Sunday, January 27, 2008

Murder of the Duc de Berry

On February 13, 1820, Charles-Ferdinand, Duc de Berry, was murdered on the steps of the Paris Opera while helping his pregnant wife into a carriage. Berry was the nephew of Louis XVI and the son of the Comte d'Artois. His older brother was the Duc d'Angouleme and his cousin and sister-in-law was Marie-Therese-Charlotte, Duchesse d'Angouleme. The particulars of the assassination are told in the novel Madame Royale.

Berry was the black sheep of the family, always in trouble. While in exile in England he married a young lady named Amy Brown and they had several children. Later, after returning to France, the marriage with Amy was declared null and void and in 1816 Berry married the lively Italian princess, Caroline of Naples. He was in his late thirties and she was seventeen. He had already installed Amy and her children in a house in Paris where she continued to live as his mistress.

Meanwhile, his wife Caroline lost her first two babies at birth, then in 1819 she had a daughter, Louise d'Artois. An heir to the throne was desperately needed and Berry was the only one of the Bourbon princes of the senior branch of the family capable of begetting children. (The portrait to the right is of Caroline of Naples by Madame Vigee-Lebrun.)

On Quinquagesima Sunday in 1820, at the height of Carnival, Berry was knifed by a madman. Caroline had only just discovered she was with child again. Berry died in her arms in the opera box, after receiving the last rites and asking forgiveness for the public scandal he had given.

In the painting above, Caroline is shown kneeling with her hair trailing down. The Duchesse d'Angouleme has the yellow shawl; the Duc d'Angouleme, Berry's brother, is prostrate at her side. On the other side of the sofa are the nefarious Louis XVIII (standing) and Berry's father, the Comte d'Artois, kneeling and suddenly very old. Berry, as he lay dying, called upon the Holy Virgin to save France.

Caroline shaved her head and went into deep mourning. On September 29, 1820, she gave birth to a son, who was called Henri, Duc de Bordeaux, later known as the Comte de Chambord (Henri V). According to the Bourbon tradition his mouth was moistened with wine at birth. He was presented to the people of France in the arms of Louis XVIII and called "The Miracle Child." In the picture below, the Duchesse d'Angouleme gazes upon the new little nephew who would become like her own son.

Above, the Duchesse de Berry, robed in black, is shown presenting her son to the court. Behind her are seated Louis XVIII and the Duchesse d'Angouleme. Share

1 comment:

May said...

Yet another royal tragedy in January-February! There are so many!