From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Marie Leszczyńska (Trzebnica, 23 June, 1703 – Versailles, 24 June, 1768) was a queen consort of France. She was a daughter of King Stanisław Leszczyński of Poland (later Duke of Lorraine) and Catherine Opalińska. She married King Louis XV of France and was the grandmother of Louis XVI, Louis XVIII, and Charles X. In France, she was referred to as Marie Leczinska. She was the longest serving Queen Consort of France.
Maria Karolina Zofia Felicja Leszczyńska h. Wieniawa was the second daughter of Stanisław Leszczyński and his wife Katarzyna Opalińska. Her older sister Anna Leszczyńska (1699-1717) died at the age of 18 of pneumonia.
Maria's early life was troubled by her father's political misfortune. Ironically, King Stanisław's hopeless political career was eventually the reason why his daughter Maria was chosen as the bride of King Louis XV of France. Devoid of political connections, his daughter was viewed by the French as being free from the burden of international alliances.
Born in Trzebnica in Lower Silesia, she was born in the year before her father was made King of Poland by Charles XII of Sweden who invaded the country that year. She would be brought up as a fugitive princess living for a while in Stockholm in Sweden.
Very close to her father, Maria was tutored while in her father's exile in Wissembourg in Alsace, a region of France. This place was a suggestion by the French de facto ruler Philippe d'Orléans, a nephew of Louis XIV and regent of France for the infant king Louis XV.
The family was supported by a pension from the Duke of Orléans, and during their time in Wissembourg, the young Maria was asked for her hand in marriage by Louis Henri, Duke of Bourbon, who was a grandson of Louis XIV and the prime minister of France beginning in 1723. That same year, the young king of France, Louis XV, fell ill. The prime minister became afraid of the consequences of the young, unmarried king dying without an heir. In order to ensure the succession of the Crown, the prime minister suggested a marriage between the young princess and the even younger king.
thumb|left|Arms of Marie as queen of France Maria was on a list of 99 eligible ladies in Europe to marry the young king.
Cardinal Fleury, the replacement of the Duke of Bourbon as Louis XV's Prime Minister, wanted to find his king a royal bride who would not drag France into any complicated political alliances and supported the marriage. Upon her marriage, Maria's Polish name was modified into French as Marie Leczinska.
The young couple's marriage was initially happy and they had many children, most of whom were incredibly loyal to their mother. In August 1727, Maria gave birth to her first children, twin daughters named Louise Élisabeth and Henriette Anne, at the Palace of Versailles. The elder twin, Louise Élisabeth, later married the Infante Felipe of Spain and eventually became the Duchess Consort of Parma. Through Louise Élisabeth, Marie became an ancestor of Juan Carlos I of Spain. Louis XV was a notorious womaniser, and several of his mistresses, particularly the glamorous Madame de Pompadour, eventually eclipsed the Queen's social status at Versailles. Most of his affairs were with her knowledge, and she either simply accepted them, or was powerless to stop them.
thumb|Maria Leszczyńska, Queen of France. Marie was a devout Roman Catholic. Her major contribution to life at Versailles was the weekly event of Polish Choral Concerts. She also met the young Mozart, whom she found very charming and acted as a go between for her husband and family who did not understand German. She also started a correspondence with the famous Voltaire, for whom she secured a pension.
On 4 September 1725, she married Louis XV of France. They had eleven children:
- Louise Élisabeth (14 August 1727 – 6 December 1759) Duchess of Parma, had issue;
- Henriette Anne (14 August 1727 – 10 February 1752) died unmarried.
- Marie-Louise (28 July 1728 – 19 February 1733) died in childhood:
- Louis, Dauphin of France (4 September 1729 – 20 December 1765) married Infanta Maria Teresa Rafaela of Spain; had issue then married Duchess Marie-Josèphe of Saxony and had issue;
- Philippe of France, Duke of Anjou (30 August 1730 – 17 April 1733) died in childhood
- Marie Adélaïde (23 March 1732 – 27 February 1800) died unmarried
- Victoire Louise Marie Thérèse (11 May 1733 – 7 June 1799) died unmarried
- Sophie Philippine Élisabeth Justine (17 July 1734 – 3 March 1782); died unmarried
- Stillborn Child (28 March 1735 – 28 March 1735)
- Marie Thérèse Félicité (16 May 1736 – 28 September 1744) died in childhood
- Louise Marie (5 July 1737 – 23 December 1787) was a nun
The birth of Marie's last child, Louise Marie was a child birth that nearly took her life: she was warned not to have any other children in her life and she did not. It was during this time that the king decided to take to his more famous mistresses, most prominently Madame de Pompadour who was introduced to the royal court at the wedding of her son Louis to Infanta Maria Teresa Rafaela of Spain - Louis XV's cousin. During an era when France was a very powerful nation, Austria was often in conflict with the French and the ambassador Count Mercy (who later helped secure the marriage of Louis XVI of France and Marie Antoinette) was said to have had an affair with the queen; this seems highly unlikely and was disregarded as court gossip. Marie was known for her good manners, grace and her piety.
Her daughter-in-law the infanta of Spain died at the age of 20 after giving birth to a granddaughter named Marie Thérèse. The Queen, very fond and loving of her only son encouraged the marriage of her Louis to Duchess Marie-Josèphe of Saxony, the daughter of her father's rival, Frederick Augustus Wettin of Saxony, King August III of Poland. Initially, this connection caused some friction between the Queen and her new daughter-in-law. However, the friction was soon overcome, reportedly because the young German princess was an admirer of the Queen's romantically unlucky father. In honour of him, several of the Queen's grandsons received the name Stanislas at their christenings.
Marie died in 1768, six years before her husband. His new mistress was a former prostitute, Madame du Barry. Marie's children and grandchildren sincerely grieved at Marie's death. At her death she was known as the Bonne Reine Marie -Good Queen Marie. Two years later, her grandson, the future Louis XVI was married to a young Austrian archduchess, Marie Antoinette.
- Two of Marie's grandchildren met their deaths on the guillotine during the French Revolution: Louis XVI and Madame Élisabeth.
- Another two grandchildren, Louis XVIII and Charles X, became kings of France after the Bourbon Restoration in 1814.
- Marie is a major character in the novel The Royal Merry-Go-Round, the story of Louis XV's adventurous love life. In the anime Le Chevalier D'Eon, she is one of the characters manipulating many of the events in the story.
- Though presumed to be not too clever, Marie Leczinska was an author of at least a few quips. It is said that following the death of the Protestant marshall Maurice de Saxe she remarked: "How sad, that we cannot sing "De Profundis", for a man thanks to whom we sang so often "Te Deum""