Marie Thérèse of France – The only man in the family (Part seven)

marie therese of france
(public domain)

Read part six here.

Despite her deep unhappiness, Marie Thérèse continued to present herself as the perfect princess. To ease her suffering, her husband took her on a month-long tour of central France, where they were well-received all around. She later wrote to her uncle, “I have concluded that the Bourbons really are affirmed on the throne.”1

Then came the news that Napoleon had escaped from Elba. Her husband immediately departed with the army, while Marie Thérèse remained in Bordeaux, where she spoke to the soldiers every morning. Napoleon managed to enter Paris, and King Louis XVIII fled to Brussels. Marie Thérèse and her soldiers refused to leave. Napoleon knew that harming her would seriously damage his reputation, and he dispatched General Bertrand Clauzel to persuade her to leave. Marie Thérèse told him that she would never surrender. However, although the soldiers were willing to protect her, they had no taste for a civil war, and slowly, they began to dissent. She told them, “It is so cruel, after twenty years of exile and unhappiness, I will have to expatriate once again. I, nevertheless, will never cease to swear – I make this vow; For France! Because I am French! You are no longer Frenchmen! About-face! Withdraw!”2 She left the following day, praising the honour and bravery of the people of Bordeaux.

Back at the Tuileries, Napoleon reportedly said, “She is the only man in the family!”3 Marie Thérèse travelled to Paquillac, where she boarded an English ship. She returned to England in April 1815, where she learned that her husband had been taken prisoner. Luckily, he was released, and he made his way to Madrid. She wrote, “How happy I am! He has suffered greatly, but Heaven has taken pity on him and has returned him to us.”4 Then Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo and exiled for good.

Although the King hurried back to Paris, Marie Thérèse delayed her arrival for a few weeks. She was disgusted by her uncle’s behaviour, and the future was anything but secure. She stood by her uncle and had a say in the appointment of ministers. There were to be no Napoleonic nobles in her entourage. Marie Thérèse also ordered the removal of every single bee, eagle and ‘N’ from the royal palaces. She also ordered an inquiry into her brother’s death, as she needed closure once and for all. 

Another issue needed to be addressed as well. As Marie Thérèse had not had any children with her husband, the succession now focussed on her brother-in-law, the Duke of Berry. He married Marie Caroline of Naples and Sicily in 1816 despite already having two daughters and a common-law wife. By the end of the year, Marie Caroline was pregnant. She gave birth to a baby girl the following July, but the little girl lived for just one day. In 1818, she gave birth to a son who lived for just a few hours. A healthy baby girl, Princess Louise, was born the following year. 

Marie Caroline was pregnant for the fourth time when her husband was fatally stabbed as they left the opera. As he struggled to breathe, he told her, “Stay calm for the sake of the child you carry.”5 She sent for his common-law wife and their two daughters so they could say goodbye, and she assured her husband that she would care for them. The Duke of Berry died the following morning. Marie Thérèse tried to help the distraught Marie Caroline. On 29 September 1820, Marie Caroline gave birth to the long-awaited heir, Henry, and he was given the title Duke of Bordeaux.

Marie Thérèse reportedly sighed, “At last, I am resigned forever to remain childless.”6 However, a short while later, she believed herself to be pregnant at the age of 42. She was absolutely overjoyed with the prospect but was soon devastated when it became clear that she was not pregnant at all. Marie Thérèse now settled for the role of aunt for little Louise and Henry. She even purchased a chateau so that the children could breathe fresh air and a herd of cows so that they always had a fresh supply of milk. 

On 16 September 1824, King Louis XVIII died after several weeks of illness. The new King was the Count of Artois, Marie Thérèse’s father-in-law, now King Charles X. And she and her husband were the new Dauphin and Dauphine of France. 

Marie Thérèse continued to mother her niece and nephew, and she personally taught her nephew about his bloodline and the divine right of kings. She also hired tutors to teach them Italian, German and English. Even the younger members of the Orleans branch adored her. The Prince of Joinville later wrote, “I loved her dearly even then, that good kind Duchess! For she had always been good to us, ever since we were babies, and never failed to give us the most beautiful New Year’s gifts. My respectful affection deepened as I grew old enough to realise her sorrows and the nobility of her nature… She broke the ice by being the first to raise her glass to her lips when  I had made her my queen.”7

Read part eight here.

  1. The Fate of Marie Antoinette’s Daughter by Susan Nagel p.263
  2. The fate of Marie Antoinette’s daughter by Susan Nagel p.266
  3. The fate of Marie Antoinette’s daughter by Susan Nagel p.267
  4. The fate of Marie Antoinette’s daughter by Susan Nagel p.268
  5. The fate of Marie Antoinette’s daughter by Susan Nagel p.286
  6. The Fate of Marie Antoinette’s Daughter by Susan Nagel p.291
  7. The Fate of Marie Antoinette’s Daughter by Susan Nagel p.305

About Moniek Bloks 2729 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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