The Year of Marie Antoinette – Marie Antoinette & The Countess of Provence (Part three)




countess provence marie josephine savoy
(public domain)

Read part two here.

The only surviving child of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette was their eldest daughter Madame Royale. She was eventually released from prison in December 1795 and travelled to Courland, where the Count of Provence was living. His wish was that she would marry his nephew Louis-Antoine, Duke of Angoulême, the son of the Count and Countess of Artois. She agreed to this, and he invited Marie Joséphine to the wedding, despite their differences. However, he had ordered that Marie Joséphine leave Marguerite de Gourbillon behind. She refused to do this, and when they arrived together, they were forcibly separated by the police. At Mitau Castle, Marie Joséphine refused to change out of her travelling clothes and locked herself in her room with a bottle of liquor.1

In the morning, she had calmed down enough to travel with her husband and their nephew to meet the bride. Madame Royale threw herself in front of her uncle’s feet and said, “I see you at last. I am so happy. Here is your child; please be my father.”2 He embraced her, as did Marie Joséphine. The couple was married the following morning. Marie Joséphine did not stick around for long.

The cold in Courland had reached Marie Joséphine’s bones, and she decided to travel to a milder climate. She spent some time in a spa in Pyrmont and then at Schierensee. In the autumn of 1802, she could be found in the town of Wildungen. She began to have serious health issues and desperately wrote, “How to tell you all that I suffered, I was six weeks without sleeping or eating, throwing up even a little sugar water.”3

In  1804, Marie Joséphine was forced to return to her husband, as he could no longer support two separate households. They lived in a house in Mitau.4

In  1808, Marie Joséphine and her niece, the Duchess of Angoulême, were escorted to England by the Duke of Angoulême to join Marie Joséphine’s husband there. By then, Marie Joséphine was very ill with dropsy. They first lived at Gosfield Hall before moving to Hartwell House the following April. Lady Jermingham wrote, “She walks bent double, elbows out,  and when seated she is bent over, with her hands holding her knees and a stool under her feet.”5

Nevertheless, she remained in good spirits and had managed to rebuild the relationship with her husband and other members of the family. Her health meant that she couldn’t travel a lot, but she did receive a lot of visitors.

As her health declined with every passing day, she wrote, “I hope that my suffering will soon have an end and that my Lord will grant me the resignation, the courage and the patience to bear the evils that I suffer.”6

After receiving the last rites, Marie Joséphine told the Duke and Duchess of Angoulême that she thought of them as her own children.7 She died on 13 November 1810 after telling her husband, “It’s over, I’m done.”8

Her funeral took place in the Church of St Louis in London, and her husband was so overcome with grief that he did not attend. Her body then briefly rested in Westminster Abbey before it was moved to Cagliari in Italy, where she was buried in Cagliari Cathedral.

Her husband later wrote, “I am a widower, my friend. My poor wife died on Tuesday.[..] My soul suffers so cruelly.”9

  1. The Fate of Marie Antoinette’s Daughter by Susan Nagel p.208
  2. The Fate of Marie Antoinette’s Daughter by Susan Nagel p.209
  3. Joséphine de Savoie, comtesse de Provence, 1753-1810 by Tony-Henri-Auguste Reiset p.357
  4. The Fate of Marie Antoinette’s Daughter by Susan Nagel p.229
  5. Joséphine de Savoie, comtesse de Provence, 1753-1810 by Tony-Henri-Auguste Reiset p.393
  6. Joséphine de Savoie, comtesse de Provence, 1753-1810 by Tony-Henri-Auguste Reiset p.409
  7. The Fate of Marie Antoinette’s Daughter by Susan Nagel p.241
  8. Joséphine de Savoie, comtesse de Provence, 1753-1810 by Tony-Henri-Auguste Reiset p.416
  9. Joséphine de Savoie, comtesse de Provence, 1753-1810 by Tony-Henri-Auguste Reiset p.418






About Moniek Bloks 2551 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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