Sisi & Marie Sophie – An unreconciled relationship (Part two)

marie sophie
(public domain)

Read part one here.

The exiled Marie Sophie and Francis were given sanctuary by Pope Pius IX in the Quirinal Palace, where they stayed for 18 months while the Farnese Palace was being prepared for them. Though they had some financial investments, finances were pretty strained. Francis’s stepmother and her children also settled in Rome, and the relationship remained strained. Marie Sophie was still only 19 years old, and she was now without a crown.

In May 1861, Marie Sophie visited her childhood home at Possenhofen, and she finally felt a little better. Meanwhile, her heroic behaviour was the talk of Europe, and her parents were discussing a marriage between Marie Sophie’s sister Mathilde Ludovika and the King’s half-brother Prince Louis, Count of Trani. The King’s stepmother probably believed more in a possible restoration than Marie Sophie and Francis did, but they did not object to the marriage. Empress Elisabeth thought it a good idea because the sisters could keep each other company. On 6 June 1861, Mathilde Ludovika and Prince Louis married at the Ducal Palace in Munich. Within a year, Prince Louis showed more interest in other women.

King Francis set up a government in exile in Rome, which had the full support of the Pope. However, their social life was restricted, and Marie Sophie was bored and restless. It was perhaps no surprise that the vivacious Marie Sophie – with her impotent husband – fell in love with Armand de Lavayss, a Belgian Captain of the Papal Guard. In August 1862, Marie Sophie left first for the baths of Soden and then went to her sister Helene. Newspapers reported that she was ill, but she was, in fact, expecting a child. It was later announced that she needed rest after her tragic experiences at Gaeta and would retire to the Ursuline Convent at Augsburg, where a doctor would attend to her. On 24 December 1862, Marie Sophie gave birth to a daughter who was named Maria Cristina Pia. Not much is known about the girl, except that she was removed from her mother and either given to her father or adopted. She died at the age of 19 from consumption. Marie Sophie was devastated to be separated from her child, and she became very depressed.

Unaware of the affair, Francis tried to reconcile with his wife while she was away. After an absence of almost a year, Marie Sophie returned to Rome and confessed the affair. Francis forgave her, and it was around this time he also underwent medical treatment for his phimosis. It was a new beginning. Mathilde Ludovika had been on the verge of leaving Rome, but Marie Sophie convinced her to stay. Mathilde Ludovika followed her sister’s example and fell pregnant by the Duke of Ripalda. In early 1864, she gave birth to a daughter named Marie, who was adopted by her paternal family. Mathilde Ludovika, too, managed to make things right with her husband, at least long enough to have his child as well. On 1 January 1867, she gave birth to a daughter named Maria Theresa. She was to be their only child.

In the spring of 1869, Marie Sophie learned that she was finally expecting a child with her husband. Elisabeth came to Rome to be with her sister during her confinement. Elisabeth later wrote that Francis “wore himself out with efforts to be amiable.”1 On 24 December 1869 – exactly seven years after the birth of Maria Cristina Pia – she gave birth to another daughter who was given almost the exact same name: Maria Cristina Louise Pia. She was baptised four days later by the Pope himself, who was also her godfather. Elisabeth was to be her godmother. However, the little girl was a sickly child, and for the final week of her life, Marie Sophie sat by her cradle without undressing or going to bed. Francis recorded in his diary that she was “seized with convulsions and flew to heaven.”2 Marie Sophie reportedly clung to her daughter’s body all night. They would never have another child, and the little girl was laid to rest in the Church of Santa Spirito dei Napoletani. Marie Sophie began to pack her bags immediately after the funeral and left Rome on 8 April.

Maria Cristina Louise Pia
Maria Cristina Louise Pia (public domain)

In 1878, Marie Sophie and Elisabeth quarrelled over Elisabeth’s pilot (in hunting) Bay Middleton. He was a bachelor at the time, and inevitably, there was gossip about the pair. Marie Sophie told Crown Prince Rudolf what British society was saying about his mother, and she later repeated Rudolf’s disparaging comments to his mother. Elisabeth was deeply hurt, and her lady-in-waiting believed that Marie Sophie was intentionally creating mischief out of jealousy. The sisters were never fully reconciled after this conflict.

Marie Sophie eventually returned to her husband, who was by then in Paris, and they began to divide their time between Paris, the south of France and Bavaria. She even began to regularly visit England, where she rented a house. Ever restless, she travelled all around Europe and did not spend much time with her husband. The sisters were reunited with most of their siblings for Empress Elisabeth’s 50th birthday at Gödöllő. In November 1888, their father, Duke Max, died at the age of 79, followed by the suicide of Empress Elisabeth’s son Crown Prince Rudolf in January 1889. On 16 May 1890, Helene died at the age of 52 with Empress Elisabeth by her side. Not much later, Marie Sophie hurried to be bedside of their mother Ludovika, but she arrived a few hours too late. Ludovika died on 25 January 1892 at the age of 83.

Marie Sophie and Francis spent the summer of 1894 together in Bavaria, and by that time, Francis was already seriously ill. She returned to Paris while he took the baths of Arco. He would die there on 27 December 1894, and once again, Marie Sophie arrived too late. On 13 January 1895, he was buried in the Catholic Church at Arco. Marie Sophie returned to Bavaria with her brother and his wife. More tragedy was to come. Her sister Sophie Charlotte, Duchess of Alençon, perished during a fire in a charity bazaar in Paris on 4 May 1897. Her sister Empress Elisabeth was assassinated on 10 September 1898. Marie Sophie did not attend the funeral. During her final years, she divided her time between Paris and Munich.

Marie Sophie lived through the First World War and saw the fall of several empires and kingdoms. In February 1922, Marie Sophie fell seriously ill, but she recovered. Three years later, she once again fell ill while visiting her brother in Munich. She died of pneumonia on 19 January 1925. She was interred at Tegernsee Abbey next to her parents.3

  1. The Heroine of Gaeta: Queen Maria Sophia of the Two Sicilies by John Van der Kiste p.133
  2. The Heroine of Gaeta: Queen Maria Sophia of the Two Sicilies by John Van der Kiste p.134
  3. Read more: John Van der Kiste: The Heroine of Gaeta: Queen Maria Sophia of the Two Sicilies

About Moniek Bloks 2765 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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