Princess Louise of France (1737–1787)
|Ven. Louise of France|
Portrait by Jean-Marc Nattier, 1748.
15 July 1737|
23 December 1787 50) (aged|
Convent of Saint-Denis
|Father||Louis XV of France|
Venerable Louise of France (15 July 1737 – 23 December 1787), was the youngest of the ten children of Louis XV and his wife, Maria Leszczyńska. As a daughter of the king, she held the rank of a fille de France. From 1740 she was known as Madame Louise. She entered the Carmelites in 1770 under the name of Thérèse of Saint Augustine, and there was in charge of the novices and the economy. She was elected prioress three times. She was declared venerable in 1873.
Daughter of the King
Louise-Marie of France was born at Versailles on 15 July 1737. Her childbirth was particularly difficult for the 34-year-old Queen, and the physicians advised her that another birth could be fatal. Afraid of alienating her husband, who was just 27-years-old, the Queen did not tell him about her physicians' warnings. However, gradually she began to refuse him entrance to her rooms.
Around this time, Louis XV began to publicly acknowledge his first favorite, counting on the indulgence of his minister and former tutor, Cardinal de Fleury. The cardinal was well aware of the King's two major character flaws: an increasing shyness and a propensity for boredom. The King had ceased almost all sexual relations with his wife. Yet when members of the court openly wondered at the Queen's latest delivery, the King quipped that this latest child was to be called, Madame Dernière (Madame the Last).
Louise was sent to be raised at the Abbey of Fontevraud with Louis' three other young daughters, Victoire, Sophie and Thérèse (who died at Fontevraud at the age of eight). On 20 December 1738 Louise was baptised at Fontevraud; her godfather was François-Marc-Antoine de Bussy, seigneur de Bisé; her godmother was Marie-Louise Bailly-Adenet, first woman of the chamber to her sister Madame Thérèse.
Louise was known for her spirituality as well as her pride. As a child, she didn't hesitate to demand that those in her service get up when she entered the room, because she was the "daughter of your King". However, the nun in charge of her education replied: "And I, Madame, I am the daughter of your God".
In 1750, aged 13, Louise returned with her sister Sophie to Versailles, where the King affectionately nicknamed her "Chiffe".
Slightly hunchbacked, she entered early adulthood in seclusion from the rest of the world, seeking comfort and courage in her religion. Louis XV had several marriage plans for her, notably in 1766 with Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor, but none came to fruition. Already in 1748, when Louise, aged 11, was still in Fontevraud, rumors began to circulate that her father intended her to marry Prince Charles Edward Stuart, pretender to the throne of England. Louise then declared:
"I do not worry about being good for a husband, I, who desire no other than Jesus Christ."
The princess did not hesitate to exaggerate her physical deformity when crossing paths with ambassadors in order to avoid any matrimonial project. Moreover, Louise resented her father's court with its intrigues, petty jealousies, and constant ceremonials, inspiring in her feelings of oppression and enslavement.
The 1750s and 1760s were for the French Royal Family a time of mourning, and for Louise a time of reflection and maturation.
In 1752 her sister Henriette, Louis XV's favorite daughter, died of smallpox at the age of 24. During this period the first signs of the King's unpopularity began to surface.
Seven years later, in 1759, the Duchess of Parma (Henriette's twin sister) died at Versailles. The death of Louise's nephew, the Duke of Burgundy, eldest son of the Dauphin followed in 1761, and that of her niece Isabella of Parma (wife of the future Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II), who died in childbirth in 1763 aged 21.
Her only surviving brother, the Dauphin Louis-Ferdinand, died in December 1765 aged 36 and their maternal grandfather, Stanislaus I (former King of Poland and later Duke of Lorraine) died in the Château de Lunéville in February 1766. Her sister-in-law, Dauphine Maria Josepha died in 1767, and finally, the death of Queen Maria Leszczyńska in June 1768 concluded this series of family tragedies.
Some time later, the presentation at court of the Comtesse du Barry, the new favorite of Louis XV, pushed Louise to formally request that she be permitted to enter the Carmelites, a cloistered and austere Order. Far from her father's superficial and perverse court, it was her fervent wish to pray for the King's salvation.
Entrance to the Order
In 1770, as the court prepared for the marriage of the new Dauphin (the future Louis XVI) and Archduchess Maria Antonia of Austria, Louise asked her father to allow her to become a Carmelite nun. She approached Christophe de Beaumont, Archbishop of Paris, asking him to intercede on her behalf with her father. Difficult as his decision was, the King agreed and gave his written consent on 16 February 1770.
The words, "I Carmelite, and the King all to God", reflected Louise's willingness to redeem with her sacrifice the soul of her father, and expiate his sins. Even before becoming a Carmelite, Louise had begun in secret to wear religious dress and live the convent life while living at Versailles.
Louise chose to enter the convent at Saint-Denis, vowing to faithfully adhere to the order's strict rule. Threatened with closure owing to limited financial resources, the convent was now unexpectedly saved by the arrival of a nun with a large dowry, which in turn further attracted significant donations. With her investiture, Louise chose the name Thérèse of Saint Augustine, in honor of Teresa of Ávila, a mystic and reformer of the Carmelite Order.
Louise assumed the habit of the Carmelites on 10 October 1770. The recently married Dauphine gave her the veil. She took her religious vows on 12 September 1771 and this time, another of her nieces-in-law, the Countess of Provence (wife of the future Louis XVIII), in a very formal ceremony, bestowed upon her the black veil of the Carmelites.
By the end of 1771, Louise was entrusted with the economy of the convent. In 1779 she organized the rebuilding of the ruined church which Richard Mique oversaw.
Louise was elected prioress of the convent on 25 November 1773. She served as prioress from 1773 to 1779 in two consecutive terms, and a third term from 1785. She refused to use her status as a Fille de France to derive privileges or intervene in favor of others. However, when the interest of the Carmelite Order was at stake, she readily corresponded with the powers that be in order to argue on behalf of the Order.
Louise gave assistance to the Carmelites nuns who had leave Austria after being expelled by Emperor Joseph II, finding them a place in other French Carmel convents. On June 1783, she hosted 13 Carmelite nuns who were driven from Brussels. The persecution against them was so intense, that, for a time, 58 Carmelite nuns lived at Saint-Denis. Eventually, with the onset of the French Revolution and the closure of convents, the Carmelites were forced to leave France for other countries.
Thérèse of Saint Augustine died on 23 December 1787 in Saint-Denis, after suffering from a stomach complaint. Somewhat more than a year later, began the French Revolution which deposed her family from the throne, and ousted from power the Catholic Church in France. Her last words were:
In 1793 the revolutionaries who desecrated the tombs of the Kings of France at the Basilica of St Denis did the same to the cemetery of the Carmelite convent. Located near the cloister, the remains of the Royal family were disinterred and thrown into a mass grave.
The process of Thérèse of Saint Augustine's beatification took place between 1855 and 1867. Pope Pius IX declared her venerable on 19 June 1873, officially initiating the process of beatification. The process (required at the time) of non-cult takes place in 1885-1886. The process of sanctity was conducted in 1891-1892, and the process of the virtues held from 1896 to 1904. The decree validating these processes was published on 28 November 1906.
- "Accept, Oh my beloved! Oh the most amiable of husbands! Agree to this heart burning to be yours. You have so many in your possession! Reign alone and reign forever in my soul and all my faculties, my will and all my affections, my body and all my senses [...] What I remember is busier than the memory of your benefits; my mind to be occupied with meditations of your amiable qualities; my heart was filled with that ineffable ardor which you burn for me here. My whole body is purified approaches your sweet flesh; he sacrifices himself for your glory, your work for the sick people, and that its unique efforts, his wishes are most usual to imitate you and become like you." (Eucharistic Meditations interview with our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, for the octave of Corpus Christi).
- "Everything that does not come from God cannot be good and scruples are not for him. Are we not a large consciousness, but a peaceful conscience." (Mother Teresa of St. Augustine, advice to novices).
- "All my sisters have sacrificed more to God than me, because they made him the sacrifice of their freedom, instead I was a slave to the Court, and my chains, to be more brilliant, were not the least ones."
- "My daughter, when we have something more painful than usual to support, or the kind of life we have embraced, or the influence of the seasons, we remember what Jesus Christ suffered for us; do we represent this immense weight of glory which he wants us to participate, and whose comparison with the heaviest weight we have to endure in this world is so clean to make it disappear."
- The letter of the King was lost. A copy is kept in the annals of the convent of St. Denis Carmel. See: Madame Louise de France (Mère Thérèse de St Augustin): Le départ au Carmel (in French) [retrieved 21 September 2016].
- "I had taken, since being informed regarding the life led by the Carmelites and without exclusive vocation yet for the order in which I dedicate to the Lord, I nevertheless decided to join them, unless insurmountable difficulties that my cloistered might prevent me". See: Madame Louise de France (Mère Thérèse de St Augustin): L’appel au Carmel (in French) [retrieved 21 September 2016].
- Not to be confused with other Carmelites who had the same name, like Mother Thérèse de Saint-Augustin (born Marie-Madeleine-Claudine Lidoine; 22 September 1752 - guillotined 17 July 1794).
- Reportedly, Louise opposed constructio on Sundays and ordered that workers should rest on Sundays and holidays. She refuses to accept that the Sunday rest must be profaned from his truly meaning....she even indicates the workers as project supervisor that she refuses to pay these days!. See Madame Louise de France (Mère Thérèse de St Augustin): Chef de travaux (in French) [retrieved 22 September 2016].
- Achaintre, Nicolas Louis, Histoire généalogique et chronologique de la maison royale de Bourbon, Vol. 2, (Publisher Mansut Fils, 4 Rue de l'École de Médecine, Paris, 1825), 154.
- L. Dussieux, Généalogie de la maison de Bourbon de 1256 à 1871 (Paris: Jacques Lecoffre, 1872), 107.
- Ravel, Jeffrey, Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007, p. 125, ISBN 0-8018-8598-1
- Gratay, Alphonse-Joseph-Auguste, "Henri Perreyve", Pvi, C. Douniol, 1872.
- Hare, Augustus John Cuthbert, North-Eastern France, Macmillan, 1896, p. 143.
- Markham, Jacob Abbott, A History of France, Harper & Brothers, 1863, p. 143.
- Vincent, Bernard, Louis XVI, Folio, coll. «Folio biographies», February 2006, 368 p. ISBN 978-2070307494, p. 23.
- Baedeker, Karl, Paris and Environs with Routes from London to Paris, Dulau, 1898, p. 348.
- Madame Louise de France (Mère Thérèse de St Augustin): L’entrée au Carmel (in French) [retrieved 21 September 2016].
- Madame Louise de France (Mère Thérèse de St Augustin): Maîtresse des novices (in French) [retrieved 22 September 2016].
- Leathes, Stanley, The religion of the Christ, its historic and literary development, Oxford University, 1874, p. 356
- Madame Louise de France (Mère Thérèse de St Augustin): Carmélite et princesse (in French) [retrieved 22 September 2016].
- La Gazette de France (27 mai 1774): 109.
- Madame Louise de France (Mère Thérèse de St Augustin): Témoignage de l’auteur de la présentation (in French) [retrieved 22 September 2016].
- See also: Martyrs of Compiègne and the fr:Pontons de Rochefort
- Vénérable Marie-Louise de France in: nominis.cef.fr (in French) [retrieved 22 September 2016].
- Madame Louise de France (Mère Thérèse de St Augustin): La cause de béatification (in French) [retrieved 23 September 2016].
- Vénérable Louise de France (1737-1787) Thérèse de Saint Augustin in: saintsdefrance.canalblog.com [retrieved 23 September 2016].
- Madame Louise de France (Mère Thérèse de St Augustin): L’entrée au Carmel (in French) [retrieved 23 September 2016].
- Madame Louise de France (Mère Thérèse de St Augustin): Fontevraud (in French) [retrieved 23 September 2016].
- Madame Louise de France (Mère Thérèse de St Augustin): Testaments spirituels (in French) [retrieved 23 September 2016].
- Calvimont, Victorine de. Mme Louise de France, carmélite. Bourdeaux: Ragot, 1855.
- De la Brière, Léon. Madame Louise de France. Paris: Victor Retaux, 1900.
- Hours, Bernard. Madame Louise, Princesse au Carmel. Paris: Cerf, 1987.
- Proyart, Abbé. Vie de madame Louise de France: religieuse carmélite, fille de Louis XV. Lyon: Rusand, 1805.
- Dossier biographique et bibliographie sur le site du Carmel de France
- Venerable Therese of St. Augustine