Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Louis Ferdinand de Bourbon

Louis Ferdinand was born on 4 September 1729 to the extreme joy of both his parents and his country. As the longed-for son and heir he was destined to a life in the centre of court life. For fear of him dying before being introduced into the church he was immediately baptized in private - but without being given an official name. It would not be until his seventh birthday that his name of Louis would be confirmed.

As all young boys of the French royal family he spent the first seven years of his life completely surrounded by women. They took care of his every need ranging from a wet-nurse to the servants who changed his linen. Once he reached that golden age of seven he was officially transferred to the care of men.

Anne-Baptiste Nivelon, Louis de France, dauphin (1764).jpg

Like his father he quickly showed an interest in the military. However, being the only surviving son he was far too precious to risk him on the battlefield. Consequently, his father denied him a leading role in the campaign of 1744. Roughly a year later Louis XV came very close to dying himself at the front (from illness, not battle wounds). For fear of contagion Louis Ferdinand was ordered to stay away but he disobeyed his father and rushed to his bedside. 
Louis XV recovered but began regarding his son with a more distant attitude. Some might attribute this to the same suspicion that Louis XIV had had for the Grand Dauphin but the exact reasons are not quite clear. What is clear is that Louis Ferdinand's relationship with his father became cooler while those with his mother and three elder sisters became very close.

1744 would turn out to be quite a remarkable year for Louis Ferdinand. While he was still sulking over being kept from the battlefield he was soon to turn his attention elsewhere: to marriage. By December of that year he was married by proxy to Maria Teresa Raphaëlla of Spain. The couple met in February the following year - it was a massive success. Immediately, the two young people took a liking to each other. However, their bliss was to be short. The Dauphine became pregnant and gave birth to a daughter, Marie Thérèse. Sadly, both the infant girl and the young mother died shortly afterwards.

Louis Ferdinand was devastated. Although he was just sixteen years old he had loved his first wife but was soon obliged to contract another marriage - after all, an heir had not been born.  In February 1747 he was married again to Marie Josèphe of Saxony. On their wedding night he infamously broke down sobbing. Luckily for him, Marie Josèphe took pity on him and showed him great patience. This marriage was expected to produce children - and so it did. Thirteen children were born to the couple including three kings: Louis XVI, Louis XVIII and Charles X.

State portrait

Louis Ferdinand's personality was remarkably different to that of his father. He was moved by strong moral motives and never had any affairs outside his marriage. If Louis XV had died sooner he would have been more likely to divide government into ministries rather than absolutism.
Perhaps this radical - or so it seemed to the absolutists at court - political idea he was kept away from political power.

By the age of 36 he became seriously ill. Louis Ferdinand died at Fontainebleau - the son of a king, the father of a king but never himself a king.

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