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Marie Adélaïde de Bourbon of France, (March 23, 1732 – February 27, 1800) was a French princess, the fourth daughter and sixth child of King Louis XV of France and his consort, Marie Leszczyńska.

As the legitimate daughter of the king, she was a fille de France (Daughter of France) and was referred to as Madame Quatrième (“Madame the Fourth”), until the death of her older sister Marie Louise in 1733, as Madame Troisième, (“Madame the Third”); as Madame Adélaïde from 1737 to 1755; as Madame from 1755 to 1759; and then as Madame Adélaïde again from 1759 until her death.


She was named after her paternal grandmother, Marie Adelaide, Dauphine of France, (born Marie Adélaïde of Savoy (1685 – 1712) the eldest daughter of Duke Victor Amadeus II of Savoy (later King of Sardinia) and Anne Marie d’Orléans, herself the daughter of the daughter of Philippe I, Duke of Orléans, younger brother of Louis XIV, and Henrietta of England, the youngest daughter of Charles I of England). Marie Adélaïde of Savoy was the wife of Louis, Dauphin of France and Duke of Burgundy.

Marie Adélaïde de France was raised at the Palace of Versailles, where she was born, with her older sisters, Madame Louise Elisabeth, Madame Henriette and Madame Marie Louise, along with her brother Louis. Her brother Louis, as heir apparent, he became Dauphin of France but died before ascending to the throne. Three of his sons became kings of France: Louis XVI (reign: 1774–1792), Louis XVIII (reign: 1814–1815; 1815–1824) and Charles X (reign: 1824–1830).

Marie Adélaïde de Bourbon of France’s younger sisters were raised at the Abbaye de Fontevraud from 1738 onward, because the cost of raising them in Versailles with all the status to which they were entitled was deemed too expensive by Cardinal Fleury, Louis XV’s chief minister. Adélaïde was originally expected to join her younger sisters to Fontevraud, but she was allowed to stay with her brother and her three elder siblings in Versailles after a personal plea to her father.

One of the reasons as to why the expense of her younger sisters at Versailles were regarded as too high, was that the royal children were allowed to participate in court life at a very young age, and attend as well as arrange their own festivities already as children. Adelaide and her sister Henriette, who never went to Fontevrault, accompanied their father to the Opera in Paris at least since 1744, and hunted with him five days a week from the beginning of 1746.


Madame Adélaïde was described as an intelligent beauty; her appearance an ephemeral, “striking and disturbing beauty of the Bourbon type characterized by elegance”, with “large dark eyes at once passionate and soft”, and her personality as extremely haughty, with a dominant and ambitious character with a strong will. However, she was described as altogether deficient in that kindness which alone creates affection for the great, abrupt manners, a harsh voice, and a short way of speaking, rendering her more than imposing. She carried the idea of the prerogative of rank to a high pitch.”

Adélaïde never married. In the late 1740s, when she had reached the age when princesses were normally married, there were no potential Catholic consorts of desired status available, and she preferred to remain unmarried rather to marry someone below the status of a monarch or an heir to a throne.

Marriage prospects suggested to her were liaisons with Louis François II, Prince of Conti and Prince Franz Xavier of Saxony (the fourth but second surviving son of Augustus III, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony, and Maria Josepha of Austria). Franz Xavier’s older brother, Friedrich Christian, was successor to his father as Elector of Saxony, while Stanisław Poniatowski (1676–1762) was elected King of Poland. This meant that neither candidate for the hand of Madame Adélaïde had the status of being a monarch or an heir to a throne, and were therefore of not an equal status to marry a Daughter of France.


In her teens, Adelaide fell in love with a member of the Lifeguard after having observed him perform his duties; she sent him her snuffbox with the message, “You will treasure this, soon you shall be informed from whose hand it comes.” The guardsman informed his captain Duc d’Ayen, who in turn informed the king, who recognized the handwriting as his daughter’s, and granted the guard an annual pension of four thousand under the express condition that he should “at once remove to some place far from the Court and remain there for a very long time”.

In 1761, long after she passed the age when 18th-century princesses normally wed, she was reportedly suggested to marry the newly widowed Carlos III of Spain; but after she had seen his portrait, she refused, a rejection which was said to be the main reason to why Carlos III never remarried.

Between the death of Madame de Pompadour, mistress of Louis XV, in 1764 and before the rise of Madame Dubarry in 1768, Louis XV did have a certain confidence in Madame Adélaïde, and was supported by her “firm and rapid resolutions.” However, after the death of her mother, the Queen in 1768, circles at court imagined that as soon as the King recovered from his grief, the choice would be between either providing him with a new Queen, or a new official royal mistress.

Madame Adélaïde, who detested the idea of a new royal mistress, encouraged the solution of her father marrying again to prevent it. She reportedly preferred a Queen who was young, beautiful and lacked ambition, as she could distract her father from state affairs, leaving them to Madame Adélaïde who had political ambitions. Madame Adélaïde supported the Dowager Princess de Lamballe as a suitable candidate for that purpose, and was supported in this plan by the powerful Noailles family. However, the Princesse de Lamballe was not willing to encourage the match herself, her former father-in-law, the Duke of Penthievré, was not willing to consent, and the marriage plan never materialized.


The King was then suggested to marry Archduchess Maria Elisabeth of Austria. The archduchess was a famed beauty, but when she suffered from smallpox which badly scarred her face, marriage negotiations were discontinued. Maria Elisabeth of Austria (1743 – 1808) was the sixth child and the third surviving daughter of Maria Theresa I, Holy Roman Empress and Holy Roman Emperor Franz of Lorraine. Maria Elisabeth of Austria was the elder sister of Archduchess Marie Antoinette the future wife of Madame Adélaïde’s nephew Louis XVI of France. Instead, Louis XV introduced his last official maîtresse-en-titre, Madame du Barry, to court in 1769, whom Madame Adélaïde came to despise.

In the last years of their father’s reign, Madame Adélaïde and her sisters were described as bitter old hags, who spent their days gossiping and knitting in their rooms. Madame Adélaïde and her sisters attended to their father Louis XV on his deathbed until his death from smallpox on May 10. After the death of her father he was succeeded by his grandson Louis Auguste as Louis XVI, who referred to his aunts as Mesdames Tantes.

Madame Adélaïde came to play a political role after the succession of her nephew. Her sisters had in fact been infected by their father and fell ill with smallpox (from which they recovered), and were kept in quarantine on a little house near the Palace of Choisy. Despite this, however, Madame Adelaide had the time to intervene in the establishment of the new government: Louis XVI had been advised by his father to ask the advice of Adelaide should he become King, and after his succession, he sent her a letter and asked her advice on whom he should entrust his kingdom.