Sunday, January 19, 2020

Royal Sibling Feuds

Louis Stanislas Xavier, Comte de Provence
From History:
From childhood, the clumsy, well-meaning Louis XVI of France was often overshadowed and outmaneuvered by his malicious younger brothers. Stagnant and bored at the court of Versailles, Comte de Provence and Comte d’Artois spent much of their time stirring up gossip about their hapless older brother. Left to their own devices, the brothers often engaged in petty arguments, occasionally in view of the whole court. Soon after Louis’s marriage to the young Marie Antoinette in 1770, the former Austrian archduchess—from a large family of brothers and sisters—found herself frequently breaking up embarrassing fracases between the brothers.

“With her experience of family life,” Antonia Fraser writes in Marie Antoinette: The Journey, “Marie Antoinette began to act as peace-maker between the sparring royal brothers, Louis Auguste and Provence. On one occasion when the clumsy Louis Auguste broke a piece of porcelain belonging to Provence and the younger brother flew at him, Marie Antoinette actually interrupted the fight...”

With their accession to the throne in 1774, Louis and Marie Antoinette’s inability to produce an heir became fodder for his brothers’ taunts. After his own marriage, Provence was also unable to consummate his union. “None of this,” writes Fraser, “stopped the wily Provence from dropping hints about his wife’s condition whenever he could most conveniently bait his brother and his Austrian wife with their own failure.”

The brothers also encouraged the rumor that the graceful, fun-loving Marie Antoinette was having an affair with the equally high-spirited Artois, a complete fabrication. This assault on their brother’s fertility reached a breaking point in 1778, with the birth of Princess Marie-Therese. According to Fraser, at the child's baptism, the Comte de Provence argued that the "name and quality" of the parents had not been formally given.

"Under the mask of concern about correct procedure, the Comte was making an impertinent allusion to the allegations about the baby’s paternity," Fraser writes.

As tensions rose in France, his brothers’ increasingly conservative, reactionary politics caused constant problems for the moderate, placating Louis XVI. Both Provence and Artois escaped France with their families during the revolution. After their brother’s death, both men eventually got what they had perhaps always longed for—the chance to be king. After the fall of Napoleon, Provence reigned as Louis XVIII from 1814 to 1824. Artois followed as Charles X from 1824 to 1830, before he was deposed. (Read more.)

No comments: