MCM: Louis XV


Okay, so I have a thing for Louis XV (1710-74; reigned 1715-74). Not old Louis, mind you, but hot young Louis. It mostly stems from a very vivid dream I had, in which he and I were laying on the floor in a hallway at Versailles, and let’s just say we were very friendly.

This is the Louis I dreamed about | Portrait of Louis XV of France (1710-1774) by Maurice Quentin de La Tour, 1748, Louvre Museum

The real, non-dream Louis was born in 1710; he was the great-grandson of Louis XIV. He came to the throne at only age 5, because his grandfather (Louis XIV’s son, Louis “le Grand Dauphin”) and great-uncle died of smallpox in 1711; the following year his father (Louis, Duke of Burgundy) died of measles as did his mother. Thus there was a Regency for several years. He was initially supposed to marry Mariana Victoria of Spain, and she came to live at the French court, but that engagement was dissolved and he married Marie Leszczyńska, daughter of the deposed king of Poland, in part because she offered no political threat.

Portrait of King Louis XV of France as child by Pierre Gobert, circa 1715, Fundación Yannick i Ben Jakober

Portrait of King Louis XV of France as child by Pierre Gobert, circa 1715, Fundación Yannick i Ben Jakober

Louis was involved in several wars, including the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48) and the Seven Years War (1756-63). He and Marie Leszczyńska had ten children, among them the famously bitchy aunts who made life difficult for Marie-Antoinette, the wife of his grandson, the future Louis XVI. He was also famous for having two prominent official mistresses, Madame du Pompadour and Madame du Barry, and frequently turns up on screen in connection to them (or Marie-Antoinette) — unfortunately usually the older, not-so-hot version! He died of smallpox in 1774, leaving the throne to his grandson.

Portrait of Louis XV, King of France (1710-1774) by Workshop of Louis-Michel van Loo, 18th century, musée des Beaux-Arts et d'Archéologie de Châlons-en-Champagne

Portrait of Louis XV, King of France (1710-1774) by Workshop of Louis-Michel van Loo, 18th century, musée des Beaux-Arts et d’Archéologie de Châlons-en-Champagne

Let’s run down Louis on screen!

Madame du Barry (1917)

A silent film focused on Louis’s (Charles Clary) last official mistress (Theda Bara).

1917 Madame du Barry

Madame du Barry (1919)

Another silent film, another du Barry (Pola Negri)! Louis was played by Emil Jannings.

1919 Madame du Barry

Monsieur Beaucaire (1924)

Based on a 1900 novel, it’s about a duke (Rudolph Valentino) who escapes to England disguised as a barber in order to avoid marrying “Princess Henriette.” Lowell Sherman plays Louis, who is doing the forcing-to-marry.

1924 Monsieur Beaucaire

I approve of the patches!

Madame Pompadour (1927)

A silent film with Dorothy Gish as the marquise de Pompadour, and Henri Bosc as the king.

1927 Madame Pompadour

Du Barry, Woman of Passion (1930)

Norma Talmadge as du Barry, with William Farnum as the recipient of said passion.

1930 Du Barry, Woman of Passion
1930 Du Barry, Woman of Passion1

You can’t stop such passion!

Madame du Barry (1934)

Reginald Owen plays Louis to Dolores del Río‘s du Barry.

1934 Madame du Barry

There’s SO MUCH THAT’S INTERESTING here! Okay, especially the dress on the center chick (Marie-Antoinette?).

1934 Madame du Barry

Is that leopard print on the right?

Marie Antoinette (1938)

John Barrymore plays the aging king/grandfather-in-law to Norma Shearer‘s Marie-Antoinette.

1938 Marie Antoinette

LOVE this reaction shot!

1938 Marie Antoinette

(Photo by Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)

1938 Marie Antoinette

Du Barry Was a Lady (1943)

Red Skelton plays Louis XV in the 18th century dream sequence to Lucille Ball‘s du Barry.

1943 Du Barry Was a Lady

Fanfan la Tulipe (1952)

A French comedic swashbuckler, in which a man joins Louis’s (Marcel Herrand) army in order to avoid a shotgun wedding.

1952 Fanfan la Tulipe
1952 Fanfan la Tulipe

Ah, they’re going for the Disney barmaid look!

Madame du Barry (1954)

Another French biopic about du Barry (Martine Carol); André Luguet plays Louis as a relatively charming, comic character.

1954 Madame du Barry 1954 Madame du Barry

Royal Affairs in Versailles (1954)

One of director Sacha Guitry‘s episodic takes on French history. Famed French actor Jean Marais plays Louis.

1954 Royal Affairs in Versailles 1954 Royal Affairs in Versailles

Shadow of the Guillotine (1956)

A biopic focused on Marie-Antoinette (Michèle Morgan), but Aimé Clariond makes an appearance as her grandfather-in-law.

1956 Shadow of the Guillotine

King on Horseback (1958)

Another swashbuckler staring Jean Marais; Jean Lara plays Louis.

1957 La Tour, prends garde !

A light hand on the makeup, I see!

Le chevalier d’Harmental (1966)

A French TV adaptation of an Alexandre Dumas novel, set during the regency period of Louis’s reign. Pascal Bressy plays the young Louis.

1966 Le chevalier d'Harmental

Madame Quinze (1969)

Another French TV movie, this one about Pompadour (who was nicknamed “Madame Quinze” – although I’m not sure why?) and Louis (Maurice Escande).

1969 Madame Quinze

That’s a LOT OF BLUE TULLE. And his embroidery is interesting. Ahem.

Joseph Balsamo (1973)

Another French TV adaptation, another Alexandre Dumas novel, this one about the Count di Cagliostro (an Italian magician). Louis is played by Guy Tréjan.

1973 Joseph Balsamo

He has SUCH a 1970s look! I’m feeling the dentures all the way over here.

Monsieur Pompadour (1973)

In a French TV movie, a contemporary professor has the bad luck to have the last name Pompadour, and a wife named Antoinette (same as the marquise) who is courted by the local mayor. He goes into a dream sequence where he envisions all of them as their 18th century counterparts. Georges Guétary plays the king.

1973 Monsieur Pompadour

I’m getting a Frankie Avalon vibe from center guy (Louis?).

Série rose: le style pompadour (1991)

A French TV series that seems to be historical softcore porn; this episode focuses on Pompadour, and Pierre-François Pistorio plays Louis.

1991 Série rose- le style pompadour

I feel like that blue bow is going to be untied via some teeth.

Fanfan (2003)

A French remake of the 1952 film with Vincent Perez and Penélope Cruz. Didier Bourdon is Louis XV.

2003 Fanfan la Tulipe

I really do have to force myself to watch this terrible, terrible movie, because the visuals DO look interesting. I mean, those feathers!!

2003 Fanfan la Tulipe 2003 Fanfan la Tulipe

Doctor Who: the Girl in the Fireplace (2006)

Everyone’s favorite episode; Ben Turner plays “King Louis.”

Really, King Louis XV? Um, ok.

Just, no. I actually think neither actor looks much like the character they’re playing, but “Louis” is egregious.

2006 Doctor Who- the Girl in the Fireplace

Jeanne Poisson, marquise de Pompadour (2006)

Vincent Perez’s turn to take on the king. I started watching this and got annoyed at their portrayal of Pompadour, but I’ll get back to it one of these days!

2006 Jeanne Poisson, marquise de Pompadour

+1 for Vincent Perez! -1 for machine embroidery!

2006 Jeanne Poisson, marquise de Pompadour

Yet another actress who just doesn’t look much like Pompadour.

2006 Jeanne Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour

Marie Antoinette (2006)

Rip Torn plays the aging king in the Sofia Coppola directed, Kirsten Dunst starring biopic.

Rip Torn - Marie Antoinette (2006)

Louis XV, le soleil noir (2009)

I love the concept of a French biopic actually focused on Louis XV, but I’m not thrilled about what I’m seeing in these pics. Older Louis is played by Stanley Weber, younger by Gabriel Hallali.

2009 Louis XV- le Soleil Noir

Was Louis really a redhead??!!

2009 Louis XV- le Soleil Noir

Those française pleats have me raising my eyebrows.

2009 Louis XV, le soleil noir


2009 Louis XV, le soleil noir

Seeing more isn’t helping.

The Royal Exchange (2017)

STILL DYING TO SEE THIS. STILL NOT AVAILABLE IN THE US. Young Louis XV (Igor van Dessel) is engaged to Mariana Victoria of Spain, but things don’t work out well.

2017 The Royal Exchange

LOVE this!

2017 The Royal Exchange 2017 The Royal Exchange

Do any of these capture the hotness that was young Louis XV? Discuss!


About the author



Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

24 Responses

  1. Pat

    SO interesting! Madame Quinze is probably a snark because it translates as 15 and there may be a double-entendre in there that I can’t catch

    • Kendra

      Yes I figure it’s a snark, but what does it meeeean? Was she his fifteenth mistress?? From the 15th arrondissement (did that even exist yet)??

      • HerImperialMaj

        I’m guessing, since he was referred to as Louis Quinze (in French you wouldn’t call him Louis the Fifteenth, just Louis Fifteen), it’s a joke, as if Quinze is his last name and she’s his wife.

        • Pat

          exactly! Also, not being conversant in double-entrendres in French there may be sexual pun that sounds a bit like “quinze: (Remember, “O Calcutta” was a play on words “”O quel cul t’as!”, French for “What an arse you have!” (copied from WIKI).

          OH HEY! and WIKI also just told that there was a popular card game called “Quinze” in the reign of Louis XV!! So maybe she was REALLY lucky at the card table!

          and then there is THIS (modern … ish) play on the subject

    • Orian Hutton

      I believe that as he was Louis Quinze, she was Madame Quinze, an acknowledgment of her position as his ‘wife’: the one with the influence, but not with the legitimacy. It could be seen as either a compliment recognising her position at court or a subtle, snickering put down because her position was only as secure as his passion and I expect most resented her.

  2. Natasha Rubin

    A Royal Exchange looks adorable (they’re such wee munchkins) AND like a super-interesting story! And the 2009 biopic looks like it might be one of those cases where the costumes aren’t the highest quality but the movie itself is pretty good. It doesn’t look like they totally threw historical accuracy out the window, more like they just maybe didn’t have the best budget.

    I can’t say I’m finding any of these particularly hot, but then I’ve never really found the historical Louis XV hot. (Sorry! That younger portrait of him is definitely handsome. Just not particularly my thing.)

  3. Boxermom

    I’m a bit confused. Louis XV is referred to in this post as Marie-Antoinette’s father-in-law, but he was Louis XVI’s grandfather, yes? BTW, I wish I had cool dreams like that!

  4. Saraquill

    None of the Louis are my type, sadly. Maybe if there was an actress playing him in drag.

  5. Colleen

    The John Barrymore image he’s being fed. It’s hard to tell, but the woman sitting before him seems to be feeding him a grape. I don’t have a favorite Louis XV, though I am in love with the de La Tour portrait of him from 1748.

  6. Roxans

    Mickey: What’s a horse doing in a spaceship?
    Doctor: What’s eighteenth century France doing on a spaceship?

    Rose: Oh look what the cat dragged in, The Oncoming Storm!

    Mme. De Pompadour to Doctor: This is my lover, the King of France. (Louis and Doctor bristle at each other)

    And of course one of the most fabulous Doctor entrances ever, literally on a white horse.

  7. Coco

    I saw L’échange des princesses / Royal Exchange at what turned out to be its premiere in Paris. I was sitting in the theater, wondering why it was so crowded, wondering what was causing the delay (because my flight back to the US was early the next morning). What do you know, suddenly all of the actors, the director, the author of the novel it’s based on show up. Mostly I was thinking, ‘Um, how was I able to get a ticket for this?’
    My impression was that the movie was fine overall, but the young actor playing Louis XV was great. He’s played by Igor van Dessel, Klein plays a different character.

  8. Shashwat

    John Barrymore was wonderful in the role,even if his aquiline nose was somewhat uncharacteristic of the monarch.
    Dreaming about Louis on the floor of Versailles,seems interesting.My dreams never rise above small,dingy millinery shops(maybe I would come by du Barry one day).

  9. Sandra

    I would guess that Du Barry is Madame Quinze simply because she’s the mistress of Louis XV (« Louis quinze ») ! That’s my Occam’s Razor solution, anyway. :) … I also want to see The Royal Exchange when it’s available. Thanks for the reminder!

  10. Damnitz

    I loved the hillarious comedy version of this made “Beaucaire”-Adaption from 1946 and the complete silly representation of Louis XV. Reginal Owen played the old Louis XV in this Comedy.
    The film is set in a somehow 18th century mix as the plot doesn’t fit in any period of Louis’ reign. So many events (Spanish marriage (1720s?), Louis is old (1760s), young Madame de Pompadour in romance with the king (second half of the 1740s …).

    But I like it, when Louis XV is not portrayed as a old stupid Person. Vincent Perez and Igor van Dessel definetely were the best in your collection.