Marie Thérèse of France – Daughter of the King (Part three)

marie therese angouleme
(public domain)

Read part two here.

Marie Thérèse was deeply affected by the scene at the Tuileries, and the situation only became worse. In the following weeks, the quality of their life at the Tuileries went down considerably. The family no longer walked in the gardens as the insults were so terrible. Calls for the end of the monarchy were growing stronger with each passing day. An assault was to be expected, and it came on 10 August 1792.

A mob of an estimated 10,000 men was headed towards the Tuileries Palace, and King Louis XVI was sent to inspect the defences to boost morale. Once outside, the King was subjected to insults and jeers. As the situation deteriorated, the question arose if the National Guards could be trusted to defend them or whether they would need to flee to the Legislative Assembly. She was eventually convinced to leave when she was prevailed upon for the safety of her children. As she left, she told the National Guards and aristocrats fighting with them, “Gentlemen, we all have the same interests… These generous servitors will share your dangers, fight with you and for you to the last extremity.”1

Despite the crowd gathering around them, the small group made their way to the Assembly. Once there, they were met by deputies who formally offered the King asylum. They were put into the reporters’ box with its grating exposed to the sun. For the entirety of the hot day, they were left there. Meanwhile, hundreds were massacred in the palace, and the palace was ransacked. Later that night, the family was offered accommodation in a convent. However, they could not stay there, and after a debate about what place could provide the best security, they settled on the Temple, a medieval fortress used as a prison.

Marie Thérèse wrote, “We drove through the streets leading to the Temple in great peril and loaded with insults; our conductors themselves feared the people so much that they would not let the carriage stop for a moment; and yet it took two hours before we could reach the Temple through that immense throng.”2 She added, “And yet, in the midst of so many sights which might well break down the strongest soul, my father and my mother preserved the tranquillity and courage that a good conscience can alone inspire.”3

The family would now be housed in the Small Tower while lodgings were prepared for them in the Great Tower. King Louis XVI received a bedroom on the third floor and a study in the turret. Marie Antoinette, Elisabeth, Marie Thérèse, Louis Charles, the Princess of Lamballe, the Marquise de Tourzel, her daughter Pauline and the waiting woman Madame Navarre slept on the floor below him. They had an antechamber, a dining room and a turret lined with books on the first floor. They arrived with very little but were able to order some items.

The family settled into a routine, but on 19 August, the Princess of Lamballe, the Marquise de Tourzel, Pauline and the waiting woman were removed from the Temple for interrogation. It was no use, and the Princess of Lamballe, the Marquise de Tourzel and Pauline were taken to the La Force prison. By some miracle, the Tourzels were rescued during the September Massacres, where prisoners were targetted. The Princess of Lamballe was not so fortunate. She was hastily brought before a tribunal, where she refused to denounce the King and Queen. She was taken outside, where she was lynched by a mob.

Varying stories survive regarding the brutality, but what is certain is that her head was cut off and put on a pike. Her naked body was also ripped open and put on another pike. These were then paraded through Paris and taken to the Temple, where it was paraded in front of the window of the dining room. By some mercy, Marie Antoinette did not see her friend’s head. Marie Thérèse wrote, “My father, having asked what was happening, a young officer replied: ‘Well if you want to know, it is the head of Mme. de Lamballe they wish to show you.’ My mother was seized with horror; that was the sole moment when her firmness abandoned her.”4

Following the horrors, the family tried to keep a routine in the Temple. The Dauphin received lessons from his father, while Marie Thérèse received lessons from her mother. They were permitted to take walks in the compound and exercised there as well. Finally, in September 1792, the monarchy was abolished, and France was proclaimed a republic. In October, the family was moved to the other Tower. The King and the Dauphin were on the second floor, while Marie Antoinette, Marie Thérèse and Elisabeth were on the third floor.

On 11 December, Louis Charles was taken from his father to his mother, and he certainly sensed that something was wrong. The King’s trial had begun, and he was told he could see his children, but only if they did not see their mother or aunt as long as the trial lasted. Thus, he refused. The trial continued throughout December and early January. Marie Thérèse wrote, “I shall not speak of my father’s conduct before the Convention; all the world knows it; his firmness, his gentleness, his kindness, his courage, amid assassins thirsting for his blood, are traits which will never be forgotten and which the most remote posterity will admire.”5 

The vote for his execution ended with 361 in favour – a majority of just one. Due to this close majority, another motion for a reprieve was made, which was rejected with a majority of 70. 20 January 1793, he was informed that he would be executed within 24 hours. Later that day, he was finally reunited with his family.

Marie Thérèse wrote, “At seven in the evening, a decree of the Convention arrived, permitting us to go to my father; we hurried there and found him much changed. He wept for sorrow over us and not from fear of death; he related his trial to my mother, excusing the wretches who caused his death; he told her that it was proposed to appeal to the primary assemblies, but he opposed it because that measure would bring trouble into the State. He then gave religious instruction to my brother, told him above all to pardon those who were putting him to death, and gave him his blessing, also to me. My mother ardently desired that we should pass the night with him; he refused, making her feel that he had need of tranquillity. She begged him at least to let us come the next morning; he granted that to her, but as soon as we were gone, he told the guard not to let us come again because our presence pained him too much.”6 

Read part four here.

  1. Marie Antoinette by Antonia Fraser p.450-451
  2. The Ruin of a Princess by the Duchess of Angoulême p.242
  3. The Ruin of a Princess by the Duchess of Angoulême p.243
  4. The Ruin of a Princess by the Duchess of Angoulême p.249
  5. The Ruin of a Princess by the Duchess of Angoulême p.255
  6. The Ruin of a Princess by the Duchess of Angoulême p.257-258

About Moniek Bloks 2698 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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