Mesdames Daughters of Louis XV

Within ten years the royal couple, Louis XV and his wife Marie Leszczyńska, had ten children: eight daughters, the Dauphin (heir), and a second son, who died of measles. Louise of France, their youngest daughter, was born in 1737. The royal daughters were brought up in the Court or in a convent, formed a tight-knit group along with the Dauphin, and were not afraid to stand up to their father's mistresses. The Mesdames lived at Versailles over a period of many years before fleeing during the French Revolution.

The daughters of Louis XV all bore the honorific title of 'Madame'. There were eight princesses, not all of whom were raised at Versailles because their education was considered too expensive. The four youngest daughters – Victoire, Sophie, Thérèse and Louise – were sent to the Abbey of Fontevraud, while the eldest – Louise-Elisabeth, Anne-Henriette, Marie-Louise and Marie-Adélaïde – remained with the King. Thus separated, the influence of the Mesdames was limited.

Later on they were all reunited in the Palace, where they kept a close eye on the king's various mistresses. Madame de Pompadour soon came to realise the importance of keeping these wily princesses at a safe distance, and they rewarded her with a string of unflattering nicknames. Only the eldest daughter, Madame Louise-Elisabeth, got married, in 1739, to one of the sons of the King of Spain; her sisters remained at Versailles, living in their official apartments. After the death of Madame Henriette in 1752, Madame Adélaïde could no longer bear to live in the South Wing where her sister had passed away. She moved into the central wing of the Palace close to Louis XV, much to the displeasure of Madame de Pompadour. She was joined in her new apartments by her sister, Madame Victoire, and both princesses remained in these lodgings until the Revolution. Their other sisters all died before the uprising began.

In 1789, hemmed in by the nascent Revolution, they left Versailles for Château de Bellevue, the former residence of Madame de Pompadour bequeathed to them by their father in 1774. Faced with growing danger in the 1790s, Marie-Adélaïde and Victoire of France, the last two surviving children of Louis XV, fled to Italy. Madame Adélaïde died in Trieste in 1800, shortly after the death of her younger sister (1799).

  ANECDOTE

Later on they were all reunited in the Palace, where they kept a close eye on the king's various mistresses. Madame de Pompadour soon came to realise the importance of keeping these wily princesses at a safe distance, and they rewarded her with a string of unflattering nicknames.