Voltaire Residence

This page shows people who were in the life of Emilie du Châtelet.

Detail of Marie Leszczynska by Carle Vanloo, Louvre, Paris
Marie Leszczynska - Queen of France
born: June 23, 1703, Breslau, Silesia
died: June 24, 1768, Versailles, FranceMarie

Leszczynska, wife of Louis XV, lived most of her married life secluded in a few small rooms at Versailles. Meanwhile, her husband had a succession of mistresses and excluded her from the life of the court.

Marie was the daughter of Stanislas Leszczynski, who was placed on the thrown of Poland in 1704 when King Charles XII of Sweden gained this territory in a military campaign. Stanislas was driven from power in 1709 when Swedish forces left the area, leaving him without military support. Stanislas, a king without a country, then wandered from one place of refuge to another, including Turkey and Sweden. In 1725, he was living on the on the charity of the French court in Weissembourg, a little village in Alsace.

Marie Leszczynska was chosen to be the wife of Louis XV over 99 marriageable princesses. The decision in favor of the Polish princess was, in reality, an attempt on the part of the Duc de Bourbon and his mistress, Madame de Prie, to secure power for themselves. They selected Marie due to her extreme poverty believing she would gratefully assist them in controlling the king, as she owed her elevation to their favor alone.

Marie Leszczynska was 23 and Louis age 16 at the time they were married. Marie was a very quiet, gentle, and extremely religious person who fulfilled her obligation by having ten children, and provided an heir to the throne. During the first nine years of marriage, Louis was the paragon of husbands, due to his religious upbringing and the ordinary bashfulness of youth.

In 1733, at age 25, the king took his first mistress. This relationship was kept secret for four years. In 1737, the Queen had her tenth and last child. From that time onward, Louis treated his wife with frigid courtesy, never speaking to her except when others were present. He paid her short visits every day as a matter of etiquette. Otherwise, they led separate lives.

The Queen held her own court in her chambers, receiving guests and carrying out ceremonial functions. When Voltaire and Emilie du Chatelet were at Versailles, Emilie attended the Queen's court and had the high privilege to sit in the presence of the Queen.

Marie Leszczynska was deeply religious, and heard mass in the morning and again at one o'clock with all the court. Louis XV preferred the company of his mistresses and Marie was not included in the daily activities of the king's court.

In great contrast to Louis, who was bored by everything, the Queen was fond of music, she painted a little, embroidered, and played the guitar and harpsichord.

In the evening she dined with a small group of friends who enjoyed conversation and they often played cards.

The Queen did not become involved in court intrigues and lived a quiet, peaceful existence. She died in 1768 at the age of 65.

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