A dethroned Queen’s dignity amidst defeat

October 22, 2012

Portrait of Maria Carolina of Austria (1752-1814), Queen consort of Naples and Sicily. Painted by Johann Georg Weikert.

Queen Marie Caroline’s last days were profoundly sad. After a perilous journey of more than seven months she reached Vienna, where she had asked an asylum from the Emperor Francis, who had been her son-in-law. One of her daughters, Princess Marie Thérèse (born June 6, 1772; married September 19, 1790; died April 13, 1807), was the second wife of this sovereign, and the mother of the Empress Marie Louise (hence the Duchess of Berry was the cousin of the King of Rome). The Congress of Vienna was sitting, and Marie Caroline did not receive the welcome she expected from her former son-in-law. At this time the Austrian court was still in favor of Murat, and the daughter of the great Empress Maria Theresa vainly claimed the restitution of the Kingdom of Naples. In her affliction, she wrote to her daughter, the Duchess of Genevois, afterwards Queen of Sardinia: —

“Nothing on earth moves me any more; my fate was settled and decided the day that I was chased like a play-actress and thrust out of Sicily…. My life is ended in this world…. I am no longer interesting except to a few old women who never stir out of their own doors, but who come to see the last of the great Maria Theresa’s children. The Prater is in its lovely green and full of flowers; but nothings seems beautiful to me any longer.”

A few days later—the old Queen died of a sudden attack of apoplexy in the little chateau of Hetzendorf, beside Schönbrunn, where her great-grandson, the former King of Rome, was living. Marie Caroline had been a woman whose faults and whose qualities were alike extraordinary. Napoleon, who once used such violent and insulting language respecting her, ended by citing her as a model worth imitating in his correspondence with King Joseph. “That woman,” he wrote to his brother, “knew how to think and act like a queen, while preserving her rights and her dignity….”

Eight months after the death of Queen Marie Caroline, her husband recovered the Kingdom of Naples…. Fortune smiled at the same time on the Bourbons of Naples and the Bourbons of France.

The Royal Family of Naples by Angelica Kauffman.

Imbert de Saint-Amand, The Duchess of Berry and the Court of Louis XVIII, trans. Elizabeth Gilbert Martin (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1892), pp. 10-12.

 

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 223

 

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