Marie-Thérèse, Duchess of Angoulême Biography

Marie-Thérèse Charlotte, also known as the Duchess of Angoulême, was the eldest daughter of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette of France. Despite enduring the hardships of the French Revolution, she managed to survive and become the queen of France for a brief period. Her resilience and ability to overcome adversity make her a remarkable figure in history.

Quick Facts

  • Born Country: France
  • Died At Age: 72
  • Died on: October 19, 1851
  • Place of Death: Austria
  • Cause of Death: Pneumonia
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Louis XIX of France (m. 1799; died 1844)
    • Father: Louis XVI of France
    • Mother: Marie Antoinette
    • Siblings: Dauphin of France, Louis Joseph, Louis XVII, Princess Sophie Hélène Béatrice of France
  • Royal Family Members
  • French Women

Childhood & Early Life

Marie-Thérèse, the eldest daughter of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette, was born on December 19, 1778. During her birth, there was a scare when Marie Antoinette almost suffocated due to the crowded room. As a result, Louis XVI decided to ban public viewing of the birth of his future children, allowing only a few close family members to be present. Marie-Thérèse was also known as Marie-Thérèse Charlotte and Madame Royale. Unfortunately, tragedy struck early in her life as she lost her sister Sophie at only 11 months old and her brother Louis Joseph at the age of 7.

Despite the hardships, Marie-Thérèse was blessed with good looks and was the only one of her siblings to survive past the age of 10. Her mother, Marie Antoinette, taught her important values such as gratitude, love for humanity, charity, and compassion towards the less fortunate. Despite Marie Antoinette’s reputation as a materialist, she encouraged Marie-Thérèse to give away her toys to the poor. Marie-Thérèse received a royal education and was inspired by her mother’s teachings.

The French Revolution & the Temple

When Marie-Thérèse was 10 years old, the Fall of the Bastille occurred on July 14, 1789. This event led to the royal family, including Marie-Thérèse’s uncle and the Duchesse de Polignac, being ordered to move to different locations for their safety. As the political situation worsened, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette planned an escape with the help of Count Axel von Fersen. In 1791, Marie-Thérèse, then 12 years old, disguised herself as a girl and fled the palace with her family. However, they were arrested in Varennes and brought back to Paris.

The royal family was then imprisoned in the Temple Tower, a medieval prison. Marie-Thérèse spent over three years in the tower along with her father, mother, aunt, and brother. During her time in prison, she had very little to do and only had access to two books, The Imitation of Christ and Voyages. In 1793, Louis XVI was guillotined, and Marie-Thérèse’s brother, Louis Charles, was taken away by guards. Marie Antoinette was also taken to another prison, leaving Marie-Thérèse as the only surviving member of the royal family in the Temple Tower.

Post-Prison Life & the Bourbon Restoration

In 1799, Marie-Thérèse married her cousin Louis Antoine d’Artois and became the Duchess of Angoulême. The royal family moved to Britain, but Marie-Thérèse returned to France in 1814 after the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy. However, Napoleon launched another campaign in 1815, causing Louis XVIII to flee. Marie-Thérèse remained in Bordeaux during this time. In 1824, Charles X became the new ruler, and Louis Antoine d’Artois became Dauphin, making Marie-Thérèse the Dauphine de France.

With the Revolution of 1830, the Orleanist branch of the family took over the throne, and Marie-Thérèse went into exile once again. In 1836, after the death of Charles X, she was declared the Queen of France and Navarre by the royalists. After the death of her husband in 1844, Marie-Thérèse moved to Schloss Frohsdorf near Vienna, where she spent her final days with her nephew and his sister as her caregivers.

Death

Marie-Thérèse passed away on October 19, 1851, due to pneumonia. She was buried alongside her family members in the Franciscan monastery church of Castagnavizza in Görz, which was then part of Austria and is now in Slovenia. Her gravestone describes her as the “Queen Dowager of France,” referring to her husband’s short rule as King Louis XIX before his abdication during the 1830 July Revolution.

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