The exiled King and his family slowly made their way to England as Maria Amalia, and her husband reluctantly stepped into their new role. Her husband continued to claim that he only accepted the crown to save the country from anarchy, but it took quite some time before affairs were actually settled. The city was restless, and the family eventually settled in the Tuileries where her husband had a moat dug under their windows, saying, “I do not intend my wife’s ears to be polluted with the horrors Marie Antoinette had to endure when the people had the entrance to the gardens and could come close to the windows.”1 Throughout, Maria Amalia was praised for her courage.
The greatest joy of her life was her family, and they soon settled into a routine. Her two eldest sons entered the army, while the third entered the navy. Her second son was also offered the Crown of Belgium, but he declined, and it eventually went to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha who would marry her eldest daughter Louise in 1832. Maria Amalia’s routine consisted of her rising early, doing her toilette, and opening her correspondence. She would then hear mass and have breakfast with her family. She would then sit and work with her daughters, and eventually daughters-in-law, on embroidery until noon. She then held audiences before continuing to work with her secretaries on petitions and charitable works. At one point, she gave away 400,000 francs of her private income of 500,000 francs to charity.
The next few years saw her children get married and have children of their own. Her eldest son married Helene of Mecklenburg-Schwerin in 1837, and they had two sons together. Louise married the King of the Belgians in 1832, and they had four children together. Marie married Duke Alexander of Württemberg in 1837, and they had one son together. Louis married Victoria of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1840, and they had four children together. Clémentine married August of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1843, and they had five children together. François married Francisca of Brazil in 1843, and they had three children together. Charles died at the age of eight in 1828. Henri married Maria Carolina of the Two Sicilies in 1844, and they had seven children (though only two would live to adulthood). And lastly, Antoine married Luisa Fernanda of Spain in 1846, and they had ten children together (though not all lived to adulthood).
Maria Amalia loved visiting Louise in Brussels and was present for the birth of her first grandson in 1833, but tragically the Prince would die young. Another tragedy came in 1839 when Maria Amalia’s daughter Marie died suddenly. Her last words were reported back to her mother, “Tell Mamma how much I love her, and that I am glad she is not here to be grieved by my sufferings.”2 She was still only 25 years old. In 1842, Maria Amalia’s eldest son Ferdinand was killed in an accident. His horses were startled, and he jumped from his carriage but hit his head and never regained consciousness. The family hurried to be with him and sat around him in prayer when he died. He left two young sons behind. As Maria Amalia’s husband was by then 69 years old and his heir now just four years old, fears of a revolution began to loom. It was said that after her son’s death, Maria Amalia’s hair began to turn white.
During these years, she became more and more religious, spending long hours at prayer. In 1843, the family was visited by Queen Victoria, and while Maria Amalia’s husband made a return visit the following year, she did not join him. In January 1848, Maria Amalia’s beloved sister-in-law Adélaïde, who had lived with them for so long, died. She had been a valuable advisor to her brother. It was to be a bad year all around. Another wave of revolutions rocked Europe in February and on 24 February 1848, Maria Amalia’s husband abdicated in favour of his nine-year-old grandson. They were then escorted by the National Guard to waiting carriages which would bring them to St. Cloud. Her husband wanted to wait out the insurrection to see if his abdication put an end to it, but it soon became apparent that his young grandson was not accepted and that France had declared itself a republic. Maria Amalia resigned herself to the situation, and the family decided to split up to avoid attracting more attention. Maria Amalia and her husband went to Honfleur to await a chance to go to England. She dressed in the plainest clothes she could find. Several sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren would try to take a different route to England. After a harrowing journey, they arrived at Newhaven.
Queen Victoria decided to place Claremont at their disposal as a residence. Queen Victoria later wrote, “They both look very dejected, and the poor Queen cried much in thinking of what she had gone through, and what dangers the King had incurred; in short, humbled, poor people they looked.”3 Luckily, their family also eventually made their way to Claremont. Their property was ultimately restored to them, so they had an income. Maria Amalia’s husband only survived his abdication for two years, and he died at Claremont on 26 August 1850. She would survive him for 16 years but would not be lonely as she was surrounded by her children and grandchildren.
As she grew older, she was unable to leave the house during the winter. By January 1866, her health visibly began to fail her. She still went on a drive on 18 March but remained in her bedroom the following day. Over the next few days, she was hardly able to stay awake, and the family began to gather around her. She was able to press their hands but could not speak to them. A priest recited the prayers for the dying and administered extreme unction. She died on 24 March 1866 at the age of 83. Her son Louis wrote, “The Queen is no more. We have lost that dear mother, who was referenced as a kind of Divinity in our family. It is a great blow to all of us, but we have the consolation of knowing that the sorrows and trials of her life are at last over, and that she has entered into the enjoyment of the eternal happiness which her great virtues must have won for her, and that she passed away without pain.”4
Her coffin remained in the chapel of the cemetery at Weybridge beside that of her husband until they were moved to the family chapel at Dreux in 1878.
- The Life of Marie Amélie, Last Queen of the French 1782-1866 by C.C. Dyson p.204
- The Life of Marie Amélie, Last Queen of the French 1782-1866 by C.C. Dyson p.262-263
- The Life of Marie Amélie, Last Queen of the French 1782-1866 by C.C. Dyson p.286
- The Life of Marie Amélie, Last Queen of the French 1782-1866 by C.C. Dyson p.306-307