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Louis XV (February 15, 1710 – May 10, 1774), known as Louis the Beloved (French: le Bien-Aimé), was King of France and Navarre from September 1, 1715 until his death on May 10, 1774.

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Young Louis XV, King of France and Navarre.

Ancestry

Louis XV was the great-grandson of Louis XIV and the third son of the Louis, Duke of Burgundy (1682–1712), and his wife Marie-Adélaïde of Savoy, the eldest daughter of Duke Vittorio-Amedeo II of Savoy and of Anne-Marie d’Orléans. Louis XV’s mother Anne-Marie d’Orléans was the daughter of Philippe I, Duke of Orléans, younger brother of Louis XIV, and Henrietta of England. As the maternal grandmother of King Louis XV, Henrietta of England also brought in more blood from the House of Bourbon as the youngest daughter of King Charles I of England, Scotland and Ireland and his wife, Henrietta Maria of France, the youngest daughter of Henri IV of France (Henri III of Navarre) and his second wife, Marie de’ Medici.

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Louis, Duke of Burgundy, father of Louis XV.

Louis XV’s father, Louis, Duke of Burgundy was the eldest son of the young 21-year-old Dauphin, Louis, who would later be called le Grand Dauphin, and his wife, Maria-Anna-Victoria of Bavaria. Louis, le Grand Dauphin was the eldest son of Louis XIV of France and Navarre and his first wife, Infanta Maria-Theresa of Spain, born an Infanta of Spain and Portugal at the Royal Monastery of El Escorial, she was the daughter of Felipe IV-III, King of Spain and Portugal and his wife Elisabeth of France, the eldest daughter of King Henri IV of France and his second spouse Marie de’ Medici.

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Marie Adélaïde of Savoy, mother of Louis XV.

Maria-Anna-Victoria of Bavaria, the wife of Louis, le Grand Dauphin, was the eldest daughter of Ferdinand-Maria, Elector of Bavaria and his wife Princess Henriette-Adelaide of Savoy. Her maternal grandparents were Vitoria-Amedeo I, Duke of Savoy and Christine-Marie of France, the second daughter of Henri IV of France and Marie de’ Medici, thus her husband the dauphin was her second cousin.

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Louis, le Grand Dauphin, Grandfather of Louis XV.

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Maria Anna Victoria of Bavaria, Grandmother of Louis XV.

Louis XV was a great-great-great grandson of the first French Bourbon King, Henri IV and a descendent through his eldest son Louis XIII. However, as we’ve seen, Louis XV also descended from Henri IV through all three of his daughters, Elisabeth, Christine-Marie and Henrietta-Maria.

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Louis XIV, King of France and Navarre, great-grandfather of Louis XV.

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Infanta Maria-Theresa of Spain and Portugal, Archduchess of Austria, great-grandmother of Louis XV.

Becoming Heir to the Throne

Louis XV was born in the Palace of Versailles on February 15, 1710 during the reign of his great-grandfather, Louis XIV. When he was born, he was created the Duke of Anjou. The possibility of his becoming King seemed very remote; King Louis XIV’s oldest son and heir, Louis Le Grand Dauphin, Louis’s father (Louis, Duke of Burgundy) and his elder surviving brother (Louis, Duke of Brittany) were ahead of him in the succession.

However, the Grand Dauphin died of smallpox on April 14, 1711. On February 12, 1712 the mother of Louis, Marie-Adélaïde, was stricken with measles and died, followed on February 18, by Louis’s father, the former Duke of Burgundy, who was next in line for the throne. On March 7, it was found that both Louis and his older brother, (also named Louis) the former Duke of Brittany, who was now the new Dauphin, had the measles. The two brothers were treated in the traditional way, with bleeding. On the night of 8–9 March, the new Dauphin died from the combination of the disease and the treatment. The governess of Louis, Madame de Ventadour, would not allow the doctors to bleed Louis further; he was very ill but survived and was now the new dauphin and sole heir to his great-grandfather’s throne. When Louis XIV died on September 1, 1715, Louis, at the age of five, inherited the throne and became King Louis XV of France and Navarre.

Regency

The Ordinance of Vincennes from 1374 required that the kingdom be governed by a regent until Louis XV reached the age of thirteen. The title of Regent was given to his nearest relative, his cousin Philippe II, the Duke of Orleans, son of Philippe I, Duke of Orléans, (brother of Louis XIV) and his wife, Elisabeth-Charlotte of the Palatinate, daughter of Charles I Ludwig, Elector Palatine of the Simmern branch of the House of Wittelsbach, and Landgravine Charlotte of Hesse-Kassel.

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Philippe II, the Duke of Orleans, Regent of France

Elisabeth-Charlotte of the Palatinate is directly related to several iconic European monarchs. Her grandmother, Elizabeth Stuart was a Scottish and later English princess, daughter of King James VI-I of England, Scotland and Ireland and she was the granddaughter of Mary I, Queen of Scots. Her first cousin became George I, the first Hanover King of Great Britain. Through her daughter, Élisabeth-Charlotte d’Orléans who married Leopold, Duke of Lorraine, Elisabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate was the great-grandmother of Archduchess Marie-Antoinette of Austria the wife of King Louis XVI of France and Navarre.

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The Regent and Louis XV

In February 1717, when Louis XV reached the age of seven, he was taken from his governess Madame Ventadour and placed in the care of François de Villeroy, the 73-year-old Duke and Maréchal de France, named as his governor in Louis XIV’s will of August 1714. Villeroy instructed the young King in court etiquette, taught him how to review a regiment, and how to receive royal visitors.

Louis XV’s guests included the Russian Tsar Peter I the Great in 1717; contrary to ordinary protocol, the two-meter-tall Tsar picked up Louis and kissed him. Louis also learned the skills of horseback riding and hunting, which became the great passion of the young King. In 1720, following the example of Louis XIV, Villeroy had the young Louis dance in public in two ballets at the Tuileries Palace on February 24, 1720, and again in The Ballet des Elements on December 31, 1721. The shy Louis evidently did not enjoy the experience; he never danced in another ballet.

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Tsar Peter I of Russia holding King Louis XV of France

End of the Regency

On June 15, 1722, as Louis XV approached his thirteenth birthday, the year of his majority, he left Paris and moved back to Versailles, where he had happy memories of his childhood, but where he was far from the reach of public opinion. On 25 October, Louis was crowned King at the Cathedral of Reims. On February 15, 1723, the king’s majority was declared by the Parlement of Paris, officially ending the regency. In the beginning of Louis’s reign, the Duke of Orleans continued to manage the government, and took the title of Prime Minister in August 1723, but while visiting his mistress, far from the court and medical care, Orleans died in December of the same year. Following the advice of his preceptor Fleury, Louis XV appointed his cousin Louis Henri, Duke of Bourbon, to replace the late Duke of Orléans as prime minister.

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Young Louis XV, King of France and Navarre