Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Louis-Antoine, Duc d'Angoulême

Louis-Antoine, the Duc d'Angoulême was the nephew of Louis XVI, being the oldest son of the Comte d'Artois. The Comtesse d'Artois, mother of Louis-Antoine, gave him over to the servants to raise and he had many health problems. He was painfully shy, awkward, unattractive, unsocialized, and impotent - all the qualities usually and unfairly attributed to his uncle Louis XVI. He was betrothed as a child to his first cousin Madame Royale, Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte de France.

After her release from prison and temporary stay in Vienna (where she almost married Archduke Karl), Marie-Thérèse married Louis-Antoine in Mitau in Courland (Latvia) in 1799. Their uncle, Louis XVIII, wrote love letters in Louis-Antoine's name to Marie-Thérèse in order to get her to marry her cousin because he needed her with him in order to further his goal of gaining the Throne of France. Marie-Thérèse discovered too late that Louis-Antoine did not write the love letters. They had a marriage in name only but Marie-Thérèse never sought an annulment.

Louis-Antoine loved the military and actually distinguished himself as a soldier and even as a commander on several occasions. It was his courage that won Bordeaux to the side of the Bourbons in 1814. He was known to be a very devout and kindly man to those of his household, as was his wife, although they both had tempers and quarrelled with each other. He was closer to his uncle Louis XVIII than he was to his father Charles X (Artois). However, he and his father made the terrible blunders which led to the final collapse of the Bourbons and the rise of the House of Orleans to the throne in 1830.

Louis-Antoine is often known as Louis XIX because he was king for about 10 minutes after his father abdicated; then he himself signed the abdication as well. An eccentric and pathetic character but a frustrating one....His wife, Marie-Thérèse, stayed with him to the end of his life (1844); they had become tender companions and best friends over the years in spite of everything.