A window into the real Marie Antoinette: devoted mother and conscientious queen

Princess Marie Thérèse Charlotte de Bourbon, fille de France, 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.[3] 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.[3] 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[4]) 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.[5]

Marie Antoinette painted with her two eldest children, her firstborn child Princess Marie Therese (1778-1851) and her eldest son and heir the Dauphin Louis Joseph (1781-89). The Queen and her two children are painted here in the Petit Trianon’s gardens at Versailles by Adolf Ulrik Wertmüller (1785).

The Princess was baptized on the day of her birth.[6] 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[7] 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:

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.[8]

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.[9] 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.

Sources on Princess Marie Therese (from Wikipedia):

3. Isabella Frances Romer (1852). Filia dolorosa, memoirs of Marie Thérèse Charlotte, duchess of Angoulême. pp. 4–6

4. Castelot, André (1962). Madame Royale, Librairie Académique Perrin, Paris, chapter Mousseline la sérieuse, p. 13.

5. Thieme, Hugo Paul (1908). Women of Modern France 7. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: George Barrie & Sons. Retrieved2013-12-01.

6. Isabella Frances Romer, Filia dolorosa, memoirs of Marie Thérèse Charlotte, duchess of Angoulême. p. 4.

7. Susan Nagel (2009). Marie-Thérèse: The Fate of Marie Antoinette’s Daughter. Bloomsbury. p. 47. ISBN 978-0-7475-9666-0.

8. Campan, Jeanne-Louise-Henriette, Madame. (1823). Mémoires sur la vie de Marie-Antoinette. Paris: Nelson Éditeurs. p. 184.

9. Gregory Fremont-Barnes (2007). Encyclopedia of the Age of Political Revolutions and New Ideologies, 1760-1815: A-L. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 427. ISBN 978-0-313-33446-7.

Further Reading on Princess Marie Therese Charlotte de France:

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