Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tragedy and Irony

Marie-Amélie of Naples, Duchesse d'Orléans, with her eldest son, the Duc de Chartres.

The other day, I received two thoughtful comments from Jorge, asking about Marie-Amélie's feelings regarding her husband's troubling taking of the throne during the July Revolution of 1830, and her mother Maria Carolina's feelings regarding her daughter's marriage to the son of the infamous revolutionary, the Duc d'Orléans, who had brought so much sorrow to her sister, Marie-Antoinette. I was delighted by Jorge's remarks, cutting to the heart of the tragedy and irony of Marie-Amélie's life. In the next few posts, I hope to examine these questions.

It is a touching tribute to the capacity for love and forgiveness of both the Queen of Naples and her daughter that the marriage of Marie-Amélie and Louis-Philippe was able to take place. After all, the young princess was, in a sense, marrying the enemy. Her mother, Maria Carolina of Austria, was the favorite sister of Marie-Antoinette, so the royal court of Naples had very close and cordial family ties to Versailles. Maria Carolina raised all her children with a profound respect for the Catholic monarchy of France, the foremost in Europe. Alongside the language, history and literature of their native land, she ensured that Amalia and her siblings learned to appreciate those of France. The Queen even spoke French most of the time with her children. At an early age, Amalia, for her part, was destined to marry her cousin, the Dauphin, and eventually become Queen of France.

Tragically, Amalia's little fiancé died in 1789. His death ominously concided with the beginning of the French Revolution, ushering in a whole series of traumas that would profoundly mark the young Amalia, a thoughtful, sensitive girl. In her old age, she would still vividly recall the horror and deep mourning in Naples at the executions of her uncle and aunt, Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. Her face flooded with tears, the Queen of Naples had solemnly assembled her children to tell them the terrible news that her own sister, the Queen of France, had been beheaded, before leading them all into the royal chapel to pray together for her soul. Everyone was appalled by the treachery of the Duc d'Orléans, who had voted for the death of the King, his own cousin. In the years to come, the proud, forceful, energetic and determined Maria Carolina would champion the cause of the Bourbon monarchy against all odds, generously supporting French émigrés while battling Napoleon with crusading ardor. The war brought many sorrows to the people and royal family of Naples. In 1798, Amalia, her parents, and siblings were forced to flee Naples and take refuge in Sicily.

In the light of all this, it is astonishing that Amalia fell in love with Louis-Philippe, himself a radical, and, moreover, the son of the royal regicide. It is even more astonishing that Amalia's parents permitted the marriage. How was this possible? Based on her Journal, it appears that Amalia and her parents, despite everything, decided Louis-Philippe was a good and noble man. It is this question I hope to discuss further in the days to come...

(to be continued)

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