Louis XV of France was born in 1710 and became king in 1715 at the tender age of five.
In 1721, when he had reached the kingly age of eleven, it was decided the Louis should marry his three-year-old Spanish cousin, the Infanta Maria Anna Victoria. But the young king was more interested in playing with his Xbox and he turned the proposal down.
Louis’s childhood continued until he was fifteen when he finally married Marie Leszczynska, the daughter of the deposed king of Poland.
The marriage proved a happy and a productive one. But Marie was seven years older than he was and the king’s royal feet were starting to get itchy.
“I want a mistress!” he wailed, and what he got was a whole family of them in the shapely shapes of the de Mailly sisters.
de Mailly Sister #1 : Louise-Julie
The 23-year-old beauty had no difficulty in seducing the love-sick Louis. She was interested neither in power nor in honours, and for three years their affair remained a tightly guarded Court secret.
It was idyllic, until she made the tragic error of introducing to Louis her ambitious and devious little sister Pauline-Félicité.
de Mailly Sister #2 : Pauline-Félicité
Pauline-Félicité arrived at the royal Court on 8 June 1739. She had haughtily told a friend: “I shall follow my sister to the Court; the king will see me; the king will take me; and I will govern my sister, the king, France, and the whole of Europe”.
Though not so pretty as her elder sister - she was described by a younger sister as having “the shape of a grenadier, the neck of a crane and the odour of a monkey” - Pauline quickly won the French king’s heart.
Louis confesses to Louise-Julie that he loves her kid sister as much as he loves her. And Pauline is not slow to capitalize on the king’s affections for her to further her own ambitions.
She involves herself in politics and the running of the state. She pushes Louis into a war with Austria. She teaches him how to manage his personal finances. She even has him dismiss a servant who stole a bottle of champagne.
Then, suddenly, Pauline becomes ill and dies after a difficult pregnancy.
Louise-Julie is reconciled once more to the king. Until the arrival at the Court of another junior sibling - Marie-Anne.
de Mailly Sister #3 : Marie-Anne
Marie-Anne made her entrance at the Mardi Gras masked ball of 1742 where she came wearing a Chinese costume.
Louise-Julie then committed another blunder by proposing her sister to the service of the queen.
Louis immediately fell in love with the new de Mailly sister and she became his newest new mistress. And Marie-Anne repaid the debt she owed to her elder sister by having her kicked out of the Court.
Then Anne-Marie made a gaffe of her own when she sent for yet another sister Diane-Adélaide.
de Mailly Sister #4 : Diane-Adélaide
Diane-Adélaide was short, overweight and unattractive, but with a joyous and playful temperament, and she quickly slipped between the sheets of the king’s four-poster.
But Louis was still exercising his royal prerogative with Anne-Marie, and this ménage à trois causes a scandal at the Court. Diane had to go, and Marie-Anne is once more the king’s favourite mistress.
Then Marie-Anne falls ill and dies at the age of twenty-seven. Louis is heartbroken. But luckily there is another sister waiting in the wings - Hortense-Félicité - and what’s more she is the prettiest of them all!
de Mailly Sister #5 : Hortense-Félicité
Unfortunately for the king, the husband of Hortense-Félicité loves his wife and refuses to allow her to become his mistress.
And now there are no more de Mailly sisters. But Louis had many other mistresses, including the enchanting Madame de Pompadour, the most famous of them all.
Les Maitresses de Louis XV
Louis XV as a child - Pierre Gobert
Marie Leszczynskia - Alexis Simon Belle
Lady said to be Louise-Julie
Pauline-Félicité - Jean-Marc Nattier
Louis XV - Maurice-Quentin de la Tour
Marie-Anne - Jean-Marc Nattier
Diane Adelaide - Jean Marc Nattier
Madame de Pompadour - Francois Boucher