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.
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.
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.
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.
Links to the entire Daughters of Louis XV series: