Madame Thérèse, daughter of Louis XV

At first I had planned to limit this series on the daughters of Louis XV and Marie Leszczynska to those who had reached adulthood. Then a reader mentioned privately that she hoped I would include the little princesses who had died as children. Indeed in their own sad way they too illustrate life and death in the 18th century.

Thérèse-Félicité was born in Versailles on the 16th of May 1736, the ninth of the royal children. She was barely two when, with her sisters Victoire, Sophie and baby Louise, she left, never to return, for the Abbey of Fontevraud under the supervision of an under-governess.

Little Thérése did not adapt well to the humid climate of the Loire Valley. The Abbess of Fontevraud noted that she was often sick. At the end of September 1744, the princess’s health deteriorated dramatically. This time is was not a mere cold, but the dreaded smallpox. She received full baptism then, with her nurse and a valet as godparents, and died on the next day, at the age of eight. She was buried in the crypt of the Abbey, among the Plantegenêts. Royal tombs, though not those of her family. Louis XV was then very sick, the country feared for his life and no one paid much attention to the death of one of the King’s many daughters, exiled far from Paris.

I could not find any portrait of the Madame Thérèse. Indeed none may have been painted during her short life. So I will be content to post a picture of the funeral monument of Alénor d’Aquitaine at Fontevraud. The mighty Queen of France and England keeps the forgotten little princess company in her last earthly rest.

Fontevraud Alienor of Aquitaine

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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13 Comments to “Madame Thérèse, daughter of Louis XV”

  1. Czarina says:

    a very sad story for the four sisters, why did Queen Marie Leszczynska let this happen to her children? I just cant imagine a mother would let her 2 yr old and even less than a year child be away from her.

    you always have good posts Catherine! Loved them all!

  2. Jules says:

    Chere Catherine,

    Ondoyer is a lovely French word. In its more usual sense it is used to denote the swaying occasioned by the passing of a breeze or wind, ‘Le vent fait ondoyer l’herbe’. In fact the English word, which like so many, comes from the French. We have ‘undulate’, although it is arcane or poetic – ‘The wind makes the grass undulate…’ We would more normally say something such as, ‘The wheat swayed in the wind’

    That idea of gentle motion, or gentle waves, presumably leads us to ‘un ondoiement’, an undulation, or provisional baptism. J’aime croire que c’est le Saint-Esprit qui fait ondoyer l’enfant’ – the idea being that the God comes like a gentle breeze to welcome the child to His family through baptism.

    Felicitations pour your website – magnifique!

  3. marquise diamond says:

    Yes you learn more while you share your knowledge with others. . . . . .

  4. Rod Fizer says:

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  5. Catherine Delors says:

    Thank you, Felio. Yes, Alienor’s monument is beautiful, quite worthy of the queen it commemorates. I love the fact that the pigments are still so vibrant. This is unusual for medieval statuary.
    As for Therese and her three sisters, they were sent away only to save the costs their educations at Versailles would have entailed…

  6. Felio Vasa says:

    Great post Catherine, my question is why did she have to leave Versailles/ her family?
    Love the picture of Alenor d’ Aquitaine too.

  7. Catherine Delors says:

    Like her siblings she had been “ondoyee” (emergency christening that can be performed by any attendant) at birth, as was customary in 18th century France. That was (and still is) sufficient, from a Catholic standpoint, for a newborn or infant. However, at 8, she was old enough to receive Extreme Unction, and therefore a full baptism was required. If any reader knows the exact translation of “ondoyer” I welcome his or her help…

  8. cecilia says:

    I am amazed she were not yet baptized at the age of eight! Can you tell me which could the reason be?

  9. Catherine Delors says:

    Thank you, Amy and Penny!

  10. Penny Klein says:

    thank you for this sad but moving story. it is always good to keep someone’s name alive.

  11. That’s so sad that there isn’t even a portrait of her and that she wasn’t properly mourned at the time of her passing. Thanks to your post we at least can honor her. Great post as always!

  12. Catherine Delors says:

    Very sad indeed, Lucy. I will dedicate another post on first Madame Louise, who also died as a child. And also of course on her sister of the same name, the last of the royal children.

  13. Lucy says:

    Poor little sweetheart, it’s so sad. Almost as though she came and went without anyone really noticing. Thank you for honoring her memory, Catherine.

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