|By Maurice Quentin de La Tour, 1745|
We have already been present at the marriage of the parents of Louis, Dauphin of France and have spent time in the company of more than one of their illustrious children so it seemed like an opportune moment to meet the Dauphin himself. A longed-for heir to the throne of France, Louis would not live long enough to take the crown, and today we visit him at the end of his short life.
As the son of Louis XV of France and his wife, Queen Marie Leszczyńska, Louis was always expected to one day become King of France. After years without an heir, the Dauphin's birth was a blessing that the whole of France celebrated with great rejoicing. Fireworks were let off across the country and court breathed a sigh of relief that succession was assured.
By the age of 16 Louis was already a widower, bereft at the loss of his adored wife, Maria Teresa Rafaela, but the young man's status assured that he would not be single for long. In fact, as soon as the Dauphin married his second wife, Archduchess Maria Josepha of Austria, in 1747, the couple set about the business of producing heirs of their own. Three of their children would go on to be kings of France, Louis XVI, Louis XVIII and Charles X, each with their own dramatic stories to tell.
A devoted husband to both of his wives and interested in culture and religious pursuits, Louis was a hugely popular figure with the public, the court and his own family. However, his life was a short one and at the age of just 36, ill health forced him to take to his bed at Fontainebleau. He would never again emerge and died here in December of consumption, leaving behind the wife who adored him and would never really recover from his loss. Just two years later she too fell victim to tuberculosis and though the Dauphin's body was laid to rest in Sens, his heart was interred with his wife Saint Denis.