Maria Leszczyńska

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Maria Leszczyńska, Queen of France

Maria Karolina Zofia Felicja Leszczyńska ( listen ? / I ) (French Marie-Caroline-Sophie-Félicité Leszczyńska ; born June 23, 1703 in Trebnitz , Silesia ; † June 24, 1768 in Versailles , France ) from the noble family of Leszczyński was by marriage with Louis XV. Queen of France. Audio file / audio sample

Youth in exile

Maria was the younger daughter of Stanislaus Leszczyński (then voivode of Poznan ) and Countess Katharina Opalińska . Her older sister Anna Leszczyńska died in 1717.

Maria at the age of 9 (1712), by Johann Starbus

The Swedish King Charles XII. forced August the Strong to be deposed as King of Poland on February 14, 1704 and Stanislaus Leszczynski to be elected as the new King of Poland on July 12, 1704. In September 1704, the dethroned August attacked Warsaw . Stanislaus let his family flee quickly to Poznan under the protection of loyal guards. Little Maria is said to have been lost in a village inn during this escape and was found there in a trough in a stable. On another occasion, she was hidden in an oven for security reasons. These stories about their hiding places in the trough or oven are to be treated with caution, as later in France many rumors were circulated by opponents of the king that were supposed to put Maria in a bad light.

After the decisive defeat of Charles XII. in the battle of Poltava (July 8, 1709) against Peter the Great , Augustus the Strong was able to re-establish himself as the Polish king. Stanislaus Leszczynski and his family had to flee. They lived first in Stettin , then in Sweden and from 1714 in the Duchy of Pfalz-Zweibrücken , which the Swedish King Stanislaus had transferred to usufruct. There the expelled Polish king resided at Tschifflik Castle . Maria received a solid education through her father and her teacher, Madame Marenska. She spoke several languages, including Latin, and received music and painting lessons. After the death of Charles XII. (December 11, 1718) the Leszczynski family had to leave Pfalz-Zweibrücken and found acceptance in France. Duke Philip of Orléans , the regent of France for the underage King Louis XV, assigned the refugees a residence in Wissembourg in Alsace. Stanislaus received a small pension in the name of the king, but it was only paid out irregularly. So he had to live in very modest circumstances with his relatives.

Wedding with Louis XV.

Maria fell in love with Ludwig Georg , the future margrave of Baden, but his mother knew how to prevent a deeper relationship by making a pilgrimage to Rome .

Maria Leszczyńska in coronation regalia

After the death of the Duke of Orléans (December 2, 1723), the Duke of Bourbon , known as Monsieur le Duc , became Prime Minister. He had a mistress, Madame de Prie . Since he wanted to get married, she proposed the Polish princess as bride. But very soon other marriage plans were made for Maria. The young king was supposed to be married off as soon as possible. Louis XV was already engaged to the Spanish Infanta Maria Anna , but she was only five years old, which is why marriage was not an option anytime soon. But this meant a threat to the continued existence of the Bourbon dynasty . If the often sick king were to die without heirs, the throne would have passed to the Duke of Orléans, which would have meant an end to the Duke of Bourbon's political influence. Therefore, the king's little fiancée was sent back to Spain in April 1725. As a replacement, a catalog of 99 and later a new list of 82 marriage candidates from the nobility from across Europe was created. The chosen one had to be of high class, ideally of the royal family, in order to be equal to the birth of her future husband, but she should nevertheless come from a background that was as politically ineffective as possible. For the Duke of Bourbon and his mistress, the Polish king's daughter Maria was the ideal candidate, as she owed her election as the new queen and her father Stanislaus was a dethroned monarch with little influence. The French prime minister counted on Mary's dependence and gratitude and intended to influence the young king through her. So her engagement to Louis XV. decided by the Privy Council on March 25, 1725 and officially announced two months later, on May 27.

Maria was a very devout Catholic, in good health and was considered good-natured and undemanding. She is described as not exactly beautiful, at best handsome and as short; she was also six years older than her bridegroom. Some sources characterize her as serious and boring, but due to her solid education she was also quite witty. She should see life at the French court as hollow and intriguing and consciously distance herself from it. Members of the House of Orléans referred to the marriage project as a "mesalliance" for the French king. At the time of Maria’s marriage to Ludwig, however, the Polish throne and her father’s huge fortune did not seem to have been lost, but this happened later. Spread of rumors described the Polish princess as ugly, epileptic or sterile. Another legend tells that when the royal express courier Stanislaus on April 2, 1725 about the intended marriage of his daughter to Louis XV. had informed that mother and daughter had just been plucking a goose and then fell on their knees crying and praying to thank God for this lucky coincidence. When Stanislaus Leszczyński was appointed Duke of Lorraine and Bar by his son-in-law years later (1737), he proved to be a clever ruler who in many respects was ahead of his time.

The long-distance wedding of the Polish princess took place on August 15, 1725 under the direction of Cardinal Rohan in the Cathedral of Strasbourg , with the Duke of Orléans taking on the role of bridegroom. After the 22-year-old Maria had been introduced to the fifteen-year-old king at a greeting that followed strict court etiquette, the couple's actual wedding was celebrated on September 5, 1725 in Fontainebleau . Numerous French and foreign princes took part in the sumptuous ceremony, in which the bride wore a violet velvet, gem-set royal cloak, a diadem and an eleven-meter long train carried by three noble ladies-in-waiting. The couple is said to have consummated their marriage on their wedding night and allegedly it was the young king's first sexual experience.

Early years of marriage

The king is said to have fallen in love with his wife at first and the marriage was accordingly happy. But with Maria's only attempt to interfere in politics shortly after her wedding - which her father had urgently warned her about - an increasing alienation began between her and the king. At that time she tried to support the Duke of Bourbon - to whom she owed her social rise - in his struggle for the favor of the king. His rival for power in the state was the 72-year-old André-Hercule de Fleury , Bishop of Fréjus. The latter often criticized the prime minister's policies and was often able to steer state affairs in the direction he wanted. After the return of Louis XV. In the evening his wife asked him to talk to him from a hunting trip. Together with the Duke of Bourbon, who was also present, she insisted that the King no longer include Fleury in every conversation with his ministers. But the king refused, later requested in a letter from his wife to accept all the decisions of the Bishop of Fréjus and finally made him almost unlimited ruler after he had finally ousted the Duke of Bourbon on July 11, 1726. With her demeanor, Maria had drawn the enduring hostility of Fleury and dared not make any further attempt to influence her husband's policy.

Maria Leszczyńska with the Dauphin Louis Ferdinand .

Louis XV and Maria had ten children in the first twelve years of marriage, three of whom died in childhood:

  1. Marie Louise Élisabeth of France (August 14, 1727 - December 6, 1759), ∞ Philip, Duke of Parma
  2. Anne Henriette of France (August 14, 1727 - February 10, 1752)
  3. Marie Louise of France (July 28, 1728 - February 19, 1733)
  4. Louis Ferdinand of France (September 4, 1729 - December 20, 1765), Dauphin , father of Louis XVI.
  5. Philippe of France (August 30, 1730 - April 7, 1733), Duke of Anjou
  6. Marie Adélaïde of France (March 23, 1732 - February 27, 1800)
  7. Marie Louise Thérèse Victoire of France (May 11, 1733 - June 7, 1799)
  8. Sophie Philippine Élisabeth Justine of France (July 27, 1734 - March 3, 1782)
  9. Marie Thérèse Félicité of France (May 18, 1736 - September 28, 1744)
  10. Louise Marie of France (July 15, 1737 - December 23, 1787)

Since Maria's second son Philipp Louis died when he was three years old, the Dauphin Ludwig was the only male descendant left. His mother treated him very strictly and significantly influenced his upbringing, which was geared towards his future role as heir to the throne. The eight girls of the royal couple were called "Mesdames de France" and numbered according to their age. For example, the eldest daughter was addressed as Madame Première (the first), the second oldest daughter as Madame Seconde (the second), etc. Four princesses received extensive education and training at Fontevrault Abbey for ten years . Maria attached great importance to the religious education of her daughters, tried to curb their arrogance and to participate in her charitable works from an early age. Except for the eldest, the daughters remained unmarried; the youngest became a Carmelite.

The king's first mistresses

Because of her many pregnancies, Maria rarely accompanied her husband, who in the long run found her too unattractive, perhaps even boring. The married couple also had quite different interests, so that the close relationship of trust between them that the king wished for could not be established.

As soon as the queen was determined to be pregnant, on the advice of her doctors she abstained from any sexual contact with her husband. In 1733, after the birth of Maria's seventh child, Victoire Louise, he began extramarital relations with mistresses. His first such liaison , with Louise de Nesle, Comtesse de Mailly , he kept secret at first; In 1737 he officially announced it. Maria received the advice from her father to quietly come to terms with the mistress inn of her husband. The queen nearly died giving birth to her tenth child. Following the warning from her doctors, she decided not to have any more children and refused to allow her husband to have any further sex life. Louis XV When asked whether his youngest daughter, Louise Marie, should be called Madame Septième (the seventh) or Madame Huitième (the eighth) - since one daughter had since died - replied that she could be called Madame Dernière (the last).

In 1733 Maria was delighted that her father, with French support, was able to regain the Polish throne after the death of Augustus the Strong. He was soon ousted by the Saxon Elector August , the son of Augustus the Strong. Stanislaus now finally had to renounce the Polish king title and received in 1736/37 as a replacement for Louis XV. the newly acquired duchies of Lorraine and Bar were awarded. Although personally very pious, he was remembered as a promoter of religious tolerance, art, architecture and literature, and many social institutions. This tendency towards witty entertainment, tolerance and interest in social engagement was characteristic of the entire Leszczyńska family and was also manifested in Maria's work as the French queen.

The Comtesse de Mailly was subsequently replaced by her younger sisters Pauline, Marquise de Vintimille († 1741) and Marie Anne, Duchess of Châteauroux († 1744). After a temporary reconciliation with Louis XV. During his illness in Metz (August / September 1744) Maria withdrew into her circle of friends.

Living in the shadow of Madame de Pompadour

Madame de Pompadour , painted by Jean-Marc Nattier (1685–1766)

When the Dauphin married the Spanish Infanta Maria Theresa (1745), Madame de Pompadour was introduced to the court, who was now able to maintain her position as the official mistress of the king for almost 20 years until her death (1764) and soon the role of queen dwarfed. In contrast to her predecessors, Madame de Pompadour tried to maintain a respectful, friendly relationship with the Queen. So she achieved about once that Louis XV. 40,000 ecus of gambling debts paid off his wife. At best, however, the mistress treated them with polite tolerance. The brother of the king's favorite, Abel François Marigny, was appointed director of the royal buildings and gardens and often had his sister bring the queen a basket of flowers or fruit. Once at such an encounter Maria was apparently particularly annoyed by the dazzling appearance of the mistress, praised her beauty in an exaggerated way and asked her to try her singing skills, since she had heard praise for her beautiful voice so often. Madame de Pompadour blushed and embarrassed at the admiring words of the queen, but realized that these were by no means meant in a well-meaning, and at first tried to evade the invitation to sing. At the express command of the queen, however, she finally intoned a stanza of Armide's aria in which the sorceress held Renaud under her spell: "Enfin, il est en ma puissance ..." ("At last he is in my power ..."). Now it was up to the queen to change her color, and you could see her displeasure with the mistress's obvious insolence, which she had challenged herself.

Voltaire , who had previously written verses of praise for the queen, wanted to be admitted to the Académie française in 1746 . The support of Madame de Pompadour contributed significantly to the achievement of his goal and Voltaire wrote in a poem of thanks that her conquest of the king should be as permanent as the military conquests of Louis XV. For the queen and her daughters this was a disgrace; Voltaire therefore left the court for some time.

When the Dauphin's first wife, Maria Theresa, died very young (1746) and a new bride was immediately sought for the heir to the throne, the Saxon princess Maria Josepha was chosen . The queen was initially reluctant to marry because the bride-to-be was a granddaughter of Augustus the Strong, who had once ousted Stanislaus Leszczyński, Maria's father, from the Polish throne. Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour were finally able to get the queen to agree to the marriage project and at the wedding the new dauphine showed the queen in a clever way that she held her father Stanislaus in high regard. Since then, Maria has been like a motherly friend to the Dauphine. Many children emerged from the marriage of the heir to the throne, so that Maria, among others, was the grandmother of the future kings Louis XVI. , Louis XVIII. and Charles X was.

Against the increasing influence of Madame de Pompadour, the queen led an opposing party at court, the so-called devotees, with the dauphin and some daughters. Mary's close friends included the Minister Jean-Frédéric Phélypeaux, comte de Maurepas , the President Charles-Jean-François Hénault and the Duke and Duchess of Luynes. The pious queen devoted herself not only to her children, who were very attached to her, but also to caring for the poor. Together with several clergymen with whom she met almost daily, she supported social institutions across the country, mending personally used clothing for the needy, and caring for injured servants. Maria, who was personally very modest, spent large sums of money on her activities, but these did not come from the state treasury, but were raised through private donations, which she compelled her surroundings to make. The queen was also generous towards artists and scholars. She consciously rejected the pomp of the French court. Overall, she was certified to have carried her lot as a deported wife with dignity.


After Maria had already had to mourn the deaths of a few children, in the last years of her life they met other hard-to-bear strokes of fate: in 1765 the Dauphin died; In 1766 her very old father died of burns sustained when falling into a fireplace; and finally the Dauphine died in 1767. A year later, on June 24th, 1768, Maria also died at the age of 65. Her husband, children and grandchildren mourned her death very much. She received her final resting place in the Cathedral of Saint-Denis . Her heart has been transferred to Nancy , where it rests next to her parents in the Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours church . Not long after her death, Louis XV. a new mistress, the Countess du Barry .


The French painters Louis-Michel van Loo and Jean-Marc Nattier created portraits of Maria . The painting by van Loo was engraved by L. Crespy, N. Larmessin and J. Moyreau, among others.


Coat of arms of Queen Maria (Bourbon-Leszczyńsky alliance coat of arms)
  • Francja w pamiętnikach Polaków: antologia - page 40
  • Almanac Polonii - page 19
  • Figuring Marie Leszczinska (1703-1768) by Jennifer Grant Germann
  • The Bourbon kings of France - page 130
  • Voltaire - page 88
  • Vie de Marie Lecksinska, Princesse de Pologne, Reine de France: écrite sur les Mémoires de la cour
  • Souvenirs de la Pologne: historiques, statistiques et littéraires - page 234


  • Gerd Hits: Maria Leszczyńska . In: The French queens . Regensburg 1996, pp. 292-296.
  • Uwe Schultz, Madame de Pompadour . CH Beck, Munich 2004.

Web links

Commons : Maria Leszczyńska  - album with pictures, videos and audio files


  1. Uwe Schultz, 2004, pp. 54–57.
  2. Uwe Schultz, 2004, pp. 57–61.
  3. ^ Peter Claus Hartmann: Ludwig XV. In: The same: French kings and emperors of the modern age . Munich 1994, p. 248.
  4. Uwe Schultz, 2004, pp. 62–65.
  5. Uwe Schultz, 2004, p. 74f.
  6. Uwe Schultz, 2004, pp. 135 and 140.
  7. Uwe Schultz, 2004, pp. 113–117.
predecessor Office Successor
Maria Teresa of Spain (1638–1683) Queen of France and Navarre
1725 - 1768
Marie Antoinette of Austria