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MA and her siblings

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MA and her siblings

Post  Didishroom on Tue Aug 26, 2014 1:39 pm

One of my favorite side topics on MA is her big family and the relationships with all of her individual siblings. As someone coming from a large family myself I have always been intrigued by this aspect of her life. Most historians just glaze over her early life in Austria but for someone who was killed at 38 her time in her childhood home consumed a huge percentage of her life.

A couple years for Christmas I received Justin C. Vock's biography on Jospeh II,Leopold, Amelia, Charlotte and Antoinette! While certainly not a scholarly work I was fascinated by the dynamic lives of just five of Maria Theresa's children! Their lives all took different paths and yet the reader could clearly distinguish the similarities between all of them: stubbornness, resolve, courage, dominance, charity, beneficence, compassion to the poor and lower class, and religion.

However I would like some people's opinions on the different relationships they all had with each other. Like I said, most biographers neglect most of MA's siblings, referring only to Joseph and sometimes Charlotte. Often I find conflicting information and I am trying to sort some of it out.

1.) We all know Maria "Mimi" Christina was no favorite amongst her siblings as that honor was reserved for their mother. Many biographers love to mention how coldly MA treated her sister when she visited Versailles, that she refused to grant an invitation to Trianon and received her like any other guest. But I seem to recall also that it was Mimi who visited her sister after Sophie's death; that they spent long hours together on a bench at Trianon and little Marie Therese planted flowers in honor of her aunts visit and proudly gardened them long after the visit ended. Now am I confusing this with another sister?

And some say that upon hearing of her sister's death she cooly replied, "She should never have gotten married." Did she really say this? Or are we misreading her tone?

It is also interesting to note that before the French Revolution, Mimi twice dealt with revolts and uprisings that challenged her and her husband in the Austrian Netherlands and that she reacted with the same courage and swiftness that her sister would years later. Wasn't it also Mimi who took in the Count and Countess de Provence and was expecting her sister and brother in law as well? For such a hated sister she appears to have been  "in on the plans."

2.) Vock's handling of Leopold made me admire him the most of all the imperial children after MA. Here was an intelligent, capable man who took a crumbling Duchy and completely turned it around all the while keeping it independent of Austria. No wonder Joseph often derided his much more successful brother. He also appears to have the most successful marriage and home life. He may not have been the favorite brother but Vock insists that on becoming emperor himself, how adamant he was about rescuing his youngest sister. Yet every other biographer implies that "Poldy" had no real desire to risk angering revolutionary France and played both sides to his advantage. Simone Bertiere flat out states that he betrayed MA. Does anyone have insight on to these two varying views?

I also thought it strange that Leopold died so suddenly after becoming emperor and leaving rescue operations to his son , Francis, who seemed indifferent to family members he never met. While Leopold did have health issues-almost dying on his wedding-the timing seemed impeccable. Not to mention it relatively coincided with the assassination of the other one true ally of Louis and Antoinette-King Gustovo of Sweden! I didn't need to read Webster to suspect double conspiracy....

3.) Ok: Maria Carolina! She is always mentioned as that partner in crime sister from her early childhood; that sweet, close and mischievous friend who's absence was replaced by the Princess Lambelle and which lead to false rumors of lesbianism. She seems to drop out of MA's life though the biographers do mention her correspondence with MA from time to time. Vock doesn't really make any mention of Charlotte's reaction to the Revolution till after her sister's death; that she immediately took her children to chapel to pray for MA's soul and banned French from being spoken at court. We do know that during the Revolution, she traveled to Austria to marry two of her daughters to Leopold's sons-and I believe Charlotte took back a daughter of Leopold to marry one of her sons(please correct me if I'm wrong-it's so hard to keep track sometimes). And that ,from her confinement in the Tuilierries, MA expressed warm wishes to the newlyweds and regretted she couldn't join the glorious reunion happening in her homeland.

Then I picked up a biography of Maria Carolina by Bearne and she goes into great detail how Charlotte pushed for war with Revolutionary France but was delayed by politics until her sister was killed. She immediately set out an almost counter Terror and rooted out all the masons, conspirators, intellectuals, progressive students and whatnot. Bearne insists her hatred of France and the revolution made her abandon her naive sympathies with the Enlightenment and preserved the monarchy from suffering the same fate as it did in France. Apparently, if not for Napolean, the Neopolitan Monarchy could still be around maybe even today.

4.) Amelia. Certainly the less "interesting" of the imperial daughters but in some ways the most sympathetic( denied to marry the man she loved while her sister Mimi was granted her wish and even rewarded with it with a duchy! And then to be passed up for the crown of Naples and sent to lowly city-state of Parma?)Vock says she had affairs with her bodyguards and makes no references for it. I am ready to dismiss it as sloppy research but yet he makes no accusation against MA with Ferson, refers to him only as a friend and co-conspirator, and emphasizes her Catholicity. Does anyone have any other info, references or opinions on this?

On Wikipedia it states that Amelia and Charlotte both were written letters by MA from prison. I have nothing to corroborate this. I was also under the impression that MA really never wrote to Amelia in later years and I have no knowledge of what Amelia thought of the death of MA?

5.) Joseph....ehhhh. My only comments on him would be his handling of the consummation of Louis and MA's marriage. Every one knows of his comments on them being complete "blunderers in bed" and the gory details of Louis's half-assed attempts at sex which included half penetration, no movement and orgasm after pulling out and falling asleep...I always took these comments for granted as every biographer has as well. The discussions are always on the question of possible phimosis and circumscion, not the emperor's comments. It made me more sympathetic to the royal couple. "The poor things had no idea what sex really was! Gaww!" But then I read Vincet Cronin's book. He completely blew the whole letter out of the water and says we only have Joseph's words such activities were taking place and given his nasty comments about all his brothers in law there is reason to suspect he made it up. The comments were also written to Leopold. I have five brothers, so I know how you can easily exaggerate embarrassing details about other siblings for a few good laughs. Joseph didn't write this to his mother and as Louis was thoroughly examined previously by doctors I'm sure they would have brought this up wayyyyyyy before Joseph did. No, it is perfectly in character of the condescending and haughty Joseph to make his brother in law look like some kind on moronic barbarian while attempting to deflower his charming but dim witted sister.

I know it's a lot, but I'm just curious for comments, corrections, info, what have you...thanks!

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Re: MA and her siblings

Post  Sophie on Thu Aug 28, 2014 8:57 am

Great topic, I also like it! Very Happy Here are some thoughts and additions I've read in various books.

- No, it wasn't Christina whom Antoinette invited to Trianon. On the contrary: Christina felt totally offended after she came to her and demanded to see Trianon, then Antoinette told her that Trianon is only for the inner circle. By the time Sophie died and the necklace affair occurred, she probably didn't want to play the cheerful entertainer to a sister who treated her not quite ethically in their childhood. Mimi, the "mama's favourite", was a kind of "mama's spy" at the same time, who always kept reporting everything to Maria Theresa. She used her mother's temporary weakness after Francis Stephen's death to enforce her marriage to Albert, so it wasn't her personal charm on her mother, but rather her personal calculation, which led Maria Theresa to bless the marriage. So Antoinette probably never forgot that while they were struggling for the mother's attention, Mimi received everything with betraying her own siblings.

- A little story about Carolina: after she heard that her granddaughter Maria Ludovica will marry Napoleon, she said: "The last thing I missed to be the Devil's great-grandmother."
(And yes, she was Carolina's granddaughter exactly because one of her daughters married her nephew Francis I. This was the marriage between cousins that Habsburg genes couldn't take anymore, see the other grandchildren Ferdinand and Franz Karl. Another daughter Maria Antonietta married the Spanish king Fernando VII, who was also a kind of insane. Poor Antonietta had to suffer a lot with him. They were also cousins, but from the father's side.)

- I see you don't like Joseph's style and "lifestyle advances"! Laughing Yes, he was a very tiring and hard man, but see his own story, and you'll understand why he became so. He was always determined to be a crown prince, so his parents and teachers treated him very strictly. He responded on it with obstinacy and an "I-know-it-better"-style. He married Isabella of Parma whom he loved dearly, and wanted to make happy, but she disliked him and had a predisposition for depression. She found her whole fate as Joseph's wife miserable, and instead of appreciating Joseph's efforts, she became involved in a lesbian-like love with his sister Mimi. After she died, Joseph became depressed, too. He wanted to marry Isabella's sister, but wasn't allowed to. (This sister became Spanish queen and mother to the previously mentioned Fernando.) Then Maria Theresa chose a certain Maria Josepha to marry Joseph, who tried to be a good wife, but he treated her very bad. He always emphasized how ugly she is and how disgusting he finds to have sex with her. I think they never consummated their marriage. Poor Josepha got smallpox and died slowly, but Joseph didn't bother to visit her on her death bed. (Maria Theresa remained her for the last moment.) Joseph and Isabella's only daughter died in infancy. Joseph swore to never marry again, so there was no chance at all to be father again. His remaining decades were spent with various (mostly married) mistresses and in brothels, without finding a woman he could love truly. He developed a cold, sarcastic and unpleasant style while talking about love and married life, but it was his only weapon to handle with his series of disappointments.

Tidbit: Joseph is frequently referred to in Hungary as "the king with a hat", because he never crowned himself to a Hungarian king. Nobility had serious problems with her absolutism, but common people loved him and made a kind of folktale hero of him.
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Re: MA and her siblings

Post  Sophie on Thu Aug 28, 2014 9:02 am

And let's talk about Max! Smile He was the youngest brother who became Archbishop and and Elector of Cologne - and he wasn't an easy guy, either, as this little story shows. I quote it from Charles Duke Yonge's biography of Marie-Antoinette.

Charles Duke Yonge wrote:In the spring of 1775, Marie Antoinette received a great pleasure in a visit from her younger brother, Maximilian. He was the only member of her family whom she had seen in the five years that had elapsed since she left Vienna. But, eagerly as she had looked forward to his visit, it did not bring her unmixed satisfaction, being marred by the ill-breeding of the princes of the blood, and still more by the approval of their conduct displayed by the citizens of Paris, which seemed to afford a convincing evidence of the small effect which even the queen's virtues and graces had produced in softening the old national feeling of enmity to the house of Austria. The archduke, who was still but a youth, did not assert his royal rank while on his travels, but preserved such an incognito as princes on such occasions are wont to assume, and took the title of Count de Burgau. The king's brothers, however, like the king himself, paid no regard to his disguise, but visited him at the first instant of his arrival; but the princes of the blood stood on their dignity, refused to acknowledge a rank which was not publicly avowed, or to recollect that the visitor was a foreigner and brother to their queen, and insisted on receiving the attention of the first visit from him. The excitement which the question caused in the palace, and the queen's indignation at the slight thus offered, as she conceived, to her brother, were great. High words passed between her and the Duc d'Orléans, the chief of the recusants, on the subject; and one part of her remonstrance throws a curious additional light on the strange distance which, as has been already pointed out, the etiquette of the French court had established between the sovereigns and the very highest of their subjects, even the nearest of their relations. The duke had insisted on the incognito as debarring Maximilian from all claim to attention from a prince like himself whose rank was not concealed. She urged that the king and his brothers had not regarded it in that light. "The duke knew," she said, "that the king had treated Maximilian as a brother; that he even invited him to sup in private with himself and her, an honor to which no prince of the blood had ever pretended." And, finally, warming with her subject, she told him that, though her brother would be sorry not to make the acquaintance of the princes of the blood, he had many other things in Paris to see, and would manage to do without it. Her expostulation was fruitless. The princes adhered to their resolution, and she to hers. They were not admitted to any of the festivities of the palace during the archduke's stay, and were even excluded from all the private entertainments which were given in his honor, since she made it known that the king and she would refuse to attend any to which they were invited. But, though their conduct was surely both discourteous to a foreigner and disrespectful to their sovereign, the Parisian populace took their part; and some of them who showed themselves ostentatiously in the streets of the city on days on which there were parties at Versailles were loudly applauded by a crowd which was not entirely drawn from the lower classes. It was noticed that the Duc de Chartres, the son of the Duc d'Orléans, was one of the foremost in exciting this anti-Austrian feeling, the outbreak of which was especially remarkable as the first instance in which the enthusiasm of the citizens for Marie Antoinette seemed to have cooled, or at least to have been interrupted. And this change in their feelings produced so painful an impression on her mind, that, after her brother's departure, she abandoned her intention of going to the opera, though Gluck's "Orfeo" was to be performed, lest she should meet with a reception less cordial than that to which she had hitherto been accustomed.
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Re: MA and her siblings

Post  Kaitlyn Lauren on Fri Aug 29, 2014 12:18 am

Interesting discussion!

Joseph strikes me as a complicated person. In some ways he seems like a typical older brother, poking fun at his younger sister but charmed by her. But he also strikes me as someone who was slightly arrogant and liked seeing inexperienced Louis portrayed as an inept lover and man.

I've always viewed this infamous letter skeptically! Probably just two virile, Austrian men having fun at a Frenchmen's expense. And I doubt such a modest, moral man would have had such a revealing conversation with his brother-in-law no matter how well they got along, both of them with their blunt personalities.

Interesting notes on her sisters and her lesser known siblings. I like the account of the visit of her younger brother. And the portrait that was painted depicting the visit is one of my favorites! Portrays Louis in a good light I think.
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Re: MA and her siblings

Post  Sophie on Fri Aug 29, 2014 4:37 pm

Kaitlyn Lauren wrote: I've always viewed this infamous letter skeptically! Probably just two virile, Austrian men having fun at a Frenchmen's expense.

We shouldn't forget that Joseph and Louis were two powerful sovereigns who had serious diplomatic issues to discuss, and both of them cared about his own homeland. Imagine that Putin marries Obama's sister and then they visit each other as "good relatives"! Laughing Their meeting were full of disagreement and disappointment, and it's totally understandable that neither of them really liked each other, although they were positively surprised after their meeting. They respected a "noble enemy" in each other, but it was far from having a brotherly relationship.

I'm pretty sure, anyway, that Louis didn't want to discuss his marital problems with Joseph, exactly because he wanted to keep distance from the Austrian emperor in such an internal matter. But Joseph, who worried much about Antoinette's influence in the French court, forced to talk about it. There's no proof where his informations come from, it can be that Louis himself told him something, or he only asked other Versailles courtiers. The often quoted letter to Leopold doesn't say anything about it. Later, in another letter, Joseph tells Leopold that the French royal couple thanked for his good marital advices, but historians still don't find this thankyou-letter, so it can be that it doesn't exist, or Joseph misunderstood something.

So the popular Zweig-Fraser-Coppola way of seeing, that the Emperor only visited the French court as a brother(-in-law), with the only one aim to talk about the couple's sex life, and then Louis, a well-meaning but boob husband, tells him everything they do in bed as if they were the best mates on Earth, is soooo far from complicated reality... (Why do people so often forget that it was a ROYAL family rather than an average one?)
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Re: MA and her siblings

Post  Didishroom on Sat Aug 30, 2014 1:23 am

"No, it wasn't Christina whom Antoinette invited to Trianon. On the contrary: Christina felt totally offended after she came to her and demanded to see Trianon, then Antoinette told her that Trianon is only for the inner circle. By the time Sophie died and the necklace affair occurred, she probably didn't want to play the cheerful entertainer to a sister who treated her not quite ethically in their childhood. Mimi, the "mama's favourite", was a kind of "mama's spy" at the same time, who always kept reporting everything to Maria Theresa. She used her mother's temporary weakness after Francis Stephen's death to enforce her marriage to Albert, so it wasn't her personal charm on her mother, but rather her personal calculation, which led Maria Theresa to bless the marriage. So Antoinette probably never forgot that while they were struggling for the mother's attention, Mimi received everything with betraying her own siblings."

I found the reference I was looking for. It is Nagel's book. She states explicitly that Maria Christina visited MA at Versailles and Trianon under the pseudonym of the Comtesse de Bellye. She even extracts from a supposed letter from MA to MC in which she mentions the "bench where se sat together." Unfortunately Nagel has an awful track record of listing references but she seems to have too many details for it just to be a passing remark.

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Re: MA and her siblings

Post  Didishroom on Sat Aug 30, 2014 1:29 am

Yes, Joseph did have a very sad life and was certainly a man of many contradictions. But for me, reading about him just annoys me. He comes off as a typical "progressive" who while being intellectually superior has no real concept about reality and its harshness. Yes, everything he believes sounds great on paper but when it comes time to apply things they never turn out as desired. Yes, he did work hard and tried to give an honest example of how he thought rulers should live their lives. But let's not forget that he had a disastrous reign and much of the damage he inflicted could have been mitigated or avoided had he not reacted so swiftly against his own mother's advice and direction. He comes off as a spoiled child who made policies just to prove a point.


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Re: MA and her siblings

Post  Sophie on Sat Aug 30, 2014 3:37 pm

Didishroom wrote:I found the reference I was looking for. It is Nagel's book. She states explicitly that Maria Christina visited MA at Versailles and Trianon under the pseudonym of the Comtesse de Bellye. She even extracts from a supposed letter from MA to MC in which she mentions the "bench where se sat together." Unfortunately Nagel has an awful track record of listing references but she seems to have too many details for it just to be a passing remark.

In the Fraser biography, Christina and Albert come in 1786 (so during the time Sophie still lived but was very ill), and they used "Comte and Comtesse de Belz" as pseudonym. To quote:

Antonia Fraser wrote:In the past, Marie Antoinette had disliked Marie Christine for trouble-making with their mother. [...] Now 'the old ideas of the Queen', according to Mercy, made her fearful that Marie Christine would seek to dominate her once more as she had done in their childhood. All the same, Mercy trusted that the visit would result in warmth between them. Afterwards he had to admit that this was not the case. Put diplomatically, 'The renewal of acquaintance between the two august sisters had not been without its clouds'.

Then, Fraser explains that Christina wanted to spend much time in Versailles, but Antoinette always shortened their meetings, and she didn't invite her to Trianon. There was also an album Antoinette gave her Trianon guests (among others, his brothers Joseph and Ferdinand), but Christina and Albert didn't receive it, too. So the two biographies contradict each other, and I would rather trust Fraser than Nagel, because her protagonist is Antoinette herself rather than Madame Royale, and I suppose she spent more time with analyzing these specific sources. But then, I'm curious what this "bench we sat together" means, if the letter is authentic at all. A bench in the Versailles gardens, maybe?

(The Fraser quote comes from the 2001 Phoenix release, on the pages 293-294.)
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Re: MA and her siblings

Post  Sophie on Sat Aug 30, 2014 3:50 pm

Didishroom wrote:But let's not forget that he had a disastrous reign and much of the damage he inflicted could have been mitigated or avoided had he not reacted so swiftly against his own mother's advice and direction. He comes off as a spoiled child who made policies just to prove a point.

He was simply "too fast" and not really emphatic towards his people, who didn't want things to change so rush. In some way, his fate was as tragic as Louis XVI's, but not so "spectacularly". Joseph had to face with people don't appreciating anything he does to make them happy and delighted. This is half true, too, because common people welcomed his reforms (edict of serfs), and it was rather the nobility, especially the Hungarian noble states, who disliked his ideas. But I, as a Hungarian myself, see his reign as a part of the golden age of my country. It started with his grandfather Karl VI/III, who gave total amnesty to the Hungarian freedom fighters, and ended with Leopold II's wise but short time. Then, Franz I was a disaster in every way. I hate him for making my homeland a paradise of spies and sneaks, thinking that revolutions only can be fought with avoiding any kind of reforms, and executing a bunch of conspirators for doing nothing but exchange "rebellious" documents. Joseph was at least not so short-sighted.
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Re: MA and her siblings

Post  Didishroom on Sat Aug 30, 2014 4:18 pm

Thank you for your clarifications. I do get so frustrated when I receive outright contradictions between authors. This makes me wish I could throw them all in a room together with some wine and watch them argue it all out. But yes Frasier is definitely much more careful with her research though her MA biography was unfortunately one of her weakest works. She must be getting old.

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Re: MA and her siblings

Post  Sophie on Mon Sep 01, 2014 8:32 am

Do you know the Facebook site 'My life in Schönbrunn'? Here are a plenty of pictures and information about Maria Theresia's children:

The Children of Maria Theresia and Emperor Franz Stephan
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Re: MA and her siblings

Post  Didishroom on Mon Sep 15, 2014 3:29 pm

Ah I temporarily deleted my fob account!

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Re: MA and her siblings

Post  Sophie on Mon Sep 15, 2014 3:43 pm

Didishroom wrote:Ah I temporarily deleted my fob account!

Such sites can be viewed even if you're not on Facebook. Only people are hidden from non-users...
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Re: MA and her siblings

Post  Didishroom on Tue Sep 16, 2014 2:01 am

Lovely! My favorites are always the full family portraits!

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Re: MA and her siblings

Post  janet11 on Wed Apr 19, 2017 6:28 am

Interesting discussion!   lovely Very Happy

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