Madame Victoire, daughter of Louis XV

Yet another daughter of Louis XV and Marie Leszczynska. Though she was born in 1733, and thus only one year younger than her sister Adélaïde, Marie-Louise-Thérèse-Victoire was raised quite differently. What had happened? Budget troubles already. If Madame Victoire and her three younger sisters had grown up in Versailles, each princess would have required her own maison (household.) Hundreds of servants and attendants, an enormous expense.

Royal Abbey Fontevraud

So Louis XV’s Prime Minister, Cardinal de Fleury, chose to send Madame Victoire, then only five, and her younger sisters to the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud. It was an ancient and prestigious institution, the “Queen of the Abbeys,” founded by the Plantagenêts in the heart of the Loire Valley, before they became Kings of England. There were buried King Henri II Plantagenêt, his wife Aliénor d’Aquitaine and their son Richard Cœur de Lion (the Lionheart for his English subjects.) But Fontevraud, beautiful as it was – and still is – was no teaching establishment. Madame Campan, in her Memoirs, harshly criticizes this decision to send the four little princesses, “as mere boarders, to a convent eighty leagues from the Court,” to be raised by “provincial nuns”.

“Madame Victoire,” continues Madame Campan, “attributed the terror attacks she had never been able to overcome to the violent fears she felt at the Abbey of Fontevraud, every time she was sent, as a punishment, to pray alone in the nuns’ burial crypt. No salutary foresight have protected these princesses from the fateful impressions that the least informed mother knows how to keep away from her children.” One can wonder whether the nuns, though of course honored by the confidence placed in them by Louis XV and Cardinal de Fleury, were very happy to have four little princesses thus unexpectedly foisted upon them.

Madame Victoire of france at fontevraud nattier

Victoire was only five when she was sent to Fontevraud, and she did not return to Versailles until 1748, ten years later. This beautiful portrait by Nattier was painted one year before she left the Abbey. She had inherited her father’s dark eyes and hair, long lashes, and obviously his good looks.

Victoire’s eldest sister Madame Elisabeth tried to arrange a marriage with her brother-in-law, King Ferdinand VI of Spain. But there was the small matter of Ferdinand being already married, and his wife, though sickly, taking an inconvenient time to die… When the Queen of Spain finally passed away in 1758, Ferdinand himself was dying.

Victoire was already over 25, and it does not seem that any other marriage plans were made for her. She remained in Versailles with her mother and sisters and was particularly close to Louise, the youngest. When the latter left the Court to become a Carmelite, “she shed many a silent tear on her abandonment,” Madame Campan informs us.

Madame Victoire Labille Guiard

madame-victoire-of-france-labille-guiard

Yet she found solace in what was left to her: good food, of which she was very fond, the downy comfort of her favorite easy chair, and mostly the company of her remaining sisters Adélaïde and Sophie. In their château of Bellevue, away from Versailles, they enjoyed the company of a small but devoted circle of intimates. I have mentioned in in another post the part Madame Victoire may unwittingly have played in the Let them eat cake wrongly attributed to Marie-Antoinette. It was certainly said without any malice, for everyone agrees on her kindness and concern for the unfortunates.

By the time of the Revolution, the only surviving children of Louis XV were Mesdames Adélaïde and Victoire. From then on they were inseparable. Together they left France for Italy in 1791, a few months before the disastrous and failed flight of the rest of the royal family to Varennes. Together they moved from town to town, fleeing the advance of the French troops.

Then in 1799, after eight years of wanderings. Victoire died in Trieste of breast cancer. Adélaïde survived only eight months.

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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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22 Comments to “Madame Victoire, daughter of Louis XV”

  1. Penny says:

    I was just thinking about the daughters of Louis XV and surprise, you add an entry. why did she say let them eat cake if that was said? did she also dislike Marie Antoinette? what was she like?

  2. Catherine Delors says:

    Penny, I must have failed in this post if I didn’t manage to give an idea of what Victoire was like. Why did she want starving people to eat pate crust? Because she was kind, and cut off from reality.

  3. One really wonders about the wisdom of sending a five year old off to Fontevraud. Certainly there were Visitation convents, which specialized in teaching girls, where the little princesses would have been better off. It always amuses me how Madame
    Adélaïde threw a tantrum about leaving home and so was able to stay at Versailles.

  4. Catherine Delors says:

    Absolutely, Elena, and imagine she was only six years old! She must have been quite a determined little person already.
     
    You are right about a Visitation convent as a better alternative to Fontevraud. Madame Campan also thought of Saint-Cyr since it was dedicated to the education of young noblewomen.

  5. Lucy says:

    Victoire was indeed a kind person, but not the brightest. I’ve been searching for more info about her last years in Trieste, and can find little to nothing. Do you have any suggestions?

    Thanks,
    Lucy

  6. Catherine Delors says:

    True, Lucy, Victoire lacked Adelaide’s intellect. On her last years in Italy, there’s Bruno Cortequisse’s Mesdames de France.

    http://www.amazon.com/Mesdames-France-Bruno-Cortequisse/dp/2262017646/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1232561692&sr=8-4

    Out of print, unfortunately, and horribly expensive…

  7. Lucy says:

    …this always seems to be the case with good books. I’ll try to look it up anyway. Thank you so much.
    Lucy

  8. Julio says:

    What a fascinating story Catherine. I’m glad to hear Victoire and Adelaide were able to escape the brutality of the revolution. Its also interesting to learn that she was behind the “let them eat cake”. Terrific post.

  9. Catherine Delors says:

    Thank you, Julio! Yes fortunately the two surviving daughters escaped the violence of the Revolution. Next week we will turn our attention to Madame Sophie.

  10. Madame,

    What a lovely article.

    I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog, and learning about all these fascinating characters.

  11. Catherine Delors says:

    Thank you, dear Hummingbird! Your own blog is lovely.

  12. Penny says:

    I am sorry. I don’t know how i missed that. she doesn’t seem like a bad person, just a bit of an airhead. is that what you meant?

  13. Catherine Delors says:

    Penny – “Airhead” implies frivolity, and Victoire was not frivolous. She took people’s sufferings at heart, but she didn’t have the intellectual curiosity of Adelaide and had led such a sheltered life that she couldn’t imagine how dire poverty was.

  14. Saint Cyr, exactly. They should have sent them there.

  15. Catherine Delors says:

    Certainly a beautiful school with a prestigious academic record, and so much closer to Versailles.

  16. Penny Klein says:

    I stand corrected. I never meant to imply frivolity. I just don’t think she was thinking very clearly about their needs. what she said just did not sound very well thought out. It was a word i remembered from my college days to describe the so called students who seemed to party all the time, not bad people just not thoughtful.

  17. Catherine Delors says:

    Please don’t stand corrected, Penny. I believe we acquire an intuitive knowledge of people long dead, and try to convey it to others.

  18. Louise says:

    That Nattier painting is exquisite indeed!

    Breast cancer – how horrible. I wonder if there is a genetic tendency to such cancers, given that Mme Victoire’s ancestress Anne d’Autriche died of the same thing.

    I loved your comment to Penny that “I believe we acquire an intuitive knowledge of people long dead, and try to convey it to others” – that is precisely how I feel in reading about people of the past. I can never grasp the mentality of historians who study people for years and still write about them as if they had no feelings, no flesh and blood.

  19. Jane Austen says:

    Nattier was a horrible painter, and I do not know why he is praised. All his paintings looks like it is of the same woman. It is the same with the Dutch/English painter, Peter Lely. He painted the women in King Charles II’s life, and they all look the same.

    And neither of Louis XV’s daughters were even remotely pretty. His only survivng son, on the other hand, was very handsome. His (the dauphin’s) children were not bad looking either (maybe with exception of Provence. Clothilde was cute in my opinion. Fat, yes, but cute.)

    And also Elisabeth, Louis XVI’s sister was extremely pretty.

  20. Louis de la Pau says:

    Thank you so much for publishing such wonderful information about the daughters of Louis XV. History seems to have virtually forgotten their existence, while they were portrayed rather horribly in Ms. Coppola’s rendering of Marie-Antoinette.
    I can’t quite agree with Jane Austen’s remarks about Nattier. He was a superb painter who worked according to the fashions of the 1740s and 1750s. Very chocolate-box in style, I admit, and without even the depth of Fragonard or Boucher, but his art was and is still very pleasing to the eye. And as to whether Louis XV’s daughters were pretty or not, it’s difficult to say. I think Mme Sophie in the later protrait originally attributed to Marie-Antoinette definitely appears attractive.
    I do hope more information appears about the last years of the two princesses in Trieste. Have you thought of writing to the Imperial Archives in Vienna? The area was under Austrian control at the time and I’m sure there should be a wealth of information available there.
    Best regards
    Louis

  21. Roger Walker says:

    Regarding Nattier, I believe he painted for a world with strict cannons of beauty. I like the heavily rouged cheeks as well as the lead paint base underneath. I think these women wanted to look fashionable, rather than as they really were. One has to wait a few decades for anything approaching reality.

  22. Louis de la Pau says:

    There is something in what you say, Roger. When one considers the paintings of the Princesse de Conti and the Polignac princesses, it’s easy to see a strong resemblance between them and Louis XV’s daughters in the Nattier paintings. But I still think that personal appearance WAS adhered to in most cases, despite all the apparant similarities at first glance.