Marie Antoinette & her sister Maria Christina (Part two)

marie christina austria
(public domain)

Read part one here.

Maria Christina and her sister would not see each other for quite some time, but there was no love lost.

Maria Christina and her husband focused on creating a cultural court, and they also began collecting art. Unfortunately, although they had been promised the governorship of the Austrian Netherlands, they had to wait until 1780 for the current holder of the title to die. That same year, Maria Theresa also died.

Maria Christina had already noticed that her mother was becoming short of breath, merely crossing a room. The Empress told her that writing hurt her hands. Maria Christina, Albert, Joseph and their sisters Maria Anna and Maria Elisabeth were all with her when the doctors gave up hope on 28 November 1780. She received the last rites that day and died the following day at 8.45 p.m.

Maria Christina and Albert were able to make their entry into Brussels on 10 July 1781 after Joseph had been assured that he could not revoke their mother’s promise. They were immediately popular with the public and had the Palace of Laeken built at their own expense. However, Joseph would leave them out of important decisions, and they often felt blindsided by his reforms. During a visit to Vienna in 1786, they were suddenly informed that they no longer had any authority. Maria Christina returned home to Brussels believing that her mother would have wanted her to moderate the transition of power.

At the end of August 1786, Maria Christina and Albert were finally able to visit Marie Antoinette in France. Marie Antoinette did not care for her sister and had previously always come up with an excuse to defer a visit. Now, she was still confined to her bed after the delivery of her fourth child, and she had run out of excuses. In addition, Marie Antoinette had recently faced the Affair of the Diamond Necklace, which had hurt her reputation. Maria Christina was essentially their mother in her ever-disapproving form.

Maria Christina and Albert were invited to Versailles, where they were received by Marie Antoinette for an hour before she introduced them to her husband. Maria Christina wrote, “The Queen is beautiful, amiable, and natural; I am not praising her because she is my sister, but you know I am telling the truth. The King was kindhearted and cordial; he has a solid righteous character and makes his wife very happy.”1

They stayed in Paris for a month and were shown around by the Count of Mercy. They played cards, attended the theatre and toured churches and art galleries. They never did manage to secure an invite to the Petit Trianon from Marie Antoinette. Maria Christina later wrote, “I like Paris very much but live there, not for anything in the world – not even as Queen.”2

In 1791, as Marie Antoinette and her family planned to flee from the revolution, Maria Christina prepared for their arrival in Brussels. Maria Christina was devastated to learn that the flight had been unsuccessful. Count Fersen, who had facilitated the escape, was received by Maria Christina. He later wrote, “At one o’clock went to the Archduchess; very kind to me and much touched.”3 Maria Christina wrote, “I have not since the death of my adored father and my mother experienced any greater anguish than the news of the unfortunate fate of my poor sister. You probably know that she was captured barely four miles from the border; had she taken a different route, she would have been saved, like Monsieur (Louis’s brother) and his wife. I am inconsolable about my unfortunate sister and her innocent children.”4

In 1792, Maria Christina and Albert were ousted as governors of the Austrian Netherlands, and they moved to Dresden and then back to Vienna. By then, her brother Joseph had died, followed by his successor Leopold in March 1792. The new Emperor was now Maria Christina’s nephew  Francis II.

Maria Christina continued to support Count Fersen, who continued to try and think of a way to save Marie Antoinette. Unfortunately, his efforts would be in vain. On 16 October 1793, Marie Antoinette was executed. He was devastated and wrote, “I can think only of my loss. It is awful to have no positive details, to think she was alone in her last moments, without consolation, without a person to whom she could speak, to whom she could give her last wishes. It is horrible. Monsters of hell!”5

Maria Christina was in shock too. She wrote, “Maria Theresa would never have believed that she put children into the world who would be tortured by the vicious, oppressed by cabals, covered in ignominy and end their lives on the scaffold. I cannot get over the sorrow which the unfortunate had to suffer even in her last months, especially because of her children… death ends all grief and anguish.”6

Maria Christina outlived her sister for five years and was able to see the arrival in Austria of her niece, Marie Thérèse. However, her wish to see Marie Thérèse married to her adoptive son came to nothing.

By the summer of 1798, her health had deteriorated considerably, and she knew she was dying. She died on 24 June 1798 and was buried in the Imperial Crypt with her parents and siblings.

  1. In the Shadow of the Empress by Nancy Goldstone p.386
  2. In the Shadow of the Empress by Nancy Goldstone p.387
  3. In the Shadow of the Empress by Nancy Goldstone p.474
  4. In the Shadow of the Empress by Nancy Goldstone p.474
  5. In the Shadow of the Empress by Nancy Goldstone p.485
  6. In the Shadow of the Empress by Nancy Goldstone p.486

About Moniek Bloks 2732 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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