Maria Josepha of Saxony – “A great and dignified Princess” (Part two)

maria josepha of saxony
(public domain)

Read part one here.

Maria Josepha’s main goal was now to provide an heir to the throne. In January 1749, her “hopes were dashed,” and it was feared that she would not be able to carry a pregnancy to term. Queen Marie spent the evening with Maria Josepha to cheer her up.1 There was another false alarm in April, and the King summoned several doctors who recommended the waters of Forges. She left at the end of June and spent a whole month taking the waters.

Marie Zéphyrine
Marie Zéphyrine (public domain)

Maria Josepha was soon pregnant again, and every precaution was taken. The Queen’s concerts took place in the Dauphine’s room to spare her fatigue, and she was bled, according to the treatment plan. The pregnancy progressed as usual, and on 26 August 1750, Maria Josepha went into labour. At six in the afternoon, she gave birth to a daughter – much to the court’s disappointment. One courtier wrote, “The birth of a princess threw the court into a state of consternation similar to that caused by a lost battle that brought the enemy to the gates of Paris…”2 The celebrations for the birth of a Duke of Burgundy were cancelled, and the princess was named Marie Zéphyrine. Maria Josepha wrote, “She is very small and even more delicate. She is very ugly; it is said that she resembles me like two drops of water, very willful and mean like a little dragon.”3 Nevertheless, the Dauphin acted quite thoughtfully towards his disappointed wife.

She fell pregnant again relatively quickly, and by 13 June 1751, it was noted that she “walks so lightly that one does not notice that she is so far along in her pregnancy.”4 On 13 September, she gave birth to a son, much to the joy of her husband. The King examined the newborn and proclaimed him “strong and healthy.”5 He also presented Maria Josepha with an aigrette with diamonds and rubies, telling her that “the gift you have just given to France is infinitely more precious.”6

Duke of Burgundy
The Duke of Burgundy (public domain)

The following year, Maria Josepha was deeply saddened by the death of her sister-in-law Henriette, who died at the age of 24 after a short illness. Maria Josepha, who was again pregnant, was not immediately told in case the shock would cause her to miscarry. She was only told when etiquette demanded that the family leave the palace. Nevertheless, the pregnancy wasn’t carried to term. Then, her husband fell ill with smallpox, and Maria Josepha immediately took up his care on her own, which earned her admiration all around. He survived his illness.

Maria Josepha quickly fell pregnant again, and on 8 September 1753, she gave birth to a Duke of Aquitaine, who was named for her brother Xavier. Tragically, he would die of whooping cough on 22 February 1754. Just a few months later, Maria Josepha gave birth to a third son, the future King Louis XVI. He was given the title Duke of Berry. Then tragedy struck again when Marie Zéphyrine died suddenly on 2 September 1755. She had woken up screaming in pain and suffered two days of convulsions before succumbing. She had just turned five years old.

The young Duke of Berry (right) with his younger brother, the Count of Provence
The Duke of Berry (right) with his younger brother, the Count of Provence (public domain)

Maria Josepha was already six months into another pregnancy, and on 17 November 1755, she gave birth to a son who was “sickly, thin and not very viable.”7 Nevertheless, the boy lived and received the title Count of Provence. Yet another son was born on 9 October 1757, he was “small but well made and likely to live.”8 He received the title Count of Artois. Maria Josepha was deeply distressed during this time because of the invasion of Saxony, and she suffered from palpitations. When news reached her that her mother had died in November, she wrote, “What a loss for us and for the whole country. […] She has received the reward for her virtues, she is forever happy. We are the only ones to be pitied. Let us strive to follow in her footsteps, to imitate her virtues, in order to one day share this happiness. If she loved us in this world, she loves us a hundred times more at this hour…”9

The Count of Artois Marie Clotilde
The Count of Artois and Marie Clotilde (public domain)

Another child followed on 23 September 1759, this time, it was a girl, who was named Marie Clotilde. She apparently arrived so quickly that only her father, a nursemaid and the midwife were present in the room. By the end of 1759, the health of their eldest son, the Duke of Burgundy, had become a concern. He had suffered a fall that caused quite a bit of damage to his leg. He was “in a very bad condition.[…] There is talk of cutting off his leg.”10 Eventually, a tumour formed on the leg, and doctors decided to operate. Maria Josepha was horrified and wrote, “It’s tomorrow that we have to pierce my son’s tumour… the state I am in.”11

The little boy underwent the operation while he was awake, although he received a mixture of honey and opium. The pus was drained from the tumour as he clenched his teeth, and the operation was declared a success. Maria Josepha wrote, “The operation was most successful and the tranquillity that my son has enjoyed since gives a lot of hope for the future.[…] I am still beside myself from the passage to the greatest anxiety to the greatest joy.”12 Unfortunately, her joy did not last long. The boy became weaker, and the wound became very painful. Maria Josepha went on a pilgrimage to Notre Dame to pray for her son’s health, but it was no use. For months, the boy suffered, and by the end of the year, it was believed that he would not recover.

He continued to live while moaning, “I can’t take it anymore.”13 On 7 March 1761, Maria Josepha wrote, “Everything tells me that my misfortune is not far away.”14 On 16 March, he received Last Rites. On the 21st, around two at night, he asked for a crucifix. He cried out for his mother and died without her by his side. Maria Josepha and the Dauphin were not informed until 8 in the morning. They were devastated, and the following day, Maria Josepha wrote, “My son is in heaven.”15

Read part three here.

  1. La mère de Louis XVI by Monique de Huertas p.67
  2. La mère de Louis XVI by Monique de Huertas p.73
  3. La mère de Louis XVI by Monique de Huertas p.74
  4. La mère de Louis XVI by Monique de Huertas p.78
  5. La mère de Louis XVI by Monique de Huertas p.79
  6. La mère de Louis XVI by Monique de Huertas p.80
  7. La mère de Louis XVI by Monique de Huertas p.104
  8. La mère de Louis XVI by Monique de Huertas p.127
  9. La mère de Louis XVI by Monique de Huertas p.132
  10. La mère de Louis XVI by Monique de Huertas p.147
  11. La mère de Louis XVI by Monique de Huertas p.148
  12. La mère de Louis XVI by Monique de Huertas p.149
  13. La mère de Louis XVI by Monique de Huertas p.158
  14. La mère de Louis XVI by Monique de Huertas p.158
  15. La mère de Louis XVI by Monique de Huertas p.160

About Moniek Bloks 2748 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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