Tag Archives: Princess Elisabeth of France

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The Princess, the King, and the Tyrant

It’s strange to start out with the moral at the beginning of the story, but that’s exactly what I’m going to tell you. No, Maximilien Robespierre will tell you:

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Maximilien Robespierre was a well-spoken leader who led with terror.

 

“Citizens, take warning; you are being fooled by false notions.”

Those words are taken from an address to justify the execution of Louis XVI.

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King Louis XVI of France wanted peace.

It also sums up what others would feel toward Robespierre as time went on. Basically, it leads to the question: What is truth?

Maximilien Robespierre had pushed for Louis XVI’s execution but wasn’t for Princess Elisabeth’s, the King’s sister.

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Princess Elisabeth of France. The King’s youngest sibling.

Yet, she was executed May 10, 1794. And a couple months later, Robespierre would be executed.

The lives of the Princess, the King, and the Tyrant were connected way before the French Revolution.

Losses

An important place to start is the year of 1764. It was important to both the Robespierre and the Bourbon families.

In May, Maximilien Robespierre turned six, and the royal Bourbons welcomed a baby princess.

In July, Robespierre’s mother gave birth—to a stillborn son. She died soon after. Robespierre’s sister recalled in her memoirs this death changed him. He lost his childhood. In addition to that, his father left the family. The man who was supposed to be one of the most important  role models in a young boy’s life distanced himself from his children. I consider this to be Robespierre’s first major rejection.

The Bourbon children lost their parents to death within three years of Princess Elisabeth’s birth.

Successes

Despite losing parents young, Louis, Elisabeth, and Robespierre were all very intelligent and accomplished individuals. Just to mention some examples: Louis excelled in languages; Elisabeth in mathematics; Robespierre in rhetoric. All three wanted to be models of virtue. The Bourbon children took a religious approach while Robespierre leaned on secular philosophies.

Elisabeth carried a certain charm from her earliest days. Despite being a wild child, Elisabeth grew up to be lovely and known for her piety and wit. There were three proposed marriages, but in the end, she and her brother, now King, agreed that she would stay with the family.

Sometime early in Louis’ reign, he and his wife stopped by the school Robespierre attended. In fact, Robespierre was handpicked to give a speech in Latin at the special ceremony for the King and Queen. It turned out to be a dismal day. It was rainy, the monarchs were running late, and when they did arrive, they stayed in their carriage for the speech and ceremony. They left promptly after the ceremony. Robespierre had just been rejected by high society.

Life’s not fair! Right, Robespierre?

But Robespierre was a bright student and would eventually move up his way into politics after completing school. He started on a small scale during the king’s early reign. Louis and Marie-Antoinette had more of a positive image then.

To someone like Robespierre, it probably seemed as if the King had everything. Besides not agreeing with the King’s politics, I think there were other things that Robespierre  would find bothersome about the King. Louis XVI had obtained power through family deaths. He had a beautiful family, and he had a live sibling born in 1764. The King got a free pass while Robespierre slaved away to get to the top.

Annoying Sister

Elisabeth annoyed her sister-in-law at times. She could surprise her brother. But there was never any doubt that these individuals cared for one another, and that the King and Queen would be eternally grateful to Elisabeth for staying with the family to the very end.

Elisabeth felt she was following God’s plan for her. She was heaven sent in the eyes of Louis and his family.

She was certainly a type of nuisance for Robespierre. If only she had escaped like some of her other family members, he wouldn’t have been caught in a desperate situation.  He fought for her at her trial. But he lost. He just wanted her to be exiled, not guillotined.

People marveled at her poise during her trial and execution.

She had just turned thirty the week before she was executed in May 1794.

Fooled by False Notions

More and more people considered themselves “fooled by false notions.” The new government had stressed equality and virtue— so why were so many being punished and put to death?

Robespierre and his comrades became distrustful of one another. They too felt they had been fooled. They weren’t as loyal as they professed they would be. He had helped to reform this new society, and now he and former allies were betraying each other. This was  Robespierre’s third and final rejection.

Robespierre was executed in July 1794. Had his stillborn brother lived, he would have turned thirty a few weeks before—the same age as Elisabeth, who had met her death in her birthday month of May for being loyal to family. An eerie coincidence.

While I don’t accept that Robespierre is scapegoat of history, I do feel sorry for him. He had all these ambitions and felt that to fulfill them, he needed to take away life. In the end, the curse he set on so many rebounded on him.

 

Sources:

Maxwell-Scott Mary Moniac. Madame Elizabeth de France, 1764-1794.

Robespierre, Charlotte. Charlotte Robespierre’s Memoirs: Part 1.By   http://revolution-fr.livejournal.com/2370.html  accessed August 16, 2016.

Ten Brink, Jan. Robespierre and the Red Terror. 1899.

Trail and Execution (French): de Beauchesne, Alicide-Hyacint

Images:
Princess Elisabeth of France by Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun (Public domain in U.S.) 1782

Portrait of Louis XVI by Antoine-Francois Callet. 1788 (Public Domain in U.S.)

Portrait of Maximilien Robespierre. 1790 (Public Domain in U.S.)

 

 

 

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What Changed My Mind About Marie Antoinette

I haven’t always liked Marie Antoinette. I still don’t. I admire her.
If you asked me eight years ago how I felt about the queen, I would say she’s horrible. I read a book about it. Yet also in the library was a book about the summer she and Louis fell in love and also how sickening rumors tore down her image. I had mixed feelings about Marie Antoinette. Information about her is so contradictory and confusing.
Mothers Day two years ago I was asked to give a talk in church. I was asked to include mothers–or mother type figures–in the talk. That was easy. Princess Elisabeth, the sister of Louis XVI. She had no children but helped her niece, Marie-Thérèse, become a survivor during the French Revolution. I had the Bourbon family fresh on my mind because I just read Susan Nagel’s book, Marie-Thérèse, Child of Terror: The Fate of Marie Antoinette’s Daughter.
The book left me plenty to think about. I was shocked by Marie Antoinette. Just how good of a mother, wife, and sister-in-law she was. I was touched when I read about a scene where Marie Antoinette counsels her daughter on how to present herself to the king with reverence and respect.
But it was the summer of 2014–my “Soul Searching Summer”–is when I officially knew I loved Marie Antoinette and that she’s a good role model.
I read a lot  on Elena Maria Vidal’s website Tea at Trianon –a site that presents straight facts that prove Marie Antoinette is a totally different from media portrayals and sensational biographies. My heart was softened when I read about other people’s memories of her and laughed at her interactions with Princess Elisabeth.
I came to love Marie Antoinette by learning about how she interacted with people. I’ve prayed and pondered about it. Marie Antoinette was truly good.
Image:
Queen Marie Antoinette of France and two of her Children Walking in The Park of Trianon  by Adolph-Ulrich Wertmüller
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Poet Profile: Princess Marie-Therese of France

Marie-Therese did not like to think of the time she spent in the cell and would not like to be remembered for being a prisoner in it for so long. Hopefully, she wouldn’t mind being regarded as an example on how to deal with loneliness and painful circumstances.

In an earlier article, I wrote about her aunt Elisabeth helping her find ways to cope and what to do when she was completely alone. Her aunt advised her to keep quiet around guards, When Marie-Therese was alone and needed to voice her frustrations, she turned to writing. Writing was a means of survival. She called herself “the most unhappy creature in the world.” No matter how depressing her writings, writing kept her from going totally insane.

Reading Treasures: A Retreat for Everything Marie Antoinette  included a translation of some of Marie-Therese’s poetry in their post called  “I was your king’s daughter:the poetry of Marie Therese Charlotte in captivity” Her poem “I Was Your King’s Daughter” was found in a book kept by  family of Madeleine Bocquet-Chanterenne. The translation in English reads:

I was your king’s daughter
separated from all my family.
I languish in this sad jail
Alas! I say with good reason
Even though I am alone and sad
My jail would appear happy to me
If I was in this place with my brother.
To my mother, to the Conciergerie
I asked to be reunited
But as an answer, my jailers
Say: this has nothing to do with us.
Spread your blessings on her,
God! Open promptly your jail.
A short time ago, at night
I was sleeping peacefully in my bed.
I got suddenly woken up
By the enraged noise of my locks.
They were coming to my door, they were knocking.
I replied immediately: who is there?
I was asked to open up, I replied:
I am getting up and leaving my bed.
I was hoping that I would get out,
I was expecting to leave the tower.
I go to the door, I finally open it!
They come in with my jailer
I look at them, hoping they would ask me
to follow them and come.
But alas! They stare at me
And suddenly without saying a word, they go out with my jailer.
This poem makes me want to go back in time and say to the teenager that she’ll make it out alive. It was a horrible ordeal but she kept fighting.
This poem also shows it’s important for schools to let their students write poetry. I taught a little English class after school. There was so much material that needed to be covered, I didn’t think about poetry that much. After the last day (when the students actually wrote a poem), I regretted that I hadn’t incorporated  more poetry into the lessons.  Writing poetry wasn’t an academic requirement but I think it would have helped the children more with problems outside of school.
Portrait of Marie Thérèse of France (1778-1851) by Heinrich Fuger 
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The Aunt Who Saved Her Niece : Princess Elisabeth of France

French Revolution. What comes to mind?
Madam Guillotine,  Marie Antoinette, and sink me–The Scarlet Pimpernal. The 1982 film adaption of the book made me laugh so hard. I was also in awe. Did such heroes exist?

There were those who smuggled nobles into other countries. The films shows that Marie-Antoinette and Louis’s son survived and was taken from their prison to a safer place.

Wrong.

The sole survivor was the king and queen’s daughter, Marie-Therese. who clung on to some hope that maybe her brother and mother who were taken away had survived.

I can’t believed I went on for years not knowing about her–or her aunt Elisabeth, the king’s sister.  Elisabeth made sacrifice after sacrifice for the royal family–refusing to marry or take other available routes that would take her out of the country. She endured violent attacks with them and even posed as the queen to buy her sister-in-law more time during one ambush. It’s little wonder that Marie-Antoinette and Louis counseled their children to listen to their aunt.

All too soon the royal family was taken to the Temple Tower. They endured unfair trials and living conditions grew worse.  the king was executed and little Louis was taken to a separate cell. Marie-Antoinette was taken away and also executed, but Elisabeth and Marie-Therese only knew the king’s fate. However, I believe Elisabeth knew her sister-in-law was dead and had a strong feeling her nephew was slowly dying. Marie-Therese had the best chance of surviving.

The Heroic Aunt

The heroic aunt. Elisabeth de France by Vigee-Lebrun.

 
When it was just Elisabeth and Marie-Therese in the cell, Elisabeth comforted her niece. She was an example of piety and
Marie-Therese later said much of her survival was due to prayer. Elisabeth showed and advised her niece on how to groom herself, keep the cell as clean as possible, and how to handle the guards. It was just a matter of time before Elisabeth was taken away and was prepared to die a martyr. Marie-Therese would not find out what happened to her aunt, mother, and brother till much later. The information that her aunt watched around twenty-five nobles executed before her and was purposely saved for last would be withheld.

Marie-Therese was eventually freed and taken to Vienna in 1795 for safety.

The sole survivor. Portrait of Marie Thérèse of France by Heinrich Furger.

The sole survivor. Portrait of Marie Thérèse of France by Heinrich Furger.

She would go on to help royal refugees and raise troops against Napoleon dubbed her the “only man in the family.” She worked hard to preserve the memory of her family. The following comment about her aunt needs to be remembered.”I feel I have her nature . . . [she] considered me and cared for me as her daughter, and I, I honored her as a second mother.”
I hope I have some of Princess Elisabeth in me. Her story sticks out to me. In times of tough decisions, I have thought of my growing niece and my desire to be a good example. The thought points me in the right direction. I love my nieces and nephew. I’m honored when my brothers and their wives let me watch over their kids. Princess Elisabeth is a wonderful role model.  Her story is inspiring because it can make us think of ways we can be more loving toward our families.