Marie Leszczyńska

Portrait of Marie by Jean-Marc Nattier (1748). Image Credit: WikiCommons.

By Johanna Strong

Marie Leszczyńska was born Maria Karolina Leszczyńska on June 23, 1703, in Silesia to Stanisław I (later King of Poland) and Catherine Opalińska. Her father was removed from the Polish throne in 1709 and, as a result, Marie lost her elevated status.

This, however, was what had caught the attention of French diplomats who were seeking a bride for Louis XV. Without a powerful faction behind her, Marie would be less likely to divide the French court, meaning she could become a sort of ‘blank slate’ as queen consort.

She married Louis XV of France at Fontainebleau Palace on September 5, 1725, and theirs was a successful marriage, though Louis’ attention often strayed to his mistresses. Marie gave birth to ten children in ten years, though only one son, Louis, survived infancy. Marie had fulfilled her traditional duty by bearing the king a son and heir, though Louis’ eye began to wander and his preference for his mistresses became obvious.

Marie generally stayed out of official court politics, particularly after a confrontation with the Cardinal de Fleury. Instead, she influenced the court quietly as architect and pious consort. Some of the renovations which she undertook are still visible at the Palace of Versailles today and she is remembered as the founder of a convent in the town of Versailles. She was also in charge of the moral and religious instruction of the Dauphin.

While she upheld the formality and rigidity of court etiquette, she also enjoyed her privacy, spending time each day in her private apartments, separate from the formal apartments of state.

She spoke several languages and was a painter, though arguably her greatest accomplishment was the grace and stability she embodied as queen. Marie is the longest reigning queen consort of France, holding the title for forty-two years. She died on June 24, 1768, at Versailles.

Recommended Reading

Emma Marriott, Long Live the Queens: Mighty, Magnificent and Bloody Marvellous Monarchs History’s Forgotten (London: HarperCollins Publishers, 2019)

“Marie Leszczyńska, 1703-1768”, Chateau de Versailles,

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