Friday, 14 September 2018

A Match For Madame Seconde

Madame Henriette - also known as Madame Seconde - had partaken in her twin sister's wedding celebrations in 1739 and for a while it was expected that Henriette would follow her sister down the aisle. However, the match envisioned for Henriette was one of the heart rather than a political match. 

Madame Henriette and Louis-Philippe I, Duc de Chartres had developed warm feelings for one another. By November 1739 the Marquis d'Argenson noted in his journal that a "determined effort was made to marry le Duc de Chartres to Madame Henriette." According to d'Argenson, Louis XV - Henriette's father - was initially inclined to let the match take place. 

It was noted that the following spring the young Louis-Philippe was invited to accompany the king for his beloved hunts. During one of these outings the would-be bridegroom approached the king and brought up the matter. According to Imbert de Saint-Armand the Duc de Chartres had a good reason to hope for a positive outcome; in the author's words the Duc d'Orléans (the father of Chartres) had already been given an affirmative. 
Nevertheless, the king clapped Louis-Philippe's hand and declined. Why the apparently sudden change?

Madame Anne-Henriette de France, The Fire, by Jean-Marc Nattier, detail, 1751, oil on canvas - Museu de Arte de São Paulo - DSC07181.jpg
Henriette

One theory is that the king feared the rising power of the Orléans-family. By 1739 the king had only one son and child mortality was still a risk. Louis XV himself barely survived the epidemic that killed off his father, mother and older brother. Should his heir die without issue the crown would go to the House of Orléans. By linking his daughter to the heir to that house it would only strengthen their claim to the throne.
There was also the matter of the Spanish Bourbon branch to be considered. France had already dealt their southern neighbours a harsh blow when the Infanta Mariana Victoria was sent back to Spain and Louis XV married Marie Leszczynska instead. Should the dauphin die without a male heir two families would be the most likely to succeed to the French throne: the Spanish Bourbons and the Orléans. If Louis XV agreed to marry off his own daughter to a young man who might become king of France it would seem that he was throwing his support behind the Orléans-family. Considering the snub already endured that would surely have soured relations further.

More than one courtier pointed the finger at the Cardinal de Fleury. Louis XV had almost infinite trust in his close advisor and a great majority at court believed that it was the Cardinal who had managed to convince the king of the evils of the match.

The couple was devastated but had little to do but resign themselves. Louis Philippe joined his father in the military campaign in Germany while Henriette threw herself into more feminine pursuits - such as music.

Billedresultat for Louis Philippe I, Duke of Orléans
Louis Philippe

In 1743 Cardinal Fleury died which might have raised the hopes of the two separated lovers. However, Louis XV's mind appears to have been made up for no new consideration was given to the match. Instead, the Duc d'Orléans found another suitable bride for his on. Louis-Philippe was married off to Louise Henriette de Bourbon, daughter of the Prince de Conti. In a cruel twist of events, Henriette's status meant that she had to be present at the wedding ceremony. Her bravado was noticed by those around her; allegedly she kept a smile despite everyone knowing how unhappy she was.

As time went on no similar match was made for Henriette. The king had considered several candidates for his daughter including the Duke of Savoy and even the Habsburg Emperor. But in the end none of the prospective marriages ever materialized.
When Henriette fell ill in 1752 it was believed by the more romantic at court that her constitution had been severely weakened by a broken heart. Whatever the cause, her health was certainly not good. Henriette died that year at the age of just 24 years.

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