Sunday, January 27, 2008

Caroline of Naples, the Duchesse de Berry

Caroline of Naples is one of the main characters in the 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-Thérèse-Charlotte, the Duchesse d'Angouleme. 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-Thérèse-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 Thérèse 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. Share


Marg said...

She sounds like a really fascinating woman to read about.

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, indeed, Marg, she was fascinating to read about...and fun to write about, too.

May said...

With all due respect to Carolina, who had many noble qualities, and suffered a great deal in her life, I'm afraid I don't approve of her venture to regain the throne for her son. Yes, he had a right in the abstract, but that was not the time and place to be pursuing it. Endangering the peace of a whole country is not something to be taken lightly.

elena maria vidal said...

I think that although Henri V was the rightful monarch Caroline's venture was truly ill-conceived. Furthermore, she acted without the knowledge or permission of the other members of the Royal Family.

May said...

She seemed a bit 'esaltata,' as they say in Italian.