Monday 23 June 2014

The Short Political Career of Queen Marie Leszczyńska

Marie Leszczyńska (Maria Karolina Zofia Felicja Leszczyńska; Trzebnica, Poland, 23rd June 1703 – Versailles, France, 24th June 1768)

Marie Leszczyńska by Jean-Marc Nattier, 1748
Marie Leszczyńska by Jean-Marc Nattier, 1748

Although we have previously welcomed Marie Leszczyńska to the salon, she was very much there as one of a pair, celebrating her wedding to King Louis XV of France. Today, however, I would like to take the focus away from her nuptials and look instead at her less than successful political career, where she tried to join the movers and shakers of the Bourbon court.

Not long after she became the Queen Consort of France, Marie made her first tentative steps into court politics when she prevailed upon her husband to find a cabinet position for Louis Henri de Bourbon, Duke of Bourbon, Prince de Condé and the man who had brokered her marriage to the king. The appointment was not successful and ended with the Duke leaving the court to retire to his country estate.

After that Louis refused to grant his wife any further political influence and eventually she was completely sidelined and devoted her time to pastimes and philanthropy. Removed from political manoeuvring and with her husband seeking companionship elsewhere, Marie was left with no choice but to find other ways to pass her time, which she did happily, spending her 96,000 livres pension at the gambling table and occasionally representing the king at formal ceremonies that he was unable to attend.

Although she would later dip her toe into the waters of court intrigue again when her widowed son needed to find a second wife, the queen was not destined to be a political force. Hugely popular with the people of France she  instead concentrated on other aspects of life, taking rewards from faith and family.

Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.

Pen and Sword
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)


Unknown said...

I think I distantly recall reading an unkind description of Marie as a 'very nice old bore.' Thanks so much for putting things in a fairer light.

Catherine Curzon said...

Poor Marie, she didn't have the easiest time of it at court!