Author Topic: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family  (Read 284043 times)

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Offline prinzheinelgirl

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #180 on: May 19, 2011, 10:59:24 PM »
I think all Archdukes/Arcduchesses are styled HI & RH...

Maybe the order of precedence in case of equal status members depended on how much they years they ruled and the one who ruled longer gets the precedence-I think that today is like that for Kings and Queens...

Thanks. I read either HI & RH or HRH for the archdukes and archduchesses, I get confused.

I also thought about it and as Queens, Maria Carolina and Marie Antoinette had equal ranks. But MC was queen of two separate realms (Naples & Sicily were separate domains but united by personal rule of Ferdinand) while Marie Antoinette had only 1 domain, France (part of Navarre was already incorporated by France so the title Queen of Navarre was mere courtesy, I would think). In this case, MC also ahead of her sister in terms of being Queen so I guess she took precedence before her sister.  Sadly, the two never met again after MC left Vienna so there was no instance where the order of precedence could've been applied after they married.

The order of precedence question is a very interesting one and raises some fascinating issues of family dynamics.  Obviously all the siblings would have grown up knowing Joseph was going to be Emperor so would be accustomed to the idea of giving precedence to him.  However amongst each other it must have caused some friction.  Would Maria Amalia really have been expected to curtsey to Maria Carolina?  I appreciate that Queen outranks Duchess but as they were sisters would they not perhaps have put the formality to one side even for the official greeting?  Would they even have been allowed to?  I had always imagined that Max would have ranked fairly lowly as the Electorate of Cologne was a fairly small state - or was the mere fact of being an Elector sufficient?  I guess I'm probably looking at it with too modern an eye.  I do love the idea of Mimi having to curtsey to Amalia, and bet Amalia loved it too!!!  

Yes, I also think Joseph as the heir  had precedence over Maria Anna, even if the latter was older even when they were all children.  Mimi's "warning" to Isabella of Parma about Maria Anna gives us a glimpse of the order of precedence because Mimi said Maria Anna would try to "bully" Isabella and try to take precedence over her at court events. Presumably, based on this, Isabella was ahead in rank over Maria Anna (the eldest archduchess) as wife of the Crown Prince.  Then Maria Theresa wrote Maria Carolina that she, after Maria Josepha left for Naples,  take rank after Maria Amalia.

Well, MC seemed to be "prissier" than her sister, I think she would've expected Maria Amalia to curtsey to her and show other signs of deference since she outranked her older sister and the latter was, after all, a visitor in Naples.  I can only speculate at this point but I guess it's one of the reasons why she was **pissed** with her sister and wrote badly of her to Mimi. Maria Anna, Maria Elisabeth, Leopold, and Ferdinand did not seem to have any problems with Maria Amalia's visits. It would be interesting to know the details of MC's stop overs in Parma as well.

I've looked it up, the Duchy of Teschen was part of the lands of the Bohemian Crown and (seemingly) was not an independent state. So it seems that Maria Amalia ranked higher than Mimi as wife of a sovereign even though both were duchesses.

Most likely in the Holy Roman Empire, Maximilian outranked Leopold since he was Prince-Elector while Leopold was only an Archduke of Austria (before succeeding Joseph that is) and Grand Duke Tuscany (Tuscany wasn't even part of  the HRE anymore)....I've read that  Franz Stephan had a hard time convincing the Germans that he was an ideal candidate for Emperor as the only domains he held in the German states were the Duchy of Teschen and the County of Falkenstein (both very insignificant). 

Recently I've been speculating as to what would have happened re the foreign marriages if Josepha had survived to marry Ferdinand of Naples.  I believe that Caroline was her mother's first choice for marrying Louis XVI.  Do you think Antoinette would then have married Ferdinand of Parma?  I was wondering if perhaps MT might still have decided to send Amalia to Parma and instead tried to marry Antoinette to one of Louis' brothers.  As presumably the French alliance was considered the most important, MT might have felt it preferable to have two daughters at Versailles.  Not only could they give each other much needed emotional support but also two daughters working together would probably have more chance of safeguarding Austrian interests than one daughter alone.  What do people think?

The question is, would Ferdinand of Parma and Marie Antoinette been a better match than Ferdinand and Maria Amalia? For all her eccentricity, stubborness and capriciousness, Maria Amalia was a big help to Ferdinand in pushing for independence (which they both wanted and which the people wanted as well), knew how maintain the love of the masses, and was intelligent (despite absolutely refusing to study), thoughtful, and bore no grudges (in the long run).  Assuming the same timetable for marriage, in July 1769, Marie Antoinette would've been only 13 years old, small and "underdeveloped" for her age and not much of a  beauty (I've recently read that her portraits back then flattered to great degree, and in reality, she was very "German" in her looks and had "pinched" face) while Ferdinand developed a taste for very pretty and voluptuous girls very early on, Marie Antoinette would've disappointed him in that respect so  I don't think he would've been very taken with her. Underneath Ferdinand's "immaturity", he was also indolent,  insolent and complicated.  Traits that very much echo Marie Antoinette as well.  For Parma to "move on" (that is free from foreign interference), Marie Antoinette would not have been a big help in that respect.



 
    
« Last Edit: May 19, 2011, 11:29:36 PM by prinzheinelgirl »
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Offline prinzheinelgirl

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #181 on: May 19, 2011, 11:32:26 PM »
As presumably the French alliance was considered the most important, MT might have felt it preferable to have two daughters at Versailles.  Not only could they give each other much needed emotional support but also two daughters working together would probably have more chance of safeguarding Austrian interests than one daughter alone.  What do people think?

Well, two daughters would've ensured the succession better rather than one, among other things. Of course, that meant more chances of a half Bourbon-half Habsburg on the throne which I think would've pleased Maria Theresa very much.
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Offline prinzheinelgirl

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #182 on: May 20, 2011, 12:47:23 AM »
Further to my post above on the possible Ferdinand of Parma/Marie Antoinette match, here is the exact description of her as a child/adolescent:

============
She was a very German-looking child. Lady Jackson describes her as having a long, thin face, small, pig-like eyes, a pinched-up mouth, with the heavy Hapsburg lip, and with a somewhat misshapen form, so that for years she had to be bandaged tightly to give her a more natural figure.

At fourteen, when she was betrothed to the heir to the French throne, she was a dumpy, mean-looking little creature, with no distinction whatever, and with only her bright golden hair to make amends for her many blemishes.

(Source: http://fascinatinghistory.blogspot.com/2005/12/count-fersen-marie-antoinette.html )
=============

Also, I read elsewhere in this forum that she had smallpox scars on her face, which had to be powdered, which of course, worried her mother, who knew of the French King's (Louis XV) taste in beautiful women, his future granddaughter would not have pleased him very much in terms of appearance. Oh, she had  bad teeth, too!

Truth be told (and MA's fans would hate for saying this), MA does not seem to be a beauty at any point, whether as a child, adolesent, lady.

Altogether, not the type of girl who would attract Ferdinand of Parma, who certainly liked **very pretty and voluptuous girls** !
« Last Edit: May 20, 2011, 12:52:35 AM by prinzheinelgirl »
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Offline Bourgogne

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #183 on: May 22, 2011, 09:15:42 PM »
Further to my post above on the possible Ferdinand of Parma/Marie Antoinette match, here is the exact description of her as a child/adolescent:

============
She was a very German-looking child. Lady Jackson describes her as having a long, thin face, small, pig-like eyes, a pinched-up mouth, with the heavy Hapsburg lip, and with a somewhat misshapen form, so that for years she had to be bandaged tightly to give her a more natural figure.

At fourteen, when she was betrothed to the heir to the French throne, she was a dumpy, mean-looking little creature, with no distinction whatever, and with only her bright golden hair to make amends for her many blemishes.

(Source: http://fascinatinghistory.blogspot.com/2005/12/count-fersen-marie-antoinette.html )
=============

Also, I read elsewhere in this forum that she had smallpox scars on her face, which had to be powdered, which of course, worried her mother, who knew of the French King's (Louis XV) taste in beautiful women, his future granddaughter would not have pleased him very much in terms of appearance. Oh, she had  bad teeth, too!

Truth be told (and MA's fans would hate for saying this), MA does not seem to be a beauty at any point, whether as a child, adolesent, lady.

Altogether, not the type of girl who would attract Ferdinand of Parma, who certainly liked **very pretty and voluptuous girls** !


The overabundance of testimonies of all MA's contemporaries about her irresistible charm, is enough to reduce to nothing that strange demonstration, which would make us believe that MA was something like a monstruous dog...

Totally stunning...

The more harsh memorialists about MA's appearence say the same thing : her features were not perfectly regular, but her seduction was so strong that she would have been able to be prefered to all more beautiful women.

I don't even want to waste my time in a collection of citations, it would be to easy, and to long... There is NOT ONE testimony which reports that MA was ugly (that seems to be ridiculous to even have to write this....)

Maybe only two citations, especially about this inane story about smallpox scares on her face, when Mme Vigée-Lebrun wrote :

(FR)"Mais ce qu'il y avait de plus remarquable dans son visage, c'était l'éclat de son teint. Je n'en ai jamais vu d'aussi brillant, et brillant est le mot; car sa peau était si transparente qu'elle ne prenait point d'ombre. Aussi ne pouvais-je en rendre l'effet à mon gré : les couleurs me manquaient pour peindre cette fraîcheur, ces tons si fins qui n'appartenaient qu'à cette charmante figure et que je n'ai retrouvé chez aucune autre femme."

= "But the most remarkable thing in her face, was the radiance of her complexion. I had never seen something more sparkling, and sparkling is the word ; for her skin was so translucent that it didn't take the shades. Then I wasn't able to reproduce this effect like I would have loved to. My colours were inadequate to paint this freshness, these so fine tones which belonged only to this lovely face, and which I never found in one single other woman..."

And the "Mémoires Secrets" by Bachaumont, when MA came in France in 1770 (very important, because this chronicle was only a manuscript not made for a publication, and was very opposed to the french court. That's the reason why the first publication took place in London only in 1783).

Even this inimical lampoonist, who later was merciless about MA during the necklace affair, reports here :

(FR) "Voici exactement le portrait de madame la Dauphine. Cette princesse est d'une taille proportionnée à son âge, maigre sans être décharnée et telle que l'est une jeune personne qui n'est pas encore formée. Elle est très bien faite, bien proportionnée dans tous ses membres. Ses cheveux sont d'un beau blond, on juge qu'ils seront un jour d'un châtain cendré, ils sont bien plantés. Elle a le front beau, la forme du visage d'un ovale beau mais un peu allongé, les sourcils aussi bien fournis qu'une blonde peut les avoir. Ses yeux sont bleus sans être fades, et jouent avec une vivacité pleine d'esprit. Son nez est aquilin un peu effilé par le bout. Sa bouche est petite, ses lèvres sont épaisses, surtout l'inférieure qu'on sait être la lèvre autrichienne. La blancheur de son teint est éblouissante et elle a des couleurs naturelles qui peuvent la dispenser de mettre du rouge. Son port est celui d'une archiduchesse..."

I translate "skim through" :

= "Here's the exact description of the Dauphine... This princess is of an average height for her age, she's thin, without to be scrawny, just like a young girl not fully developped yet. She's very shaply, well proportioned in all her body. Her hair is beautiful blond... The forehead beautiful, the face beautiful oval but a little too long, the eyebrow as thick as a blonde can have it... Her eyes are blue but not dull, and they play with a spark full of wit. Her nose is aquiline, a little sharp on the end. Her mouth is small, her lips are fleshy, espacially the lower lip, which is known as "the austrian lip". The sparkling whitheness of her skin is dazzling, and she's got natural color (on her cheeks) so that she doesn't need to use any blusher. Her bearing is the bearing of an archduchess..."

Such a girl would'nt have been lovely enough for Ferdinand of Parma. Yeah right!

The more funny in all that is (the future) Louis XVI's word, when he saw the Comtesse de Provence (Marie-Joséphine of Savoy), her young brother's wife. He said to Marie-Antoinette : "When I look at you and when I look at her, I must admit that I was really treated like the elder-brother!"

And in another moment, the Comte de Provence himself asked to the Dauphin his opinion about Marie-Joséphine's physical appearence.
He answered : "Not good! I wouldn't have wanted a woman like this!"
Provence said with bitterness : "I'm very happy for you to have received better than me..."



« Last Edit: May 22, 2011, 09:23:22 PM by Bourgogne »

Offline prinzheinelgirl

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #184 on: May 23, 2011, 05:36:10 AM »
The overabundance of testimonies of all MA's contemporaries about her irresistible charm, is enough to reduce to nothing that strange demonstration, which would make us believe that MA was something like a monstruous dog...

Totally stunning...

Lady Jackson certainly didn't find her an appealing child for whatever reason.  However, I can't totally discount her description of her - MA was indeed misshapen.  For example, one shoulder was indeed noticeably higher than other. She had to wear a shoulder pad.    

"But the most remarkable thing in her face, was the radiance of her complexion. I had never seen something more sparkling, and sparkling is the word ; for her skin was so translucent that it didn't take the shades. Then I wasn't able to reproduce this effect like I would have loved to. My colours were inadequate to paint this freshness, these so fine tones which belonged only to this lovely face, and which I never found in one single other woman..."

Another member posted at the Marie Antoinette thread about her smallpox scars which had to be covered by powder, and which quite worried her mother. It was a German author who wrote it, why would that German author write that if there wasn't any semblance of truth? A (hostile) French author maybe just to criticise her.  The praise by Vigee Le Brun on her complexion was also explained on the same thread. I hope it hasn't been deleted.


And the "Mémoires Secrets" by Bachaumont, when MA came in France in 1770 (very important, because this chronicle was only a manuscript not made for a publication, and was very opposed to the french court. That's the reason why the first publication took place in London only in 1783).

Even this inimical lampoonist, who later was merciless about MA during the necklace affair, reports here :

I translate "skim through" :

= "Here's the exact description of the Dauphine... This princess is of an average height for her age, she's thin, without to be scrawny, just like a young girl not fully developped yet. She's very shaply, well proportioned in all her body. Her hair is beautiful blond... The forehead beautiful, the face beautiful oval but a little too long, the eyebrow as thick as a blonde can have it... Her eyes are blue but not dull, and they play with a spark full of wit. Her nose is aquiline, a little sharp on the end. Her mouth is small, her lips are fleshy, espacially the lower lip, which is known as "the austrian lip". The sparkling whitheness of her skin is dazzling, and she's got natural color (on her cheeks) so that she doesn't need to use any blusher. Her bearing is the bearing of an archduchess..."

Quote

Other accounts put MA small for her age and underdeveloped, she was almost 15 years old but looked like 12. Her tutor Abbe Vermond hoped she'll grow taller and it was only
in late 1772 or 1773 that she became taller and fuller. Louis XV was very disappointed about her (almost non-existent) bosom when she arrived in 1770!  I find the statement "thin (but) very shapely" contradictory too.

Such a girl would'nt have been lovely enough for Ferdinand of Parma. Yeah right!

Like I said, MA was small and underdeveloped in 1769/1770. She was nowhere shapely ("voluptuous") and looked about 12 and was a bit untidy as well (she neglected her teeth and was not above wearing dirty clothes (or was it underwear). To each his own on this matter, that's fine.  :)  But I have my own reasons for believing otherwise based on what I know (facts) on Ferdinand's taste in women.  

The more funny in all that is (the future) Louis XVI's word, when he saw the Comtesse de Provence (Marie-Joséphine of Savoy), her young brother's wife. He said to Marie-Antoinette : "When I look at you and when I look at her, I must admit that I was really treated like the elder-brother!"

And in another moment, the Comte de Provence himself asked to the Dauphin his opinion about Marie-Joséphine's physical appearence.
He answered : "Not good! I wouldn't have wanted a woman like this!"
Provence said with bitterness : "I'm very happy for you to have received better than me..."

Of course, Marie Antoinette is definitely much better looking than the Comtesse de Provence.   As one member of this forum said, the archduchesses were considered goodlooking at that time although their beauty was also a bit exaggerated (the only one in my opinion was exceptionally lovely was Maria Elisabeth).
« Last Edit: May 23, 2011, 06:07:23 AM by prinzheinelgirl »
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Offline prinzheinelgirl

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #185 on: May 23, 2011, 06:08:24 AM »
Sorry for the quite  messed up post above!

To add to the above, yes, it's true that being pleasing or charming sometimes counts more than being regularly beautiful. I don't find Catherine the Great a beauty at any point (but see how her ex-lover the King of Poland idealised her looks) and she herself said she was told she was ugly but that she pleased).
« Last Edit: May 23, 2011, 06:12:21 AM by prinzheinelgirl »
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Offline ivanushka

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #186 on: May 23, 2011, 10:28:56 AM »
People said the same thing about Marie Adelaide of Savoy (mother of Louis XV).  When Louis XIV first met her he wrote to Madame de Maintenon saying that she wasn't pretty exactly but she had a quality that pleased much more.  Years ago I read a book on the Bourbons where the writer said a similar thing about Marie Antoinette.  I think the words were that "it was generally conceeded at Versailles that if not exactly pretty, Marie Antoinette was sublimely attractive".  As I remember the writer commented on her complexion, the elegant way in which she moved and most of all, her remarkable charm.  It's interesting that both these women were direct descendents of Mary Queen of Scots; another woman whose charm was said to be legendary.  In her biography of MQoS, Antonia Frazer discussed Mary's appearance and concluded that it wasn't so much a case of her being an outstandingly beautiful woman (though contemporaries certainly rated her a great beauty) as an outstandingly attractive one.  I think the same could be said of Marie Antoinette.  You can find fault with her features but the overall impression, combined with her personality, was dazzling. 

Offline prinzheinelgirl

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #187 on: May 27, 2011, 02:54:50 AM »
As I remember the writer commented on her complexion, the elegant way in which she moved and most of all, her remarkable charm.

Again, not sure about her complexion - at least her facial complexion, which had smallpox scars. Perhaps it wasn't bad enough and with powder, it wasn't very noticeable.
 
I'm also unsure about her so-called remarkable charm. One had to remember that Marie Antoinette (even as Dauphine) had her own fair share of rages and tantrums.  When she was forced to receive Prince Maximilian of Zweibrucken in her parties, she didn't react very well and had tears of rage in her eyes. And that was just one of many incidents incident when she showed her bad temper. I'm sure she received those she liked and who she deemed on her side very well. As for the others....... well......

You can find fault with her features but the overall impression, combined with her personality, was dazzling.  
 
But Marie Antoinette's personality wasn't always pleasant.... that's why I'm hesitant to believe whatever (fawning) authors say when there's strong evidence otherwise. I think people just fawned over her (some of her contemporaries and writers) because she was Queen of the (supposedly) best (but in reality, fast crumbling) kingdom in Europe. I also think her death (which I wholly say she didn't deserve whatever her glaring faults were) contributed to people "idolising" her.  For example, one can read her "memoirs" by her nursemaid's son (a certain Weber) and certainly it was no objective work.

I think Marie Antoinette's attributes were exaggerated, much like Maria Carolina's and Maria Christina's. English authors tend to inflate Maria Carolina's attributes because she fought on the English side. I look at her portraits, for instance, but do not see a very beautiful woman like some authors claim.  Nor was she very intelligent and evidence points out that she was only a "copier" but not a real intellectual and couldn't even get rid of the hated Tanucci after 8 years on her own.

The same with Mimi, touted to be Maria Theresa's most intelligent and most talented daughter by a number of authors. However, evidence strongly suggest that it was Maria Anna who was the outstanding daughter. Even Joseph, who thought extremely high of himself, seemed to pale in comparison to Maria Anna.

Interestingly a forum member asked me much earlier if I thought MT's daughters were just too "idealised"...... my answer is a resounding "yes"! I think MT's children, especially the daughters, are very interesting yet indeed, "idealised".  What does the others think?    
« Last Edit: May 27, 2011, 03:18:32 AM by prinzheinelgirl »
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Offline prinzheinelgirl

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #188 on: May 27, 2011, 03:53:20 AM »
You can find fault with her features but the overall impression, combined with her personality, was dazzling.  

The first 2 lines of my post above should have read....

But Marie Antoinette's personality wasn't always pleasant or even tempered.... do you mean that even if she's prone to bad temper, she was still "fascinating"?  
« Last Edit: May 27, 2011, 03:54:59 AM by prinzheinelgirl »
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Offline prinzheinelgirl

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #189 on: May 31, 2011, 04:10:30 AM »
Letter by the prominent German writer Luise Gottsched on meeting Maria Theresa, Franz Stephan, and their children in 1749:

===================
Letter To Fräulein Thomasius, of Troschenreuth and Widersberg, at Nürnberg.

Vienna, 28 September, 1749.

MY ANGEL: First, embrace me. I believe all good things should be shared with one's friends. Hence must I tell you that never, in all my life, have I had such cause to be joyfully proud as on this day. You will guess at once, I know, that I have seen the Empress. Yes, I have seen her, the greatest among women. She who, in herself, is higher than her throne. I have not only seen her, but I have spoken with her. Not merely seen her, but talked with her three-quarters of an hour in her family circle. Forgive me if this letter is chaotic and my handwriting uneven. Both faults spring from the overwhelming joy I feel in the two delights of this day---the privilege of meeting the Empress and the pleasure of telling your Highness of the honor.

This morning we went at ten to the palace. We took our places where Baron Esterhazy, who procured us admission, told us to stand. He supposed, as we did, that we, with the hundreds of others who were waiting, might be permitted to see her Majesty as she passed through the apartment on her way to the Royal Chapel. After half an hour we had the happiness of seeing the three Princesses go by. They asked the Court-mistress who we were. Then, on being told our names, they turned and extended their hands for us to kiss. The eldest Princess is about ten years old. As I kissed her hand, she paid me a compliment. She said she had often heard me highly spoken of. I was pleased, of course, and very grateful for her remarkable condescension. Forgive me if this sounds proud. Worse is to follow. I cannot tell of the incredible favor of these exalted personages without seeming to be vain. But you well know that I am not vain.

About eleven o'clock, a man-servant, dressed in gorgeous livery, came and told us to follow him. He led us through a great many frescoed corridors and splendid rooms into a small apartment which was made even smaller by a Spanish screen placed across it. We were told to wait there. In a few moments, the Mistress of Ceremonies came. She was very gracious to us. In a little while, her Majesty entered followed by the three princesses. My husband and myself each sank upon the left knee and kissed the noblest, the most beautiful hand that has ever wielded a scepter. The Empress gently bade us rise. Her face and her gracious manner banished all the timidity and embarrassment we naturally felt in the presence of so exalted and beautiful a figure as hers. Our fear was changed to love and confidence. Her Majesty told my husband that she was afraid to speak German before the Master of that language. "Our Austrian dialect is very bad, they say," she added. To which my man answered that, fourteen years before, when he listened to her address at the opening of the Landtag, he had been struck by the beauty and purity of her German. She spoke, on that occasion, he said, like a goddess. Then the Empress laughed merrily, saying "It is lucky I was not aware of your presence or I should have been so frightened that I should have stopped short in my speech."

She asked me how it happened that became so learned a woman. I replied, "I wished to become worthy of the honor that has this day befallen me in meeting your Majesty. This will forever be a red-letter day in my life." Her Majesty said, "You are too modest. I well know that the most learned woman in Germany stands before me." My answer to that was "According to my opinion, the most learned woman, not of Germany only, but of all Europe, stands before me as Empress." Her Majesty shook her head. "Ah, no," she said, "my familiar acquaintance with that woman forces me to say you are mistaken."

Her husband, the Emperor Franz I, joined our group and chatted with us most affably. Some of the younger children were called in and properly reverenced. Then the Empress asked if we would like to see her remaining babies, upstairs. Of course, we were enchanted at the thought. Following the Mistress of Ceremonies, we went upstairs to the three little angels there, whom we found eating their breakfast under the care of the Countess Sarrau. After kissing the little, highborn hands, we were conducted through the private rooms of the palace, an honor not vouchsafed to one stranger out of a thousand. Finally we returned to the waiting room, where all congratulated us upon the unusual honor shown.

( source: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1749gottschen-mariatheresa.html )

===========

It seems that Maria Anna at age 10-11 was already widely read in German (certainly not the first language of their family), and seemingly aware of who the good writers are.

The three babies/ "little angels" mentioned are, of course, Charles, Maria Amalia, and Leopold.


« Last Edit: May 31, 2011, 04:14:39 AM by prinzheinelgirl »
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Offline ivanushka

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #190 on: May 31, 2011, 03:55:03 PM »
But Marie Antoinette's personality wasn't always pleasant or even tempered.... do you mean that even if she's prone to bad temper, she was still "fascinating"?  

I've no doubt that Marie Antoinette was far from perfect.  In fact the writer I quoted earlier did also describe her as being shallow and superficial.  In her defence, I do think the life she lead in France was often a very difficult one.  Much of the court would have viewed her with suspicion simply because she was Austrian and therefore perceived as an enemy.  All the blame for non consumation of the marriage was placed on her shoulders when really it was her husband to blame.  Her own new French family was not the easiest: the aunts seemed to have made trouble for her, particularly Adelaide and her two sisters in law, being real sisters, would probably have sided with each other against her whenever disputes arose.  She must often have felt very frustrated and this feeling can often lead to less than gracious behaviour towards those she perceived as hostile to her, together with an eagerness to cling to those who she believed were totally on her side such as Lamballe and Polignac.

That said, I do think Marie Antoinette possessed some sort of X factor or charisma; some quality that when she focused it on someone they were more often than not drawn to her.  Maybe I'm biased because she was one of the first historical figures I was ever interested in but I've read a lot of biographies of her over the years and even those that did not fawn over her commented on her charm and the extraordinary effect it could have on people

Offline prinzheinelgirl

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #191 on: June 01, 2011, 09:56:49 AM »
That said, I do think Marie Antoinette possessed some sort of X factor or charisma; some quality that when she focused it on someone they were more often than not drawn to her.  Maybe I'm biased because she was one of the first historical figures I was ever interested in but I've read a lot of biographies of her over the years and even those that did not fawn over her commented on her charm and the extraordinary effect it could have on people

Well, Maria Amalia, despite her very marked oddity and reportedly loss of good looks, still  drew people to her!  I wouldn't call it charm but more of fascination (of an unexplainable kind). But still... she was liked, especially by the masses and that was more or less, consistent throughout her stay in Parma.  I do understand what you're trying to say in this context and Marie Antoinette.

It's too bad Marie Antoinette (having a similar effect on people) didn't use it where it mattered most. I guess she wasn't as "outwardly" focused like her sister in Parma, being mainly concerned with herself and her situation and should I say her prejudices?

I guess we have a different experience on Marie Antoinette, because the more I read about her the more I get ( bit by bit) more dismayed by her choices. I do understand her situation in the early years but after her mother died (I have no doubt Maria Theresa's criticisms had that  effect on her) and she had children, I couldn't (for the life of me) make more excuses for her.  Unless one could say she was "permanently damaged" by her earlier experiences?  But she was loved by the masses at first, never mind the people at Versailles, had she kept it up (her popularity with them), perhaps she had a better ending!  
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Offline CountessKate

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #192 on: June 02, 2011, 08:20:07 AM »
I think in all this one shouldn't forget the celebrity factor - the genuine reverence for royalty at the time and the dazzle that could be cast over very ordinary actions simply by the possessor of that royal position.  Fanny Burney, a pretty shrewd observer, could become rather silly when describing the royal family she served, and indeed there are plenty to gush even today when there is so much less reverence.  Reading Luise Gottsched's letter I was struck not by the intelligence of Maria Anna of which this is hardly a stunning example, but by the sincere and deep appreciation from Gottsched of a polite but bland remark from a ten year old (who actually didn't say she had read any of her writing, by the way - it's not clear why it demonstrates Maria Anna was widely read in German).  Unbiased observers seem hard to find.  In many ways their reactions seem less to do with the persons they are describing, and more to do with the observers own feelings, e.g. Gottsched's feeling of achievement at having gained the notice of the greatest patroness in the land.  Everything connected with the meeting with the royal family had a golden glow for her.  I wonder whether the question of the beauty or otherwise of Marie Antoinette and her sisters in their youth is simply impossible to disentangle from that royalty dazzle in the eyes of their beholders.

Offline prinzheinelgirl

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #193 on: June 03, 2011, 12:21:37 AM »
I think in all this one shouldn't forget the celebrity factor - the genuine reverence for royalty at the time and the dazzle that could be cast over very ordinary actions simply by the possessor of that royal position.  Fanny Burney, a pretty shrewd observer, could become rather silly when describing the royal family she served, and indeed there are plenty to gush even today when there is so much less reverence.

You're right CountessKate. That is why I have serious reservations on the some of the (supposed) attributes of Maria Theresa's daughters.

Reading Luise Gottsched's letter I was struck not by the intelligence of Maria Anna of which this is hardly a stunning example, but by the sincere and deep appreciation from Gottsched of a polite but bland remark from a ten year old (who actually didn't say she had read any of her writing, by the way - it's not clear why it demonstrates Maria Anna was widely read in German). 

Certainly nothing Luise Gottsched wrote about indicates Maria Anna was widely read in German, that was my "fault". I mixed up my remark with another source I read before.

I wonder whether the question of the beauty or otherwise of Marie Antoinette and her sisters in their youth is simply impossible to disentangle from that royalty dazzle in the eyes of their beholders.

Well, all we have are portraits (which could be flatter to an unrecognizable degree from the actual appearance of the sitter)  and the remarks of contemporaries. I guess in this respect only Maria Elisabeth, who was universally praised for being unusually beautiful and who was extremely vain (and indication that people indeed were dazzled by her beauty, something that she took pride in), could be safely classified as the beauty.

However, Maria Theresa and Franz Stephan were both good-looking, some of their children could be (safely) classified as attractive. Not all though..... Maria Anna was never praised as such (and indeed she herself wrote that she felt loved in Klangenfurt, where beauty didn't matter), Maria Carolina's features (even as a young lady) strike me as rather hard and angular (the one by Mengs seem to be the pretty and "soft" but then I'm not familiar with his work). Even looking at Marie Antoniette's last portraits in Vienna do not convince me of their likeness to the 14-year old Antoine, who was described as small and undeveloped like a 12 year old, whereas by portrait by Ducreaux in 1769 depict a lady looking older (and more developed) than 14. Same with the portrait of her playing the harpsichord.   

Maximilian was described as rather "ugly" even as a young man. Leopold's early portraits, if they're to be of any indication,  also do not depict a very handsome young man.
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Offline prinzheinelgirl

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #194 on: June 03, 2011, 02:04:52 AM »
Has anyone read about Maria Theresa's last days, specifically when she was dying?

According to Sir Nathaniel William Wraxall, he had it from "reliable sources" at Maria Theresa, at her deathbed, refused to give her blessing to Maria Amalia despite the earnest entreaties of Maria Anna and Maria Elisabeth.....

It does not seem to follow the logic that just few weeks before her death, they appeared to be in rather good terms so that Maria Theresa was (still) contemplating to let Maria Amalia visit Vienna (a project that was certainly brought up from time) but Joseph strongly objected to it....
« Last Edit: June 03, 2011, 02:22:42 AM by prinzheinelgirl »
kindness is the magic elixir of love