18th Century

Royal inter-marriage proposals

Last week I promised you all the gossip on Mariana Victoria and her engagement.

In 1721 Mariana Victoria was bethrothed, at age 3, to her first cousin, Louis XV of France.

Louis, like most 11 year old boys, was not interested in toddlers, and avoided his fiancee as much as possible.

Portrait of Louis XV of France with Mariana Victoria of France by Francoise de Troy, 1722

As Louis got older and got interested in girls, things got worse.  I can’t imagine what  could be creepier as a 15 year old trying to flirt with the ladies of the court than having your 7 year old future-wife hanging about the place.

The situation was resolved in 1725 when Louis had a health scare and the powers-that-be in France, desperate to avoid him dying without a heir, shipped Mariana back to Spain and married the 15 year old Louis off to the princess most likely to have kids right away, and  least likely to really anger and insult the Spanish: the 21 year old  Maria LeszczyÅ„ska.

He was momentarily enchanted with his older bride, before becoming enchanted with a dozen other women, including Madame de Pompadour and Madame du Barry.  Perhaps the enchantment with the notoriously plain Maria L was just relief at getting rid of Mariana!

That’s not all though:

Mariana’s engagement to Louis wasn’t the only one on the books.  His cousin, Louise Élisabeth d’Orleans, then age 11, was sent off to Spain to marry Mariana’s brother, Louis I of Spain, then 15.  In addition Louise E’s sister,  Philippine Élisabeth d’Orleans, was engaged to Louis I’s half brother, Carlos.

Louise Elisabeth d'Orleans by Jean Ranc, 1724

Poor Louise E had a miserable marriage, hated Spain, and hated her mother in law.  To make matters worse, when her sister Philippine arrived, rather than having someone to commiserate too, Philippine became instantly adored and the toast of the Spanish court, and a bitter rivalry broke out between the sisters.

Philippine Élisabeth d'Orleans or her sister Louise Anne de Bourbon by Jean-Marc Nattier, 1731

Happily, and sadly, Louise E’s husband died before the bits that the Spanish considered important had happened and she was sent back to France, but just plain sadly for Philippine, her engagement was also broken off as a result of her sister’s marriage ending, and she died, disappointed, of smallpox a few years later.

That’s not all though

The French and the Spanish immediately got extremely angry and insulted with each other.  The Spanish were mad at the French because Mariana Victoria had been sent home.  The French were mad at the Spanish because Louise and Philippine were sent home.

They French and Spanish spent a generation being extremely grumpy with each other, until finally, in 1739 they settled the feud in the usual way: with betrothals!

Mariana Victoria’s little sister, Maria Teresa Rafaela (then , was engaged to Louis XV’s son, the Dauphin Louis.   In addition, Louis XV’s eldest daughter Louise Elisabeth (then 12) was engaged to her father’s first cousin, and the sibling of Mariana and Maria, the Infante Phillip of Spain.  Are you keeping track of all the weirdness there?

Some lessons had been learnt from the earlier, failed marriages, at least among the Spanish, who refused to send Maria Teresa to France until she was 18.  When she did arrive her new husband instantly adored her, but alas, she died in childbirth only a little over a year later.

Portrait of Maria Teresa Rafaela of Spain (1726-1746) by Louis Michel Van loo, ca 1740

Louise Elisabeth was no more fortunate: she lived to a ripe old age, but she was married at 13, and had her first child at 14.  And she hated her husband.  But she did get to go home to France for frequent visits.

Élisabeth with her husband and their children Ferdinand and Maria Luisa; by Giuseppe Baldrighi, ca 1755




1 Comment

  1. Susan Jarrett says

    How funny! I am currently reading Queen of Fashion by Caroline Weber. What a wonderful coincidence! Thanks for this fascinating post!

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