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Happy Birthday, Marie-Antoinette!

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Happy Birthday, Marie-Antoinette! Empty Happy Birthday, Marie-Antoinette!

Post  Elena on Wed Nov 02, 2011 4:33 pm

A wonderful post from Catherine Delors:
Happy Birthday, Marie-Antoinette! Maria-Theresa-and-the-imperial-family
Or, to give her her proper birthname, Archduchess Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna von Habsburg-Lothringen, fifteenth child of the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I Stephen (né François-Etienne de Lorraine) and his wife, Empress Maria Theresa. The little Archduchess was born at the Palace of the Hofburg in Vienna.

Within the imperial family the little girl was simply called Antonia, Antoine or Antoinette. Eighteen years later she would become Queen of France under the name of Marie-Antoinette.

Here she is as a baby (lying in the gilded cradle at the center of the picture) surrounded by her parents and siblings. This was painted in 1755, when she could not be more than two months old. It must be the earliest of her many portraits.

Martin van Meytens, official painter of the Viennese Court, made several versions of this life-size picture of the Familia Augusta, the imperial family, represented here on the terrace of the Palace of Schönbrunn. From time to time van Meytens produced updated versions to include the newest additions to the ruling couple’s increasing brood.

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Happy Birthday, Marie-Antoinette! Empty Re: Happy Birthday, Marie-Antoinette!

Post  Elena on Fri Nov 04, 2011 6:14 pm

A wonderful, descriptive post on MA's christening by Gareth Russell.
There was a slightly superstitious frisson at the fact that the baby princess had been born on the second day of November - the Feast of All Souls in the liturgical calendar - or, put crudely, the Day of the Dead. Every church, chapel and cathedral in Vienna was hung in black to remind people to pray for the poor souls in Purgatory - even in terms of a visual aesthetic, it was hardly an encouraging welcome into the world of the living for the Empress's latest child. These poor omens were only added to when news later arrived that on the very day of the birth, Lisbon, capital city of Portugal, had been hit by a devastating earthquake - one of the worst in European history - resulting in the deaths of 30,000 people. The King and Queen of Portugal, José the Reformer and his wife, Mariana-Victoria of Spain, were some of the new Hapsburg princess's godparents, which was again interpreted by some superstitious souls as a sign of bad luck. They had been fleeing their collapsing palace at the moment their Austrian god-daughter had been born.

Luckily, it was the custom for people to celebrate more on the feast of their chief patron saint in 18th-century Catholicism, rather than on their birthdays. This meant that the latest addition to the Hapsburg family would celebrate on June 13th, rather than the grim November 2nd, since June 13th was the Feast Day of Saint Anthony of Padua (one of the patron saints of Portugal and probably one of the reasons why the baby was named in his honour, given that her godparents included the King and Queen of Portugal.) As with most of the Hapsburg girls for the last two centuries, the baby's first name was given in honour of the Virgin Mary, whom the Austrian imperial family was especially devoted to; subsequent names were then added in honour of Saint Anthony, her Portuguese godfather and Saint John the Evangelist. Thus, the new baby formally presented at the Church of the Augustine Friars for baptism into the Christian Faith on the following day was Her Imperial Highness the Archduchess Maria-Antonia-Josefa-Johanna von Hapsburg of Austria, Alsace and Lorraine.

The christening itself took place in the church's latest addition, a beautiful ante-camera, which can still be seen today, with two of the baby's elder siblings - Josef and Maria-Anna - standing in for the Portuguese king and queen who, naturally, could not be expected to travel all the way from Lisbon for the ceremony. Although they were amongst the eldest of the Emperor and Empress's children, it's my hunch that Josef and Maria-Anna were picked to stand proxy because they conveniently also had the same Christian names as the King and Queen of Portugal. With the exception of the Empress, who was still in seclusion, the Imperial Family sat on a pew near the font, where Maria-Antonia was christened by the Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal von Trautson. Where possible, the Empress preferred to have the children baptised by the Papal Nuncio, however the new nuncio, Cardinal Visconti, had not yet been formally presented at Court and was therefore ineligible to perform the ceremony.

Sitting in the pew, before the eyes of the Court, Church and military, little Maria-Antonia's bevy of brothers and sisters made an impressive show of imperial fecundity.They were living proof that all was well within the House of Hapsburg and that the common criticism that the family was debilitatingly inbred did not apply to the Austrian branch of this formidable clan. Several of Maria-Antonia's siblings had predeceased her and, at the time of her christening, eleven of the children remained alive. Apart from 14 year-old Josef, the crown prince, and 17 year-old Maria-Anna, an intelligent girl with a crooked back who had already decided on a vocation as a nun in Prague, the imperial siblings congregated in the Augustinian Church on that chilly November afternoon included Maria-Antonia's six other sisters - their mother's favourite, Maria-Christina, the family beauty, Maria-Elisabeth, the impetuous Maria-Amalia, 5 year-old Maria-Johanna, 4 year-old Maria-Josefa and the toddler, Maria-Caroline, destined to be Marie-Antoinette's favourite sister and childhood playmate . They were joined by their three brothers, all junior to Josef in the line of succession; 10 year-old Karl, 8 year-old Leopold and the baby, Ferdinand. More: http://garethrussellcidevant.blogspot.com/2010/11/november-2nd-1755-birth-of-marie.html

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