Louis de France, known as “Le Grand Dauphin” or “Monseigneur”, died before his father, Louis XIV, and so never inherited the throne. Groomed for power nonetheless, he occupied various political and military posts while also maintaining a keen interest in the arts as well as the pleasures of life in the Court.
Maria-Theresa of Austria, wife of Louis XIV, gave birth to Louis de France, sometimes referred to as “Monseigneur”, in 1661 at the Château de Fontainebleau. Known as the Dauphin throughout his life, he was awarded the title of Grand Dauphin posthumously, to set him apart from his son the Duke of Burgundy, who succeeded him as Dauphin.
The Grand Dauphin, educated by Bossuet, enjoyed a good reputation both in the Court and with the people of Paris, the acerbic judgement of Saint-Simon notwithstanding. Endowed with a solid cultural education, passionate about the arts, the king’s son lived in sumptuous apartments in Versailles, showcasing his tastes as a collector. A great lover of the opera, he regularly visited the Palais-Royal to take in the latest librettos and scores. Unlike his wife Marie-Anne-Christine-Victoire of Bavaria, whom he married in 1680, he was anything but a recluse at the palace and indulged wholeheartedly in the pleasures of Versailles and Paris. True to tradition, the Grand Dauphin was a keen huntsman.
In addition to the daily pursuit of pleasure, the Grand Dauphin held various important political and military functions. From the 1680s the king began to involve his son in the political affairs of the kingdom. He became a member of the Conseil des Dépêches and the Conseil des Finances in 1682, and in 1688 was given the right to approve certain motions. At around the same time he undertook his first military campaigns, winning several victories along with the admiration of his troops.
Widowed in 1690, he followed the example set by his father and secretly married his mistress Mademoiselle de Chouin in 1694. The Grand Dauphin split his time between Versailles and his own château in Meudon, whose sumptuous decor rivalled that of his father’s great palace. An avid collector, he bought numerous Gobelins tapestries, paintings by Poussin, and rare items of furniture.
Four years before the death of his father, in April 1711 Monseigneur died of smallpox in his château in Meudon. His eldest son, the Duke of Burgundy, followed him to the grave the following year, leaving behind him two sons. Upon the death of his brother in 1712, the Duke of Anjou, just two years old at the time, became the Dauphin and duly succeeded his great-grandfather in 1715, as Louis XV.