- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Irritability or outbursts of anger
- Difficulty concentrating
- Exaggerated startle response
Traumatic events experienced as a child or adolescent can, according to scientific data, cause changes in the brain. Such events include extreme violence, rape or even of attempted rape, captivity, and losing family members in a disaster. The teenage Madame Royale witnessed the violence of a mob against her family on at least four occasions; although her family survived the attacks, others were killed and she saw heads carried on pikes. Hearing the obscenities and threats from the attackers would have been disturbing enough for a lifetime.
It is not known for certain whether or not Madame Royale was physically molested while alone in the Temple prison, but as Madame de Gontaut records in her Memoirs, the Duchesse confided that her Aunt Elisabeth ordered the teenager never to let the guards find her undressed or in bed, and so the girl would spend entire nights sitting in a chair, since she never knew when her captors would come bursting into the room. She emerged in 1795 as the "Orphan of the Temple" the only survivor of her immediate family.
Persistent avoidance and anxiety attacks are often part of the reactions of those with PTSD. As an adult Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte had great difficulty being in a crowd, which induced fainting and anxious behaviors. She would pointedly avoid the site where the guillotine had been and ask that her coach be driven around it.
Persons experiencing PTSD also frequently have trouble with memories, blocking out events which are then suddenly triggered by minor incidents, so that sometimes the account of their traumatic experience is subject to change. As a mature woman Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte wanted to change her account of the events she had recorded as a seventeen year old, still imprisoned in the Temple, and tried to buy up all the copies of the original memoir.
Much of the public moroseness that many contemporaries complained about was undoubtedly the princess' iron attempt to hold herself together, as well as depression, which she also most likely experienced. Her disposition became more affable when she left France in 1830 for a life of perpetual exile, focusing on raising her nephew and niece. Although the Duchesse loved France, she was probably better off away from the site of so many horrors. However, it was her resignation, constant charity, and kindness, combined with her strong faith, which got her through in the long run. Marie-Antoinette said to her daughter before being taken away: "You have faith. It will sustain you." Truly, it was faith that enabled Madame Royale to be an active and vibrant member of her extended family as well as a catalyst for rebuilding the Church and society in France, devastated by war and revolution. Share