Marie Caroline of Austria: Wikis

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Maria Carolina of Austria
Maria Carolina in 1768 by Johann Georg Weikert
Queen consort of Naples and Sicily
Tenure 12 May 1768 – 8 September 1814
Spouse Ferdinand IV of Naples
Maria Theresa, Holy Roman Empress
Maria Luisa, Grand Duchess of Tuscany
Carlo, Duke of Calabria
Francis I of the Two Sicilies
Maria Christina, Queen of Sardinia
Princess Maria Cristina Amelia
Maria Amalia, Queen of the French
Maria Antonia, Princess of Asturias
Leopold, Prince of Salerno
House House of Bourbon-Two Sicilies
House of Habsburg-Lorraine
Father Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor
Mother Maria Theresa of Austria
Born 13 August 1752(1752-08-13)
Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austria
Died 8 September 1814 (aged 62)
Burial Imperial Crypt, Vienna
Religion Roman Catholic

Maria Carolina Louise Josepha Johanna Antonia von Habsburg (German: Maria Karolina von Österreich; Italian: Maria Carolina d'Austria; 13 August 1752 – 8 September 1814) was Queen consort and de facto ruler of the Kingdom of Naples from 1768 to 1799 and from 1799 to 1806, and of the Kingdom of Sicily from 1768 until her death in 1814, though she had lost the de facto power in 1812. She was born an Austrian archduchess and was a sister of Queen Marie Antoinette of France.



Maria Carolina was born on 13 August 1752 at the Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna. She was the 13th child and the 6th surviving daughter of Maria Theresa, the reigning Archduchess of Austria, Queen of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia, and Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor. She had two sisters named Maria Carolina; both died before she was born.

Nicknamed "Charlotte," a name her mother the empress had always liked, her names were chosen for illustrious forebearers. Maria was for the Virgin Mary, Caroline was for Maria Theresa's father, Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, Louise was for her godfather, Louis XV of France, Josepha was for her older brother the future Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor, Joanna was for St. John the Apostle, and Antonia was for St. Anthony of Padua.

She and Marie Antoinette were the two youngest girls and were therefore raised together, almost as though they were twins. They were extremely close to each other and shared the same governess until 1767. They were both lively girls. While Marie Antoinette neglected her studies, Maria Carolina was a diligent student, but also had a strong, indefatigable personality: "Willful and impetuous, [she was] convinced that she had been born to rule." [1]

Along with her younger sister, Maria Carolina spent her time "playing childish tricks, making improper remarks, and longing for unsuitable amusements. On more than one occasion, Maria Theresa threatened her daughter by saying: "I warn you that you will be totally separated from your sister Antonia!"[2]

Despite these frustrations, her mother described Maria Carolina as the daughter who resembled her most, not only in looks but also in character and intelligence. In a letter to her then 15-year-old daughter, Maria Theresa mother advised Carolina to work diligently at her studies in order to make the most of the gifts "God had given her", not to be idle and seek unsuitable amusements, and encouraged her to be more gentle with her ladies-in-waiting and show a more mature and kindly attitude. Shortly after this letter, Maria Carolina and Marie Antoinette were separated, and Maria Carolina was placed under the governess of her choice.

The older Carolina was told to be firm with the separation and to ignore the "little one" (as the Empress would sometimes refer to Marie Antoinette) when she made attempts to continue their old ways. She was also instructed to attach herself to her sister Archduchess Maria Amalia instead in order to help her develop a more mature behavior and outlook. Despite their separation, Maria Carolina and Marie Antoinette would retain their great affection and concern for each other throughout their lives. Decades later, after the death of Marie Antoinette, the latter's daughter Marie-Therese-Charlotte, wrote to her aunt that her mother spoke often of Marie Carolina and that she had said she had been the sister Marie Antoinette loved most.

Maria Carolina's engagement occurred under the most unfortunate circumstances. Her older sister, the Archduchess Maria Josepha died from smallpox in 1767 at the Hofburg Imperial Palace. Maria Josepha had been betrothed to marry King Ferdinand IV of Naples, the son of King Charles III of Spain and Maria Amalia of Saxony. Empress Maria Theresa was bound by an alliance with Charles to have one of her daughters marry his son.[3] After Maria Josepha died, Ferdinand was still expecting the "speedy arrival of a young wife," so the empress agreed to send Maria Carolina instead.

The young Maria Carolina was informed of her future marriage in 1767 and was due to marry him the next year. She "had heard enough about Ferdinand to dread...marrying him." She fought her mother tooth-and-nail over the issue. She cried, screamed, and begged to not marry the king of Naples, but it was no use.[4]


Maria Carolina married King Ferdinand on 7 April 1768 at the Church of the Augustine Friars in Vienna. The ceremony was a proxy one, and her brother Archduke Ferdinand stood in for the King of Naples and Sicily. Later that day, she left Austria bound for Naples.

Her departure for Naples caused her and her family great distress. At the last minute, Carolina had sprung out her carriage to give her beloved Maria Antoinette a series of hugs. Later in a letter, she pleaded with her former governess to write her about her sister. Carolina was said to be extremely upset by the journey, especially upon crossing the borders of her mother's dominions into Italy. It was an immense relief to her that her favourite brother Archduke Leopold, Grand Duke of Tuscany ruling in Tuscany at that time, offered to accompany her on the last part of her journey to Naples.

On 12 May 1768, she married the young Ferdinand IV of Naples who was also Ferdinand III of Sicily. The marriage took place at the vast Caserta Palace where the couple had their honeymoon[5].

The Kingdom of Naples and Sicily in Yellow

Ferdinand was unintelligent and very indolent, and Maria Carolina took advantage of that to assume control of the affairs of the kingdom. Her first few months in Naples were extremely distressing to her and she wrote her mother that she would prefer to die than relive her first few weeks there and that she would have taken her life if not for her faith in and love for God. She would also write to her mother that marriage is hard enough with her husband but to pretend to be content with it (as advised by her mother) was an even greater burden.

The young Maria Carolina spoke Italian poorly; he spoke no German (the Austrian court of her childhood had been bought up to speak French) and not much Italian, for he was known as the "Re Lazzarone", the "Beggar (or rascal) King", a man who enjoyed hanging out on the streets with the unwashed masses and who spoke mainly their dialect. Ferdinand was, by all accounts, a good-natured lunkhead and vulgarian. After their first night together, he told his servants that Caroline "slept like the dead and snored like a pig."[6]

Her mother encouraged her daughter to make the most of the marriage, saying that marriage is the most important thing in life. Her mother also advised her that, "Above all, she must try to understand her ill-educated but well-meaning husband". In time, Maria Carolina resigned herself to her marriage and was very good mother to her children and very kind to other family members, in addition to carefully supervising her children's education. In the future, her sister Marie Antoinette was also praised as a good mother.

Her youngest daughter Maria Antonia wrote to her in despair from Spain, "Mother, you have been deceived. For you are too good a mother to have sacrificed me like this if you had known." in reference to her marriage and the treatment of her mother in-law, Maria Luisa of Parma, who was Queen of Spain at that time. Queen Maria Carolina and Queen Maria Luisa were bitter enemies yet she loved her daughter-in-law Maria Isabella of Spain very much despite the fact that Maria Isabella was the daughter of her enemy (and was rumored to be fathered not by King Charles IV but by the Prime Minister Godoy)—a clear contrast of the treatment by Maria Luisa to Maria Antonia. She was very much embittered by the French revolution and hated Napoleon I, yet she was fond of her great grandson, Napoleon II, despite her horror that her granddaughter Archduchess Marie Louise was to marry Napoleon I.

In 1775, when she gave birth to a male heir, Carlo, Duke of Calabria, she became a Counsellor of State, and she took advantage of this position of political influence. She inherited much of her mother's intelligence, but was also ambitious and cruel, wanting to raise the kingdom to a position of power. She was effective, ruthless and strongwilled and was seen as a foreigner who tried to reform the kingdom with strange methods. She became very unpopular with the young liberals and the conservative nobles alike.

She did all she had been brought up to do, but failed in one essential way: she neglected her role as mother of the nation.

One of her daughters, Princess Maria Teresa, became the wife of the Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor. Another daughter, Princess Maria Amalia became queen consort of France, like Maria Carolina's sister, Marie Antoinette—this, after the eldest daughter of Maria Teresa, Archduchess Marie Louise, became the second wife of Napoleon I, Emperor of the French, who was later deposed.

During the French Revolution, the queen actually sympathized with the French rebels until the French monarchy was abolished on 21 September 1792. She further turned against the rebels with the execution of first her brother-in-law Louis XVI of France (21 January 1793) and then her own younger sister Marie Antoinette (16 October 1793).

The Queen and her husband were horrified, and Maria Carolina used her uxorious husband to bring the Neopolitan and Sicilian armies into the First Coalition against France. Peace was made in 1796.

When Maria Carolina first came to Naples, she was hailed as a representative of the Age of Enlightenment, and as the daughter og one of the most modern rules in Europe. But gradually she becare increasingly unpopular.She was now - in 1798 - seen as a foreigner and as an autocratic ruler. Even sons and daughters of the oldest families in Naples joined the revolutionary movement and tries to scandalize her. The many children she had born to the King were ascribed to her English minister, John Acton, and rumours of her lesbian relationship with Lady Emma Hamilton were rife. It is unknown wether this was true or not.

Early in 1799, Naples had its own (albeit short-lived) revolution, which replaced the Kingdom of Naples with the Parthenopaean Republic. In June, restoration forces commanded by Cardinal Ruffo destroyed the republic, returning the royal family to control. Before entry of the British fleet, allied to the court and commanded by Lord Nelson into the Bay of Naples, a capitulation treaty had been signed by Ruffo giving many republicans safe-passage to France.

The king and queen, intent on crushing the republican spirit and showing no mercy to the rebels, worked through Lady Hamilton, wife of the British Ambassador and mistress of Lord Nelson—who was at the time the Queen's close friend and confidant—to dupe the republicans into putting themselves into a position in which they could be captured. Several thousands of them were summarily judged, among them scions of the oldest noble families of Napoli. However, only a handful of the leaders were actually executed. Technically they had all committed high treason, and the verdict was correct.

In 1806, her husband was deposed as King of Naples (thus deposing her as de facto ruler) by Napoleon Bonaparte. However, Maria Carolina retained her status and power in Sicily until 1812, when her husband essentially (but not officially) abdicated, appointing his son Francis regent, which deprived the queen of her influence, and Maria Carolina was exiled to her homeland Austria, where she died in 1814. After her death, her husband became subservient to the will of Austria with his top advisor Maria Carolina gone. When Napoleon Bonaparte married Marie Louise of Austria, Maria Carolina had to accept that her grandchild had married "the Devil" and born him a son.

Maria Carolina was buried in the Imperial Crypt in Vienna; her parents are also buried there.



Titles, styles, honours and arms

Styles of
Queen Maria Carolina as consort
Reference style Her Majesty
Spoken style Your Majesty
Alternative style Ma'am

Titles and styles

  • 13 August 1752 – 7 April 1768: Her Royal Highness Archduchess Maria Carolina of Austria, Princess of Hungary and Bohemia, Princess of Tuscany
  • 7 April 1768 – 8 September 1814: Her Majesty The Queen of Naples and Sicily


External links


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