Marie Thérèse of France – A lone Princess (Part four)

marie therese of france
(public domain)

Read part three here.

Marie Thérèse’s father was executed the following day without seeing his family again to spare them the agony. “Shouts of joy” reached the ears of Marie Antoinette and Madame Elisabeth, the latter of whom exclaimed, “The monsters! They are satisfied now!”1 Marie Antoinette was unable to speak, but she, Elisabeth and Marie Thérèse curtsied deeply for the new – titular – King – the seven-year-old King Louis XVII. She wrote, “My father had, in fact, ordered Cléry to return to my unhappy mother his wedding ring, adding that he parted from it only in parting with life; he also gave him a packet of my mother’s hair and ours, saying they had been so dear to him that he had kept them till the last instant.”2 

On 3 July 1793, Louis Charles was forcibly separated from his family. He “flung himself into my mother’s arms, imploring not to be taken from her”, wrote Marie Thérèse.3 Marie Antoinette refused to give him up, telling the guards they would have to kill her first. After being threatened that all would be killed, Marie Antoinette dressed him and handed him over. Louis Charles “kissed us all very tenderly and went away with the guards, crying his heart out.”4

Marie Antoinette was separated from Marie Thérèse and Elisabeth the following month. Marie Thérèse later wrote, “My aunt and I asked at once to go with my mother, but this mercy was not granted to us. While she was making up a parcel of her clothes, the municipals never left her; she was obliged to even dress herself before them. They asked for her pockets, which she gave them; they searched them and took all that was in them, although there was nothing of importance. They made a packet of these articles and said they should send it to the revolutionary tribunal, where it would be opened before her. They left her only a handkerchief and a smelling-bottle in the fear that she might be taken faint.”5 

She added, “My mother, after tenderly embracing me and telling me to have courage, to take good care of my aunt, and to obey her as a second mother, repeated to me the same instructions that my father had given me; then throwing herself into my aunt’s arms she commended her children to her. I answered nothing, so terrified was I at the idea that I saw her for the last time; my aunt said a few words to her in a low voice. Then my mother went away without casting her eyes upon us, fearing no doubt that her firmness might abandon her.”6 Marie Thérèse and Elisabeth cried themselves to sleep for several days. They were searched every day and were no longer permitted to walk along the tower galley. 

As Marie Antoinette’s trial began, Marie Thérèse was also questioned. She was first taken downstairs to her brother’s cell and was briefly able to hug him. Marie Thérèse held her ground against the questioning, although she “wept with indignation.”7  When she was returned to the cell, her aunt Elisabeth was taken down to be questioned as well. Not much later, Marie Antoinette’s trial began, ending with her execution on 16 October 1793. However, Marie Thérèse and Elisabeth were not informed of her death, and Marie Antoinette’s letter did not reach them.

Life in the Temple continued on, although they often lacked basic necessities. On 9 May, just as they were going to bed, officials ordered Elisabeth to come downstairs. Marie Thérèse wrote, “My aunt kissed me and told me to be calm for she would soon return. ‘No, citoyenne, you will not return,’ they said to her; ‘ take your cap and come down.’ They loaded her then with insults and coarse speeches; she bore it all with patience, took her cap, kissed me again, and told me to have courage and firmness, to hope always in God, to practise the good principles of religion given me by my parents, and not to fail in the last instructions given to me by my father and by my mother.”8 

Marie Thérèse was now alone, separated from her brother by walls. Just two hours later, Elisabeth was brought before the Revolutionary Tribunal and was accused of having participated in the secret councils of Marie Antoinette and of having entertained correspondence with internal and external enemies, among other things. After her interrogation, she was brought to a cell. She was tried the following morning, and she and 24 others were declared guilty as charged. She was condemned to death by guillotine the next day. Marie Thérès wrote about her, “She was a princess worthy of the blood of which she came. I cannot say enough of the goodness that she showed to me, which ended only with her life. She considered me and cared for me as her daughter, and I, I honoured her as a second mother and vowed to her all those feelings. It was said that we resembled each other in the face: I feel that I have her nature; would that I might have all her virtues and rejoin her someday, also my father and mother, in the bosom of God, where, I doubt not, they are now enjoying the reward of a death so meritorious.”9 

Marie Thérèse was not informed that her aunt had been executed, and she continued asking for her aunt and her mother.

Read part five here.

  1. Marie Antoinette by Antonia Fraser p.399
  2. The Ruin of a Princess by the Duchess of Angoulême p.259
  3. The Lost King of France by Deborah Cadbury p.102
  4. The lost King of France by Deborah Cadbury p.102
  5. The Ruin of a Princess by the Duchess of Angoulême p.269
  6. The Ruin of a Princess by the Duchess of Angoulême p.269
  7. The Ruin of a Princess by the Duchess of Angoulême p.275
  8. The Ruin of a Princess by the Duchess of Angoulême p.281-282
  9. The Ruin of a Princess by the Duchess of Angoulême p.283

About Moniek Bloks 2697 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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