Marie Thérèse of France
Marie Thérèse Charlotte of France (19 December 1778 – 19 October 1851) was the eldest child of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
She married her cousin, Louis Antoine, Duke of Angoulême, the eldest son of the future Charles X. Once married, she assumed her husband's title and was known as the Duchess of Angoulême. She became the Dauphine of France upon the accession of her father-in-law to the throne of France in 1824. Technically she was Queen of France for twenty minutes, in 1830, between the time her father-in-law signed the instrument of abdication and the time her husband, reluctantly, signed the same document.
Marie Thérèse by Antoine-Jean Gros
Marie Thérèse was born at the Palace of Versailles on 19 December 1778 as the first child and eldest daughter of King Louis XVI of France and Queen Marie Antoinette. A child was anxiously expected after seven years of her parents' marriage. Marie Antoinette almost died of suffocation during this birth due to a crowded and unventilated room, but the windows were quickly opened to let fresh air in the room in an attempt to revive her. As a result of the horrible experience, Louis XVI banned public viewing, allowing only close family members and a handful of trusted courtiers to witness the birth of the next royal children.
When she was revived, the Queen greeted her daughter (whom she later nicknamed Mousseline) with delight:
Poor little one, you are not desired, but you will be none the less dear to me! A son would have belonged to the state—you will belong to me.
The Princess was baptized on the day of her birth. She was named after the Queen's mother, the Princess' maternal grandmother, the reigning Empress Maria Theresa of Austria. Her second name, Charlotte, was for her mother's favourite sister, better known as Maria Carolina of Austria, Queen of Naples
Marie Thérèse's household was headed by her governess, the princesse de Guéméné, who later had to resign due to her husband's bankruptcy and was replaced by one of the queen's closest friends, the duchesse de Polignac. Louis XVI was an affectionate father, who delighted in spoiling his daughter, while her mother was stricter.
Marie Antoinette was determined that her daughter should not grow up to be as haughty as her husband's unmarried aunts. She often invited children of lower rank to come and dine with Marie-Thérèse and encouraged the child to give her toys to the poor. In contrast to her image as a materialistic queen who ignored the plight of the poor, Marie Antoinette attempted to teach her daughter about the sufferings of others. On New Year's Day in 1784, after having some beautiful toys brought to Marie-Thérèse's apartment, she told her:
Marie-Thérèse was joined by two brothers and a sister, Louis Joseph Xavier François, Dauphin of France, in 1781, Louis-Charles de France, Duke of Normandy in 1785, and Sophie Hélène Béatrix, Madame Sophie, in 1786. As the daughter of the king, she was a fille de France, and as the eldest daughter of the king, she was styled Madame Royale from birth.
Marie-Thérèse Charlotte with her mother, Marie Antoinette, and brother Louis Joseph, Dauphin of France, in the Petit Trianon's gardens, by Adolf Ulrik Wertmüller
Life during the Revolution
As Marie-Thérèse was growing up, the march toward the French Revolution was gaining momentum. Social discontent mixed with a crippling budget deficit provoked an outburst of anti-absolutist sentiment. By 1789, France was hurtling toward revolt as the result of bankruptcy brought on by the country's support of the American Revolution and high food prices due to drought, all of which was exacerbated by propagandists whose central object of scorn and ridicule was Queen Marie Antoinette.
As the attacks upon the Queen grew ever more vicious, the popularity of the monarchy plummeted. Inside the Court at Versailles, jealousies and xenophobia were the principal causes of resentment and anger toward the Queen. Her unpopularity with certain powerful members of the Court, including the Duke of Orléans, led to the printing and distribution of scurrilous pamphlets which accused the Queen of a range of sexual depravities as well as of spending the country into financial ruin. While it is now generally agreed that the Queen's actions did little to provoke such animosity, the damage these pamphlets inflicted upon the monarchy proved to be a catalyst for the upheaval to come.
The worsening political situation however had little effect on Marie-Thérèse, as more immediate tragedies struck when her younger sister, Sophie, died in 1787,followed two years later by the Dauphin, Louis-Joseph, who died of tuberculosis, on 4 June 1789, one month after the opening of the Estates-General.
Move to the Tuileries
When the Bastille was stormed by an armed mob on 14 July 1789, the situation reached a climax. The life of the 11-year old Madame Royale began to be affected as several members of the royal household were sent abroad for their own safety. The comte d'Artois, her uncle, and the duchesse de Polignac, governess to the royal children, emigrated on the orders of Louis XVI.
The duchesse de Polignac was replaced by the marquise de Tourzel, whose daughter Pauline became a lifelong friend of the Princess.
On 5 October, a mixed cortège of mainly working women from Paris marched to Versailles, intent on acquiring food believed to be stored there, and to advance political demands. After the invasion of the palace in the early hours of 6 October had forced the family to take refuge in the king's apartment, the crowd demanded and obtained the move of the king and his family to the Tuileries Palace in Paris.
As the political situation deteriorated, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette realized that their lives were in danger, and went along with the plan of escape organised with the help of Count Axel von Fersen.The plan was for the royal family to flee to the northeastern fortress of Montmédy, a royalist stronghold, but the attempted flight was intercepted in Varennes, and the family escorted back to Paris.
On 10 August 1792, after the royal family had taken refuge in the Legislative Assembly, Louis XVI was deposed, although the monarchy was not abolished before 21 September. On 13 August, the entire family was imprisoned in the Temple Tower, remains of a former medieval fortress. On 21 January 1793, Louis XVI was executed on the guillotine, at which time her young brother Louis Charles became recognized as King Louis XVII of France by the royalists.
Almost six months later, in the evening of 3 July 1793, guards entered the royal family's apartment, forcibly took away the eight-year old Louis Charles, and entrusted him to the care of Antoine Simon, an elderly cobbler and Temple commissioner. Remaining in their apartment in the Tower were Marie Antoinette, Marie-Thérèse and Madame Élisabeth, Louis XVI's youngest sister. When Marie Antoinette was taken to the Conciergerie one month later, in the night of 2 August, Marie-Thérèse was left in the care of her aunt Élisabeth who, in turn, was taken away on 9 May 1794 and executed the following day. Of the royal prisoners in the Temple, Marie-Thérèse Charlotte was the only one to survive the Reign of Terror.
Her stay in the Temple Tower was one of solitude and often great boredom. The two books she had, a prayer book by the name of The Imitation of Jesus Christ and Voyages by La Harpe, were read over and over, so much so that she quickly grew tired of them. But her appeal for more books were refused by government officials, and many other requests were frequently refused, while she often had to endure listening to her brother's cries and screams whenever he was beaten. On 11 May, Robespierre visited Marie-Thérèse, but there is no record of the conversation. During her imprisonment, Marie-Thérèse was never told what had happened to her family. All she knew was that her father was dead. The following words were scratched on the wall of her room in the tower:
In late August 1795, Marie-Thérèse finally was told what had happened to her family, by Madame Renée de Chanterenne, her female companion. When she had been informed of each of their fates, the distraught Marie-Thérèse began to cry, letting out loud sobs of anguish and grief.:p.156
It was only once the Terror was over that Marie-Thérèse was allowed to leave France. She was liberated on 18 December 1795, on the eve of her seventeenth birthday, exchanged for Nicolas Marie Quinette, and taken to Vienna, the capital city of her cousin, the Holy Roman Emperor Francis II, and also her mother's birthplace.
Marie-Thérèse in Vienna in 1796 soon after her departure from Revolutionary France.
Marie-Thérèse arrived in Vienna on 9 January 1796, in the evening, twenty-two days after she had left the Temple.
She later left Vienna and moved to Mitau, Courland (now Jelgava, Latvia), where her father's eldest surviving brother, the comte de Provence, lived as a guest of Tsar Paul I of Russia. He had proclaimed himself King of France as Louis XVIII after the death of Marie-Thérèse's brother. With no children of his own, he wished his niece to marry her cousin, Louis-Antoine, duc d'Angoulême, son of his brother, the comte d'Artois. Marie-Thérèse agreed.
Louis-Antoine was a shy, stammering young man. His father tried to persuade Louis XVIII against the marriage. However, the wedding went ahead, taking place on 10 June 1799 at Jelgava Palace (modern-day Latvia). The couple had no children.
The royal family moved to Great Britain, where it settled at Hartwell House, Buckinghamshire, while her father-in-law spent most of his time in Edinburgh, where he had been given apartments at Holyrood House.
The long years of exile ended with the abdication of Napoleon I in 1814, and the first Bourbon Restoration, when Louis XVIII stepped upon the throne of France, twenty-one years after the death of his brother Louis XVI.
The Bourbon Restoration
Louis XVIII attempted to steer a middle course between liberals and the Ultra-royalists led by the comte d'Artois. He also attempted to suppress the many men who claimed to be Marie Thérèse's long-lost younger brother, Louis XVII. These claimants caused the princess a good deal of distress.
Marie-Thérèse found her return emotionally draining and she was distrustful of the many Frenchmen who had supported either the Republic or Napoleon. She visited the site where her brother had died, and the Madeleine Cemetery where her parents were buried. The royal remains were exhumed on 18 January 1815 and re-interred in Saint-Denis Basilica, the royal necropolis of France, on 21 January 1815, the 22nd anniversary of Louis XVI's execution.
In March 1815, Napoléon returned to France and rapidly began to gain supporters and raised an army in the period known as the One Hundred Days. Louis XVIII fled France, but Marie-Thérèse, who was in Bordeaux at the time, attempted to rally the local troops. The troops agreed to defend her but not to cause a civil war with Napoléon's troops. Marie-Thérèse stayed in Bordeaux despite Napoléon's orders for her to be arrested when his army arrived. Believing her cause was lost, and to spare Bordeaux senseless destruction, she finally agreed to leave. Her actions caused Napoléon to remark that she was the "only man in her family."
After Napoléon was defeated at Waterloo on 18 June 1815, the House of Bourbon was restored for a second time, and Louis XVIII returned to France.
On 13 February 1820, tragedy struck when the comte d'Artois' younger son, the duc de Berry, was assassinated by the anti-Bourbon and Bonapartist sympathiser Pierre Louvel, a saddler. Although his father never recovered from the loss, the royal family was cheered when it was learned that the duchesse de Berry was pregnant at the time of her husband's death. On 29 September 1820, she gave birth to a son, Henri, duc de Bordeaux, the so-called "Miracle Child", who later as the Bourbon pretender to the French throne assumed the title of comte de Chambord.
Madame la Dauphine
Marie Thérèse in 1827.
Louis XVIII died on 16 September 1824, and was succeeded by his younger brother, the comte d'Artois, as Charles X. Marie-Thérèse's husband was now heir to the throne, and she was addressed as Madame la Dauphine. However, anti-monarchist feeling was on the rise again. Charles's ultra-royalist sympathies alienated many members of the working and middle classes.
On 2 August 1830, after Les Trois Glorieuses, the Revolution of July 1830 which lasted three days, Charles X, who with his family had gone to the Château de Rambouillet, abdicated in favor of his son, who in turn abdicated in favor of his nephew, the young duc de Bordeaux. However, in spite of the fact that Charles X had asked him to be regent for the young king, Louis-Philippe, duc d'Orléans accepted the crown when the Chambre des Députés named him King of the French.
On 4 August, in a long cortège, Marie-Thérèse left Rambouillet for a new exile with her uncle, her husband, her young nephew, his mother, the duchesse de Berry, and his sister Louise Marie Thérèse d'Artois. On 16 August, the family had reached the port of Cherbourg where they boarded a ship for Britain. King Louis-Philippe had taken care of the arrangements for the departure and sailing of his cousins.
The royal family lived in what is now 22 (then 21) Regent Terrace in Edinburgh until 1833 when the former king chose to move to Prague as a guest of Marie-Thérèse's cousin, Emperor Francis I of Austria. They moved into luxurious apartments in Prague Castle. Later, the royal family left Prague and moved to the estate of Count Coronini near Gorizia, which was then Austrian but is in Italy today. Marie-Thérèse devotedly nursed her uncle through his last illness there in 1836, when he died of cholera.
Her husband died in 1844, and he was buried next to his father. Marie-Thérèse then moved to Schloss Frohsdorf, a baroque castle just outside of Vienna. She spent her days there taking walks, reading, sewing and praying. Her nephew, who now styled himself as the comte de Chambord, and his sister joined her there. In 1848, after King Louis Philippe's reign ended in a revolution, France again became a Republic.
Marie-Thérèse died of pneumonia on 19 October 1851, three days after the fifty-eighth anniversary of the execution of her mother, Queen Marie Antoinette. She was buried next to her uncle Charles X and her husband Louis XIX, in the crypt of the Franciscan Monastery church of Castagnavizza in Görz, then in Austria, now Kostanjevica in the Slovenian city of Nova Gorica. Like her deceased uncle, Marie-Thérèse had remained a devout Roman Catholic.
Later, her nephew Henri, the comte de Chambord, last male of the senior line of the House of Bourbon; his wife, the comtesse de Chambord (formerly the Archduchess Marie-Thérèse of Austria-Este, daughter of Duke Francis IV of Modena and his wife, Princess Maria Beatrice of Savoy); and the comte's only sister, Louise, Duchess of Parma were also laid to rest there. Another occupant of the crypt is the famous antiquarian, the Duke of Blacas, who was allowed to be buried there in honor of his dutiful years of service as a minister to Kings Louis XVIII and Charles X.
Marie-Thérèse is described on her gravestone as the Queen Dowager of France, a reference to her husband's twenty-minute rule as King Louis XIX of France.
Dark Counts mystery
In October, 2013, the grave of a woman in Hildburghausen, Thuringia, Germany, was exhumed to obtain DNA for testing, to determine if she was Marie-Thérèse.The woman, who gave her name as Sophie Botta, lived in a castle in the area from 1807 until her death in 1837, and never spoke in public, or was seen outside without her face being veiled. She, was accompanied by Leonardus Cornelius van der Valck, 'a secretary in the Dutch embassy in Paris from July 1798 to April 1799', and together they were known as the Dark Counts. Van der Valck referred to Botta as 'Your Grace' and they only spoke to each other in French. Some German historians believe she was the real Marie Thérèse, who had swapped places with her friend, and possible half-sister, Ernestine Lambriquet, following the revolution. Possibly as she was too traumatised to resume a role in society, but also as a result of a pregnancy, after abuse by her captors, which was referred to in letter from a family friend, at the Spanish Court, in 1795.
This research revealed that the Dark Countess is not Marie-Thérèse, but rather, another woman whose identity remains a mystery. (On 28 July 2014 the 'Interessenkreis Dunkelgräfin' broadcast the findings of an inquest, proving that the Dunkelgräfin was not Marie-Therese, on Thüringer television (see: MDR mediathek))