History of Europe

Hecatomb in the family of Louis XIV

Ah! The family of Louis XIV! At the beginning of the year 1711, the Sun King is an aging monarch of over seventy years old. His authority is recognized and respected in all the Courts of Europe. It can boast of being the most powerful king in the world. A domination that passes through its offspring, well provided with males , showcase of its sovereignty. This family guarantees dynastic continuity over several generations. Confidence in the future who will, during the four years that remain to him to live, be terribly damaged...

An assured lineage

Louis XIV had six children of his union with Maria Theresa of Austria. Only one survived:Louis, Monseigneur, known as the Grand Dauphin. Destined to succeed the Sun King, the Grand Dauphin is himself the father of three male children :the eldest, Louis, Duke of Burgundy and heir to the crown, Philippe, Duke of Anjou became King of Spain in 1700 under the name of Philip V, and finally Charles, Duke of Berry.

The young Duke of Burgundy, married to Marie-Adélaïde de Savoie since 1697, is the father of two children very much alive:a little Duke of Brittany, the eldest, and a Duke of Anjou still in his cradle.

Unique fact in the whole history of France:a king has a son, two grandsons and two great-grandsons to succeed him! It was the assurance of monarchical stability that made Louis XIV less afraid of his own disappearance. But it is well known, nothing ever goes as planned!

The death of Monsignor the Grand Dauphin , heir to Louis XIV

Monsignor was then a man of fifty years old (a respectable age for the time), who did not have a very intimate relationship with his father Louis XIV, but who had great admiration for him. and deep respect. Already a father and grandfather himself, he vegetates while waiting for the throne. Has a heavy build which comes to him from a lack of physical exercise, he has already suffered a few health problems.

But now in 1711, we really fear for his life. On the evening of March 19, he felt unwell …after wolfing down too many fish. He recovers, but is forced to stay in bed for more than a week. Louis XIV was very scared, and all of Paris is celebrating his remission.

However, on April 9, the Bottlenose Dolphin fell victim to a new malaise when he gets up. The diagnosis this time is final:he is affected by smallpox . We transport him to Meudon , his privileged residence, where Louis XIV came to join him. On the 12th, Monseigneur began to be delirious and access to his room was forbidden, even on the orders of Louis XIV.

The following days, Monsignor seemed to recover gradually, but on the evening of April 14, he had a dramatic relapse which is fatal to him:he dies at eleven o'clock in the evening. Devastated, Louis XIV wrote a few days later to his grandson became Philip V of Spain:

I lost my son and you lose in him a father who loved you as dearly as I loved him- same. He deserved all my friendship, by his attachment to me, by his continual attention to please me, and I looked at him as a friend to whom I could open my heart and give all my confidence.

From April 15, the Duke and Duchess of Burgundy respectively receive the titles and prerogatives of Dauphin and Dauphine of France.

The funeral is organized quickly, for fear of contagion, and on April 17, the coffin of the heir is taken to Saint-Denis to be buried there. The ceremony, officiated on the 18th, is presided over by Louis of France, Duke of Burgundy, eldest son of the deceased and new heir to the kingdom.Louis XIV family

The Burgundy couple carried away

The death of the Grand Dauphin had made an impression on Louis XIV. She had made him feel the abnormal duration of his government and had convinced him to organize the transition to a new reign which was not to be delayed any longer.

The Duke and Duchess of Burgundy feel ready to take over . Conscientious, pious and profoundly good, desiring to inaugurate a new reign entirely focused on the happiness of the people, the Duke of Burgundy works continuously and keeps abreast of state affairs. His wife Marie-Adélaïde de Savoie is an intelligent, down-to-earth young woman. A true animator at the Court, she was much appreciated by Louis XIV, who saw in her the real future political head torque.

However, Marie-Adélaïde is not in flourishing health. Tired by her pregnancies , she nevertheless continues to hold her rank and never spares herself. She takes a lot on her.

On the night of February 7 to 8, 1712, in Versailles, the Dauphine was seized with vomiting accompanied by painful convulsions which only stop in the early morning. On the evening of the 8th, the verdict fell:she had measles . As she recovers, aided by drops of opium, the dolphin in turn feels ill.

He recovers, but Marie-Adélaïde suffers a terrible relapse on the evening of February 10. Seven Doctors take turns at his bedside, and one can easily imagine that they aggravate the evil, obviously finding nothing better to do than to bleed their illustrious patient. Feeling her end approaching, the dauphine whispers, disillusioned :“Princess today, tomorrow nothing, in two days forgotten…”

Suffering horribly, the young woman lost consciousness on February 12, 1712 and died during the day, just aged twenty-six . An autopsy performed two days later reveals that she was six weeks pregnant .

Louis XIV is seriously affected by the death of the one who enchanted, by her humor and her wit, her languid daily life. The monarch sees the only pleasure of his old age disappear , the only one who was able to cheer him up, at the same time as he sees all the political hopes he placed in her crumble. His pain is terrible.Louis XIV family

Refugee in Marly, he is joined by his grandson, who must be snatched from his apartment in Versailles in which he has taken refuge, crushed with pain . Stunned by the loss of his adored wife, the dolphin cannot come to his senses. He is weakening. The king is appalled when he discovers the same reddish marks on his face. who disfigured the Dauphine.

The Duke of Burgundy must take his bed from February 15. On the night of the 17th to the 18th, the evil worsens, he is even victim of a crisis of delirium :his servants must work together to keep him on his bed. Resigned, he let himself die and gave up his soul to God on the morning of February 18, 1712, aged twenty-nine , “six days after the wife he had passionately loved .

The hearts of the Dauphin and the Dauphine are deposited in the Val-de-Grâce, their bodies taken to Saint-Denis for a common ceremony, in consternation and general sadness.Louis XIV family

The Duke of Brittany completed by the doctors

From February 20, Louis XIV conferred on the Duke of Brittany , eldest son of the deceased couple, a handsome, vigorous boy of five and a half, the title of Dauphin. The poor child then exclaims, turning to his governess:“Oh! mom, don't give me that name, it's too sad. »

On February 26, a high fever broke out in the dolphin. On March 7, he and his little brother the Duke of Anjou bear the marks of measles … We hasten to baptize them by giving them the first name of Louis to both of them.

The doctors go after the eldest in the hope of saving the one who represents the future of the dynasty . Bleeding and purges precipitate him into the grave:he died on the night of March 8. Louis XIV family

The next day, the sight of her prostrate little dog moaning in her master's usual place in the chapel brought tears to tears from the whole Court.

His very young brother the Duke of Anjou is also seriously affected. However, his governess, Madame de Ventadour, terrified by the death of the eldest, strongly opposed the bleeding. She wins. Assisted by the under-governess Madame de Villefort, she takes care of little Louis by making him ingest biscuits and wine , keeping it warm.

On March 10, while the body of the Duke of Brittany joined those of his parents in Saint-Denis, his brother, removed from the doctors , recovers. He was given the title of Dauphin by Louis XIV. An epithet that seems to bring bad luck :the Duke of Anjou is the fourth prince of the House of Bourbon to bear this title in less than a year!

However, as of March 12, he seems definitely cured , thanks to the good care of Madame de Ventadour, who still stubbornly refuses to let doctors approach him:“She thus saved the future Louis XV from certain death .Louis XIV family

The duke of Berry's stupid accident

In this tragic year of 1712, Louis XIV still had one grandson likely to gird the crown, in the unfortunately foreseeable event that the two-year-old dolphin does not survive childhood. The condition of accession to the Spanish throne of Philip was the renunciation of the crown of France, but there still remains the last son of the Grand Dauphin, Charles, Duke of Berry.

Given the very young age of the future Louis XV, the Sun King may fear that the Duke of Berry will be called upon to execute a regency in favor of his young nephew, even to ascend the throne.

Doubting his grandson's ability to hold the reins of government, he nevertheless decided to prepare him for his duties giving him new responsibilities. He granted him and his wife new accommodation in Versailles, worthy of their future rank.

Charles de Berry married in 1710 Marie-Louise d'Orléans . On March 13, 1713, she gave birth to a little Duke of Alençon:three weeks later, the child died.

In this year 1714, the Duchess is pregnant again. But now, on April 26, the Duc de Berry suffered an injury while hunting: he knocks violently against the pommel of his saddle. Back in Marly, he suffered from vomiting and haemorrhaging. Louis XIV family

Three days later, the fever sets in, and the doctors get involved :the duke succumbed to their tortures on May 4, in the early morning. He was twenty-eight . A death that goes almost unnoticed as death now seems natural in the entourage of Louis XIV.

His wife the Duchess of Berry gives birth a few days later to a daughter who does not survive. Without descendants , the Duke was quickly forgotten, and the Duchess, little appreciated, kept away from the Court. Louis XIV saw with anguish a regency of a man he could not endure, Philippe d'Orléans , his nephew, son of his only brother who died in 1701.

Louis XIV now has only one heir in the direct line:a four-year-old child, the only survivor of this incredible and painful hecatomb, the future Louis XV. Against all odds, the child will survive childhood. After a regency very well led by Philippe d'Orléans (which Louis XIV could not avoid despite a will that was hostile to him), Louis XV began a reign today restored in all its intensity by several biographers, one of the longest in history after that of his great-grandfather Louis XIV!

Would you like to go into more detail on this story? The hecatomb in the family of Louis XIV is one of the key chapters of my book Anecdotes insolites de la royauté!