Wednesday, 11 November 2015

The Wedding of Louis XV and Marie Leszczynska

The wedding took place on Wednesday 5 September 1725 but not at Versailles which had been abandoned since the death of Louis XIV. Instead, the ceremony took place in the chapel at the Château of Fontainebleau - it would be the only royal wedding conducted there.

The twenty-two year old bride arrived at half past nine and was quickly settled into the Queen's apartments. The King was at this time already in his own apartments where a minor army of gentlemen prepared him for the ceremony.

Marie Leszczynska's wedding gown was so heavily adorned with jewels that she nearly fainted. Over this magnificent gown was a purple velvet robe with golden fleurs-de-lis and was lined with ermine. The gown's train in itself were ten metres long! The Queen's hair was elaborately done up and pinned with a magnificent fleur-de-lis of diamonds.

Having been properly dressed the Queen was escorted to the King's cabinet where they met for the first time - the King's entire entourage was ready and waiting.
The fifteen year old Louis XV wore a suit of rich gold brocade with a hat with a plush white feather and large diamond.

Wedding of Louis XV and Marie Leszczynska

The ceremony was to take place in the chapel built by Francis I. The couple's arrival was heralded by trumpets and drums and the two walked past row on row of the infamous Hundred Swiss Guards. Knights of the Order of Saint-Esprit marched into the chapel in lines of two followed by the Great Officers of the Households: Comte de Charolais, Comte de Clermont and Prince de Conti.

The royal couple was positively surrounded by people - most of whom Marie Lezczynska had never seen before. Behind the Queen was the Marèchal de Villeroy, the Duc de La Rochefoucauld and the Duc de Mortemart. In front of her (leading her to the altar) was the Duc d'Orlèans and the Duc de Bourbon as well as the Marquis de Nangis, the Comte de Tesse and the Duc de Noailles. The Queen's train was carried by the Duchesse de Bourbon, the Princesse de Conti and Mademoiselle de Charolais. The Duchesse d'Orlèans followed immediately behind the Queen and she was in turn followed by Mademoiselle de Clermont and Mademoiselle de La Roche-sur-Yon. The rest of the Queen's train was made up by the Queen's ladies-in-waiting, maids of honour and Princesses of the Blood.

Etching of the wedding

The King was announced by two officers of his House and the captain of the Hundred Swiss.

The chapel's upper balconies were hung with blue velvet embroidered with the royal arms of France while the rows of benches were covered in purple velvet with golden fleurs-de-lis. The choir produced their beautiful tones on Persian carpets; the front row was reserved for the highest ladies and lords of France as well as Officers of Saint-Esprit.
The heralds carrying the royal arms stepped to the bottom of the steps leading to the altar. Louis XV and Marie Leszczynska knelt on two cushions for the ceremony. While the two were being escorted onto their pillows the courtiers took their places on the church benches - each was meticulously calculated according to the guest's rank.

The acts of wedding now held in Strasbourg which happens to be the stage of
the proxy wedding

When the two had exchanged rings the symbolic act of handing each a candle was performed. The King received his from the Duc d'Orlèans while his wife, the Duchesse, handed one to the Queen on a satin pillow. Both the Duc and Duchesse kissed the rings of their newly wedded sovereigns. This particular act would seem odd but it was a signal of precedence at the time. The symbolic candles held by the King and Queen represented the submission of the crown to the church.

While the orchestra played a Te Deum the royal marriage contract was signed; a brief prayer for the King was said and then everyone took the same stands as the procession that led the couple into the chapel. From there on, they were escorted to the King's apartments were the celebrations were to begin.

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