Marie Thérèse of France – Survivor (Part five)




marie therese of france
(public domain)

Read part four here.

Every morning, Marie Thérèse swept her cell and quietly ate her breakfast. She read the books she had over and over again and spoke very little. She wrote, “My greatest unhappiness was that I could not obtain from them any news of my mother and aunt; I dared not ask about my uncles and my great-aunts, but I thought of them incessantly.”1 Meanwhile, her brother’s condition worsened. Marie Thérèse heard of her brother’s treatment and was outraged. “They had the cruelty to leave my brother alone; unheard of barbarity which has surely no other example! That of abandoning a poor child, only eight years old, already ill, and keeping him locked and bolted in, with no succour but a bill, which he did not ring, so afraid was he of the persons it would; he preferred to want for all, rather than ask anything of his persecutors.”2

On 8 June 1795, the boy King died at the age of 10. Once again, Marie Thérèse was left ignorant of all of this. In fact, there was some hope in the future for her. On 30 June, the republic government agreed in principle to release her to her Austrian family in exchange for nine French prisoners of war. They granted her a new companion in the form of Madame de Chanterenne, who finally managed to secure new books and clothing for her. In July, she was finally allowed in the gardens again and was granted her brother’s dog, Coco. Madame de Chanterenne broke the news of the fate of her father, mother, aunt and brother to her. Understandably, Marie Thérèse broke down in anguish.

Finally, at 11.30 p.m. on 18 December, half an hour before her birthday, Marie Thérèse hugged Madame de Chanterenne goodbye. As the clock struck midnight, Marie Thérèse left the Temple and was led to a waiting carriage. The now 17-year-old Princess emerged after over three years of imprisonment. The carriage reached Austria on 27 December, and on 2 January 1796, she met her aunt, Archduchess Maria Elisabeth of Austria, whom she found difficult and repulsive.3 On 9 January, she arrived in Vienna, taking the same road her mother had taken in the opposite direction many years before.

At the Hofburg, she was met by her first cousins, Emperor Francis II and his wife, Maria Theresa of Naples and Sicily. She was to stay in the Hofburg for now, but her family was already arguing over who she would marry. Was it to be Archduke Charles or the Duke of Angoulême? Meanwhile, Marie Thérèse began writing letters, something which had long been denied her. She also refused to wear Austrian court dress and continued to wear black mourning clothes, much to the Emperor’s dismay. 

As for her marriage, she believed that it was her parents’ wish that she would marry the Duke of Angoulême, and she wrote to her uncle, “You have chosen the Duc d’Angoulême for my husband; I accept with all my heart, and I prefer this establishment to all, even an imperial crown if it is offered… I accept, then, with the greatest joy, my cousin Angoulême… I very much desire that this marriage happens quickly.”4 She began writing to the Duke of Angoulême, who was living in Scotland at that time. Nevertheless, the Emperor remained convinced that he could persuade her to marry the Archduke instead. When she was finally able to receive some of her late father’s money, she could try to choose her own path in life.

In 1799, Marie Thérèse finally made her parents’ wish come true. She travelled to Mitau to marry her cousin. On the outskirts of Mitau, she met her uncle and threw herself at his feet with the words, “I see you at last. I am so happy. Here is your child; please be my father.”5 Her future husband also shyly kissed her hand; they had not seen each other in ten years. In Mitau, she was reunited with many familiar faces, and she finally felt some sense of being home again. On 10 June 1799, the wedding took place in a makeshift chapel at Mitau Castle. She wore diamonds that had been gifted to her by Emperor Paul I of Russia. As a wedding ring, she received her father’s ring, which he had removed on the scaffold. It had the initials M.A.A.A, which stood for “Marie Antoinette Archduchesse d’Autriche.” The bride and groom cried “tears of joy.”6

As King Louis XVIII and his wife, Marie Joséphine of Savoy, were largely estranged, the new Duchess of Angoulême was to be the first lady of the court in exile at Mitau. Marie Thérèse hoped to conceive a child quickly, but the court rituals at Mitau gave her very little time with her new husband. Marie Thérèse wrote long letters, did needlework, frequently took walks, and soon grew unhappy. In early 1801, Emperor Paul demanded that the King leave Mitau immediately as he had grown tired of the scheming. Marie Thérèse promptly sold the diamonds given to her by the Emperor and proclaimed that she would follow her uncle wherever he would go. 

Napoleon allowed the family to settle in Warsaw for now if her uncle would abandon his title and go by the title “Come de L’isle.” By then, her husband was with the army, so she travelled with her uncle to Warsaw. He would join them there several weeks later. Emperor Paul was assassinated not much later, but his son showed little interest in the Bourbon cause. The family was well received in Poland, no doubt helped by the fact that the exiled King was a descendant of the Polish King Stanisław Leszczyński. During this time, her beloved dog Coco died in an accident, leaving her devastated.

In 1804, the King of Prussia, terrified of Napoleon, ordered the Bourbons to leave Warsaw. Queen Louise of Prussia managed to persuade the Emperor of Russia to allow them to return to Mitau. Marie Thérèse arrived in Mitau in April 1805 and promptly wrote to the Empress Maria Feodorovna, “Madame, my sister and cousin… The moment when, thanks to the friendship of your august son, I am at last reunited with my husband, with my uncle, is that which I chose to thank Your Imperial Majesty.”7

Read part six here.

  1. The Ruin of a Princess by the Duchess of Angoulême p.288
  2. The lost King of France by Deborah Cadbury p.139
  3. The fate of Marie Antoinette’s daughter by Susan Nagel p.174
  4. The Fate of Marie Antoinette’s Daughter by Susan Nagel p.190
  5. The Fate of Marie Antoinette’s Daughter by Susan Nagel p.209
  6. The Fate of Marie Antoinette’s Daughter by Susan Nagel p.210
  7. The Fate of Marie Antoinette’s Daughter by Susan Nagel p.229-230






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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