It was 251 years ago today that the Dauphine Marie-Josèphe, the widow of the Dauphin Louis, Louis XV’s only son, died at Versailles. Her husband had predeceased her by 15 months. During their 19-year marriage they’d had a total of 13 children. Sadly, less than half of these little ones lived to adulthood. Among those who did were the future kings Louis XVI, Louis XVIII, and Charles X.
Marie-Josèphe was a Saxon, the daughter of Augustus III, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony. She was brought to France to marry the Dauphin in 1746 when she was only 15. His first wife, a Spanish infanta, had died in the first year of their marriage. The Dauphin’s mother, Queen Marie Leszczynska, was opposed to the match because her father and Marie-Josèphe’s father had been rivals for the Polish crown, which the latter had won. There is a charming story that one day the young Saxon princess was seen to be wearing a portrait bracelet. The Queen asked to see it and was touched to find the portrait of her own father, King Stanislas. The Dauphine seems to have applied the same tact to her dealings with all her new family, and was therefore genuinely mourned after she died.
The Dauphin and Dauphine, along with Queen Marie Leszczynska, were the centre of the “moral” faction at court that disapproved of Louis XV’s libertine ways, and of worldly ways in general. After their deaths, Louis XV’s eldest surviving daughter, Madame Adélaïde, became the leader of this so-called “Old Court.”
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