Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Marie-Thérèse and the Flight from Bordeaux

As readers of Trianon and Madame Royale well know, Marie-Thérèse of France, the Duchesse d'Angoulême, daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, was at times forced to flee from wars and revolts. Above is a picture of the princess during her flight from Napoleon Bonaparte in March 1815. Bonaparte, hearing of her attempt to raise an army against him, hailed Marie-Thérèse as "the only man in her family," which was a bit unfair to the Duc d'Angoulême, who had hastened to rally his forces to cut off Bonaparte's march on Paris. The Duc and Duchesse d'Angoulême had been in Bordeaux celebrating the restoration of the Bourbons when news came of Bonaparte's escape from Elba. Although Napoleon admired the daughter of Louis XVI, he would like to have made a prisoner of her. Marie-Thérèse left for England only because to stay behind would have endangered the citizens of Bordeaux. Below is an excerpt from Chapter Sixteen of Madame Royale, describing the scene:
Thérèse and her entourage left Bordeaux in a swirling rain shower, darkness, and mud. Yet the voices of the saints seemed to pierce the curtain of rain. There was always hope. If only she knew if her husband was safe. They travelled all night, their coaches slipping and bumping along in the blackness. By morning they reached Pauillac, with its port and ship which would take them away from France. Thérèse hardly thought about where they were going. She heard Mass in the parish church, then went to board an English ship called The Wanderer. Her military escort assembled on the peer to bid her farewell, as the rain continued to pour. Where were the vast crowds? Where were those who had flung themselves weeping at her feet? Never again would she lavish a single, splintering thought on human honor and praise. It was all less than nothing. The faithful few begged for some tokens; she gave them the feathers from her bonnet, and the green and white ribbons which bound her hair. "Bring them back to me in better days!" she cried, the wind and rain blowing around her. "And Marie-Thérèse will show you that she has a good memory, and that she has not forgotten her friends at Bordeaux!"

The vessel carried
Thérèse over rough waters to Spain, and then across the channel to England. It was a tumultuous crossing; most of her ladies were morbidly seasick, besides being distressed over their belongings left behind at the Tuileries for the Buonaparte clan. When Thérèse and her party finally arrived at the royal French embassy in London, she was greeted with the news that her husband had been captured, and was a prisoner of Napoleon Buonaparte.

~from Madame Royale by Elena Maria Vidal, Ch. 16, "The Heroine," copyright 2000 by E.M. Vidal


Anonymous said...


Love this story, very interesting.

~ Gabriela ~

elena maria vidal said...

Thanks, gabriela!

El Jefe Maximo said...

My view of Napoléon is perhaps a shade different than yours, but still a good story.

The poor Duchesse had to travel so many times. The flight to Varennes, then her later deportation, then in 1815 as you describe here after the first return, and finally in 1830.

I wonder, however, if Napoléon really wanted to apprehend the Duchesse, or her family, very much in 1815. They would have certainly been an enbarssment to his efforts to retain his position without a resumption of the war. Much as Louis Philippe in 1830, he was probably happy to see them depart.

May said...

"The only man in her family" was a phrase that got repeated at least a few times through the centuries. Later on, Princess Marie-José of Belgium, who married into the House of Savoy and became Italy's last queen was called the "only man in the house of Savoy." (And I think the same expression may have been used for an earlier Savoy lady).

Heloise said...

Wow!!! more more please i cant get enough love history Heloise@daisies and dragonflies