Marie Antoinette meets her future husband at Compiègne

marie antoinette kirsten dunst meeting dauphin
The meeting at Compiègne as portrayed in Marie Antoinette (2006)(Screenshot/Fair Use)

After her proxy wedding, Marie-Antoinette left Vienna on 21 April 1770 at nine in the morning. The hour had been planned deliberately early to avoid an emotional scene.

Nevertheless, her mother held her again and again. Finally, she said, “Farewell, my dearest child, a great distance will separate us… Do so much good to the French people that they can say that I have sent them an angel”, as she cried.1 A total of 57 carriages would carry the new Dauphine to France.

Most of the two-and-half-week journey was spent cooped up in the velvet and gold carriage. They usually travelled for nine hours during the day before stopping for the night. Her first overnight stop was at the monastery of Melk, where she was treated to an opera during the evening. She reached Munich on 26 April, where she was entertained by the Elector of Bavaria and where she was allowed to rest for a day. Then she travelled to Augsburg and Günzburg, where she spent time with her aunt Princess Charlotte of Lorraine. She then travelled to Ulm and reached Freiberg on 4 May.

On 6 May, she reached Schuttern Abbey and spent her last night on German soil. The following day the official handover took place on an island in the middle of the Rhine. Her late mother-in-law had been handed over on the island 23 years earlier as well. A wooden pavilion had been erected to look like a small château. It had five rooms: two antechambers on the French side, two on the Austrian side and a central drawing room. It had been furnished with loaned furniture.

The handover on the island as portrayed in Marie Antoinette (2006)(Screenshot/Fair Use)

Marie Antoinette said goodbye to most of her Austrian attendants before retiring to one of the Austrian rooms. Even her beloved dog, Mops, was not allowed to accompany her. She took off her Austrian travelling clothes and changed into a  French ceremonial dress in gold fabric.2 She was then led to the central drawing room, where she sat in an armchair placed under a canopy. As the formalities were completed, Marie Antoinette saw the door to the French side being opened. As she looked back to the Austrians, they had all disappeared. Sobbing, Marie Antoinette threw herself into the arms of the Countess de Noailles.3

The Countess was known for her strict adherence to etiquette, and she shrugged the Dauphine off before dropping into a low curtsey. She coldly indicated that this behaviour was not suitable for a Dauphine. Marie Antoinette excused herself and said, “Pardon me, these are for the family and the fatherland I am leaving; for the future, I shall not forget that I am French.”4 After being introduced to the gentlemen and ladies of her household, Marie Antoinette travelled to Strasbourg.

She finally met her husband and his grandfather, King Louis XV, on 14 May, at the edge of the forest of Compiègne. King Louis XV had brought not only his grandson but also three of his four surviving daughters (known as the Mesdames). Marie Antoinette alighted her carriage onto a ceremonial carpet, and she was presented as “Madame la Dauphine.” Marie Antoinette sank into a deep curtsey before the man who would now be “papa” or “papa-roi.”5 Touched by this gesture of submission, King Louis XV raised her up. She was formally introduced to her husband, who later recorded in his diary, “Meeting with Madame la Dauphine.”6

At the Château of Compiègne, Marie Antoinette was introduced to the Princes and Princesses of the Blood, who were all relatives of the King. She would also meet the widowed Princess of Lamballe, who would become a close friend.

  1. Marie Antoinette by Antonia Fraser p.40
  2. Marie Antoinette by Evelyne Lever p.19
  3. Marie Antoinette by Evelyne Lever p.19-20
  4. In the Shadow of the Empress by Nancy Goldstone p.246
  5. Marie Antoinette by Antonia Fraser p.64
  6. Marie Antoinette by Antonia Fraser p.66

About Moniek Bloks 2702 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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