Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Caroline of Naples, the Duchesse de Berry

Caroline of Naples is one of the main characters in my novel Madame Royale. She does not enter until the middle of the story, but then she upstages everyone else. She was high-spirited and much more like Marie-Antoinette than the queen's own daughter, Marie-Therese-Charlotte. Caroline was Marie-Antoinette’s grand-niece, her sister Queen Maria Carolina's granddaughter. The author Chateaubriand always flirted with her, calling her a "crazy, Italian tight-rope artist." She had a wonderful singing voice and could sing and play any operatic song after hearing it only once.

Caroline of Naples was known as the Duchesse de Berry from the time of her marriage to Berry in 1816. Caroline introduced sea-bathing to high society and it was considered quite scandalous. She also enjoyed window shopping and they named one of the first Parisian street-cars after her. In spite of her impetuous ways, she was quite popular with the French people. She was also a generous patroness of the arts and her charitable contributions usually exceeded her annual income. Berry was murdered before her eyes in February of 1820 and their son Henri “the Miracle Child” was born in September, 1820. Their country home was Rosny, where Caroline had a special chapel devoted to Berry's memory. When Berry was killed at the opera, Caroline said, "I have lost the only person in the world who can make me happy."

It is a very romantic story how she secretly married an Italian count Ettore de Lucchesi-Palli in Rome, and then went to Brittany to try to regain the throne for her son in 1832. She ended up hiding in a chimney in a farmhouse and almost was burned alive. She never lost her courage and her dignity, even during her imprisonment in the fortress of Blaye, where she was forced to give birth in front of the guards. In the 1830's, after her secret marriage, adventure in Brittany and pregnancy, she was stripped by Charles X of her royal title and was styled "Comtesse de Rosny." She and Marie-Therese-Charlotte always quarrelled, although the Duchesse d’Angouleme ended up raising Caroline's older children, Henri and Louise. The two sisters-in-law were eventually reconciled, and would spend their winters in Venice together, until Therese died in 1851.

Caroline’s second husband, Count Ettore de Lucchesi-Palli was a scion of one the first families of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. He was also known as Prince of Campofranco, and later as Duke della Grazia. He and Caroline had a castle at Brunsee in Gratz, Austria, which is where she died in 1870.

Baroness Orczy of The Scarlet Pimpernel fame wrote a biography of Caroline, as did Andre Castelot. Imbert de Saint-Amand's The Duchesse de Berry and the Court of Charles X is loaded with intimate details of court life.

When she was taken prisoner after almost being burned alive, Caroline said, "I have done what a mother could to regain the inheritance of her son." Brave, foolish, feisty, headstrong, loveable Caroline, she would not give up.



Leslie Cottle said...

loved the story of Duchessa Carolina di Berry! Beautifully written. She is one of those forgotten royals who deserves far more recognition than what she got!
I am a huge fan of hers, Maria Elena Vidal captured her essence in "Madame Royale" which was just a breathtaking account of life after the main revolution in France. Although it does mainly focus on the life of Marie Antoinette's daughter Therese, it also gives so much insight and information on what life was like for the royals during their exile after the revolution and during the restorations. I found this so intriguing.
But what intrigued me the most in "Madame Royale" were the tales of Carolina! What a wonderful character! She was so fiesty and strong headed for her time, or as the Italians would say "testa dura"!!
I was so taken by her that I found myself wanting to write a screeplay about her and shooting her romantic love story with Count Ettore Luchessi Palli. I have already shot a film about Marie Antoinette entitled Let Them Eat so perhaps this will be my next extravaganza!!
Bravo to Maria Elena Vidal for posting this wonderful story of my favorite royal who I seem to share much in common with!!
I do still love Marie Antoinette so very much, she was a wonderful woman and it's hard not to draw comparisons with her and Carolina, they were so very similiar!!
Thank you for keeping her spirit alive Maria Elena!!
Leslie Cottle

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you, dear Leslie! I am delighted that my novels are a means for people to get to know not only the Marie-Antoinette, but also lesser known heroines such as Madame Royale and Carolina. Thank you for the kind words!!

elena maria vidal said...

And thanks, Leslie, for the pictures of Berry, Ettore and Caroline's palaces in Austria and Venice which you sent me from your own research!

Anonymous said...

hello emvidal! :) i'm quite fascinated by this witty and pretty duchess, so i copied your article in my blog. is that okay with you? i sited your blog ofcourse. thanks!

-mj jose

elena maria vidal said...

That's ok, glad you found your way here!