After two million dead and 12 years of wars, France and Spain agreed on a plan to sow peace between two devastated kingdoms by the economic bankruptcy, the famines, the warlike conflicts and the epidemics that devastated Europe at the beginning of the XVIII: to exchange their princesses. A story that will be turned 300 years and that has been taken to the cinema by Marc Dugain in Change of queens (L'échange des princesses). However, the plan failed because nobody counted on a hidden and deadly enemy: smallpox.
Mariana Victoria de Borbón (1718-1781), daughter of King Felipe V of Spain, She was sent with only four years to the French court to marry Louis XV, a boy of 11 who was under the protection of the regent of France, the Duke of Orleans. This, in turn, sent his daughter Luisa Isabel to Spain – all the family of Luis XV had died of smallpox or various infections and there were no other princesses available – to marry the Prince of Asturias, the future Luis I of Bourbon. Of course, Luisa Isabel (1709-1742) was noble enough to be related to the Spanish Royal House, since she was niece, granddaughter of the king Louis XIV of France (the Sun King) by his father and granddaughter for his mother.
But what the politicians design does not have to go well and the disaster was absolute. The little Mariana Victoria was returned to Spain with seven years, since it was impossible at that age to give a dolphin to France and the kingdom needed it before the possibility that Luis XV died of smallpox or anything else (was quite dissolute) . For her part, Luisa Isabel (a woman with a serious personality disorder and who liked to walk around the Madrid fortress naked) was sent back to France when Luis I died of smallpox at the age of 17. Luisa Isabel de Orléans no longer served the interests of both countries. By the way, she also took smallpox looking after her dying husband. On the other hand, Luis XV left this world at 64 years of age. Of course, also for the same disease.
The doctor and historian Xavier Sierra recalls in his blog that it was "a terrible epidemic". "Such was the importance of the disease at that time that when the characters were described, in addition to explaining their personal characteristics it was highlighted whether they had smallpox marks or not." Sierra explains that "19 years after the death of Louis XV of France [el 17 de octubre de 1793], his tomb in the basilica of Saint Denis was desecrated by the sans culottes. When they opened it, the stinking smell made them retreat. "
Almost all the characters in this drama died because it was not until 1796 when the Englishman Edward Jenner found the vaccine. She inoculated samples from an infected farmer to an eight-year-old boy. After seven days, the boy improved. Two years later in his work An Inquiry into the Causes and Effects of the Variolae Vaccinae, he coined the term for the first time variolae vaccine (smallpox of the cow), from which the word vaccination derives.
The Professor in History and writer José Calvo Poyato introduces another element in this case of intrigues: Isabel de Farnesio, wife of Felipe V and mother of Mariana Victoria and the future Carlos III. "She designed Spanish foreign policy because of her interest in seeing her children kings. And he got it. When Louis Michel Van Loo paints The portrait of the family of Felipe V, he places it in the center, because he is the boss. I feel it. It is a fundamental part of this intrigue. " This queen, who also suffered smallpox, hated Luisa Isabel, so when little Mariana Victoria was sent back to Spain "she did the same with her": she returned it. Luisa Isabel de Orleáns, Queen of Spain, died in the Luxembourg Palace at the age of 32, abandoned and forgotten all over the world
Sierra adds that "many times the diseases are not given importance in the history of the countries. Doctors do not know how to explain it and historians do not take it into account. I try to understand things from the double vision of Medicine and the Humanities. I think that's how you can better understand everything. "
The intrigue ends with Fernando VI (stepson of Isabel de Farnesio) arriving at the throne of Spain after his brother Luis I died and marrying the Portuguese Bárbara de Braganza. A marriage agreed by Farnese, who could also handcuffed Mariana Victoria -the one that Luis XV had rejected- with José I of Portugal, and the Spanish woman became regent of the Portuguese kingdom upon the death of her husband. And the Duke of Orléans (Luis Felipe II, great-grandson of Luisa Isabel's father) voting during the French Revolution who decapitated the successor of Louis XV, Louis XVI. All for a smallpox that changed the protagonists of the story.