October 25, 2008
Femme of the Week: Marie-Adelaide de France
Marie-Adelaide daughter of France was one of the seven daughters of Louis XV, born in 1732. She had two older sisters and four younger. When it was time for her and her younger sisters to go to the abbey Fontevrault for their education, her mother was upset at loosing all her daughters for so long a period. Maria Leszczyńska, who was passive in nature, had Adelade beg her father to let her stay home. The little girl did so, running up to Louis XV after mass one day, in tears and all. He granted her request and her sisters were sent off. She grew up in the house with one of her older sisters (the other left Versailles to wed when Adelaide was 4) and her brother the Dauphin.
The home situation would change again when her older sister Henriette passed away in 1752. Adelaide was 20, and became the leading spirit among her younger siblings. She adopted this new role not out of seniority or responsibility, but because her personality demanded so. She was an irritable girl, moody and headstrong; she also had an air of haughtiness about her. Her personality was not completely unpleasant, but when looked at next to her more reserved, quieter younger sisters she certainly stood at as a ring leader. She also spent the most time at home and saw her father much more than the others and this alone lead to a rightful feeling of precedence.
When she was young her mother took her and her sisters to a Carmelite ceremony. The girls saw her mothers lady in waiting devote her life to God and it left an impression. Adelaide was determined that she wanted to also devote her life to austerity, and begged her father to let her choose that life. He responded, “wait until you are twenty-five or widowed.” He made the right response because she grew out of this phase rather quickly. When her younger sister Louise decided she seriously was ready to devote her life to God she made arrangements with her father in secrecy. When Adeliade found out Louise was leaving she was not upset over loosing her sisters company, she was upset because she hadn’t been kept ‘in the loop.’
Adelaide did not keep an immaculate appearance and was often unkept, dare I say shabby? For this reason she was given the pet name Loque (rag) from her father, wouldn’t you imagine what that does to ones self esteem?? While growing up there was talk of her being married off. One of the lucky boys in question was the recently widowed Prince de Conti, his first wife a total dish. The other choice was Prince Xavier, who fell in love with a pretty Italian. So it was old maid-dom for Adelaide. She did not care though, in fact she did not want to be married because she could not see the point in loosing her oh-so-important title as Daughter of France.
So what did this important Daughter of France spend her days doing? For one she loved literature and was the proud owner of 5000 titles in her library. She also found herself subject to court gossip, a position her sisters did not face. This can mainly be attributed to her strong personality, and subtle rudeness. It is true that Louis XV was closer to his daughters than his wife and son, but this is because in their early years they were the family members that did not meddle with politics or look down upon his mistresses. (His wife involved herself a little in politics to help her father.) Adelaide even helped raise a child that was most certainly one of her fathers. And when the little Duc de Berry lost both of his parents, Adelaide took him in too, in a way. He grew up with her and her younger sisters and felt comfortable with them around as his guardians.
When Berry married Antoinette, Adelaide and her sisters gave her a key to their apartments, and they hung out a bit. Adelaide did not really care for Antoinette in any case. Antoinette was pressured to address Madame du Barry from the King and Ambassador. The day came that she was going to address the favourite and right as she approached her Adelaide, most certainly aware of the situation, stopped her by speaking: ‘It is time for us to go and await the King in the apartments of our sister Victoire.” Antoinette, caught off guard, acknowledged and followed Adelaide. She later apologized to her ambassador explaining that she did not want to upset her aunt. Sneaky!
Adelaide escaped to Rome at the time of the Revolution and died in 1800, outliving all of her siblings. Her body was returned to France and she is buried in the fabulous cathedral, Saint Denis.