Marie Thérèse of France – Mother of France (Part six)

marie therese of france
(public domain)

Read part five here.

Marie Thérèse still longed for one thing: a child. There were rumours that her husband was homosexual or that he had some kind of medical condition. Another rumour mentioned that Marie Thérèse had possibly been given a poison while in the Temple, which made her sterile. 

Marie Thérèse duchess of angouleme
(public domain)

She was also deeply troubled by the continued rumours of her brother’s survival. Several pretenders came forward, but Marie Thérèse did not agree to meet with any of them because she knew there would be political consequences. Nevertheless, despite her own mental anguish, she maintained a steadfast image for her uncle, King Louis XVIII. 

In 1807, Marie Thérèse took great personal risk as she nursed the fever-stricken Abbé Edgeworth, who had been with her father during his last hours until his death on 22 May 1807. Meanwhile, Napoleon was wreaking havoc, and injured soldiers arrived daily at Mitau. The Emperor of Russia soon informed them that no Bourbon would be safe anymore on the continent. The King of Sweden offered to grant them asylum, and King Louis XVIII and Marie Thérèse’s husband hurriedly boarded a frigate bound for Stockholm. They left their wives behind in Mitau. 

Despite the offer of asylum, the King and the Duke wanted to go to England, where they felt they could gather more support for their cause. The Duke of Berry, Marie Thérèse’s brother-in-law, also arrived in Stockholm, and the three soon headed to England without having received formal permission to reside there from King George III. Upon arrival, they were told to go to Scotland, which they did not want to do. The Marquis (later Duke) of Buckingham eventually intervened and offered Gosfield Hall. They finally landed at Yarmouth on 2 December 1807 after the Duke of Orleans (later King Louis Philippe I), a good friend of the Prince of Wales (later King George IV), managed to secure permission for them to land. They received a warm welcome from the waiting crowd.

Marie Thérèse would have to wait until the following July when she and King Louis XVIII’s wife, Marie Joséphine, were escorted to England. They arrived at Gosfield Hall on 24 August 1808, and Marie Joséphine was already very ill with dropsy. The following April, they moved to Hartwell House, which soon became the court in exile with numerous émigrés living there. Marie Thérèse now lived surrounded by her family, although her father-in-law, the Count of Artois, was out enjoying the London life. She and her husband did visit him often, and she enjoyed living at Hartwell House.

In 1810, Marie Joséphine succumbed to her illness, Queen Louise of Prussia died, and Count Axel von Fersen was murdered. It was a challenging year for Marie Thérèse. The following year, the Prince of Wales, by then regent for his ailing father, granted them permanent asylum and allowances. Marie Thérèse became a favourite of his, and when he invited her, she always received a place of honour as befitting a King’s daughter. 

As Napoleon’s limelight began to fade, Marie Thérèse was placed front and centre for the Bourbon cause. She also had more than one reason to be happy – she was finally pregnant for the first time after 13 years of marriage. Tragically, just a few months into her pregnancy, she had a miscarriage and withdrew to Bath for the summer to recuperate. In 1815, Napoleon abdicated and was exiled to the island of Elba. Marie Thérèse broke down in tears when she was told she would finally be returning to France. She told the King to go ahead and make a grand entrance, but he refused to go without her. 

They returned to France, where Marie Thérèse was reunited with her childhood friend Pauline de Tourzel, now the Countess of Béarn. They entered Paris on 3 May to cries of “Vive le Roi!” Once at the Notre Dame, Marie Thérèse collapsed onto a prayer stool and cried. As they travelled to Paris, Marie Thérèse appeared rigid. She was spared the sight of the Temple, as it had already been torn down, but they did pass the Conciergerie, where her mother had spent her last days. Marie Thérèse ordered that a cypress tree and a weeping willow be planted at the site of the Temple. At the Tuileries Palace, Marie Thérèse was given her mother’s apartments.

Although her mood recovered over the following days, she could not reconcile herself with the nobility created by Napoleon and those who had benefitted from him. She also refused to recognise the Duke of Orleans, whose father she considered to be complicit in her parents’ death. He had married Maria Amalia of Naples and Sicily, a daughter of Maria Carolina of Austria, who in turn was her mother’s sister. Out of respect for Maria Carolina, Marie Thérèse agreed to meet with Maria Amalia, and against all the odds, they became close friends. King Louis XVIII had to keep the Orleans family close and returned their income to them.

The King made Marie Thérèse the centre of the new court but became more critical of her in the process. He wanted her to dress less country and put on some rouge. Her general demeanour also displeased him, as he felt the French might feel more guilt. The court remained based at the Tuileries, which contained no happy memories for Marie Thérèse. Soon, she requested that her friend Pauline join her as she went to visit her parents’ grave – still at the Madeleine cemetery. Her memories began to overwhelm her in Paris, but the King either refused to do anything or he simply ignored her. She was eventually allowed to return to Versailles for a visit but returned to the Tuileries to stand by her uncle’s side.

On 21 January 1815, the bodies of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were interred at the Cathedral of Saint-Denis. Marie Thérèse spent the day in prayer, and the following day, she received a few locks of her mother’s hair and a ring.1

Read part seven here.

  1. The Fate of Marie Antoinette’s Daughter by Susan Nagel p.262

About Moniek Bloks 2746 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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