Maria Anna of Savoy – A good and gentle being (Part two)

Maria Anna of Savoy
(public domain)

Read part one here.

During the revolution of 1848, Prince Metternich fled abroad, and Ferdinand tried to make concessions by granting the press freedom and promising a constitution. However, the revolution flared up again, and in early October 1848, Ferdinand and Maria Anna settled in the Prince-Archbishop’s residence in Olomouc. Prince Felix Schwarzenberg was appointed Minister-President of the Austrian Empire, and he worked behind the scenes with Archduchess Sophie, who now saw her chance to place her son on the throne. She persuaded her unambitious husband to waive his succession rights in favour of her son. On 2 December 1848, at the residence in Olomouc, Ferdinand abdicated the throne as his nephew and successor knelt before him. Maria Anna bent down to him to pull him close, hugged him and kissed him. Ferdinand told the new Emperor, “God bless you! Be good, and God will protect you.”1

After the ceremony, Ferdinand and Maria Anna retired to their apartments. Ferdinand wrote in his diary, “Soon afterwards, my dear wife and I heard Holy Mass in the chapel of the archbishop’s residence. Afterwards, my dear wife and I packed our belongings.”2 They were to retain their imperial status. After packing their belongings, a carriage brought them to the train station, where a special train waited to take them to Prague. Maria Anna was reportedly quite glad to be free of the official duties and was now able to devote herself entirely to her husband. 

They began to divide their time between Prague, Schloss Ploschkowitz and Reichstadt. Maria Anna also often visited Italy for her health, and she was able to see her family there. Her closest friend during this time was Countess Therese Pålffy. Maria Anna maintained her own court in Prague with two ladies-in-waiting, a secretary, valets, maids etc.

In 1856, Ferdinand and Maria Anna celebrated their silver wedding anniversary, and the event was attended by Emperor Franz Joseph and his wife Elisabeth in Prague. They lived a retired life, and ironically, Ferdinand would outlive many members of his family, even Archduchess Sophie, who was 13 years younger than him. As he became older, he spent a large part of his time in bed, lovingly cared for by Maria Anna. When he lay dying in June 1875, Emperor Franz Joseph came to Prague to find Ferdinand sleeping in his wheelchair. He returned home without having spoken to him. The following day, Ferdinand was dressed, and he had something to eat before listening to a Haydn symphony performed for him. This stopped when he had a coughing fit, and he was taken to bed.

He was given the last rites that same day and died peacefully around 2.45 p.m. He was 83 years old. Ferdinand’s body was returned home to Vienna, where he was interred in the Imperial Crypt. Maria Anna was left well-cared for with an annual pension of 120,000 guilders, of which a large part was spent on charity with a special focus on women’s orders who taught girls. After her husband’s death, Maria Anna lived in even stricter isolation than before – and it could almost be considered a monastic life with prayers filling her days. Her only visitors were members of the Imperial Family or other family members. Her will had been drawn up in 1874 when Ferdinand was still alive. She wrote, “I am closing this will by expressing my heartfelt thanks to Emperor Ferdinand for the kindness he has shown me over so many years.”3

In May 1884, newspapers reported that Maria Anna was seriously ill. After a short illness and a hernia operation, Maria Anna died on 4 May, at 5.10 p.m. in Prague Castle. The official cause of death was pneumonia. The secluded Empress had requested a humble funeral, which took place on 10 May. She was buried beside her husband in the Imperial Crypt in Vienna.

  1. Francis Joseph by Steven Beller p.49
  2. Frauen auf Habsburgs Thron by Friedrich Weissensteiner p.119
  3. Frauen auf Habsburgs Thron by Friedrich Weissensteiner p.126

About Moniek Bloks 2749 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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