Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Faith of Madame Royale

Sainte-Beuve describes the quiet religious fervor of the Duchesse d'Angoulême, daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette:

I have questioned, in regard to her, men who approached her constantly, and this is what they tell me. Each day was alike to her, except the funereal days of her sorrowful anniversaries. She rose very early, at half-past five o'clock for example; she heard mass for herself alone between six and seven. It is conjectured that she took the communion often, but she was never seen to do so, except on the great days occasionally. No solemnity, no formal preparations; she was only a humble Christian doing a religious act; she did discreetly and secretly saintly things.

In the early morning she attended to the care of her room, in the Tuileries almost as she did in the Temple.

She never spoke of the painful and bleeding things of her youth, unless to a very few persons in her intimacy. The 21st of January and the 16th of October, the death days of her father and mother, she shut herself up alone, sometimes sending, to help her in passing the cruel hours, for some person with whom she was in harmony of mourning and piety–the late Mme. de Pastoret, for example.

She was charitable to a degree that no one knows, and which it is hard to fathom; those who were best informed as to her alms and other deeds were constantly discovering others, which came up, it were, as from underground, and of which they knew nothing. In that she was of the true and direct lineage of Saint Louis.

Her life was very regular and very simple, whether in the Tuileries or elsewhere in exile. The conversation around her was always very natural. At moments, when misfortune [Page 308] made truce for a while, it was noticed that she had in her mind or in her nature a certain gaiety, of which, alas! she could make too little usage. Still, on her best days and in privacy she would let herself go, if not to saying, at least to hearing, things that were gay. When she felt herself in safe and friendly regions a certain pleasantry did not frighten her, and when on festivals she was expected to order plays for her theatre she did not choose the most serious.

Even amid the habit of pain there rose to the surface a sort of joy, such as comes to tried and austere souls, whom religion has guided and consoled throughout all time.



Anonymous said...

I'm not an art historian but from looking at the portrait it looks like it's early 19th century.
By the way, wonderful post!

Anonymous said...

This most certainly comes from her Mother's influence on her spirituality and structured approach to a daily interchange with God. So much for the notion that Marie-Antoinette led a life of debauched decadence filled with sexual revelry.

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, Elisa, it was probably painted around the time of the Restoration in 1814-15. Thanks!

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, alaughland, especially her concern for the poor. MA had an active and highly practical faith.