King Louis XVIII was quite fond of Maria Amalia, and he wrote of her, “I had heard a great deal in favour of this Princess, but when I became personally acquainted with her, I found in her many more good qualities than I had been to led to expect. Such a wife in some degree quieted my apprehension as to the Duc d’Orléans.”1 The Orléans family paid their respects to the King the day after they arrived in Paris. Maria Amalia was also introduced to Madame Royale – the daughter of Marie-Antoinette – who was married to the King’s nephew, the Duke of Angoulême. They became fond of each other, and Madame Royale wrote of her cousin, “She is so good, so excellent, so closely related to us.”2
At the Palais Royal in Paris, Maria Amalia gave birth to her second son on 25 October 1814 – he was named Louis, Duke of Nemours. Napoleon’s brief return after his escape from Elba saw the family flee to England. They first lived at the Star and Garter Hotel in Richmond, before moving to a house later known as Orléans House at Twickenham. She became acquainted with Princess Charlotte of Wales who lived at Claremont and Frederica Charlotte of Prussia, Duchess of York, who lived at Oatlands. Maria Amalia gave birth to a daughter named Françoise at Orléans House on 26 March 1816, but she died on 20 May 1818. King Louis XVIII was returned to his throne after Napoleon’s final defeat, but they were not permitted to return until 1817. They returned to the Palais Royal on 15 April 1817, just a month after Maria Amalia had given birth to another daughter named Clémentine on 6 March.
While Madame Royale and the Duke of Angoulême would have no children, the Duke’s brother the Duke of Berry was expected to provide an heir to the throne. In 1816, he would marry Maria Amalia’s niece Maria Carolina. They went on to have one surviving daughter, and in 1820, the recently widowed Maria Carolina gave birth to the Duke of Berry’s posthumous son, securing the succession for another generation. Maria Amalia gave birth to a third son – named François, Prince of Joinville – in 1818 and a fourth son – named Charles, Duke of Penthièvre – in 1820. A fifth son – named Henri, Duke of Aumale – was born in 1822, followed by her sixth son and final child – named Antoine, Duke of Montpensier – in 1824. The family began to spend a lot of time at their country house at Neuilly.
On 16 September 1824, Maria Amalia and her husband were present at the deathbed of King Louis XVIII. He was succeeded by his brother the Count of Artois, now King Charles X. They attended the new King’s coronation, and Maria Amalia wrote to her son Louis, “We have just returned from the ceremony of consecration. It lasted three hours. There was some confusion, no one knew what to do. The entrance of the knights in procession was very grand. Papa was superb and looked like Louis XIV.”3 The new King raised the entire Orléans family to the style of “Royal Highness” which had previously only be accorded to Maria Amalia, as the daughter of a King. Her husband was currently third in the line of succession behind the Duke of Angoulême, now known as the Dauphin, and the young son of the Duke of Berry.
In 1825, Maria Amalia was finally able to see the one sister she had left again – all her other sisters had already passed away. She, her husband and their three eldest children went to see the King and Queen of Sardinia at Chambery. The years between 1825 and 1830 were ones of domestic bliss for Maria Amalia. However, by 1830 her husband was out of favour with the King. They were also standing on the edge of another revolution. Soon, the Liberal Constitutional Party, which had an immense majority, looked towards Maria Amalia’s husband as the solution. Maria Amalia spent a lot of time in prayer. The children were sent away to Villiers Coterets while Maria Amalia and her sister-in-law remained behind at Neuilly. While her sister-in-law was in favour of the Duke taking the crown, Maria Amalia was adamant that he was an honest man and would do nothing against the King. The King eventually abdicated in favour of the Duke of Berry’s 9-year-old son and appointed Maria Amalia’s husband as Lieutenant-General of the Kingdom and regent. His son the Dauphin also signed the document 20 minutes later.
However, Maria Amalia’s husband eventually accepted the crown for himself after he agreed to accept a constitution. Maria Amalia was horrified, and she sobbed, “What a catastrophe. They will call my husband a usurper!”4 She and her children eventually travelled to Paris, though people commented on her drawn face and her red eyes. In August 1830, her husband was declared, “King of the French by the Will of the People”, rather than “King of France by the Grace of God.” Maria Amalia did not have an official declaration as Queen of the French, but she was thereafter referred to as Queen. She later said, “Since by God’s will this Crown of Thorns has been placed on our heads, we must accept it and the duties it entails.”5
- The Life of Marie Amélie, Last Queen of the French 1782-1866 by C.C. Dyson p.123
- The Life of Marie Amélie, Last Queen of the French 1782-1866 by C.C. Dyson p.126
- The Life of Marie Amélie, Last Queen of the French 1782-1866 by C.C. Dyson p.170-171
- The Life of Marie Amélie, Last Queen of the French 1782-1866 by C.C. Dyson p.193
- The Life of Marie Amélie, Last Queen of the French 1782-1866 by C.C. Dyson p.198