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Saturday, 24 August 2013

Two Sisters, Two Unhappy Marriages

Much has been written and portrayed about the marriage relationship of Marie Antoinette and the French king Louis XVI. Historical facts seem to prove that Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI did not enjoy living their lives together.
On April 19, 1770 Marie Antoinette -aged then 14- and Louis-Auguste -aged 15- were married by proxy in the Augustine Church in Vienna. Marie Antoinette left for France two days later. She crossed the border into France on May 7, 1770. On May 16, 1770, their French wedding was held at Versailles in the Chapel Royal. Her wedding dress was decorated with diamonds and pearls. French people never liked Antoinette since she was an Austrian princess.
After a formal dinner and the blessing of their bed by the Archbishop of Reims, Marie Antoinette and Louis-Auguste were escorted to their bedroom. However, they did not consummate their marriage until August 1777 since Louis XVI had a genital malformation known as phimosis. Marie Antoinette could conceive her first child after Louis XVI's medical problem was solved by surgery.
Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI had four children:
•Marie Thérèse Charlotte: Born on December 19, 1778 at Versailles. She lived in exile after the death of her family. Marie married her cousin Louis-Antoine in 1799. She died from pneumonia on October 19, 1851 in Vienna, Austria.
•Louis Joseph Xavier Francois: Born on October 22, 1781. Died at the age of seven on June 4, 1789 of consumption which is known today as tuberculosis.
•Louis Charles (aka Louis XVII): Born March 27, 1785. Died on June 8, 1795 while alone in prison. He had been brutalized as a prisoner.
•Sophie Béatrix: Born in 1786, Sophie died as an infant just before turning one year old in 1787.
Even though Marie Antoinette and Louis-Auguste were married, they seemed to be living separate lives: his life was filled with hunting, eating, and introspection; hers, with dancing, nightlife, gambling, and fashion.
Though Marie Antoinette had numerous lovers, Louis XVI was the first French king in two hundred years not to have a royal mistress. The very faithfulness, indeed the uxoriousness, of Louis XVI, made him a cuckold and dolt in the public mind, and placed Marie Antoinette in an even more vulnerable position. Lacking in virility, Louis was seen as unable to dominate his consort. Subject to her sway, his rule was corrupted by feminine power.
Louis XVI was executed by the guillotine on January 21, 1793. The evening before he died, Louis had a final farewell dinner with Marie and their children. Marie Antoinette was executed by the guillotine on October 16, 1793, almost nine months after her husband's death. Marie Antoinette was just a couple weeks short of being 38 years old when she died. Her marriage was never a happy union.

Marie Antoinette's older sister, Maria Carolina, was also very unhappy in her marriage. Maria Carolina reacted badly to her engagement to King Ferdinand IV of Naples, crying, and saying that Neapolitan marriages were unlucky. Nine months later, however, on 7 April 1768, Maria Carolina married Ferdinand IV of Naples by proxy, her brother Ferdinand representing the bride-groom. Maria Carolina was then only 16 years old.
When she met her husband, she found him "very ugly". She wrote, "I don't love him except for duty...." Ferdinand, too, was not taken with her, declaring, after their first night together, "She sleeps as if she had been killed, and sweats like a pig." That Maria Carolina disliked her husband, however, did not prevent her from bearing children to perpetuate the dynasty. In total, Maria Carolina gave Ferdinand seven children who survived to adulthood.
John Acton, 6th Baronet, became Maria Carolina's favourite. Acton and Maria Carolina were seen to have become so close by 1782 that people falsely believed they were lovers. That the rumour was untrue was not known to the King, who tried several times to "surprise you together" and threatened to kill them both in a rage. In response, Maria Carolina set spies on her husband, but a reconciliation was eventually achieved. As part of this rapprochment, Acton went to live in Castellamare, but returned to Naples three times a week to see the Queen.
In 1806, Ferdinand was deposed as King of Naples by Napoleon Bonaparte. When Napoleon Bonaparte married Marie Louise of Austria, Maria Carolina had to accept that her grandchild had married "the Devil" and born him a son. In 1813 Maria Carolina was exiled to her homeland Austria, where she died in 1814. Maria Carolina was buried in the Imperial Crypt in Vienna; her parents were also buried there. Marie Antoinette was her favourite sister, and like hers, her marriage was never happy.

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