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Marie Thérèse
Queen consort of France and of Navarre (disputed)
Marie Thérèse by Antoine-Jean Gros
Tenure 2 August 1830 for 20 minutes (disputed)
Spouse Louis-Antoine, Duke of Angoulême
Full name
Marie Thérèse Charlotte de France
House House of Bourbon
Father Louis XVI of France
Mother Marie Antoinette
Born 19 December 1778(1778-12-19)
Château de Versailles, France
Died 19 October 1851 (aged 72)
Frohsdorf, Austria
Burial Kostanjevica Monastery, Nova Gorica, Slovenia

Marie Thérèse Charlotte de France (19 December 1778 – 19 October 1851) was the eldest child of King Louis XVI of France and his wife, Queen Marie Antoinette. As the daughter of the king, she was a Fille de France, and as the eldest daughter of the king, she was given the traditional honorific Madame Royale at birth.

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. It can be considered that 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, twenty minutes later.



Marie Thérèse Charlotte was born at Versailles, first child and eldest daughter of King Louis XVI of France and Queen Marie Antoinette. After nearly seven years of anticipation, there was much curiosity about the Royal pregnancy. When the time came, it was a custom at Versailles for the Queen to give birth in the presence of members of both the Royal family and the Court. After a particularly difficult labor, on 19 December 1778, following an ordeal where the queen literally fainted from suffocation and hemorrhaging, Madame Royale was born. The queen's bedroom was packed with courtiers watching the birth, and the doctor aiding her supposedly caused the excessive bleeding by accident. The windows had to be torn out to revive her[citation needed]. As a result of this harrowing experience, the queen and the king banned most courtiers from entering her bedchamber for subsequent labors.

Although her husband might have been disappointed with the birth of a Princess rather than the long awaited male heir, when she was revived, the Queen greeted her daughter's birth with delight:

Poor little thing; you are not what they wanted, but we will love you nonetheless. A son would have belonged to the State; you shall be mine, and have all my care; you shall share in my happiness and soften my sorrows.

Marie-Thérèse Charlotte with her mother, Marie Antoinette, and brother Louis Charles in the gardens at Trianon's Hameau de la reine.

The Princess was named after the Queen's mother, Austrian Empress Maria Theresa. As the eldest daughter of the king, she was given the official title Madame Royale. Her mother nicknamed her Mousseline.[1]

Madame Royale's household was headed by her governess, the princesse de Guéméné, who was later forced to resign due to a scandal involving her husband's debt and 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 and giving her anything she wanted. Marie-Thérèse appreciated him much more than her mother. Marie Antoinette was stricter and was determined that her daughter should not grow up to be as haughty as her husband's unmarried aunts. She often invited children from working-class districts[citation needed] 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 at various times attempted to teach her daughter about the sufferings of others. On New Year's Day in 1784, she had some beautiful toys brought to Marie-Thérèse's nursery. The queen said:

I should have liked to have given you all these as New Year's gifts,but the winter is very hard, there is a crowd of unhappy people who have no bread to eat, no clothes to wear, no wood to make a fire. I have given them all my money; I have none left to buy you presents, so there will be none this year.

Marie-Thérèse was joined in the nursery by two brothers, Louis-Joseph-Xavier-François in 1781 and Louis-Charles in 1785, and a younger sister, Sophie-Hélène-Béatrix in 1786.

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. A more immediate tragedy struck when her younger sister, Sophie, died in 1787. This death was followed two years later by that of the Dauphin, Louis-Joseph, who died of consumption at the height of the political crisis in June 1789.


Move to the Tuileries

When the Bastille was stormed by an armed mob on 14 July 1789, the situation reached a critical climax. The young Madame Royale's life began to be affected as several members of the royal household were sent abroad for their own safety. Marie-Thérèse's uncle, the comte d'Artois, emigrated on the orders of Louis XVI. Due to her mother's low popularity, those associated with her were also deemed in danger. This included Marie-Thérèse's governess, the duchesse de Polignac, who went to Switzerland to escape possible assassination.

The duchesse de Polignac was replaced by the stern marquise de Tourzel. The marquise's daughter, Pauline, would become a life-long friend of the Princess.

On 5 October 1789, working women of Paris marched on the palace intent on acquiring food believed to be stored at Versailles. While the royal family was not harmed, the crowd surrounded the palace and demanded the king and his family move to Paris. Outnumbered, unsure of the army's loyalty and aware of the potentially violent results of refusal, Louis XVI reluctantly accepted. Marie-Thérèse and her family were taken to the Tuileries Palace.

As the political situation deteriorated, the king and queen became more and more afraid that their lives were in danger. They went along with the plan of escape organised with the help of Count Axel von Fersen, hoping to make it to the northeastern fortress of Montmédy, which was a royalist stronghold. Their attempted flight away from Paris was intercepted in Varennes where they were arrested and escorted back to the capital.

The Temple

On 10 August 1792, after the royal family had taken refuge in the Legislative Assembly, the monarchy was abolished and 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. His death devastated the surviving family.

In the evening of 3 July 1793[2], guards entered the royal family's apartment and forcibly took away Marie-Thérèse's young brother, Louis Charles, king Louis XVII of France for the royalists. Remaining in their apartment in the Tower were Marie Antoinette, Marie-Thérèse and Louis XVI's youngest sister, Madame Élisabeth. The small child was tortured and was made to speak out against his mother, his sister, and his aunt, and even to accuse his mother of incest. When Marie Antoinette was taken to the Conciergerie, at the beginning of August, Marie Thérèse was left in the care of her aunt Élisabeth.

Marie Antoinette's death

On 1 August 1793, Marie Antoinette was taken to the Conciergerie prison and brought to trial under the accusation of treason, and incest with her son. While there was no evidence to support the latter charge, it was well known that the former queen engaged in extensive covert correspondence with foreign powers during the Revolution[citation needed]. Regardless, it was a foregone conclusion that she would be declared guilty. She was executed by Charles Henri Sanson, the former royal executioner, on 16 October. In the evening of 9 May 1794, Élisabeth was taken away and executed the following day. Marie-Thérèse Charlotte was the only one to survive the Reign of Terror.

During the remainder of her imprisonment in the Temple Tower, Marie-Thérèse was never told what had happened to her family. All she knew was that her father was dead, and she felt alone in the world. The following words were scratched on the wall of her room in the tower:

Marie-Thérèse is the most unhappy creature in the world. She can obtain no news of her mother; nor be reunited to her, though she has asked it a thousand times. Live, my good mother! whom I love well, but of whom I can hear no tidings. O my father! watch over me from heaven above, life was so cruel to her. O my God! forgive those who have made my family die."

Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte est la plus malheureuse personne du monde. Elle ne peut obtenir de savoir des nouvelles de sa mère, pas même d'être réunie à elle quoiqu'elle l'ait demandé mille fois. Vive ma bonne mère que j'aime bien et dont je ne peux savoir des nouvelles. Ô mon père, veillez sur moi du haut du Ciel. Ô mon Dieu, pardonnez à ceux qui ont fait souffrir mes parents.

On 11 May, Maximilien Robespierre visited Marie-Thérèse in prison, but there is no record of the conversation. It was only once the Reign of 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[3], and taken to Vienna, the capital city of her cousin, the Holy Roman Emperor Francis II, and also her mother's birthplace. She arrived in Vienna on 9 January 1796, in the evening, twenty-two days after she had left the Temple[4].

Life as an émigrée

Marie-Thérèse as a young refugee in Vienna in 1795 soon after her departure from Revolutionary France.

Marie-Thérèse 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 Louis-Antoine, duc d'Angoulême, his nephew and her cousin, who would be the eventual dynastic heir to the throne of France. Marie-Thérèse agreed unquestioningly, happy only to be part of a family again.

Louis-Antoine was a shy, stammering young man. His father, the comte d'Artois, who viewed his eldest son as a crass embarrassment, tried to persuade Louis XVIII against the marriage. The wedding, however, went ahead. It took place on 10 June 1799 at Jelgava Palace (modern-day Latvia). The couple had no children.

In Britain

The royal family moved to Great Britain, where it settled at Hartwell House, Buckinghamshire. Marie Thérèse's father-in-law, the comte d'Artois, 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

Profile of Madame Royale.

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. Needless to say, 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 and aunt Madame Élisabeth were buried. The royal remains were exhumed on 18 January 1815 and inhumed 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."[5]

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.

Marie Thérèse in 1827.

Madame la Dauphine

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 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[6].

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 Princess Louise Marie Thérèse of France. 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.[7]

Final exile

The royal family lived in what is now 22 (then 21) Regent Terrace in Edinburgh[8][9] until 1833 when the former king chose to move to Prague as a guest of Marie-Thérèse's cousin, the Emperor Francis II of Austria. They moved into the luxurious Schloss-Hradschin. Later, the royal family left Prague and moved to the estate of Count Coronini near Gorizia, Italy. Marie-Thérèse devotedly nursed her uncle through his last illness there in 1836, when he died of cholera.

Marie-Thérèse's 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 walking, reading, sewing and praying. Her nephew, who now styled himself as the comte de Chambord, and his sister joined her there. In 1848, after Louis-Philippe's reign ended in another 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 Kostanjevica in Görtz, then in Austria, now the Slovenian city of Nova Gorica. Like her deceased uncle, Marie-Thérèse had remained a devout Roman Catholic.

After death

Later, her nephew, the comte de Chambord, the 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 buried 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.

In fiction

Marie-Thérèse has been portraited in several motion picture adaptations, mainly to do with her mother's life.

  • In 1938 she was played by Marilyn Knowlden in Marie-Antoinette, opposite Norma Shearer as the queen.
  • In 1975, in the French television drama Marie-Antoinette, Marie-Thérèse was played by Anne-Laura Meury.
  • In 1989 she was played by Katherine Flynn in The French Revolution. Katherine's on-screen mother, Marie Antoinette, was played by her real mother, Jane Seymour.
  • In 2001, Daisy Bevan as Marie-Thérèse appeared briefly in the costume-drama The Affair of the Necklace opposite Joely Richardson as Queen Marie Antoinette.
  • In 2006, Marie Antoinette, directed by Sofia Coppola was released. Marie-Thérèse was played by two different child actresses. At age two, she was played by Lauriane Mascaro, and at age six she was played by Florrie Betts. Kirsten Dunst starred as her mother, Marie Antoinette.

Recently, Marie-Thérèse's character appeared in a Northern Irish play on the mystery of Louis XVII. The characters of Louis XVII, Charles X and the princess's governess, the marquise de Tourzel also appeared. The monarchist author of the play, All Those Who Suffered, explains his inspiration at

Marie-Thérèse's life provided inspiration for the novel Madame Royale by Elena Maria Vidal. It was a sequel to Vidal's novel Trianon, which looked at Versailles before the Revolution.

More recently, author Sharon Stewart wrote a historical fiction novel based on the writings of Marie-Thérèse, The Journal of Madame Royale. She first titled her book The Dark Tower, since part of it takes place in the Tower where the princess and her family were kept, but after it became part of a series called "Beneath the Crown", the title was changed to The Princess in the Tower.

The moving in a Thuringian castle in 1807 of a secretive couple (the Dark Counts) gave birth to rumors that the Countess was the real Marie Thérèse who would have refused to go back in the world after the Temple and would have been replaced by Ernestine Lambriquet, her childhood companion. This legend has been developed in a number of books in France and Germany.

In 2007, the book The Lacemaker and the Princess was published in which a common lacemaker girl is included in the sisterhood of Marie-Therese and Ernestine Lambriquet.

References and notes

  1. ^ Castelot, André, Madame Royale, Librairie Académique Perrin, Paris, 1962, chapter Mousseline la sérieuse p. 13, (French)
  2. ^ ib. Castelot, chapter L'orpheline du Temple, p. 88.
  3. ^ ib. Castelot, chapter L'Orpheline du Temple, p. 110-111.
  4. ^ ib. Castelot, chapter La Princesse invisible, p. 126.
  5. ^ ib. Castelot, chapter Le seul homme de la famille, p. 197.
  6. ^ ib. Castelot, chapter Le convoi funèbre, pp. 226-251.
  7. ^ ib. Castelot, chapter Le convoi funèbre, pp. 245-251.
  8. ^ Mitchell, Anne (1993), "The People of Calton Hill", Mercat Press, James Thin, Edinburgh, ISBN 1873644 183.
  9. ^ Newspaper article on sale of 21 Regent Terrace Diggines, Graham "For sale: tragic royals bolthole", The Scotsman, 2002-02-09 Accessed 2009-08-09


External links

Primary sources

Further reading

Other material

Marie Thérèse of France
Cadet branch of the Capetian dynasty
Born: 19 December 1778 Died: 19 October 1851
French royalty
Title last held by
Marie Antoinette of Austria
Dauphine of France
16 September 1824–2 August 1830
Queen consort of France and Navarre
2 August 1830
for 20 minutes
Title next held by
Maria Amalia of the Two Sicilies
as Queen of the French
Title last held by
Marie Louise of Austria
as Empress of the French
Titles in pretence
Title last held by
Marie Antoinette of Austria
Queen consort of France and Navarre
6 November 1836 – 3 June 1844
Succeeded by
Maria Theresa of Austria-Este


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