Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Christening of Marie-Antoinette

Gareth Russell describes Marie-Antoinette's baptism and early childhood, as follows:
As with most of the Hapsburg girls for the last two centuries, the baby's first name was given in honour of the Virgin Mary, whom the Austrian imperial family was especially devoted to; subsequent names were then added in honour of Saint Anthony, her Portuguese godfather and Saint John the Evangelist. Thus, the new baby formally presented at the Church of the Augustine Friars for baptism into the Christian Faith on the following day was Her Imperial Highness the Archduchess Maria-Antonia-Josefa-Johanna von Hapsburg of Austria, Alsace and Lorraine.

The christening itself took place in the church's latest addition, a beautiful ante-camera, which can still be seen today, with two of the baby's elder siblings - Josef and Maria-Anna - standing in for the Portuguese king and queen who, naturally, could not be expected to travel all the way from Lisbon for the ceremony. Although they were amongst the eldest of the Emperor and Empress's children, it's my hunch that Josef and Maria-Anna were picked to stand proxy because they conveniently also had the same Christian names as the King and Queen of Portugal. With the exception of the Empress, who was still in seclusion, the Imperial Family sat on a pew near the font, where Maria-Antonia was christened by the Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal von Trautson. Where possible, the Empress preferred to have the children baptised by the Papal Nuncio, however the new nuncio, Cardinal Visconti, had not yet been formally presented at Court and was therefore ineligible to perform the ceremony.

Sitting in the pew, before the eyes of the Court, Church and military, little Maria-Antonia's bevy of brothers and sisters made an impressive show of imperial fecundity.They were living proof that all was well within the House of Hapsburg and that the common criticism that the family was debilitatingly inbred did not apply to the Austrian branch of this formidable clan. Several of Maria-Antonia's siblings had predeceased her and, at the time of her christening, eleven of the children remained alive. Apart from 14 year-old Josef, the crown prince, and 17 year-old Maria-Anna, an intelligent girl with a crooked back who had already decided on a vocation as a nun in Prague,  the imperial siblings congregated in the Augustinian Church on that chilly November afternoon included Maria-Antonia's six other sisters - their mother's favourite, Maria-Christina, the family beauty, Maria-Elisabeth, the impetuous Maria-Amalia, 5 year-old Maria-Johanna, 4 year-old Maria-Josefa and the toddler, Maria-Caroline, destined to be Marie-Antoinette's favourite sister and childhood playmate . They were joined by their three brothers, all junior to Josef in the line of succession; 10 year-old Karl, 8 year-old Leopold and the baby, Ferdinand. (Read more.)


Brantigny said...

"With the exception of the Empress, who was still in seclusion"...

Until just recently women who just had a child had to be "Churched"

It is an old rite which I believe has fallen into disuse. A Pity, once again.

Manuel Marques Pinto de Rezende said...

"(...)it's my hunch that Josef and Maria-Anna were picked to stand proxy because they conveniently also had the same Christian names as the King and Queen of Portugal."

and you are right. Greetings from Portugal!

lara77 said...

How not to be struck by the fecundity of the Empress Marie Theresa and how Queen Marie Antoinette lost the Dauphin and Sophie Helene. What a cruel twist of irony and fate.

Gareth Russell said...

Thank you for the link!