances Michel Robert Le Peletier des Forts (1726–1730), stabilized the French currency, though he was expelled for enriching himself in 1730. His successor, Philibert Orry, substantially reduced the debt caused by the War of the Spanish Succession, and simplified and made more fair the tax system, though he still had to depend upon the unpopular dixieme, or tax of the tenth of the revenue of every citizen. Orry managed, in the last two years of Fleury's government, to balance the royal budget, an accomplishment never again repeated during the rest of the reign.
Fleury's government expanded commerce, both within France and with the world. Communications were improved with the completion of the Saint-Quentin canal (linking the Oise and Somme rivers) in 1738, which was later extended to the Escaut River and the Low Countries, and the systematic building of a national road network. By the middle of the 18th century, France had the most modern and extensive road network in the world, the Council of Commerce stimulated trade, and French foreign maritime trade increased from 80 to 308 million livres between 1716 and 1748.
The Government continued its policy of religious repression, aimed at the Jansenists and the so-called "Gallicans" in Parlements of nobles. 139 members of provincial parliaments were expelled for opposing official government and papal doctrine of Unigenitus, and the Parlement of Paris was forbidden to hear religious cases in the future. The Gallican opposition, after the dismissal of 139 members of provincial parlements, the Parlement of Paris had to register the Unigenitus papal bull and was forbidden to hear religious cases in the future.
Foreign relations - New alliances; the War of the Polish Succession
In the first years of his governance, Fleury and his his foreign minister Germain Louis Chauvelin sought to maintain the peace by maintaining the French alliance with England, despite their long history of antagonism and their colonial rivalry in North America and the West Indies; and by rebuilding they alliance with Spain, shaken by the anger of the Spanish King when Louis refused to marry the Spanish infanta. The birth of the king's male heir in 1729 dispelled the risks of a succession crisis in France. However, new powers were emerging on the European stage, particularly Russia under Peter the Great and his successor, Catherine I of Russia; Prussia, and the Holy Roman Empire of Charles VI, who was assembling a scattered but impressive empire far as Serbia in Eastern Europe on territories taken away from Ottoman Turkey, and which by marriage had acquired the Catholic Netherlands (including Belgium), Milan and the Kingdom of Naples.
A new coalition against France began to assemble in eastern Europe, sealed by a defensive treaty signed on August 6, 1826 between Prussia, Russia and Austria; in 1732 the ne coalition came into direct conflict with France over the succession to the Polish throne. including Russia, Prussia and Austria, which was sealed by a defensive treaty. The King of Poland, Augustus II, was dying, and his official heir was Stanislaw Leszczynski, the father of the Queen of France; in the same year Russia, Prussia and Austria signed a secret agreement to exclude Stanislaw from the throne, and put forward another candidate, Augustus III, son of the dead Polish King. When Augustus died on February 1, 1733, with two heirs claiming the throne, it launched the War of the Polish Succession. Stanislaw traveled to Warsaw, where he was crowned King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania on September 12, the Czarina of Russia immediately marched her regiments into Poland to support her candidate. Stanislaw was forced to flee to the fortified port of Danzig (now Gdansk, while on October 5 Augustus III was crowned in Warsaw.
Cardinal Fleury responded with a carefully-orcestrated campaign of diplomacy, he first won assurances from Brtain and Holland that they would not interfere in the war, and lined up alliances with Spain and the King of Sardinia in exchange for pieces of the Hapsburg Empire. On October 10, 1733, Louis formally declared war against Austria. A French army occupied the Duchy of Lorraine and then Alsace, while another crossed the Alps and captured Milan on November 3, handing it over to the King of Sardinia. Fleury was less energetic in his actions to restore the Polish throne to Stanlslaw, who blockaded by the Russian navy and army in Danzig. Instead of sending the largest part of the French fleet from its station off Copenhagen to Danzig, he ordered it to return to Brest, and sent only a small squadron with two thousand soldiers, which after a fierce action was sunk by the Russians, on July 3 Stanislaw was forced to flee again, in disguise, to Prussia, where he became the guest of King Frederick William I of Prussia in the castle of Koenigsburg.
To bring the war to an end, Fleury and Charles VI negotiated an ingenious diplomatic solution. Francis III, the Duke of Lorraine, left Lorraine for Vienna, where he married the Arch-Duchess Maria Theresa, the heiress to the Hapsburg throne. The vacant throne of Lorraine was to be occupied by Stanislav, who abandoned his claim to the Polish throne. Upon the death of Stanislaw, the Duchy of Lorraine and Bar would become part of France. Francis, as the new Emperor Austria, would be compensated for the loss of of Lorraine by the return of Milan, which had been given to the King of Sardinia, the King of Sardinia, would, in turn, be compensated with certain territories in Lombardy; while the Sardinians would return Naples, in exchange for Parma and Plaisance. The Marriage of Francis of Lorraine and Marie-Therese took place in 1736, and the other exchanges took place in turn, with the death of Stanislav in 1766, Lorraine and the neighboring Duchy of Bar became part of France.
In September 1739, Fleury scored another diplomatic success. France's mediation in the war between the Holy Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire led to the Treaty of Belgrade (September 1739), which favoured the Ottoman Empire, beneficiary of a Franco-Ottoman alliance against the Habsburgs since the early 16th century. As a result, the Ottoman Empire in 1740 renewed the French capitulations, which marked the supremacy of French trade in the Middle East, with these successes, Louis XV's prestige reached its highest point. In 1740 William I, the King of Prussia declared "Since the Treaty of Vienna France is the arbiter of Europe."
Beginning of the War of the Austrian Succession
On October 29, 1740, a courier brought the news to the King, who was hunting in Fontainebleau, that the Emperor Charles VI was dead, and his daughter Maria Theresa was set to succeed him, after two days of reflection, Louis declared, "In these circumstances, I don't want to get involved at all. I will remain with my hands in my pockets, unless of course they want to elect a protestant emperor." This attitude did not please France's allies, who saw an opportunity to take parts of the Hapsburg empire, Louis's generals, who for a century had won glory fighting Austria, the King of Prussia had died on May 31, and was succeeded by his son Frederick the Great, a military genius with ambitions to expand Prussia's borders. The elector of Bavaria, supported by Frederick, challenged the succession of Marie Theresa. and in December 17, 1740 Frederick invaded the Austrian province of Silesia. The elderly Cardinal Fleury had too little energy left to oppose this war.
Fleury sent his highest general, Charles Louis Auguste Fouquet, duc de Belle-Isle, the Marechal de Belle-Isle, the grandson of Fouquet, the famous disgraced controller of finances of Louis XIV, as his ambassador to the Diet of Frankfurt, with instructions to avoid a war by supporting the candidacy of the Elector of Bavaria to the Austrian throne. Instead, the Marechal, who detested the Austrians, made an agreement to join with the Prussians against Austria, and the war began. French and Bavarian armies quickly captured Linz and laid siege to Prague, on April 10, 1741 Frederick won a major victory over the Austrians at the Battle of Molwitz. On May 18, Fleury assembled a new alliance combining France, Spain and Bavaria, later joined by Poland and Sardinia. However, in 1742, the balance of the war shifted against France, the German-born British King, George II, who was also the Elector of Hannover, joined the war on the side of Austria and personally took charge of his soldiers fighting the French in Germany. The army of the Queen of Hungary recaptured Linz and marched into Bavaria as far as Munich; in June, offered the crown of Silesia by the Austrians, Frederick of Prussia withdrew from the alliance with France. Belleville had to abandon Prague, with a loss of eight thousand men, for seven years, France was engaged in a costly war with constantly shifting alliances. Orry, the superintendent of French finance, was forced to reinstate the highly unpopular dixieme tax to fund the war. Cardinal de Fleury did not live to see the end of the conflict; he died on January 29, 1743, and thereafter Louis ruled alone.
Personal Government (1743-1756)
War of the Austrian Succession
After Fleury's death in January 1743, his war minister, The Duke of Noailles showed the King a letter which Louis XIV had written to his grandson, Philip V of Spain, it counseled: "Don't allow yourself to be governed; be the master. Never have a favorite or a prime minister. Listen, consult your Council, but decide yourself. God, who made you King, will give you all the guidance you need, as long as you have good intentions.". Louis followed this advice to the letter, and decided to govern without a prime minister, the war in Germany was not going well; the French and Bavarian forces were faced with the combined armies of Austria, Saxony, Holland, Sardinia and Hannover. The army of the Duke of Noailles was defeated by a force of British, Hessian and Hannover soldiers led by British King George II at the battle of Dettingen, and in September French forces were compelled to abandon Germany.
In 1744, the major battlefield of the war moved to the Netherlands, and the French position began to improve. King Frederick II of Prussia decided to rejoin the war on the French side. Louis XV left Versailles to lead his armies in the Netherlands in person, and French field command was given to the German-born Marechal Maurice de Saxe, a highly competent general, at the Battle of Fontenoy on May 11, 1745, Louis, accompanied by his young son the Dauphin, came under fire for the first time and witnessed a French victory over combined British, Dutch and Austrian forces. When his son, the Dauphin became excited at the sight of so many dead enemy soldiers, the King told him, "You see what a victory costs, the blood of our enemies is still the blood of men. The true glory is to spare it." Saxe went on to win further victories at the Rocoux (1746), and Lauffeld (1747); in 1746 French forces besieged and occupied Brussels, which Louis entered in triumph. The King gave de Saxe the Chateau de Chambord in the Loire Valley as a reward for his victories.
Despite the French victories, the war dragged on both in the Netherlands and in Italy, where Marechal Belle-Isle was besieging the Austrians in Genoa. By the summer of 1747 France occupied the entire Austrian Netherlands (modern-day Belgium); in March, 1748, Louis proposed a conference in Aix-en-Chapelle to bring the war to an end. The process was send along by the capture of Maastricht by the Marechal de Saxe on April 10, 1748. Britain, pressed by the threat of a French invasion of rest of the Netherlands, urged a quick settlement, despite objections from Austria and Sardinina, the Treaty was quickly negotiated, and signed by all the parties in September and October 1748. Louis was also eager for a quick settlement, because the naval war with Britain was extremely costly to French maritime trade, the proposition of Louis was surprisingly generous; in the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, Louis offered to return all of the territories he had conquered in the Netherlands to the Austrians, Maastricht to the Dutch, Nice and Savoy to the Sardinians, and Madras in India to the English. The Austrians would give the Duchy of Parma and some other territory to the infant Spanish King, Philippe, while Britain would give France Louisburg[disambiguation needed] and the island of Cape Breton. France also agreed to expel the Stuart pretender to the English throne from its territory.
The end of the war had caused celebration in Paris, but the publication of the details of the treaty on January 14, 1749 caused dismay and anger, the Stuart pretender to the British throne refused to leave Paris, and was acclaimed by the Parisians. He was finally arrested on December 10, 1748, and transported by force to Switzerland, the French military commanders, including De Saxe, were furious about giving up the Spanish Netherlands. The King's defense of his action was both practical; he did not want the Netherlands to be a permanent source of contention between France and the other powers, and he felt that France had already reached its proper borders, and it was better to cultivate its prosperity rather than make it larger. His basis was also religious; he had been taught by Fleury that the Seventh Commandment forbade taking the property of others by fraud or violence; and he often cited a Latin maxim which declared, "if anyone who asks by what means he can best defend a kingdom, the answer is, by never wishing to augment it." He also received support from Voltaire, who wrote, "It seems better, and even more useful for the court of France to think about the happiness of its allies, rather than to be given two or three Flemish towns which would have been the eternal object of jealousy." The King did not have the communication skills to explain his decision to the French public, and did not see any need to do so, the news that the king had restored the Southern Netherlands to Austria was met with disbelief and bitterness. The French obtained so little of what they had fought for that they adopted the expressions Bête comme la paix ("Stupid as the peace") and Travailler pour le roi de Prusse ("To work for the king of Prussia", i.e. working for nothing).
Private life; the Queen, children, and the first mistresses
The Queen, Maria Leszczinska, by Carle Van Loo (1747)
Portrait said to be Louise Julie de Mailly, by Alexis Grimou
Portrait of Louis XV by François Lemoyne (ca. 1730)
Between 1727 and 1737, The Queen gave birth to two sons and eight daughters, the first son, born September 4, 1729, became the dauphin and heir to the throne, though he did not live to rule. The second son, the Duke of Anjou, born in 1730, died in 1733. Only the two oldest children were raised at Versailles; the others were sent away to be raised at the Abbey of Fontevrault. The first-born daughter, called Madame Premiere, was married to the infant Philip of Spain, the second son of Philip of Spain and Elisabeth Farnese.
Louis had been very much in love with the Queen and they were inseparable in the early years of his reign, but as his family grew, and the Queen was constantly pregnant or exhausted by her maternities, he began to look elsewhere, he first became attached to one of the ladies of the Queen's court, Louise Julie de Mailly the same age as he and from an ancient noble family. Without courtship or ceremony he made her his mistress, and raised her to the rank of Duchess, the Duke of Luynes commented on the King's behavior,"The King loves women, and yet there is absolutely no gallantry in his spirit." In 1738, after the Queen lost an unborn child, her doctors forbade her to have relations with the King for a time, the King was offended by her refusal, and thereafter never shared the Queen's bed. Acknowledging that he was committing adultery, Louis refused thereafter to go to confession and to take the sacrament, the Cardinal de Fleury tried to persuade him to confess and to give up his mistress, but without success.
In 1740, the King turned his attentions to the sister of Louise-Joulie, Pauline-Félicité, the Marquise de Vintimille, who was married. Pauline-Félicité became pregnant by the King at the end of the year. Both the child and mother died in childbirth, the King went into mourning and for a time turned to religion for consolation. When the King had finally recovered his spirits, the Countess of Mailly unwisely introduced the King to her youngest sister, Marie Anne de Mailly, the recent widow of the Marquis de Tournelle, the King was immediately attracted to Marie-Anne; however, she insisted that he expel her older sister from the Court before she would become his mistress. The King gave in: on October 4, 1742, Marie-Anne was named a Lady of the Court of the Queen, and a month later the King ordered her older sister to leave the Court and to live in Paris, the King made his new mistress the Duchess of Chateauroux. The King's relationships with the three sisters became a subject of gossip in the court and in Paris, where a popular comic poem was recited, ending: "Choosing an entire family – is that being unfaithful, or constant?"
In June 1744, the king left Versailles for the front in order to take personal command of his armies fighting in the War of the Austrian Succession, this otherwise popular move was marred by the king's indiscreet decision to bring along Marie-Anne de Mailly. In August, the king fell gravely ill in Metz. Death appeared imminent, and public prayers were held all across France to ask God to save the king from death, the king's chaplain refused to give him absolution unless the king renounced his mistress, which he did; Marie-Anne left the court, but was reunited with the King a few months later. The king's confession was distributed publicly, which embarrassed him and tarnished the prestige of the monarchy, although Louis' recovery earned him the epithet "well-beloved" from a public relieved by his survival, the events at Metz diminished his standing. The military successes of the War of the Austrian Succession inclined the French public to overlook Louis' adulteries, but after 1748, in the wake of the anger over the terms of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, pamphlets against the king's mistresses were widely distributed and read.
First attempt at reform
Starting in 1743 with the death of Fleury, the king ruled alone without a first minister, he had read many times the instructions of Louis XIV: "Listen to the people, seek advice from your Council, but decide alone." His political correspondence reveals his deep knowledge of public affairs as well as the soundness of his judgement. Most government work was conducted in committees of ministers that met without the king, the king reviewed policy only in the Conseil d'en haut, the High Council, which was composed of the king, the Dauphin, the chancellor, the finance minister, and the foreign minister. Created by Louis XIV, the council was in charge of state policy regarding religion, diplomacy, and war. There, he let various political factions oppose each other and vie for influence and power: on the broadest level, the dévot party, led by the Comte d'Argenson, secretary of state for war, opposed the parti philosophique, which supported Enlightenment philosophy and was led by finance minister Jean Baptiste de Machault D'Arnouville.
The parti philosophique was supported by the Marquise de Pompadour, who acted as a sort of minister without portfolio from the time she became royal mistress in 1745 until her death in 1764, the Marquise was in favour of reforms. Supported by her clan of financiers (Pâris-Duverney, Montmartel, etc.), she obtained from the king the appointment of ministers (such as the foreign minister François Joachim de Pierre de Bernis in 1757), as well as their dismissal (such as Philippe Orry in 1745 and the Navy secretary Maurepas in 1749). On her advice, the king supported the policy of fiscal justice designed by Machault d'Arnouville; in order to finance the budget deficit, which amounted to 100 million livres in 1745, Machault d'Arnouville created a tax on the twentieth of all revenues that affected the privileged classes as well as commoners.
This breach in the privileged status of the aristocracy and the clergy, normally exempt from taxes, was a first in French history, although it had already been advocated by men such as Vauban under Louis XIV. However, the new tax was received with violent protest from the privileged classes sitting in the estates of the few provinces that still retained the right to decide over taxation (most provinces had long lost their provincial estates and the right to decide over taxation), the new tax was also opposed by the clergy and by the parlements. Pressed and eventually won over by his entourage at court, the king gave in and exempted the clergy from the twentieth in 1751. Eventually, the twentieth became a mere increase in the already existing taille, the most important direct tax of the monarchy from which privileged classes were exempted, it was the first defeat in the "taxation war" waged against the privileged classes.
As a result of these attempts at reform, the Parlement of Paris, using the quarrel between the clergy and the Jansenists as a pretext, addressed remonstrances to the king in April 1753; in these remonstrances, the Parlement, which was made up of privileged aristocrats and ennobled commoners, proclaimed itself the "natural defender of the fundamental laws of the kingdom" against the arbitrariness of the monarchy.
Madame de Pompadour
Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, later the Marquise de Pompadour, who met Louis XV in February 1745 at a masked ball given in honour of the marriage of the Dauphin, was one of the most famous mistresses of the reign. She was the daughter of a chief agent of the powerful Paris family of financiers who became embroiled in the intrigue that ousted the Duke of Bourbon as a state minister in favour of Cardinal Fleury. A beautiful woman, she was educated, cultured, intelligent, and sincerely attached to the king. Nonetheless, she possessed one major shortcoming in everyone's eyes: she was a commoner, from the bourgeoisie, and even worse, a commoner who meddled in royal politics.
The public had generally accepted the mistresses of Louis XIV, who, apart from Madame de Maintenon, were all chosen in the highest spheres of the aristocracy and had very little influence on the government, but that the king would thus compromise himself with a commoner was felt to be a disgrace. Soon there were libels published called poissonnades, a pun on Pompadour's family name, Poisson, which means "fish" in French.
Despite her critics, the Marquise de Pompadour had an undeniable influence on the flourishing of French arts during the reign of Louis XV, a reign that is often considered to represent the pinnacle of French architecture and interior design (see: Louis Quinze). A patron of the arts, the Marquise amassed a considerable amount of furniture and objets d'art at her various estates, she was responsible for the tremendous growth of the porcelain manufacturing in Sèvres, which became one of the most famous porcelain manufacturers in Europe, and her commissions ensured the living of artists and families of craftsmen for many years. She was also a prominent patron of architecture, responsible for the building of the Place Louis XV (now called the Place de la Concorde) and the École Militaire in Paris, both designed by her protégé Ange-Jacques Gabriel. Her efforts to establish the École Militaire demonstrated her commitment to the training of officers from poor families of the aristocracy.
The Marquise was a political liberal at heart, and she steadily defended the Encyclopédie against the attacks from the Church, she was also a supporter of Enlightenment philosophy and tried to win the king over to its new ideas, albeit not quite as successfully as she hoped. She was criticised for the lavish display of luxury at her various estates, although her wealthy family of financiers in many instances gave money to the government and saved the monarchy from bankruptcy, she bequeathed all her estates to the state, and they reverted to the crown at her death.
The Marquise de Pompadour was officially settled on the third floor (second storey) of the Palace of Versailles in small but comfortable apartments that can still be visited today. There, she organised fine suppers for the king with carefully selected guests, far from the pomp and etiquette of the court, the atmosphere in these private quarters was so relaxed that the king was said to serve coffee during the suppers. She often entertained the king, trying to relieve him from the state of boredom in which the court often plunged him, the king, who liked a more bourgeois lifestyle than his forefather Louis XIV, found in the private apartments of the Marquise de Pompadour, located above his own office and bedchamber, the intimacy and reassuring feminine presence of which he had been deprived during his childhood.
The Marquise, who was reportedly in frail health, was no more than a friend, albeit one of the closest, to the king after 1750, although their sexual relationship stopped, she remained his close confidante until her death, quite a feat in the history of royal mistresses. She, more than anyone else, was adept at understanding the complex and demanding personality of the king, after 1750, the king was mired in a series of short-lived love affairs and sexual relationships, hiding his temporary conquests in a small mansion at the Parc-aux-Cerfs ("Stags' Park") at Versailles, whose most famous occupant was Marie-Louise O'Murphy. Legend later enormously exaggerated the events occurring at the Parc-aux-Cerfs, contributing to the dark reputation still associated with Louis XV's name today; in fact, the king's womanising behaviour was not very different from that of many of his illustrious ancestors, such as Kings Francis I, Henry IV, and Louis XIV, to say nothing of other European monarchs such as Charles II of England. Madame de Pompadour, however, was his confidant and friend, and in his heart he truly loved her and only her, she remained close to the King until her death, and he was devastated and remained in seclusion for several weeks after her death.
On 5 January 1757, would-be assassin Robert-François Damiens entered the Palace of Versailles, as did thousands of people every day, to petition the king, at 6 pm, as night had fallen on a cold Versailles covered in snow, the king, who was visiting his daughter, left her apartments to return to the Grand Trianon, where he was staying. Walking in the Marble Courtyard between two lines of guards lighting the way with torches, the king headed toward the carriage waiting for him at the edge of the Marble Courtyard, as he did this, Damiens emerged from the shadows, slipped through the guards, and stabbed the king in the side with a penknife.
The 8.1 cm (3.2 inch) blade entered the king's body between the fourth and fifth ribs. The king, who was bleeding, remained calm and called for a confessor as he thought he would die. Thoughts of poison came to his mind, at the arrival of the queen, who came hurry to his side, he asked for her forgiveness for his misconduct. Despite the drama, however, he survived, saved probably by the thick layers of clothing he wore on that cold day, these must have partly cushioned the blade, protecting the internal organs. The blade penetrated only 1 cm (0.4 inch) into the king's body, leading Voltaire to describe the wound as "fortunately scarcely more significant than a pinprick".
Last part of his reign (1757–1774)
Seven Years' War
By 1755, a new European conflict was brewing, the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle turned out to be only a sort of truce in the conflict between Austria and Prussia over the province of Silesia, and France and Britain were quarrelling seriously over colonial possessions. Indeed, the French and British were fighting without a declaration of war in a conflict known as the French and Indian War of 1754-1763; in 1755, the British seized 300 French merchant ships in violation of international law. A few months later, on 16 January 1756, Great Britain and Prussia, enemies in the War of the Austrian Succession, signed a treaty of "neutrality".
Frederick the Great of Prussia had abandoned his French ally during the War of Austrian Succession by signing a separate peace treaty with Austria in December 1745; also, on a personal level Louis despised Frederick for his mocking attitude towards the French court and Catholicism. At the same time, French officials realized that the Habsburg empire of Maria Theresa of Austria was no longer the danger it had been in the heyday of the Habsburgs, back in the 16th and 17th centuries, when they controlled Spain and much of the rest of Europe and presented a formidable challenge to France, the new dangerous powers looming on the horizon were Prussia and Great Britain. In a "diplomatic revolution", the king overruled his ministers (many of whom favored renewing the Franco-Prussian alliance) signed the Treaty of Versailles with Austria on 1 April 1756, and put an end to more than 200 years of conflict with the Habsburgs. The new Franco-Austrian Alliance would last intermittently for the next thirty-five years, but it proved extremely unpopular with the French people and ultimately yielded no gains to France.
Louis apparently expected that his alliance with Austria would prevent another war on the continent by confronting Prussia with two continental powers arrayed against him instead of just one, as had been the way during the War of the Austrian Succession, he was mistaken. Austria was determined to retrieve Silesia from Prussian control, at the end of August 1756, having learned that Austria was negotiating to enlist Russia against him, Frederick the Great invaded Saxony without a declaration of war. He soon defeated the unprepared Saxon and Austrian armies and occupied the whole of the country, the younger daughter of the Saxon ruler, Augustus III, was the dauphin's wife, and his elder daughter was married to Charles VII of Naples, a Bourbon cousin. Frederick's treatment of the Polish–Saxon royal family was seen as uncommonly disrespectful. Moreover, Augustus' wife Maria Josepha, mother of the dauphine Marie-Joséphe of Saxony, died in 1757 from a stroke that some in France attributed to maltreatment, without evidence. Rumours of Frederick's actions shocked the French and inflamed public opinion against Prussia, encouraging Louis to send a large French army into Germany, the dauphine had a miscarriage as a result of the news coming from Saxony. Meanwhile, Britain declared war on France on 18 May 1756.
Lacking the brilliant leadership of its former commander Maurice de Saxe (who had died two years after the War of Austrian Succession) the French Army was largely unsuccessful in the Seven Years' War, except for a few temporary victories such as the Battle of Minorca of 1756. Louis XV made little effort to protect his colonial empire from the British, mainly focusing on the conflict in Europe. A French invasion of Hanover and Saxony in 1757, initially successful, was halted by a humiliating defeat by Frederick the Great at Rossbach, the following year, a counter-attack led by Ferdinand of Brunswick drove the French back into the Rhineland region of Germany, where they remained tied down for the rest of the war. Plans for an invasion of Britain in 1759 were never carried out due to catastrophic naval defeats, despite the support of various Native American tribes and the Mughal Empire, French forces suffered disaster after disaster against the British in North America, India, and Africa. The 1763 Treaty of Paris with Great Britain forced France to surrender almost all of New France and drastically curtail its political influence in India, the loss of French territory in North America was not crippling to France's colonial empire, for they retained much more lucrative sugar-producing colonies in the Caribbean, and Louisiana was later restored to France. However, the territorial losses put them permanently behind Britain in the wars of colonial expansion, and were a humiliating blow to the monarchy's prestige, the French navy was crippled, but France suffered no territorial losses on the continent of Europe by the terms of the Treaty of Hubertusburg of 1763 with Prussia.
|Silver Ecu of Louis XV, struck 1764|
|Obverse: (Latin) Ludovicus XV Dei Gratia Franciae et Navarrae Rex or in English, "Louis XV, By the Grace of God, King of France and Navarre"||Reverse: (Latin) Sit Nomen Domini Benedictvm 1764, or in English, "Blessed Be the Name of the Lord, 1764"|
After the assassination attempt, and at Pompadour's instigation, the king dismissed two ministers: the Comte d'Argenson, secretary of state for war, and Machault d'Arnouville, keeper of the seals (justice minister) and before that controller-general of finances. To help coordinate the government of France, he appointed the Duke of Choiseul as Minister of Foreign Affairs.
In 1764, the Jesuits were suppressed in France, the order had been expelled from Portugal and Brazil in 1759, and later from Spain and its overseas possessions in 1767.
Reforms would resume only with the dismissal of Choiseul in 1771; in that year, Louis XV installed a so-called Triumvirate consisting of René Nicolas de Maupeou as Chancellor of France and Minister of Justice, Joseph Marie Terray as Minister of Finance, and Emmanuel-Armand de Richelieu, duc d'Aiguillon, as Minister for Foreign Affairs. They fought against the parlements and had the judiciary run by the Council of State. Louis XVI restored the parlements and removed the triumvirs from their posts.
Louis and his ministers were unhappy about Great Britain's victory in the Seven Years' War and in the years following the Treaty of Paris, they began drawing up a long-term plan that would involve the construction of a larger navy and the formation of an anti-British coalition of states that would lead to an eventual war of revenge with the goal of regaining France's lost overseas colonies. Choiseul was the leading advocate of this scheme, and he was prepared to go to war with Britain over the Falkland Islands in 1770. Louis, however, did not believe that France was ready for war at that time and dismissed Choiseul instead.
Though Louis XV failed to expand the French frontier, the large acquisition of Lorraine through diplomacy in 1766 contributed to his legacy, the annexation of Lorraine (effective on the death of Stanisław Leszczyński) was the last territorial expansion of France on the continent before the French Revolution. The final possession taken by Louis occurred in the French conquest of Corsica, which was completed by 1769.
Throughout the second half of his reign, Louis XV endured conflict and intrigue from his children, particularly his son Louis (the dauphin), and his eldest surviving daughter, Adélaïde, the intrigue of family politics took place within the environs of Versailles, an environment that was under his control. Louis XV used his court to oversee and counter his children's politics and intrigues. Louis XV remodeled the spaces at Versailles to communicate his satisfaction and displeasure with his children and other members of the court.
Jeanne Bécu, Madame du Barry
As he was getting older, Louis XV was slowly becoming less inclined to visit the brothel-like Parc-aux-Cerfs, and the women of the court soon began planning on throwing themselves at his feet to win the vacant place left open by Madame de Pompadour's death. One notable such lady was Beatrix de Choiseul-Stainville, Duchess de Gramont, sister of the duc de Choiseul. Louis never really did have any affection towards her, for she was described as being rather rough and manly in appearance.
It coincided that Lebel, the King's valet-de-chambre-, became introduced to a certain Jeanne Bécu, a current mistress of the Maréchal de Richelieu, a friend of the king. Jeanne's pimp, the infamous Jean-Baptiste, Comte du Barry (although the title of comte was truly invented by himself) had long dreamed of giving one of his prostitutes to the king for a 'long term relationship', and with the outstandingly beautiful Jeanne he found hope, after much conniving, Jeanne not only bedazzled the king with her character and appearance, but caused much gossip and hatred between the courtiers who, jealous of the attention the king showered on her, also could not believe that a woman outside the palace circle took the place of the highest rank, second only to a queen.
After having been splendidly presented at court on April 22, 1769 and at the age of just 26, Jeanne took her place as the king's new royal mistress complete with titles and riches, which in future proved to be part of the monarchy's downfall in the French Revolution. To Louis, Jeanne was both entertaining and a means for him to levitate the country's responsibilities off his shoulder. Many opposed this relationship, not only because it was such a scandal for him to have an ex-courtesan living in Versailles, but also because of their age gap which could prove too much for his heart to bear. Louis XV would have none of this, and so defiant was he of this opposition that he even brought Jeanne to dine at the Château de la Muette during Marie Antoinette's arrival festivities from Austria. At first the almost 15 year-old dauphine found her intriguing, but after the king's daughters explained further her true purpose in court, Marie Antoinette grew to bitterly hate Jeanne.
After five years enjoying Jeanne's company and sexual talents, a second attack of smallpox fatally hit Louis, due to which he broken-heartedly had to send Jeanne away from court in order to receive spiritual pardon.
Louis XV died on 10 May 1774 of severe smallpox at the Palace of Versailles, he was the first Bourbon ruler whose heart was not, as tradition demanded, cut out and placed in a special coffer. The body was not embalmed for fear of contamination; instead, alcohol was poured into the coffin. The remains were also soaked in quicklime; in a surreptitious late-night ceremony attended by only one courtier, the body was taken to the Saint Denis Basilica.
Louis' death saw the French monarchy at its nadir in political, financial and moral terms, since Louis XV's son Louis had died nine years earlier, the throne passed to his grandson, the conventional and unimaginative Louis XVI. Two of Louis XV's other grandsons, Louis XVIII and Charles X, would occupy the throne of France after the fall of Napoleon I.
France of Louis XV
The France of Louis XV had a population of about 22 million the beginning of his reign, making it by far the most populous country in Europe, with about a quarter of the population of the continent, the population of England, the Hapsburg States and Spain at the time was about seven million each. The population was overwhelmingly rural, with only about fifteen percent of its citizens living in cities. By the end of his reign in 1774, the population had grown to 27 million, the problem for France was the even more rapid growth of other European states; the population of Prussia of Frederic the Great, through consolidation and conquest, grew from two million to six million in the same time period.
Science and technology
The King's keen childhood interest in science, geography led him encourage scientific exploration; in his Principia of 1677 Isaac Newton had described the earth as a spheroid flattened at the two poles, but this was hotly disputed by scientists for decades afterwards. In 1733, the director head of the Paris Observatory, Louis Godin, proposed to settle the issue by sending two scientific expeditions, one to near the equator in South America and the other to as close as possible to the North Pole, to make measurements that could settle the dispute. The expedition to Finland in 1735-37 returned to France with astronomic observations that confirmed Newton's theory, the expedition to South America took much longer, and did not return until 1745. The exploring party there included the celebrated French botanist Joseph de Jussieu and the explorer Charles Marie de La Condamine and made the first scientific exploration of the Amazon River Basin. Among other discoveries, they brought back samples of quinine, and established its effectiveness against malaria, they also brought back the first samples of rubber seen in Europe. This was the first of thirteen French scientific expeditions around the world over the rest of the 18th century.
Legacy and historical judgement
In his lifetime he was celebrated as a national hero. Edmé Bouchardon's equestrian statue of Louis XV was originally conceived to commemorate the monarch's victorious role in the War of the Austrian Succession. He portrayed the king as peacemaker, it was not unveiled until 1763, following France's defeat in the Seven Years' War. Designed as a symbol of loyalty to the king, Bouchardon's work was used by the Crown for a public relations event staged to restore public confidence in a monarchy in decline, it used art as propaganda on a grand scale. This statue was located on the Place Louis XV and was torn down during the Revolution.
French culture and influence were at their height in the first half of the eighteenth century but most scholars agree that Louis XV's decisions damaged the power of France, weakened the treasury, discredited the absolute monarchy, and made it more vulnerable to distrust and destruction. Scholars point to the French Revolution, which broke out 15 years after his death. Norman Davies characterized Louis XV's reign as "one of debilitating stagnation," characterized by lost wars, endless clashes between the Court and Parlement, and religious feuds. Jerome Blum described him as "a perpetual adolescent called to do a man's job."
The consensus is that this king was unequal to the high expectations of his subjects. Harris says that, "Historians have depicted this ruler as one of the weakest of the Bourbons, a do-nothing king who left affairs of state to ministers while indulging in his hobbies of hunting and womanizing." Harris adds that ministers rose and fell according to his mistresses' opinions, seriously undermining the prestige of the monarchy.
Trends in 20th century French historiography, especially the Annales School have deprecated biography and left the king somewhat abandoned. English historian William Doyle says:
- The political story....of the reigns of Louis XV and Louis XVI, by contrast, had too often been scorned, and therefore neglected, as a meaningless succession of petty intrigues in boudoirs and bedrooms, unworthy of serious attention when there were economic cycles, demographic fluctuations, rising and falling classes, and deep-seated shifts in cultural values to analyse.
Scholars have therefore ignored the king's own actions and turned instead to the king's image in the mind of the public. Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, the leader of the Annales School, notes the king was handsome, athletic, intelligent and an excellent hunter, but that he disappointed the people. He did not keep up the practice of Mass and performing his religious obligations to the people. Le Roy Ladurie says the people felt he had reduced the sacred nature of the monarchy, and thereby diminished himself.
According to Kenneth N. Jassie and Jeffrey Merrick, contemporary songs, poems, and public declarations typically portrayed a king as "master," unblemished "Christian," and benevolent provider ("baker"). Young Louis' failings were attributed to inexperience and manipulation by his handlers. Jassie and Merrick argue that the king's troubles mounted steadily, and the people blamed and ridiculed his debauchery, the king ignored the famines and crises of the nation. The people reviled the king in popular protest, and finally celebrated his death, the monarchy survived—for a while—but Louis XV left his successor with a damaging legacy of popular discontent.
Some sermons on his death in 1774 praised the monarch and went out of their way to excuse his faults. Jeffrey Merrick writes, "But those ecclesiastics who not only raised their eyebrows over the sins of the Beloved but also expressed doubts about his policies reflected the corporate attitude of the First Estate more accurately." They prayed the new king would restore morality at court and better serve the will of God.
The financial strain imposed by these wars and by the excesses of the royal court, and the consequent dissatisfaction with the monarchy, contributed to the national unrest which culminated in the French Revolution of 1789, the historian Colin Jones argues that Louis XV left France with serious financial difficulties: "The military disasters of the Seven Years War led to acute state financial crisis.". Ultimately, he writes, Louis XV failed to overcome these fiscal problems, mainly because he was incapable of putting together conflicting parties and interests in his entourage, although aware of the forces of anti-monarchism threatening his family's rule, he did not do anything to stop them.
A few scholars defend Louis, arguing that his highly negative reputation was based on propaganda meant to justify the French Revolution. Olivier Bernier in his 1984 biography argues that Louis was both popular and a leader in reforming France; in his 59-year reign, no foreign army crossed the French border, and her people were not threatened by conquest. He was known popularly as Le Bien-aimé (the well-beloved). Many of his subjects prayed for his recovery during his serious illness in Metz in 1744, his dismissal of the Parlement of Paris and his chief minister, Choisieul, in 1771, were attempts to wrest control of government from those Louis considered corrupt. He changed the tax code to try to balance the national budget. Bernier argues that these acts would have avoided the French Revolution, but his successor, Louis XVI, reversed his policies. Guy Chaussinand-Nogaret, wrote that Louis XV's tarnished reputation was created fifteen years after his death, to justify the French Revolution, and that the nobility during his reign were competent.
E. H. Gombrich, wrote in 2005, "Louis XV and Louis XVI, the Sun King's [Louis XIV] successors, were incompetent, and content merely to imitate their great predecessor's outward show of power. The pomp and magnificence remained....Finance ministers soon became expert swindlers, cheating and extorting on a grand scale, the peasants worked till they dropped and citizens were forced to pay huge taxes."
Jeffrey Merrick claims that his weak and ineffective rule accelerated the general decline that culminated in the French Revolution in 1789, the king was a notorious womaniser; the monarch's virility was supposed to be another way in which his power was manifested. Nevertheless, Merrick writes, popular faith in the monarchy was shaken by the scandals of Louis’ private life and by the end of his life he had become despised.
Historians agree that in terms of culture and art, France reached a high point under Louis XV. However, he was blamed for the many diplomatic, military and economic reverses, his reign was marked by ministerial instability while his "prestige was ruined by military failure and colonial losses," concludes Jean-Denis Lepage.
Popular legend holds that Louis said, "After me, the flood" ("Après moi, le déluge"), this quotation is attributed to Madame de Pompadour, although it is not certain that even she ever said it. Historians point out:
- At this time the fable of the four cats became current: the thin cat was the people, the fat cat the financiers, the one-eyed cat the ministry, and the blind cat the King who saw nothing and refused to see anything.
In popular culture
Portrayal in film
|Film||Year||Actor||as Madame du Barry||as Marie Antoinette|
|Madame Du Barry||1917||Charles Clary||Theda Bara||none|
|Madame DuBarry||1919||Emil Jannings||Pola Negri||none|
|Du Barry, Woman of Passion||1931||William Farnum||Norma Talmadge||none|
|Madame Du Barry||1934||Reginald Owen||Dolores del Río||Anita Louise|
|Marie Antoinette||1938||John Barrymore||Gladys George||Norma Shearer|
|DuBarry Was a Lady||1943||Red Skelton||Lucille Ball||none|
|Black Magic||1949||Robert Atkins||Margot Grahame||Nancy Guild|
|Madame du Barry||1954||Daniel Ivernel||Martine Carol||Isabelle Pia|
|The Rose of Versailles||1979||Hisashi Katsuda||Yoshiko Kimiya||Miyuki Ueda|
|Le Chevalier D'Eon||2006||Jay Hickman||none||none|
|Marie Antoinette||2006||Rip Torn||Asia Argento||Kirsten Dunst|
|Ancestors of Louis XV of France|
- Louise Élisabeth (14 August 1727 – 6 December 1759), Duchess of Parma, had issue
- Anne Henriette (14 August 1727 – 10 February 1752)
- Marie-Louise (28 July 1728 – 19 February 1733)
- Louis, Dauphin of France (4 September 1729 – 20 December 1765), married to Infanta Maria Teresa Rafaela of Spain and had issue, then married to Duchess Marie-Josèphe of Saxony and had issue
- Philippe of France, Duke of Anjou (30 August 1730 – 17 April 1733)
- Marie Adélaïde (23 March 1732 – 27 February 1800)
- Victoire Louise Marie Thérèse (11 May 1733 – 7 June 1799)
- Sophie Philippine Élisabeth Justine (27 July 1734 – 3 March 1782)
- Marie Thérèse Félicité (16 May 1736 – 28 September 1744)
- Louise Marie (15 July 1737 – 23 December 1787)
Louis XV had several illegitimate children, although the exact number is unknown. Historiography suggest the following as possible issue of the King:
- With Pauline Félicité de Mailly (1712 – 9 September 1741), by marriage marquise de Vintimille. She died after giving birth to a son:
- Charles Emmanuel Marie Magdelon de Vintimille (Versailles, 2 September 1741 – Saint-Germain-en-Laye, 24 February 1814), marquis du Luc. Recognized by his mother's husband, although was highly probable that his biological father was Louis XV, especially in adulthood, when he was called Demi-Louis ("Small Louis") for his exceptional resemblance with the King, he was appointed Maréchal de camp and Governor of Porquerolles. Married to Adélaïde de Castellane on 26 November 1764, he fathered three children.
- With Jeanne Perray:
- Amélie Florimond de Norville (Saint-Eustache, Paris, 11 January 1753 – 27 September 1790). Registered one day after her birth (12 January 1753) as a daughter of certain bourgeois from Paris called Louis Florimond de Norville, a non-existent person; the paternity of the King is suggested by later evidence. Married to Ange de Faure (1739-1824) on 1 June 1780, with whom she had two children.
- With Marie-Louise O'Murphy (21 October 1737 – 11 December 1814), an Irish adventuress:
- Agathe Louise de Saint-Antoine de Saint-André (Paris, 20 May 1754 – Paris, 6 September 1774). The first illegitimate child of the King whose parentage was certain, but she was never officially recognized; in fact, she was registered as a daughter of a Louis de Saint-André, Old official of infantry and Louise-Marie de Berhini, resident of Saint-Antoine street, non-existent persons. In November 1773 she received from the King her letters of Official Recognition of Nobility (which enabled her to marry a nobleman), and funds of 223,000 livres. One month later, on 27 December 1773, she married René Jean de La Tour du Pin, marquis de la Charce, and died after only nine months of marriage as a consequence of a miscarriage.
- Marguerite Victoire Le Normant de Flaghac (Riom, Puy-de-Dôme, 5 January 1768 – aft. 1814). Officially recognized by her mother's second husband, she was probably also an illegitimate child of the King. Married firstly on 24 February 1786 to Jean-Didier Mesnard, comte de Chousy, with whom he had two children; after her divorce following the incarceration of her husband in 1793, she then married Constant Lenormant d'Étiolles (a son of the husband of Madame de Pompadour) in November 1794, with whom he had another child.
- With Françoise de Châlus (24 February 1734 – 7 July 1821), by marriage Duchesse de Narbonne-Lara:
- Philippe Louis Marie Innocent Christophe Juste de Narbonne-Lara (Parma, 28 December 1750 – Paris, 10 May 1834), Duc de Narbonne-Lara. Captain of the Dragons Regiment of the Queen, Colonel of the Regiment of Forez and Field Marshal in 1790. Married on 3 February 1771 to Antoinette-Françoise-Claudine de La Roche-Aymon. No issue.
- Louis Marie Jacques Amalric de Narbonne-Lara (Colorno, 23 August 1755 – Torgau, 17 November 1813), called Comte de Narbonne-Lara. Colonel of the Army and Honorary Chamberlain of Princess Madame Marie Adélaïde of France; in 1786 he was appointed a commander of an infantry regiment and remained in that post until the eve of the French Revolution and later served under Napoleon. Married on 16 April 1782 to Marie Adélaïde de Montholon, with whom he had two daughters, he also fathered two other children out of wedlock.
Note: Both children are officially recognized by their mother's husband, although it is alleged that the King himself was the real father, the coevals attribute the paternity of both children to Louis XV for, according to documents from the Military Archive, Françoise de Châlus' husband had been wounded in the War of the Austrian Succession (1747) becoming from that moment unable to have any offspring. The baptism of Louis, Comte de Narbonne-Lara is another indication of that paternity, his wife had become the King's mistress. Not only was it noted that he was named Louis but also his contemporaries remarked on the similarities between the young Louis and the King.
- With Marguerite Catherine Haynault (11 September 1736 – 17 March 1823):
- Agnès Louise de Montreuil (Saint-Sulpice, Paris, 20 May 1760 – Montmelas, 2 September 1837). Registered as a daughter of a certain Louis de Montreuil, old Official of cavalry, a non-existent person, the paternity of the King is supported by other evidence. Married on 9 December 1778 to Gaspard d'Arod de Montmelas (brother-in-law of her own mother), with whom she had four children.
- Anne Louise de La Réale (Saint-Paul, Paris, 17 November 1762 – Saint-Germain-en-Laye, 30 April 1831). Registered as a daughter of Antoine Louis de la Réale, old Captain of cavalry, a non-existent person, the paternity of the King is supported by further evidence. Married on 28 August 1780 to René Guillaume Paul Gabriel Etienne de Geslin, Comte de Geslin, with whom she had six children.
- With Lucie Madeleine d'Estaing (10 May 1743 – 7 April 1826), a half-sister of the Admiral d'Estaing:
- Agnès Lucie Auguste (Paris, 14 April 1761 – Boysseulh, 4 July 1822). Married on 5 December 1777 to Charles de Boysseulh, vicomte de Boysseuilh, with whom she had three children.
- Aphrodite Lucie Auguste (Versailles, 8 March 1763 – Artonne (Puy-de-Dôme), 22 February 1819). Married on 21 December 1784 to Jules de Boysseulh (her step-brother; son of the first marriage of her mother's husband), with whom she had one daughter.
Note: Both children were registered as daughters of Louis Auguste, Old Official, and citizen Lucie, both non-existent persons. In August 1774 Agnès and Aphrodite received from Louis XVI their letters of recognition of nobility (demoiselles issue de la plus ancienne noblesse de France) and following the stipulations leave by Louis XV, each of them obtained a capital of 223,000 livres and a reported annual revenue of 24,300 livres.
- With Anne Coppier de Romans (19 June 1737 – 27 December 1808), Baroness de Meilly-Coulonge:
- With Jeanne Louise Tiercelin de La Colleterie (26 November 1746 – 5 July 1779), called Madame de Bonneval:
- Benoît Louis Le Duc (7 February 1764 – 1837). Registered as a son of Louis Le Duc, old cavalry official and lady Julie de la Colleterie, both non-existent persons; his royal parentage was supported by later evidence.
Titles styles, honors and arms
|Royal styles of
King Louis XV
Par la grâce de Dieu, Roi de France et de Navarre
|Reference style||His Most Christian Majesty|
|Spoken style||Your Most Christian Majesty|
|Alternative style||Monsieur Le Roi|
Titles and styles
- 15 February 1710 – 8 March 1712 His Royal Highness The Duke of Anjou
- 8 March 1712 – 1 September 1715 His Royal Highness The Dauphin of France
- 1 September 1715 – 10 May 1774 His Majesty The King
Louis's formal style was "Louis XV, par la grâce de Dieu, roi de France et de Navarre", or "Louis XV, by the Grace of God, King of France and of Navarre".
- List of French monarchs
- Kingdom of Navarre
- Cabriole leg
- Étienne François, Duc de Choiseul
- Suppression of the Jesuits
- Louis heel, a shoe heel shape named after Louis XV.
- Mesdames de France
- Outline of France
Notes and citations
- Joël Cornette, Histoire de la France : Absolutisme et lumières 1652-178320, Hachette Éducation, 2008, p. 121.
- Guéganic (2008), p. 13.
- The King and his successor gesture towards each other, symbolising the older man's approval of his young heir. Madame de Ventadour, the young duke's governess, holds her charge's reins, the portrait, painted for her, commemorates her part in saving the dynasty
- Guéganic (2008), p. 14.
- Bluche (2003), pp. 15-17.
- Guéganic (2008), p. 14.
- Guéganic (2008), p. 14.
- Antoine, p. 33–37.
- Antoine, p. 33–37.
- Bluche (2003), pp. 26-28.
- Bluche (2003), p. 226.
- Antoine (1989), pp. 64-65.
- The Catholic encyclopedia. 1913. p. 103.
- Guéganic (2008), p. 20.
- Backhouse, Roger, Economists and the economy: the evolution of economic ideas, Transaction Publishers, 1994, ISBN 978-1-56000-715-9, p. 118.
- Bluche (2003) pp. 223-226.
- Bluche (2003) pp. 223-226.
- Bluche (2003), p. 226.
- Guéganic (2008), pp. 16-17.
- Bluche (2003), p. 36.
- Guéganic (2008) p. 68.
- Guéganic (2008) p. 68.
- Guéganic (2008) p. 68.
- Bluche (2003) pp. 56-58.
- Bluche (2003), pp. 39-47.
- Bluche (2003), pp. 53-55.
- Bluche (2003), pp. 53-55/
- Bluche (2003), p. 57.
- Bluche (2003), pp. 57-58.
- Olivier Bernier, Louis the Beloved: the Life of Louis XV (1984), p. 63.
- John Rogister, Louis XV and the Parlement of Paris, 1737-55 (2002), p. 135.
- Antoine (1989), pp. 254-255.
- Antoine (1989), pp. 289-90.
- Antoine (1989), pp. 290-91.
- Antoine (1989), pp. 294-295-90.
- Jeremy Black (2013). From Louis XIV to Napoleon: The Fate of a Great Power. Routledge. p. 1726ff.
- Antoine (1989), p. 301.
- Antoine (1989), p. 301.
- Bluche (2003), p. 77.
- Bluche (2003), pp. 233-235.
- Arntoine (1989), p. 354.
- Bluche (2003) p. 78.
- Antoine (1989) pp. 387.
- Antoine (1989), pp. 38.7.
- Antoine (1989) pp. 400-403.
- Antoine (1989) p. 401.
- René de La Croix duc de Castries, The Lives of the Kings & Queens of France (1979), p. 216.
- Antoine (1993), p. 485.
- Antoine (1993), p. 485.
- Antoine (1993), p. 490.
- Haslip, p. 27.
- Voltaire, Histoire du parlement de Paris (Amsterdam, Netherlands: 1769), vol. 2, pp. 223 and 225.
On page 223, Voltaire states that the knife " … pénétra de quatre lignes dans les chairs au dessous de la cinquieme côte; … " ( … penetrated four lines into the flesh below the fifth rib; … ) According to Wikipedia, a ligne was 2.2558 mm, so four lignes would be about 1 cm.
From page 225: "L'une de ces lames était un canif long de quatre pouces avec laquel il avait frappé le Roi à travers un manteau fort épais & tous ses habits, de façon que la blessure heureusement n'était guères plus considérable qu'un coup d'épingle." (One of these blades was a knife four inches long with which he struck the King through a very thick overcoat & all his clothes, in a way that the wound was fortunately scarcely more significant than a pinprick.)
- Colin Jones, The Great Nation: France from Louis XV to Napoleon (London, 2002), p. 230.
- Jones, Colin. The Cambridge Illustrated History of France (1st ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 169. ISBN 0-521-43294-4.
- Kevin L. Justus, "Gilded Palace, Gilded Playpen: Louis XV's Use of Palatial Space to Control His Rebellious Children and Their Politics," Journal of Family History 1996 21(4): 470–495. ISSN 0363-1990
- Donald R. Hopkins (15 September 2002). The Greatest Killer: Smallpox in History. University of Chicago Press. p. 71. ISBN 978-0-226-35168-1.
he was motionless, his mouth open, his face neither deformed nor showing any sign of agitation, but towards the end swollen and copper-coloured... the body of the king was falling to pieces, in a state of living putrescence, and the smell was horribly fetid
- Bauer, Susan Wise, The Story of the World: Early modern times, from Elizabeth the First to the Forty-Niners, (Peace Hill Press Inc., 2004), 206.
- Mme Campan, Memoirs of the private life of Marie Antoinette, queen of France, 2nd edition, Vol. I (London, 1823), 75-76.
- Echeverria, Durand (1985). The Maupeou Revolution. Baton Rouge London: Louisiana State University Press. p. 29. ISBN 0807112100.
- Andrew Hussey (2008). Paris: The Secret History. Bloomsbury Publishing USA. p. 172.
- Guéganic (2011}, p. 28.
- Antoine (1989) pp. 348-349.
- Stephen Rombouts, "Art as Propaganda in Eighteenth-century France: the Paradox of Edme Bouchardon's Louis XV". Eighteenth-century Studies, 1993–1994 27(2): 255–282. in JSTOR
- J. H. Shennan (1995). France Before the Revolution. Routledge. pp. 44–45.
- Norman Davies (1996). Europe: A History. Oxford U.P. pp. 627–28.
- Jerome Blum et al. The European World: A History (3rd ed 1970) p. 454.
- Robert D. Harris, "Review," American Historical Review, (1987) 92#2, p. 426,
- William Doyle, "The Great Nation: France from Louis XV to Napoleon, by Colin Jones" Independent 11 October 2002
- Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, The Ancien Regime: A History of France, 1610 - 1774 (1998), pp. 320-23.
- Kenneth N. Jassie and Jeffrey Merrick, "We Don't Have a King: Popular Protest and the Image of the Illegitimate King in the Reign of Louis XV," Consortium on Revolutionary Europe 1750–1850: Proceedings 1994 23: 211–219. ISSN 0093-2574
- Jeffrey Merrick, "Politics in the Pulpit: Ecclesiastical Discourse on the Death of Louis XV," History of European Ideas 1986 7(2): 149–160. ISSN 0191-6599
- "BBC - History - King Louis XV".
- Colin Jones, "The Other Cheek," History Today (Nov 2011), 61#11 pp. 18-24.
- Jones (2002) p, 124, 132–33, 147.
- Olivier Bernier, Louis the Beloved: The Life of Louis XV (1984), pp. 218-52.
- Chaussinard-Nogaret, Guy. The French Nobility in the Eighteenth Century: From Feudalism to Enlightenment, Cambridge, England. Cambridge University Press, 1985.
- E. H. Gombrich (2005). A Little History of the World. Yale U.P. p. 216.
- Jeffrey Merrick, "Politics in the Pulpit: Ecclesiastical Discourse on the Death of Louis XV," History of European Ideas 1986, 7(2): 149–160.
- Jean-Denis G. G. Lepage (2009). French Fortifications, 1715-1815: An Illustrated History. McFarland. p. 6.
- Jones (2002), p. 236.
- Arthur Tilley (1922). Modern France. A Companion to French Studies. p. 84.
- In front of the notary Mr. Arnoult, on 12 January 1772 was granted to Amélie de Norville a pension of 2,000 livres. Aux Archives nationales, études XIV, 408, et XXXV, 728. In her marriage contract dated 30 June 1780 was accorded a pension of 3,000 livres from the Royal Treasure to Amélie and her future children, after the Bourbon Restoration, this decision was confirmed on 4 December 1815. Courcelles, Histoires généalogiques des Pairs de France, vol. 5, p. 52.
- Les enfants naturels de Louis XV - 02. Agathe-Louise de Saint-Antoine de Saint-André in: histoire-et-secrets.com [retrieved 9 March 2013].
- Camille Pascal, "Le goût du roi : Louis XV et Marie-Louise O'Murphy". This theory is supported by three facts: 1, the King gave Marie-Louise O'Murphy the sum of 350,000 livres between 1771-1772 (Marguerite, then a three-years-old child, surpassed the dangerous first year of infancy, and Louis XV probably wanted to protect the mother of his child), 2. When Marguerite married in 1786 all the royal family was present and signed the marriage contract, and 3, after the Bourbon Restoration, King Charles X gave Marguerite an "annual indemnity" of 2,000 francs from his own treasure and a further payment of 3,000 francs from the Civil List.
- "On 25 of August of 1755, received the baptism at the Chapel of the King, from the Very High and Very Powerful Lord, Monseigneur Charles-Antoine de La Roche-Aymon, Archbishop-Primate of Narbonne, President of the States-Generals of the Province of Languedoc, Commander of the Order of the Holy Spirit. The Godfather was the Most High and Most powerful Prince Louis Auguste of France, Duke of Berry, and the Godmother the Most High and Most Powerful Princess Madame Marie Adélaïde of France."
- In August 1774 King Louis XVI granted her letters of Official Recognition of Nobility, and previously Louis XV secured for her capital of 223,000 livres and reported an annual revenue of 24,300 livres. In addition, Louis XVI personally signed her marriage contract.
- In August 1774 King Louis XVI granted her letters of Official Recognition of Nobility, identical to her sister. She also received from Louis XV capital of 223,000 livres and reported annual revenue of 24,300 livres; in addition, at the age of fifteen (1777), she received the further amount of 12,000 livres as a renewed pension.
- Evelyne Lever: Le crépuscule des rois - chronique 1757-1789, Fayard 2013, p. 68.
- Louis XV secured for him capital of 223,000 livres who reported an annual revenue of 24,300 livres. In August 1774 Louis XVI signed a letter of Official Recognition of Nobility for him (identical to the other illegitimate children of Louis XV); in 1785 (when he took the Holy Orders) he received a dispensation from the Pope because of his illegitimate origin. After the Bourbon Restoration, Louis XVIII accorded him a pension of 6,000 francs from the Civil List, which was augmented to 20,000 francs in May 1821. Charles X (with whom he had an extraordinary physical resemblance) not only maintained his pensions but also paid his exorbitant gambling debts. In 1830 he solicited King Louis-Philippe I to secure his pensions, which the King granted.
- Duke of Saint-Simon, Mémoires, Book 12, Chapter 15. 
- Marquis Philippe de Dangeau, Journal; 1856–60, Paris; XVI, 136; in Olivier Bernier, Louis the Beloved, The Life of Louis XV: 1984, Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company. p. 3.
- The scene is described in Olivier Bernier, Louis the Beloved, The Life of Louis XV: 1984, Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company. p. 17.
- Guéganic, Anne-Laure, Louis XV: Le Règne fastueux, (2008), Éditions Atlas, Paris (in French); ISBN 978-2-7312-3798-6
- Bluche, François, Louis XV (2003), Éditions Perrin, Paris (in French); ISBN 978-2-262-02021-7
- Antoine, Michel, Louis XV (1989), ˙Hachette Pluriel, Paris (in French); ISBN 2-01-017818-1
- Bernier, Olivier. Louis the Beloved: The Life of Louis XV (1984) 261 pp.
- Engels, Jens Ivo. "Denigrer, Esperer, Assumer La Realite. Le Roi de France perçu par ses Sujets, 1680–1750" ["Disparaging, Hoping, Taking on Reality: the French King as Perceived by His Subjects, 1680–1750"]. Revue D'histoire Moderne et Contemporaine 2003 50(3): 96–126.
- Jones, Colin. The Great Nation: France from Louis XV to Napoleon, 1715–99 (2002). excerpt and text search
- Justus, Kevin Lane. "A Fractured Mirror: The Royal Portraiture of Louis XV and the Search for a Successful Image through Architecture, or, Versailles Is the Thing in Which We Will Catch the Character of the King." PhD dissertation U. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 2002. 417 pp. DAI 2003 63(11): 3766-A. DA3070864 Fulltext: ProQuest Dissertations & Theses
- Le Roy Ladurie, Emmanuel. The Ancien Regime: A History of France 1610–1774 (1999), survey by leader of the Annales School ISBN 0631211969
- Perkins, James Breck. France under Louis XV (2 vol 1897) online vol 1; online vol 2
- Treasure, Geoffrey. The Making of Modern Europe, 1648–1780 (3rd ed. 2003). pp 297–331.
- Woodbridge, John D. Revolt in Prerevolutionary France: The Prince de Conti's Conspiracy against Louis XV (1995). 242 pp.
- Scholarly bibliography by Colin Jones (2002)
- Haslip, Joan. Madame du Barry: The Wages of Beauty. (1992). 224 pp.
- Jones, Colin. Madame de Pompadour: Images of a Mistress. London: National Gallery Publ., 2002. 176 pp.
- Lever, Evelyne. Madame de Pompadour. (2002). 320 pp.
- Mitford, Nancy. Madame de Pompadour (1954) 312pp.
- Du Barry, Jeanne Vaubernier, Jeanne Baecu. Memoirs of the Comtesse Du Barry: With Minute Details of Her Entire Career as Favorite of Louis XV (1903) online edition; also ISBN 1406923133
Louis XV of France
Cadet branch of the Capetian dynastyBorn: 15 February 1710 Died: 10 May 1774
|King of France
1 September 1715 – 10 May 1774
|Dauphin of France
8 March 1712 – 1 September 1715