Maria-Adelaide of Savoy (1685 – 1712)
Born in the Royal Palace of Torino in 1685, her father was a Prince of Piedmont and her mother a Princess of France by royal blood (and-she’s Henrietta’s granddaughter). .
This angelic child came to the Court of Louis XIV, at the tender age of ten and was soon betrothed to Louis’ grandson (who was next in line of succession after his father; Louis’son).
Louis was totally enchanted by this lovely Italian princess who delighted everyone at court. She especially knew how to make the King smile and filled his heart with warmth and kindness. She literally brought out the best in people especially because she was gentle, thoughtful and cheery to all those who knew her. Not only was she totally charming, Maria-Adelaide was an absolutely beautiful child; she was actually nicknamed the ‘walking doll.’
The King really loved her and she loved him too. Apparently she has been quoted for having said to Madame Maintenon, while sitting on her lap, ‘Teach me well I beg you, what I have to do to please the King’. By this type of interchange we can see how close she was to Madame Maintenon as well. She also used to address her as ‘aunt’ something that was never done at Court.
So loved was she by the King and the Court that even before becoming Dauphine, and right after the death of her mother-in-law, Adelaide was considered First Lady of Louis’ Kingdom. To further this point, when Queen Maria Teresa, Louis XIV’s wife died, Adelaide was given her apartments at Versailles (sharing the same floor as the King and Madame de Maintenon).
The King clearly gave preferential treatment to this lovely princess much to the demise of his own legitimized daughters by the Marquise de Montespan and the Duchesse de Lavallière. This close relationship of theirs really aggravated the two ladies…
In December 1697 Adelaide married the duc de Bourgogne (Louis’ grandson), as planned. The wonderful exception in this case was that the two were genuinely in love- such a rare thing at the time, especially in the Court of Versailles. Unfortunately the couple had several heartbreaks when it came to forming their family. She suffered four stillborn births to then give birth to two Louis’ who died in infancy. Her last living child though, would become King Louis XV, (making her by far an important figure of the times).
The chain of horrible deaths that would ensue from 1711 to 1712 would devastate Louis XIV. First, the death of Louis’s son (Adelaide’s father-in-law)- then less than a year later, Adelaide would die from the pox, followed by her husband and her five year-old son.
Here is a quote from Cronin’s Louis XIV that can sum up her personality and why she was loved so:
‘Madame de Maintenon wrote: “She has a natural courtesy which permits her to say nothing but what is pleasant. Yesterday I tried to prevent her from caressing me, saying I was too old. ‘Ah, not so old as that!’ and did me the honour of embracing me.”
The little princess came like a breath of spring to the ageing Court. She was lively and loving and played games with the courtiers, sang at the tables and even danced on her chair. She used the informal ‘tu’ to Louis, rumpled his clothes and mussed his wig. When the post arrived, she would open his letters and sometimes sit on his knee while he read them. “Everybody here has become a child again”’.
Louis suffered great losses but it is said that he never got over the death of Adelaide. He was crushed and heart-broken. The Kingdom was in full mourning- Gone were the glowing rays in the Sun King’s Court.
Marie-Adelaide truly left her mark not only as the angelic Dauphine in the times of Louis XIV- but also as the sweet mother of France’s subsequent King Louis XV.