Madame Marie-Louise, daughter of Louis XV

If Marie-Louise, third of the children of Louis XV and Marie Leszczynska, is mentioned here last, blame it on my earlier (and now reversed, thanks to a blog reader’s remarks) decision to study only those daughters who had reached adulthood.

Madame Louise Gobert

Madame Louise of France Gobert

Marie-Louise, known simply as Madame Louise, or Madame Troisième (“Madame the Third”) was born in Versailles on July 28, 1728, less than one year after her twin sisters, Mesdames Elisabeth and Henriette. Everyone, most of all her parents, hoped for a boy this time, since women were not eligible to inherit the French crown in their own right. As soon as it became known that the baby was a girl, all of the celebrations that had been planned in anticipation of the birth of a Dauphin were canceled, except for a mass in at the Royal Chapel of the Palace.

We have scant information about little Madame Marie-Louise, apart from the circumstances of her untimely death. Fortunately remains this charming portrait of the princess as a toddler, by Pierre Gobert. A healthy, plump little girl, with a rather determined jawline and fearless gaze.

During the winter of 1733, when she was four and a half years old, she caught a cold. Nothing unusual for a child of that age in that season, and the princess might have survived but for the “care” she received at the hands of one of the Court physicians. To alleviate her fever, he bled her four times in a row. This in itself must have caused severe dehydration, which was aggravated by the emetic she was given. The poor little girl did not stand a chance against 18th century medicine. She was christened in haste and died a few days later, on February 19, 1733.

This concludes my Daughters of Louis XV series. So are we done with these ladies? Certainly not. While researching each sister, I discovered more about her siblings. I also have more portraits to share with you. And readers nudged me in directions I hadn’t anticipated (what about the romantic life of Madame Adélaïde, for instance?) So we will go back to these fascinating ladies in short order.

In the meantime, here are links to the entire Daughters of Louis XV series:

Madame Elisabeth, Duchess of Parma
Madame Henriette
Madame Marie-Louise
Madame Adélaïde
Madame Victoire
Madame Sophie
Madame Thérèse
Madame Louise (Venerable Mother Thérèse de Saint-Augustin)


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14 Comments to “Madame Marie-Louise, daughter of Louis XV”

  1. Catherine Delors says:

    Thank you, Felio! And I have more paintings coming on the princesses…

  2. Felio Vasa says:

    Thank you Catherine. Great series. They were really informative & I loved the paintings you choose to go along with them too.

  3. Louise says:

    Indeed no, studying Louis XIII’s life makes one all too familiar with them! I’m sure his descendants would agree with his comment that “I have had the misfortune of all great men – which is to be put into the hands of doctors.”

  4. Catherine Delors says:

    I see that you are no stranger to the horrors of early modern medicine, Louise!

  5. Louise says:

    It makes me think of what Louis XIII (Madame Louise’s great-great-great grandfather) said to his physician, Bouvard, on his deathbed in 1643: “I would have lived much longer if not for you.” Given he left this world at the age of 41, and his health had been totally undermined by his medical treatment, he knew what he was talking about. I can only guess that it was only his first physician, Heroard’s, aversion to bleeding that allowed Louis and most of his siblings to survive childhood. Poor Madame Louise did not stand much chance – it sounds like she died of exsanguination and organ failure, poor little girl!

  6. Daphne says:

    She looks so sweet and adorable. Thanks for sharing all of the information about these young ladies.

  7. Catherine Delors says:

    Elisa, Richard, Lucy – Thank you! It is the appreciation of readers like you that makes writing these posts a joy.

    And Richard, you make an excellent point. Indeed Salic law has never been repealed.

  8. Lucy says:

    Thank you so much for all these fascinating posts, Catherine. They’ve certainly peeked my curiosity to want to learn even more about these ladies. I’m so glad you’ll be writing more on them.

  9. Richard says:

    “…since women were not eligible to inherit the French crown in their own right.” should not the operative word be are vis were?

    Nice article, I have linked to you.


  10. Elisa says:

    Merci! I enjoyed reading about these fascinating princesses. We read so much about them but at the same time know so little about them.

  11. Catherine Delors says:

    Yes, Penny and Elena, so sad to have this little girl die of a mere cold. But then, a generation earlier, the future Louis XV survived a similarly harmless disease only because the Court physicians didn’t pay any attention to him and reserved their ministrations for his parents and elder brother (who all died in a matter of days.)

    Julio – A big heartfelt thank you! Funny you ask the question of writing about the Russian Revolution. Fascinating topic, and a few weeks ago I was talking about it with one of my closest friends. His father had been a Bolshevik, while his paternal grandfather had fought in the White Army (to tragically die in Auschwitz 20 years later.) I was telling him what a story that was, and encouraged him to write it. He showed little enthusiasm. As for me, unfortunately I don’t speak or read Russian. So I am content to reread Doctor Zhivago once in a while…

  12. Julio says:

    Thank you for the captivating information about Marie-Louise. So sad. I look forward to more. I just finished your book, Mistress of the Revolution, and loved it. However, if I could have covered my eyes and read at the same time I would have when I got to the part about Princess de Lambelle’s murder. Have you considered writing about the Russian revolution?

  13. Oh, how sad! Perhaps sending the other girls to the abbey delivered them from the deathly ministrations of the court physicians…..Unbelievable. He killed that child.

  14. Penny says:

    what a charming child. so sad. it is amazing any of humanity survived medicine of the time.
    in the meantime, people are enjoying your paperback.

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