18th Century

A sweet Mother-in-law story

While posting about French Queens and the fleur de lys I came across this lovely story about the relationship between Maria Leszczyńska, and her daughter in law, the Dauphine Maria Josepha of Saxony.

Maurice Quentin de La Tour, Portrait de Marie Leczinska, Queen of France, 1748

Jean-Martial Fredou. Marie-Josèphe of Saxony, Dauphine of France. 1760. Oil on canvas (?). Location unknown.

Maria L was very close to the first wife of the Dauphin, Marie Therèse Raphaëlle, and was distraught when she died.  This did not bode well for potential MIL-DIL relationships during the Dauphin’s second marriage To Maria Josepha (after all, who wants to be compared to the beautiful, sweet, pious, beloved first wife all the time!), and circumstances conspired to make Maria Josepha’s position even less promising.

Louis-Michel van Loo, Portrait of Maria Teresa Rafaela of Spain (1726-1746), ca. 1740

First, the marriage had been strongly supported by Louis XV’s mistress, Madame de Pompadour, and the catty Versaille courtiers took every opportunity to remind Maria L how humiliating it was that her eldest son’s marriage was arranged by her husband’s powerful mistress.

To make matters worse, Maria Josepha was the granddaughter of Augustus II of Saxony, who had dethroned Maria L’s father, StanisÅ‚aw LeszczyÅ„ski, from the throne of Poland, causing Maria L a very stressful, unhappy, and uncertain childhood.  And of course, the French court used this as anther excuse to twit Maria L.

Poor woman!  I certainly wouldn’t have been surprised if she had been awful to her new daughter in law!

Maria L, however, was too much of a lady to prejudge Maria Josepha (after all, she couldn’t help who her grandfather was, or who arranged her marriage), and possibly remembered how hard her own arrival at Versailles had been, so resolved to give her the benefit of the doubt.

The 15 year old Maria Josepha, in her turn, showed uncommon tact for her tender years.

It was the custom for royal brides to wear a portrait bracelet of their father at their marriage, as a symbol of the man who was giving them away (yes, very Medieval, get over it).

Maria Josepha with a portrait bracelet

Upon meeting the new Dauphine, Maria L extended an olive branch and asked to see her bracelet.  Maria Josepha held out her arm to reveal that she was wearing not a portrait of her father, Frederick II of Saxony, but a portrait of Maria L’s father, Stanislas!  She said it was to symbolise her admiration for him, and that he was now her Grandfather by marriage.

Awwww….  How sweet is that?

Not surprisingly, the Queen and the Dauphine managed to become fast friends.  The Dauphine wasn’t putting on her admiration for Stanislas either, she would later name  one of her sons after Maria L’s father.

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

Now that’s how to be a good mother in law, and a good daughter in law!  I’m lucky that I have a wonderful MIL of my own!


  1. Lauren says

    I love that story (and the gorgeous paintings)! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. I love the first portrait of Marie Leczinska. The artist done a flattering job and caught her personality. She looks like a very sweet yet no-nonsense kind of lady.

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