Marie Antoinette embraces her father for the last time

January 23, 2014

Schoenbrunn!

Never again was Marie Antoinette to see the long yellow façade with its green shutters, nor her apartments on the ground floor where, after hours of play, she and her brothers and sisters would eat pyramids of Viennese cakes dripping with whipped cream.

Painting of the Schönbrunn Palace by Bernardo Bellotto

Painting of the Schönbrunn Palace by Bernardo Bellotto

A few more revolutions of the wheels and the coach crowned with its bouquet of flowers passed the exact spot where, on a summer morning five years earlier, Antonia [as Marie Antoinette was then called by her family] had embraced her father for the last time. The Emperor Francis, who was on his way to Innsbruck for the celebration of the marriage between Archduke Leopold—the future Leopold II—and the Infanta Maria Luisa, had gone to Schoenbrunn to embrace his children. But when he was a little way from the castle, on the same road now followed by the Dauphine, he had, perhaps, some presentiment of his coming death and stopped his coach.

“Go back for the Archduchess Antonia; I must see her again.”

He had gazed at her with indescribable tenderness, and for the rest of her life Marie Antoinette was never to forget that look.

Painting from the Workshop of Martin van Meytens of Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor.

Painting from the Workshop of Martin van Meytens of Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor.

Did she remember too the advice the Emperor left for his children?

“Never be indifferent before what appears to you to be evil, nor attempt to find it innocent… We are not put into this world merely to amuse ourselves… What kind of people we should frequent is also a delicate matter, for they may often lead us into many things against our will… Friendship is one of the pleasures of life, but one should be careful to whom one entrusts this friendship and not be too prodigal of it… This is why I advise you, my dear children, never to be in a hurry to place your friendship and trust in someone of whom you are not quite sure.”

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André Castelot, Queen of France: A Biography of Marie Antoinette, trans. Denise Folliot (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1957), 14-5.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 354

 

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