Life at Versailles

Children

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What place did children hold?

 ChilChildren were looked on as important for the future.  They were needed to carry on names and titles, to form alliances with other families and nations and to ensure care for their parents in their elderly years.  No doubt there were people who also enjoyed their children for the simple reason of familial love.

  There was, however, a certain distance between parents and their children.  Too much parental attention was regarded as overindulgent.  Many parents experienced the loss of one or more of their offspring in their minority.  Louis XIV lost five of the six children he had with his wife Queen Marie-Therese, three of the four children he had with Louise de La Valliere, one of the seven children he had with Madame de Montespan and the only one he had with the Marie-Angelique de Fontanges.   Louis XV lost three of the ten children he had with Marie Lesckinska, and Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette had already lost two children by the time of the French Revolution.

 

  It was considered best to turn your baby over to a wet nurse, usually a peasant woman in a nearby village, to care for and feed the baby until it was old enough to be received by a governess within your household to continue its rearing.  Until age seven the care of boys and girls was supervised by a governess.  At age seven boys were transferred from this exclusively female environment into the care of a governor, where their upbringing was continued by a male establishment.  Up until then, boys wore dresses the same as girls, in the same style as the adults wore.

 

  Many girls were sent to convents to continue their education, and importantly, to safeguard their reputation.  A mother would drive out occasionally to visit her daughter, but there was in general not a lot of interaction until the girl was older and married. 

 

  A son would most likely continue to be educated at home by a tutor, and work to gain military experience, possibly as head of a regiment purchased for his command.

 

  For the royal children, who each headed their own household, the positions of governess and governor were filled by members of the best noble families.  They were not sent off anywhere, but remained in the palace to be educated.  In fact, they were generally not allowed much freedom as their very existence was crucial to dynastic continuity and as a currency in cementing international relations.

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