Marie Leszczyńska was born on 23 June 1703 as the daughter of King Stanisław Leszczyński, Stanislaw I of Poland, and Catherine Opalińska. Her father’s reign as King of Poland lasted just four years, and the loss of his Kingdom was compensated by giving him the administration of the Duchy of Zweibrücken.
At the age of 14, Marie was described as pleasant, well-educated, graceful in manner and a good dancer. She was not considered to be beautiful. Her prospects were not very good, and no one would have expected her to become Queen of France.1 The young King Louis XV was due to marry Mariana Victoria of Spain, who was just seven years old but was already living in France. The succession needed to be assured as soon as possible, and so a new bride needed to be found. A list of 99 eligible Princesses was compiled, and Marie was included. She was eliminated when a shortlist of 17 candidates was drawn up. The list whittled down further to just four candidates, Princess Anne and Amelia of Great Britain, Henriette Louise of Bourbon and Thérèse Alexandrine of Bourbon. The shortlist was so biased in favour of the Duke of Bourbon that it was found to be unacceptable. The relatively uncontroversial figure of Marie was suddenly back in the race.2
On 2 April 1725, a letter arrived asking for Marie’s hand in marriage. She underwent a medical examination to rule out epilepsy. She suffered from pains from spending a great deal of time on her knees in prayer. Even gynaecological information was provided.3 The couple were married in person in the chapel of the Palace of Fontainebleau on 5 September 1725. She gave birth to a Dauphin on 4 September 1729 and a shortlived Duke of Anjou in 1733. A total of eight daughters were born between 1727 and 1737. After that, conjugal relations between Marie and Louis ended.4 By that time, she had already gotten used to having his mistresses at court. From 1745, she was eclipsed at court by Madame de Pompadour. She never managed to develop any political influence, probably due to her low-born status and lack of a power base at court.
She died on 24 June 1768 at the age of 65, and she was buried in the Basilica of St Denis.
- Queenship in Europe, 1660-1815 – The Role of the Consort edited by Clarissa Campbell Orr p.186-187
- Queenship in Europe, 1660-1815 – The Role of the Consort edited by Clarissa Campbell Orr p.189-190
- Queenship in Europe, 1660-1815 – The Role of the Consort edited by Clarissa Campbell Orr p.190
- Queenship in Europe, 1660-1815 – The Role of the Consort edited by Clarissa Campbell Orr p.201