Les chasseurs luttent contre la Bête du Gévaudan

Louis XV

Louis XV known as « the beloved »

was king of France from 1715 until 1774.

Louis XV was born on February 15th, 1710 in Versailles. Son of Louis, duke of Bourgogne and of Marie-Adelaide of Savoie, grandson of the Grand Dauphin, great grandchild of Louis XIV, he was conferred a title of Duke of Anjou at his birth. In accordance with the customs, he was brought up until he reached seven years old by a woman, the housekeeper of the Children of France, since 1704 duchess of Ventadour, assisted by Madame de La Lande.

On April 14th, 1711, he lost his grandfather then, in February 1712, his two parents. In March of the same year, the two children of the late couple contracted the same disease, a kind of measles. The doctors tried desperately to save the older son, formerly duke of Brittany, who died on March 8th. The duke of Anjou was saved by her housekeeper who dragged him away from the doctors and refused strongly to let him bleed. At two years old, the duke of Anjou became the new heir.

In 1774, he got a master, the abbey Perot. This one taught him how to read and write along with rudiments of history and geography and, of course, a religious education imbued with sulpicism. In 1715, the young prince also got a master in dance then a master in writing. Mrs Maintenon was at the heart of these appointments. She monitored behind the scenes the education of the prince.

In February 1715, he took part to his first ceremony, the reception of the Persian ambassador in Versailles. At 5 years, he was a beautiful child, endowed with a vivid imagination and a good memory, happy and facetious. He was mainly attracted by history and geography. Survivor of a decimated family, Madame de Ventadour was his only source of affection, he called her “mummy Ventadour, or even “mummy”.

On September 1st, 1715, Louis XIV died and gave his last recommendations, mainly against the war, the « ruin of the people ».

On September 3 and 4th 1715, Louis XV fulfilled his first acts of King by going to the requiem mass celebrated for the late King, in the chapel of Versailles then by receiving the assembly of the clergy that came to celebrate his accession. On September 12th, he went to a parliament session, one of the most formal ceremony of the monarchy, the 14th September, he saw the Great Council of the University of Paris and of the French Academie, the next days, the ambassadors etc…

Despite his young age, he had to submit to the government and to the Court and to play his representation role.

Madame de Ventadour went on bringing him up and gave him as comrade the son of a Parisian cobbler and a young Iroquois.

In 1717, he was mature and left his “lisère” (a sort of lead used to guide the very young children) and the hands of women. One entrusted his education to a governor, the duke of Villeroy and to a private tutor, André Hercule de Fleury, bishop of Fréjus. One taught him Latin, maths, cartography, drawing, rudiments of Astronomy and hunting. Manual training was not neglected: in 1717, he learned typography and in 1721 he learned to work wood. Since 1719, he had masters in music. Unlike Louis XIV, he had no kinship for music and sang out of tune.

From 1721, one thought of marrying him. Philippe V, his uncle, King of Spain, proposed his daughter, the infante Marie Anne Victoire, barely three years old – Louis XV was 11. However, the regent agreed and the January 9th, 1722, the two children met on the Bidassoa, as Louis XIV and Marie-Thérèse of Austria in 1660. The “infante-queen” settled in Versailles. In August 1722, Louis XV got his confirmation. Villeroy who tried to protect the King from the regent was dismissed soon after and replaced by the duke of Charost. From now on, he would teach the King basic knowledge of finance and military strategy.

On January 5th, 1757, Robert François Damiens got into the palace of Versailles amongst the thousands who were trying to obtain an audience. Around 6 pm, the King had just seen his daughter and was about to take his coach to go back to the Trianon when Damiens crossed the hedge of security guards and hit him with a penknife. Louis XV wore thick dresses and the blade only got in a few centimetres, between the 4th and 5th rib. However, one feared a possible poisoning. Damiens was tortured to know if he had accomplices but it appeared that this man, servant of several members of the Parliament, was unhinged.

The arrival of Madame Du Barry, his new lover, officially introduced to the Court in 1769, impressed the end of the reign of Louis XV. The minister Choiseul showed openly his hostility. The King, convinced Choiseul was not able to face to revolt of the parliament, ended up dismissing him in 1770. René Nicholas de Maupeou, Minister of Justice in 1768, who strived to restore the royal authority, replaced him. The members of the parliament went on strike and Maupeou asked musketeers to arrest them and oblige them to resume their work. If they refused they were banned. Then he undertook a fundamental structural reform. The justice was until then administered by magistrates whose office was hereditary, it became a public institution of civil servants paid by the State.

On April 26th, 1774, the symptoms of smallpox set in whereas Louis XV was living in the « Petit Trianon ».

On May 1st, 1774, the parliament of Paris sent Nicholas Felix Vandive inquire after the king's health as parisian bookseller Siméon-Prosper Hardy tells us in his famous diary: « according to the custom, the new parliament court had sent the deputy Vandive, one of the main clerk of the Great Chamber and his scriveners, to Versailles to inquire after the King's health. But this clerk could only debrief the next tuesday given the usual vacancy of monday may, 2nd. »

He died of sequels (blood poisoning worsen by pulmonary problems) on May 10th, 1774, at half past 3 PM, in Versailles. The people showed the slightest interest when he passed away and part of the Court gladdened. He left the throne to his grandson Louis XVI.

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