Author Topic: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family  (Read 281234 times)

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Offline CountessKate

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #195 on: June 03, 2011, 06:19:44 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....

Derek Beales describes the deathbed of Maria Theresa in some detail, and there is certainly no indication that she made anything other than an exemplary end for a christian empress, thanking the children who were present for their love and commending them to the care of Joseph and generally behaving in the spiritual manner considered appropriate at the time.  It seems very unlikely that a woman so conservative in morality and religion and so genuinely free from hypocrisy would have behaved in so unchristian a manner as to pointedly exclude one of her children from her blessing after she had received extreme unction, and therefore prepare to meet her maker in a very unfit state of grace. 

Offline prinzheinelgirl

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #196 on: June 03, 2011, 09:41:55 AM »
Derek Beales describes the deathbed of Maria Theresa in some detail, and there is certainly no indication that she made anything other than an exemplary end for a christian empress, thanking the children who were present for their love and commending them to the care of Joseph and generally behaving in the spiritual manner considered appropriate at the time.  It seems very unlikely that a woman so conservative in morality and religion and so genuinely free from hypocrisy would have behaved in so unchristian a manner as to pointedly exclude one of her children from her blessing after she had received extreme unction, and therefore prepare to meet her maker in a very unfit state of grace.  

Thanks! What you wrote makes perfect sense and more logical, since there's evidence that  Maria Amalia and Maria Theresa's relationship was better at that point. I also think that MT would not have much to complain about Maria Amalia's "antics" in Parma at that point (except perhaps the fact that her menage never "returned to reason" as MT put it earlier in a letter to Archduchess Maria Beatrix, at least by MT's standards). By then, there were no more squabbles with France and (apparently) Spain.  

I was not very sure if I can 100% believe such a claim (and not because I like Maria Amalia) because Sir Nathaniel William Wraxall doesn't seem to be such an important personage at the Viennese court to know such things. Besides, he alluded that it was due to Maria Amalia "committing the greatest irregularities". What greatest irregularities, at least at that point? I think MT would've at least been a bit relieved that Maria Amalia wasn't so "controversial" anymore. I think she had more to worry about, i.e. Joseph and Marie Antoinette.
« Last Edit: June 03, 2011, 09:47:07 AM by prinzheinelgirl »
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Offline CountessKate

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #197 on: June 03, 2011, 02:02:09 PM »
It sounds like Wraxall might have picked up the sort of gossip which, as you say prinzheinegirl, came from circles not very close to the imperial family - behind the times and sensationalist.  The quarrels between Maria Amalia and Maria Theresa would have been known about, but not necessarily that there had been a reconciliation, and the fact of Maria Amalia not being allowed to visit Vienna (as much due to Joseph as to Maria Theresa) might have suggested to the ill-informed that the quarrel still continued.  Wraxall no doubt drank all the juicy titbits in, and wasn't sufficiently in the swim to distinguish fact from fiction. 

Offline prinzheinelgirl

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #198 on: June 04, 2011, 05:42:59 AM »
You're right.  Thinking about it, only family members and very close ladies-in-waiting were allowed at Maria Theresa's deathbed if I recall it right. Unless the source was Mimi, the tale bearer?  Nothing in Maria Amalia's (known) correspondence suggest that she was distressed that her mother withheld her blessing and supposedly still angry with her; surely Maria Anna and/or Maria Elisabeth, who were close to her, at least hinted at such if it were true.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2011, 05:46:52 AM by prinzheinelgirl »
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Offline CountessKate

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #199 on: June 04, 2011, 06:22:26 AM »
You're right.  Thinking about it, only family members and very close ladies-in-waiting were allowed at Maria Theresa's deathbed if I recall it right. Unless the source was Mimi, the tale bearer?  Nothing in Maria Amalia's (known) correspondence suggest that she was distressed that her mother withheld her blessing and supposedly still angry with her; surely Maria Anna and/or Maria Elisabeth, who were close to her, at least hinted at such if it were true.

I don't recall that Maria Christina was a talebearer in the sense that she was a gossip, and I cannot think under what circumstances she or indeed any of her siblings would make remarks about their mother's last days which seem actively malicious.  To have received the last sacraments and yet die unreconciled to a child would show the empress to have been in peril of her immortal soul and have made an unchristian and improper death.  Given that the empress during her last weeks took communion in public and showed herself to the court to be acting with the dignity and propriety expected of her at the time, it seems extraordinary that she would pursue a family quarrel in a petty way such as withholding her blessing to a child when at the point of meeting her maker.  And in the highly unlikely event that she did, I hardly think her children would have allowed the fact to have come out, as it would cast aspersions on the whole dynasty.

Offline prinzheinelgirl

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #200 on: June 04, 2011, 09:52:26 AM »
I don't recall that Maria Christina was a talebearer in the sense that she was a gossip, and I cannot think under what circumstances she or indeed any of her siblings would make remarks about their mother's last days which seem actively malicious.  To have received the last sacraments and yet die unreconciled to a child would show the empress to have been in peril of her immortal soul and have made an unchristian and improper death.  Given that the empress during her last weeks took communion in public and showed herself to the court to be acting with the dignity and propriety expected of her at the time, it seems extraordinary that she would pursue a family quarrel in a petty way such as withholding her blessing to a child when at the point of meeting her maker.  And in the highly unlikely event that she did, I hardly think her children would have allowed the fact to have come out, as it would cast aspersions on the whole dynasty.

I agree.

I'll see if I can look up the names of Maria Theresa's ladies-in-waiting at that time. What quarrel would they have with Maria Amalia, if ever,  to leak such a thing if it were true? It's highly unlikely Maria Amalia was quarreling with them, at any rate. I'm sure Maria Anna and Maria Elisabeth would not let outsiders know, they loved Maria Amalia at any rate and likely wanted to protect her (and their mother as well). Joseph didn't like Maria Amalia but it's not a given he would say such a thing. Maximilian seemed to get along well with Maria Amalia. Maria Amalia said Mimi didn't love her, but like in Joseph's case, it's not a given she would say such a thing either, even if she didn't love her sister. Was Duke Albert of Saxe-Teschen also present? But I cannot comment about him (since I know or read little of him at this point).
« Last Edit: June 04, 2011, 10:01:07 AM by prinzheinelgirl »
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Offline CountessKate

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #201 on: June 04, 2011, 04:02:53 PM »
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Was Duke Albert of Saxe-Teschen also present?

The members of Maria Theresa's family who were present at her actual death were Joseph, Max Franz and Albert.   Marie Christine, Elisabeth and Marianne were present during her last weeks of life and had breakfast with her and the other three on the morning of her death (she died at about nine in the evening of the 29th November).  Beales notes that Marianne wrote an account of her death as did Albert in his memoires, and there is another account by Joseph's mistress/friend, Princess Leopoldine of Liechtenstein who presumably had the information from Joseph.  In her last year, 1780, the one she seemed most at odds with was Joseph, but she was very loving towards him in her final days and he was obviously very moved at 'her courage, resignation, steadfastness and patience'.  It would seem strange if she could be so loving towards Joseph, about whom she had recently shared many anxieties with her minister Kaunitz, and been intransigent about his sister, whose 'irregularities' were surely not of very recent date, since their 'reconciliation' (admittedly not very enthusiastic) occurred with the birth of Maria Amalia's first son, Louis, in 1773. 

Beales quotes from one of these accounts of her death (unspecified) that Maria Theresa 'was already losing her memory, and she spoke to him [Joseph], contrary to her usual practice, in French'.  One thought that occurs is that in her somewhat confused state at the end Maria Theresa may simply have not specifically blessed Maria Amalia, or lumped her in with some general remarks about her children who not present, which was interpreted in the least charitable light as an intentional omission. 

Offline prinzheinelgirl

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #202 on: June 05, 2011, 03:41:14 AM »

The members of Maria Theresa's family who were present at her actual death were Joseph, Max Franz and Albert.   Marie Christine, Elisabeth and Marianne were present during her last weeks of life and had breakfast with her and the other three on the morning of her death (she died at about nine in the evening of the 29th November).  Beales notes that Marianne wrote an account of her death as did Albert in his memoires, and there is another account by Joseph's mistress/friend, Princess Leopoldine of Liechtenstein who presumably had the information from Joseph.

Thank you again. I'll try to look up Marianne's, Albert's, and Princess Leopoldine of Liechtenstein's accounts of Maria Theresa's last day/death.



In her last year, 1780, the one she seemed most at odds with was Joseph, but she was very loving towards him in her final days and he was obviously very moved at 'her courage, resignation, steadfastness and patience'.  It would seem strange if she could be so loving towards Joseph, about whom she had recently shared many anxieties with her minister Kaunitz, and been intransigent about his sister, whose 'irregularities' were surely not of very recent date, since their 'reconciliation' (admittedly not very enthusiastic) occurred with the birth of Maria Amalia's first son, Louis, in 1773.  


Indeed, Maria Amalia's 'irregularities' happened years ago. It doesn't really make much sense.  Maria Amalia's own correspondence with her friends touch on her mother from time to time, which strongly suggest they kept in touch and were on relatively good terms.

I haven't read much about their reconciliation, I'm curious why was it "not very enthusiastic"?  On Maria Theresa's part or her daughter? Both?
« Last Edit: June 05, 2011, 04:02:02 AM by prinzheinelgirl »
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Offline CountessKate

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #203 on: June 05, 2011, 11:25:54 AM »
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Indeed, Maria Amalia's 'irregularities' happened years ago. It doesn't really make much sense.  Maria Amalia's own correspondence with her friends touch on her mother from time to time, which strongly suggest they kept in touch and were on relatively good terms.

I haven't read much about their reconciliation, I'm curious why was it "not very enthusiastic"?  On Maria Theresa's part or her daughter? Both?

I was thinking about Maria Theresa more particularly.  In Leopold's admittedly rather bitter notes of 1778-1779 on his family, not long before Maria Theresa died, he wrote that she "is especially angry with Parma, wants to hear nothing more about it, and mingles no longer wither directly or indirectly in its business."  However, Maria Amalia was one of the few who didn't seem to mind being on bad terms with her mother, and as far as I am aware was not the one who broke down and sought a reconciliation, so it doesn't appear from either side that they were on especially fond terms, though the decencies were observed.   

Offline prinzheinelgirl

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #204 on: June 05, 2011, 10:15:19 PM »
I was thinking about Maria Theresa more particularly.  In Leopold's admittedly rather bitter notes of 1778-1779 on his family, not long before Maria Theresa died, he wrote that she "is especially angry with Parma, wants to hear nothing more about it, and mingles no longer wither directly or indirectly in its business."  However, Maria Amalia was one of the few who didn't seem to mind being on bad terms with her mother, and as far as I am aware was not the one who broke down and sought a reconciliation, so it doesn't appear from either side that they were on especially fond terms, though the decencies were observed.  

Thanks for this. I've read that bit about Maria Theresa being particularly angry with Parma, but didn't know it was from Leopold. I also think it was Maria Theresa who wasn't particularly enthusiastic about their reconciliation.  I'm not saying MT didn't love her daughter but it seems she was angry one, not Maria Amalia. It's really puzzling, what would MT be so angry about?  Maria Amalia's (irrational) menage? But she was not alone who decided on it, it was a mutual decision by her and Ferdinand.  In other words, a decision by the spouses themselves, nothing MT can control or have a say on.  Maria Amalia losing interest in politics? But MT was so adamant that her daughter should only please her husband and not get involved in matters of state.  By that time (1778-79), she was mainly into her country pursuits and traveling. Nothing so irregular or controversial.  
« Last Edit: June 05, 2011, 10:31:08 PM by prinzheinelgirl »
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Offline CountessKate

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #205 on: June 06, 2011, 07:17:50 AM »
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It's really puzzling, what would MT be so angry about?  Maria Amalia's (irrational) menage? But she was not alone who decided on it, it was a mutual decision by her and Ferdinand.  In other words, a decision by the spouses themselves, nothing MT can control or have a say on.  Maria Amalia losing interest in politics? But MT was so adamant that her daughter should only please her husband and not get involved in matters of state.  By that time (1778-79), she was mainly into her country pursuits and traveling. Nothing so irregular or controversial.   

Maria Theresa's chief object in establishing her daughters in foreign courts was to provide a behind-the-scenes influence in favour of Austria.  Since Maria Amalia continually refused to use her political influence - far too upfront for Maria Theresa's comfort - for any other object than her own purposes (one can argue whether or not they were intended to benefit Parma, but at any event they were certainly not intended to benefit Austria), it would be a constant nagging thorn in Maria Theresa's side that in this small duchy her daughter continued to ignore any attempts to advise her.  However much her other children may have wished to free themselves from her influence, or however they covertly went against her wishes, it was all done with outward respect and they seemed genuinely to wish to stand well with her.  This never seemed to be the case with Maria Amalia once she started to take political power in Parma.  Whether or not Maria Amalia had actually given up politics for a country life and travel, she did not submit in any further way to her mother and clearly, any views Maria Theresa may have had concerning Parma's political directions were ignored by Maria Amalia and by Ferdinand.  It wouldn't take a particular event for Maria Theresa to continue to feel continually provoked and annoyed with the situation in Parma and her conspicuous lack of influence there.  In contrast with the other married daughters, both Maria Carolina and Marie Antoinette were respectful to their mother and Maria Carolina certainly pursued a pro-Austrian political policy, and there was certainly no question of Maria Christina's loyalty to Maria Theresa - so Maria Amalia's postition would continue to stand out from the others.   

Offline prinzheinelgirl

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #206 on: June 07, 2011, 05:36:37 AM »
Maria Theresa's chief object in establishing her daughters in foreign courts was to provide a behind-the-scenes influence in favour of Austria.  Since Maria Amalia continually refused to use her political influence - far too upfront for Maria Theresa's comfort - for any other object than her own purposes (one can argue whether or not they were intended to benefit Parma, but at any event they were certainly not intended to benefit Austria), it would be a constant nagging thorn in Maria Theresa's side that in this small duchy her daughter continued to ignore any attempts to advise her.   

Yes, Maria Theresa wanted her daughters to influence their (adopted) courts although outwardly she scolded her daughters and wrote, in Maria Amalia's case, that her only role was to please her husband. As for  Maria Amalia using her  political influence, I think it was both ways: both for what she (personally) wanted and what the people wanted. She knew the power/importance of public opinion and demonstrated that she was willing to court it. Certainly, she also didn't lose her influence on her husband, personal or political-wise. Ferdinand could be annoyed with her (and with her vagaries, who wouldn't?) but it was never a permanent anger, and his ministers certainly knew where she stood (Ferdinand never denied her anything and instructed his ministers to fulfill whatever it was she wanted).

However much her other children may have wished to free themselves from her influence, or however they covertly went against her wishes, it was all done with outward respect and they seemed genuinely to wish to stand well with her.  This never seemed to be the case with Maria Amalia once she started to take political power in Parma.  Whether or not Maria Amalia had actually given up politics for a country life and travel, she did not submit in any further way to her mother and clearly, any views Maria Theresa may have had concerning Parma's political directions were ignored by Maria Amalia and by Ferdinand.  It wouldn't take a particular event for Maria Theresa to continue to feel continually provoked and annoyed with the situation in Parma and her conspicuous lack of influence there.  In contrast with the other married daughters, both Maria Carolina and Marie Antoinette were respectful to their mother and Maria Carolina certainly pursued a pro-Austrian political policy, and there was certainly no question of Maria Christina's loyalty to Maria Theresa - so Maria Amalia's postition would continue to stand out from the others.   

I get your point...Maria Theresa would've perceived Maria Amalia's disinterest in politics later on as not doing her duty, never mind if the 'irregularities' lessened or were totally banished.

I think  there's proof that Maria Amalia showed her respect to her mother but in a very different way from her sisters, i.e. Maria Carolina and Marie Antoinette.  Now, as to how this respect was "lost in translation" or not reported to her  for there's no proof that she ever gave up her spies in Parma (unless the only respect that Maria Theresa counted was total obedience to her), I cannot say for now.

I also think that Maria Amalia's refusal or disinterest in doing what MT wanted benefited her (Maria Amalia). Unlike Marie Antoinette or Maria Carolina, she was not  perceived as working against her (adopted) people.  It's very telling that even though she wasn't as active in politics later on, she kept her people's affections.   
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Offline CountessKate

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #207 on: June 07, 2011, 09:52:46 AM »
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I think  there's proof that Maria Amalia showed her respect to her mother but in a very different way from her sisters, i.e. Maria Carolina and Marie Antoinette.  Now, as to how this respect was "lost in translation" or not reported to her  for there's no proof that she ever gave up her spies in Parma (unless the only respect that Maria Theresa counted was total obedience to her), I cannot say for now.

I'm not sure Maria Theresa would have been able to perceive any difference between what I think you're suggesting, a sort of outward disrespect and inward, or personal, respect.  If Maria Amalia did respect her mother in terms of her abilities and just the fact that she was her parent, I'm not sure it would have made Maria Theresa any happier since she considered any form of rebellion in a very severe light and outward disregard of her wishes could not be mitigated by personal respect.  When one thinks of other sovereigns, complete submission was demanded from their children and George III, Catherine the Great, Louis XV, Carlos III - all Maria Theresa's contemporaries - were no different in demanding what they considered the proper respect due from their children, though not all got it.  But Maria Amalia was very different in her outward attitude compared to other daughters of sovereigns and her siblings and it is clear that Maria Theresa greatly resented it.

Quote
I also think that Maria Amalia's refusal or disinterest in doing what MT wanted benefited her (Maria Amalia). Unlike Marie Antoinette or Maria Carolina, she was not  perceived as working against her (adopted) people.  It's very telling that even though she wasn't as active in politics later on, she kept her people's affections.

Very true!

Offline ivanushka

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #208 on: June 07, 2011, 11:21:28 AM »
I'm not sure it would have made Maria Theresa any happier since she considered any form of rebellion in a very severe light and outward disregard of her wishes could not be mitigated by personal respect. 

That's why I've always had a lot of sympathy for Amalia, Caroline and Antoinette.  It's one thing to follow her wishes to the letter when living in Vienna, but once they were married, living in other countries and subject to the will of their husband and, indirectly, to the wishes or needs of their new subjects, such a policy of submission to the wishes of a parent becomes totally impractical.  I think Amalia could have been a little more diplomatic in her dealings with her mother but ultimately she was just doing what she had to do to establish herself in her new home.  I think that Maria Theresa was in many ways a very admirable woman and I've no doubt she loved her children but she never seemed to fully understand the often difficult positions her married daughters found themselves in. 

Offline prinzheinelgirl

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Re: Empress Maria Theresa and her large family
« Reply #209 on: June 08, 2011, 01:58:51 AM »

I'm not sure Maria Theresa would have been able to perceive any difference between what I think you're suggesting, a sort of outward disrespect and inward, or personal, respect.  If Maria Amalia did respect her mother in terms of her abilities and just the fact that she was her parent, I'm not sure it would have made Maria Theresa any happier since she considered any form of rebellion in a very severe light and outward disregard of her wishes could not be mitigated by personal respect.  When one thinks of other sovereigns, complete submission was demanded from their children and George III, Catherine the Great, Louis XV, Carlos III - all Maria Theresa's contemporaries - were no different in demanding what they considered the proper respect due from their children, though not all got it.  But Maria Amalia was very different in her outward attitude compared to other daughters of sovereigns and her siblings and it is clear that Maria Theresa greatly resented it.


Maria Amalia showed her mother outward (as well as personal/inward) respect (that is, other than obeying her). But you're right in your assessment that Maria Theresa wouldn't have been happier with it. From what I've read of Maria Theresa, based on her character and the times, she brooked no contradictions. She wasn't also a genius, lacking a "sixth sense" - although she displayed common sense and had her fair share of good judgments as well - she didn't seem to understand "subtleties", that is the ability of drawing distinctions. Maria Amalia certainly knew how to draw distinctions and with her stubbornness, it's not surprising she appeared to be disrespecting her mother....
 

That's why I've always had a lot of sympathy for Amalia, Caroline and Antoinette.  It's one thing to follow her wishes to the letter when living in Vienna, but once they were married, living in other countries and subject to the will of their husband and, indirectly, to the wishes or needs of their new subjects, such a policy of submission to the wishes of a parent becomes totally impractical.  I think Amalia could have been a little more diplomatic in her dealings with her mother but ultimately she was just doing what she had to do to establish herself in her new home.  I think that Maria Theresa was in many ways a very admirable woman and I've no doubt she loved her children but she never seemed to fully understand the often difficult positions her married daughters found themselves in.  


I agree that Maria Amalia could've behaved more diplomatically but it seems that in this case, she was likely convinced that what she was doing was good for her in the long run? Of course, that's only my guess at this point since I have yet to read the reason(s) for her "disobedience" once in Parma (the Karl of Zweibrucken connection is not likely since she didn't pine for him and had clearly moved on).  Maria Amalia had a very good "public radar", she also knew how to use it well!  It wasn't as if she didn't love her mother and while there's love, there's also respect. Had Maria Theresa lived long enough into the late 1780s/early 1790s, perhaps she would've understood that it wasn't such a bad thing (not doing what she wanted all the time as well as working for Austrian interests--whether perceived or actual), judging from what happened in the end to both Marie Antoinette and Maria Carolina.  
« Last Edit: June 08, 2011, 02:13:27 AM by prinzheinelgirl »
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