Thursday, June 21, 2007

Marie-Amélie, the Last Queen

In 1809, the exiled Louis-Philippe married the Neapolitan princess, Marie-Amélie, a niece of Marie-Antoinette. Born at Caserta, Marie-Amélie was twenty-seven years old when she wed. Of her many sisters she was considered the plainest, and it was expected that she would become a devout old maid. It was totally unexpected that Louis-Philippe, the exiled, radical Duc d'Orléans, the son of a revolutionary, would fall in love with the pious, reserved and dignified Marie-Amélie. They were a completely devoted couple all of their lives; he never cheated on her,as far as anyone can know. They had ten children, and when the monarchy was restored in 1814, Louis-Philippe brought his growing family back to France, where his vast estates had been restored to him by Louis XVIII. However, Louis-Philippe's liberal principles were a barrier between him and the older branch of the Bourbon family. It was a shame, since Marie-Amélie and Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte had much in common and would have been great friends had politics not divided them so.

When Charles X, who had done nothing but shower favors upon Louis-Philippe, was overthrown in 1830, Louis-Philippe became the Citizen-King. Marie-Amélie was styled "Queen of the French." Unlike her husband, she was very conservative and the Revolution of 1830 was a horror to her. Nevertheless, she made the best of it, and as queen tried to support the Church as much as she could, patronizing religious and charitable institutes. Most of all, Marie-Amélie was a loving mother and grandmother, thoroughly taken up with her family. After her husband was overthrown and died in 1850, Marie-Amélie lived on in England, where she passed away in 1866.



Anonymous said...

I've never seen a portrait of Marie-Amelie until now--thanks! Her gown looks magnificent. It helps to have a name to the face.
I got the impression there was a tension between Mme Royale and Marie-Amelie while reading "Madame Royale." I don't remember if they interacted much in the novel. It's been awhile!

elena maria vidal said...

Oh, yes, there was tension, but mainly because of L-P's liberal politics. Otherwise, Marie-Amelie asked Therese to be the godmother of one of her boys. But they both ended up as exiled queens.

May said...

Mme. Royale was also the godmother (by proxy) of Amelie's eldest daughter, Louise, the future queen of Belgium. This is why Louise's full name was Louise *Marie Therese Charlotte* Isabelle (the Louise was after Louis XVIII, and the Isabelle after another relative).

I have read in several sources that Amelie actually had a deep regard for her cousin, Madame Royale. Amelie's great-granddaughter, Princess Henriette of Belgium, says Amelie suffered all her life from their inevitable rupture in 1830. On the January 21 anniversary after the July Revolution, Amelie was, not surprisingly, especially haunted. She wrote in her journal: "My heart is close to that of my beloved, unfortunate, venerated cousin." It is really a tragedy that they were driven apart by politics, especially as they originally might have been sisters-in-law, since Amelie, early on, was intended to marry the Dauphin!