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French queens and the fleur-de-lys – part 2

Following on from last week’s post, Anne and Marie were far from being the only French queens to wear blue fleur de lys dresses (which may or may not have incorporated at least part of the same garments)

Margaret of Valois, the first wife of Henry IV of France (Marie de Medici was his second), was one:

Henry of Navarre and Margaret of Valois, 1572

And two generations before her, Claude of France, the mother in law of the infamous Catherine de Medici, was painted in a fleur de lys cloak. It is unclear, however, if the painting was commissioned during her life, or during Catherine de Medici’s, so the cloak may not be historical.

Claude de France (1499-1524) and her daughters (Louise, Charlotte, Madeleine and Marguerite) and Eleonore of Habsbourg, from Catherine de Medici's book of hours

Skipping forward in time, Anne’s daughter in law, Marie Therese of France, was painted in a dress with a modified fluer de lys bodice (possibly the same, or at least partly the same, as the dress worn by Anne in 1646). In contrast to the rivalry shown in Anne and Marie de Medici’s portraits, Marie -Therese’s painting is probably meant to honour her mother in law, with whom she had a close and loving relationship.

Charles Beaubrun, Marie-Thérèse of Spain, Queen of France, circa 1660

Marie-Therese’s first daughter in law, Duchesse Maria Anne Victoria of Bavaria, died in 1690 and did not live to be Queen of France, but a posthumous portrait shows her in the fleur de lys and ermine robes of French royalty:

Attributed to Jean François de Troy (1679-1752), Maria Anna of Bavaria, la Grande Dauphine, post 1690

Her daughter in law, Marie Adelaide de Savoie, in her turn, also died before becoming Queen. She was, at least, painted before her death.

Unknown artist of the école française, Marie Adélaïde of Savoy, Duchess of Burgundy (1685-1712), ca 1710

Marie Adélaïde’s first two sons died in childhood, so her third son became Louis XV of France, and his wife Marie Leszczyńska was to be France’s longest serving royal consort. This gave her plenty of time to have her portrait done, frequently in the fleur de lys and ermine robes.

Queen Marie Leszczyńska, wife of Louis XV by Alexis-Simon Belle, ca 1725

Two of the earliest portraits are the most interesting though.  In 1726 she was painted in the full fleur de lys gown and robes to commemorate her marriage:

François Albert Stiemart, Marie Leszczyńska at Versailles, 1726

A few years later, she was portrayed in a painting that made a much subtler, more allegorical link to her status.  Rather than being draped in fleur de lys, she wears blue and carries a spray of lilies, the flower the emblem originated from, which also symbolised French nationality and (through their link to the annunciation and the Virgin Mary) feminine virtues.

Alexis Simon Belle, Maria Leszczyńska, ca 1730

What a lovely way to make a point about national pride and virtue, without going over the top?

With ‘in your face’ and subtle out of the way, Marie L went on to be painted in fleur de lys a further eight times (that makes 11 portraits celebrating her status in total!).

François Stiémart, Marie Leszczyńska, Queen of France, circa 1730

Jean-Baptiste van Loo, Marie Leszczyńska, Queen of France, ca 1730

Alexis-Simon Belle, Marie Leszczyńska, Queen of France (1703-1768) and the Dauphin Louis (1729–1765), circa 1730

Louis Tocqué (1696-1772), Marie Leszczyńska, Queen of France, circa 1740.

Marie Leszczyńska, Queen of France, date unknown

Marie Leszczyńska, Queen of France, date unknown

After Jean-Marc Nattier, Marie Leszczyńska Queen of France, after 1750

Marie Leszczyńska also had a daughter in law portrait, though of a much nicer nature than Marie and Anne’s a century and a quarter before.

Follower of Michel van Loo, Allegorical portrait of Marie Leszczyńska, Queen of France and her daughter in law Maria Josepha of Saxony, Dauphine of France, c.1765

More on Maria Josepha and the last of the French queens in a few days.

1 Comment

  1. TMN Raugravine says

    What a wonderful site. I could sit and look at these beautiful portraits all night!

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