Saturday, September 17, 2011

Madame Adélaïde, aunt of Queen Louise-Marie

Educated in liberal ideas by Mme. de Genlis, Adélaïde d'Orléans had made them her own. Long years of exile in a convent in Bremgarten, and afterwards with her aunt Mme. de Conti in Bavaria and Hungary, had separated her from family life. She knew little of her mother, and was subsequently altogether estranged from her, on account of the latter's subjugation by her chancellor, M. de Folmont. After their return to France, she concentrated all her affection on her brother and his family.
Her niece, the Queen of the Belgians, in a letter to Queen Victoria, says: "My good, excellent, beloved aunt lived only for her brother. Her devotion was absolute, and utterly unselfish. A heart so true, so noble, so loving is seldom found. She was a second mother to us, indeed few mothers do for their children all she did for us or love them better, and we in return loved and looked up to her". 
Mme. de Boigne says: "In Madame Adélaïde I always admired her extreme goodness of heart and great intellectual powers. Her good qualities were her own, her defects due to circumstances in which she was placed in youth". 
She was frank and sincere, and with her the inside was worth more than the outside. 
Exclusive in her affections, she was a firm friend but a bitter enemy. 
Her charities, however, left out no one. 
She gave away one-sixth of her income in pensions to poor artists and men of letters, to the widows and orphans of combatants in the July Revolution, and in subscriptions to schools and hospitals, for the families of shipwrecked mariners, or artisans out of work, to cholera patients; pensions also to faithful servants of the House of Orléans, and rendered assistance even to poor Jews. 
Her wealth and liberality gave her much influence, and she lived only for the aggrandisement of her brother and his family. 
Her father, Philippe Egalité had been kindness itself to her. She was too young to judge the facts and would not acknowledge that his path had been one of crime. In her days of exile and among the émigrés who formed her aunt, Mme. de Conti's court, she found herself everywhere looked upon coldly on account of the name she bore, so she was driven in upon herself and raised a rampart of reserve in self-defence. Her mother's household being unendurable, she left it and joined her brother, and having no one else upon whom to lavish her capacity for affection, she gave her heart wholly to him. 
He returned her affection, fell much under her influence, consulted her on all points, and having great respect for her powers of mind, deferred to her opinions. 
Their father's life and death were a bond of intimacy between them. 
Though both were generally the easiest of companions, upon this point they were irritable, even to rancour. After the Restoration neither of them was ever at ease with Louis XVIII, and least of all with the Duchesse d'Angoulême, daughter of Louis XVI, for whose death their father had voted. 
Madame Adélaïde indeed frankly detested the royal family. She may have remembered that in her youth she had been taught to look on the Duc d'Angoulême as her future husband, but the match fell through upon the determined opposition of Marie Antoinette. Again in later life there had been an idea of marrying her to the Duc de Berry, which also collapsed. 
Besides all this she was thoroughly at variance with the policy and opinions of the elder branch of the Bourbons; she despised their narrowness and bigotry, "they had learned nothing, and forgotten nothing". She herself was genuinely liberal and modern in her ideas, and she thought a constitutional Monarchy and representative Government was really what was needed for the welfare of France, and she loved her country only less than her brother. For him she was always ambitious. If he was not of the Orléanist faction, Mdme. Adélaïde certainly was; in and out of season she never lost sight of the ruling desire of her life, i.e. to see her brother on the throne of France. Her wealth gave her great influence. She spent it generously, patronised artists and literary men, and employed much labour on her estates, especially at Randan, which was her favourite residence; a whole countryside benefited by her benevolence and adored her, calling her "the good Mademoiselle"... (C. C. Dyson, The life of Marie-Amélie last queen of the French, 1782-1866, 1910, pp. 183-186)


gio said...

Very interesting! Thanks for sharing.

Matterhorn said...

Thank you, Gio!