Louis, Dauphin of France (1729–1765)

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Dauphin of France
File:Alexandre Roslin, Louis de France, dauphin (1765).jpg
Louis in uniform of Colonel-General of the Dragoons, by Alexandre Roslin, 1765
Born (1729-09-04)4 September 1729
Palace of Versailles, Paris, France
Died 20 December 1765(1765-12-20) (aged 36)
Château de Fontainebleau, France
Burial Cathédrale Saint-Étienne de Sens
Saint Denis Basilica (heart)
Spouse Infanta Maria Teresa Rafaela of Spain (m. 1744; d. 1746)
Duchess Maria Josepha of Saxony (m. 1747)
among others...
Marie Thérèse, Madame Royale
Princess Marie Zéphyrine
Prince Louis, Duke of Burgundy
Louis XVI of France
Louis XVIII of France
Charles X of France
Marie Clothilde, Queen of Sardinia
Princess Élisabeth
Full name
French: Louis Ferdinand de France
House Bourbon
Father Louis XV of France
Mother Marie Leszczyńska
Religion Roman Catholicism

Louis, Dauphin of France[1] (Louis Ferdinand; 4 September 1729 – 20 December 1765) was the elder and only surviving son of King Louis XV of France and his wife, Queen Marie Leszczyńska. As a son of the king, Louis was a fils de France. As heir apparent, he became Dauphin of France. However, he died before he could ascend the throne. Three of his sons became kings of France: Louis XVI (reign in 1774–1792), Louis XVIII (1814–1815, again in 1815–1824) and Charles X (1824–1830).

Early life and education

Louis de France at 9 in a study with a globe and a fortification treatise, by Louis Tocqué.

Louis's birth secured the throne and his mother's position at court, which previously had been precarious due to her giving birth to three daughters in a row before the birth of the Dauphin. He had a younger brother, Philippe, who died as a toddler.

Louis was baptised privately and without a name by Cardinal Armand de Rohan. On 27 April 1737 when he was seven years old the public ceremony of the other baptismal rites took place. It was at this point that he was given the names Louis Ferdinand. His godparents were his cousin Louis, Duke of Orléans and his great-grandaunt the Dowager Duchess of Bourbon.

Louis' governess was Madame de Ventadour who had previously served as his father's governess. When he was seven years old, the Duke of Châtillon was named his governor, the Count of Muy was named under-governor, and Jean-François Boyer, formerly bishop of Mirepoix, was named preceptor.

From an early age Louis took a great interest in the military arts. He was bitterly disappointed when his father would not permit him to join the 1744 campaign in the War of the Austrian Succession. When his father became deathly ill with fever at Metz, Louis disobeyed orders and went to his bedside. This rash action, which could have resulted in the deaths of both Louis and his father, resulted in a permanent change in the relations between father and son. Until then, Louis XV had doted on his son, but now the relationship was more distant. He was very close to his three older sisters.

First marriage

In 1744 Louis XV negotiated a marriage between his fifteen-year-old son and the nineteen-year-old Infanta Maria Teresa Rafaela of Spain, daughter of King Philip V and his Italian wife, Elisabeth Farnese, and first cousin of Louis XV. The marriage contract was signed 13 December 1744; the marriage was celebrated by proxy at Madrid 18 December 1744 and in person at Versailles 23 February 1745.

Masked Ball at Versailles for the wedding of Louis, Dauphin of France to Maria Teresa Rafaela of Spain, 1745.
File:Louis, dauphin of France, son of Louis XV.jpg
Louis, Dauphin of France, in 1750.

Louis and Maria Teresa Rafaela were well-matched and had a real affection for each other. They had one daughter, Princess Marie Thérèse of France (19 July 1746 – 27 April 1748). Three days after the birth of their daughter, Louis's wife, Maria Teresa Rafaela, died on 22 July 1746. Louis was only 16 years old. He grieved intensely at the loss of his wife, but his responsibility to provide for the succession to the French crown required he marry again quickly.

In 1746, Louis received the Order of the Golden Fleece from his father-in-law, King Philip V of Spain.[2]

Second marriage

On 10 January 1747, Louis was married by proxy at Dresden to Maria Josepha of Saxony, the 15-year-old younger daughter of Frederick Augustus II, Prince-Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, and his wife Archduchess Maria Josepha of Austria. A second marriage ceremony took place in person at Versailles on 9 February 1747.



Louis was well-educated: a studious man, cultivated, and a lover of music, he preferred the pleasures of conversation to those of hunting, balls, or spectacles. With a keen sense of morality, he was very much committed to his wife, Marie-Josèphe, as she was to him.

Very devout, he was a fervent supporter of the Jesuits, like his mother and sisters, and was led by them to have a devotion to the Sacred Heart. He appeared in the eyes of his sisters as the ideal of the Christian prince, in sharp contrast with their father, who was a notorious womanizer.

Later life and death

Allegory on the Death of the Dauphin by Louis-Jean-François Lagrenée, 1765.

Kept away from government affairs by his father, Louis was at the center of the Dévots, a group of religiously-minded men who hoped to gain power when he succeeded to the throne.

Louis died of tuberculosis at Fontainebleau in 1765 at the age of 36, while his father was still alive, so he never became king of France. His mother, Queen Marie Leszczyńska, and his maternal grandfather, the former king of Poland, Stanislaus I Leszczyński, Duke of Lorraine, also survived him. His eldest surviving son, Louis-Auguste, duc de Berry, became the new dauphin, ascending the throne as Louis XVI at the death of Louis XV, in May 1774.

Louis was buried in the Cathedral of Saint-Étienne in Sens at the Monument to the Dauphin of France & Marie-Josephe of Saxony, designed and executed by Guillaume Coustou, the Younger. His heart was buried at Saint Denis Basilica.


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  1. He is called simply Louis by the most reputed biographies (including the earliest ones by Proyart and Rozoir), the major genealogical works about the House of Bourbon (including Achaintre and Dussieux) and numerous engravings. Several modern works (e.g. Antonia Fraser, Marie Antoinette) and some websites call him Louis Ferdinand to distinguish him from his father and his two sons.
  2. Nicolas-Louis Achaintre, Histoire généalogique et chronologique de la maison royale de Bourbon (Paris: Mansut, 1825), II, 149. T. F. Boettger says he received it in 1739.

Further reading

  • Broglie, Emmanuel de, Le fils de Louis XV, Louis, dauphin de France, 1729-1765. Paris: E. Plon, 1877.
  • Dechêne, Abel, Le dauphin, fils de Louis XV. Paris: Librairie du dauphin, 1931.
  • Ducaud-Bourget, François. Louis, dauphin de France: le fils du Bien-Aimé. Paris: Conquistador, 1961.
  • Hours, Bernard. La vertu et le secret: le dauphin, fils de Louis XV. Paris: Champion, 2006.
  • Huertas, Monique de, Marie-Josèphe de Saxe: mère de nos trois derniers rois de France et de Madame Élisabeth, Paris: Pygmalion, 1995.
  • Proyart, Liévin-Bonaventure. Vie du dauphin, père de Louis XVI, Lyon: Bruyset-Ponthus, 1788.
  • Rozoir, Charles du, Le dauphin, fils de Louis XV et père de Louis XVI et de Louis XVIII, Paris: Eymery, 1815.
  • Zieliński, Ryszard, Polka na francuskim tronie, Warszawa: Czytelnik, 1978.

External links

  • De la Tour's pastels at the Musée l'Écuyer, Saint-Quentin, (in French) the pastel illustrated above described as a study for one of four portraits de la Tour made of the Dauphin (according to a letter of the Marquis de Marigny), of which the only known survivor, at the Louvre is dated 1748. The curators at the Musée l'Écuyer consider the study above to have served perhaps for the first of these portraits, that of 1745.
Louis, Dauphin of France
Cadet branch of the Capetian dynasty
Born: 4 September 1729 Died: 20 December 1765
French royalty
Preceded by
Dauphin of France
4 September 1729 – 20 December 1765
Succeeded by