Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Queen Louise, the "Beautiful Enemy"

Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Queen of Prussia, became a Protestant icon to the foes of Napoleon Bonaparte, even as Marie-Thérèse of France was the Catholic icon. According to Susan Nagel in Marie-Thérèse, Child of Terror, Louise and Marie-Thérèse were friends, their mothers having been raised together. Louise's mother, Friederike of Hesse-Darmstadt, who died when Louise was a small girl, corresponded with Queen Marie-Antoinette, so that the two girls felt a certain kinship. Both Louise and Marie-Thérèse were among the few people who did not feel the need to cower before Bonaparte and his army; each made a heroic stand. Napoleon referred to Queen Louise as his "beautiful enemy." He tried to ruin her prestige by destroying her reputation but succeeded only in making the Queen more beloved by her people.

The painter Madame Vigée-Lebrun described Queen Louise as only an artist could:
But here my pen must remain powerless for it cannot convey the impression
Art Page 56
that my first meeting with the Princess made upon me. Her charming and heavenly face shone with an expression of gentle virtue and she possessed the finest and most regular features....She was in deep mourning and wore a crown made with spikes of jet which, far from unbecoming, gave her palid cheeks a certain radiance.
After her untimely death in 1810 at the age of thirty-four, Queen Louise became a romantic figure in the century that followed. She was painted posthumously many times, her portrait appearing even on china. The legacy of Queen Louise, however, is not her physical beauty but her refusal to give in to fear. She learned that not being afraid is half the battle; her infectious courage gave heart to a nation.


de Brantigny said...

Was she not the niece of Queen Charlotte, consort of George III?

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, I believe she was.

Theodore said...

Thank you for paying tribute to a Protestant queen. Your fair-mindedness (dare I say, ecumenism?) is such a refreshing contrast to the attitude of some ultra-sectarian traditionalist Catholics who would scold me for my support of non-Catholic monarchies, implying that this is something I would need to give up should I ever become Catholic (which I'm still not, but I continue to enjoy your blog nevertheless).

elena maria vidal said...

You are welcome, Theodore, and thank you for your kind words. The daughter of Louis XVI greatly admired Queen Louise, although they did not share the same faith.