Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Duchess Flees Bordeaux

The daughter Louis XVI exhorts the troops at Bordeaux before having to escape Napoleon.

As readers of Trianon and Madame Royale well know, Marie-Thérèse of France, the Duchesse d'Angoulême, daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, was at times forced to flee from wars and revolts. Above is a picture of the princess during her flight from Napoleon Bonaparte in March 1815. Bonaparte, hearing of her attempt to raise an army against him, hailed Marie-Thérèse as "the only man in her family," which was a bit unfair to the Duc d'Angoulême, who had hastened to rally his forces to cut off Bonaparte's march on Paris. The Duc and Duchesse d'Angoulême had been in Bordeaux celebrating the restoration of the Bourbons when news came of Bonaparte's escape from Elba. Although Napoleon admired the daughter of Louis XVI, he would like to have made a prisoner of her. Marie-Thérèse left for England only because to stay behind would have endangered the citizens of Bordeaux. Below is an excerpt from Chapter Sixteen of Madame Royale, describing the scene:
Thérèse and her entourage left Bordeaux in a swirling rain shower, darkness, and mud. Yet the voices of the saints seemed to pierce the curtain of rain. There was always hope. If only she knew if her husband was safe. They travelled all night, their coaches slipping and bumping along in the blackness. By morning they reached Pauillac, with its port and ship which would take them away from France. Thérèse hardly thought about where they were going. She heard Mass in the parish church, then went to board an English ship called The Wanderer. Her military escort assembled on the peer to bid her farewell, as the rain continued to pour. Where were the vast crowds? Where were those who had flung themselves weeping at her feet? Never again would she lavish a single, splintering thought on human honor and praise. It was all less than nothing. The faithful few begged for some tokens; she gave them the feathers from her bonnet, and the green and white ribbons which bound her hair. "Bring them back to me in better days!" she cried, the wind and rain blowing around her. "And Marie-Thérèse will show you that she has a good memory, and that she has not forgotten her friends at Bordeaux!"

The vessel carried
Thérèse over rough waters to Spain, and then across the channel to England. It was a tumultuous crossing; most of her ladies were morbidly seasick, besides being distressed over their belongings left behind at the Tuileries for the Buonaparte clan. When Thérèse and her party finally arrived at the royal French embassy in London, she was greeted with the news that her husband had been captured, and was a prisoner of Napoleon Buonaparte.

~from Madame Royale by Elena Maria Vidal, Ch. 16, "The Heroine," copyright 2000 by E.M. Vidal



Jack B. said...

I know some people - including Bonaparte and the traitorous Clausel - this this was Marie-Therese's greatest hour but to me it has always been the saddest. Even in the most royalist of towns, only a handful would stand by her and none of the soldiers would (the whole idea they would not fight/kill fellow Frenchmen was a joke when you think of the Vendee). I don't know how she even brought herself to go back to France after the mistreatment again by a blinded people (there was no Bonaparte was going to be allowed by the Allies to regain the throne and he no longer had the troops to conquer).

I disagree Napoleon would have made a prisoner of her. The old Napoleon would have - and would have shot the Duc as he did their cousin, D'Enghien. But the new Napoleon sent letters to the generals to put the Bourbons on boats out (making sure they had no jewels with them). Making the Orphan of the Temple a prisoner again was something no Bonapartist wanted. Not good P.R. Ney's letter to his troops takes for granted the Bourbons would be exiled - AGAIN.

elena maria vidal said...

Great insights, Jack! Thank you!