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Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year one thousand
eight hundred and forty-nine, by

Harper & Brothers,

in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the Southern District
of New York.




In this: history of Maria Antoinette, it has
been my endeavor to give a faithful narrative
of facts, and, so far as possible, to exhibit the
soul of history. A more mournful tragedy earth
has seldom witnessed. And yet the lesson is
full of instruction to all future asres. Intelli-
gence and moral worth combined can be the
only basis of national prosperity or domestic
happiness. But the simple story itself carries
with it its own moral, and the reflections of
the writer would encumber rather than enforce
its teachings.

C N T E N T S.

Chapter ?*>?«
















VIEW OF PARIS Frontispiece.



y 65
















II li'is


Chapter I.
Parentage and Childhood.

Maria Theresa. She succeeds to the tliroiie

IN the year 1740, Charles VI., emperor of
Austria, died. He left a daughter twenty-
three years of age, Maria Theresa, to inherit the
crown of that powerful empire. She had been
married about four years to Francis, duke of
Lorraine. The day after the death of Charles,
Maria Theresa ascended the throne. The treas-
ury of Austria was empty. A general feeling
of discontent pervaded the kingdom. Several
claimants to the throne rose to dispute the suc-
cession with Maria ; and France, Spain, Prussia,
and Bavaria took advantage of the new reign,
and of the embarrassments which surrounded
the youthful queen, to enlarge their own bord-
ers by wresting territory from Austria.

The young queen, harassed by dissensions
at home and by the combined armies of her
powerful foes, beheld, with anguish wliich her

14 Maria Antoinette. [1740.

Success of Maria Theresa's enemies. Her flight to Hungaiy.

proud and imperious spirit could hardly endure,
her troops defeated and scattered in every direc-
tion, and th« victorious armies of her enemies
marching almost unimpeded toward her capital.
The exulting invaders, intoxicated with unan-
ticipated success, now contemplated the entire
division of the spoil. They decided to blot Aus-
tria from the map of Europe, and to partition
out the conglomerated nations composing the
empire among the conquerors.

Maria Theresa retired from her capital as
the bayonets of France and Bavaria gleamed
from the hill-sides which environed the city.
Her retreat with a few disheartened followers,
in the gloom of night, was illumined by the
flames of the bivouacs of hostile armies, with
which the horizon seemed to be girdled. The
invaders had possession of every strong post in
the empire. The beleaguered city was sum-
moned to surrender. Resistance was unavail-
ing. All Europe felt that Austria was hope-
lessly undone. Maria fled from the dangers of.
captivity into the wilds of Hungary. But in
this dark hour, when the clouds of adversity
seemed to be settling in blackest masses over
her whole realm, when hope had abandoned ev-
ery bosom but her own, the spirit of Maria re-

1740.] Parentage and Childhood. 15

The queen's firmness. The Hungarian barons .

mained as firm and inflexible as if victory were
perched upon her standards, and her enemies
were flying in dismay before her. She would
not listen to one word of compromise. She
would not admit the thought of surrendering
one acre of the dominions she had inherited from
her fathers. Calm, unagitated, and determined,
she summoned around her, from their feudal
castles, the wild and warlike barons of Hunga-
ry. With neighing steeds, and flaunting ban-
ners, and steel-clad retainers, and all the para-
phernalia of barbaric pomp, these chieftains,
delio-htins in the excitements of war, gathered
around the heroic queen. The spirit of ancient
chivalry still glowed in these fierce hearts, and
they gazed with a species of religious homage
upon the young queen, who, in distress, had
fled to their wilds to invoke the aid of their
strong arms.

Maria met them in council. They assem-
bled around her by thousands in all the impos-
ing splendor of the garniture of war. Maria
appeared before these stern chieftains dressed
in the garb of the deepest mourning, with the
crown of her ancestors upon her brow, her right
hand resting upon the hilt of the sword of the
Austrian kings, and leading by her left hand


16 Maria Antoinette. [1740.

The queen's appeal. Kiithusiasm of her subjects.

her little daughter Maria Antoinette. The pale
and pensive features of the queen attested the
resolute soul which no disasters could subdue.
Her imperial spirit entranced and overawed the
bold knights, who had ever lived in the realms
of romance. Maria addressed the Hungarian
barons in an impressive speech in Latin, the
language then in use in the diets of Hungary,
faithfully describing the desperate state of her
affairs. She committed herself and her chil-
dren to their protection, and urged them to drive
the invaders from the land or to perish in the
attempt. It was just the appeal to rouse such
hearts to a phrensy of enthusiasm. The youth,
the beauty, the calamities of the queen roused
to the utmost intensity the chivalric devotion
of these warlike magnates, and grasping their
swords and waving them above their heads,
they shouted simultaneously, " Moriamur pro
rege nostro, Maria Theresa" — ^^ Let us die for
our king, Maria TheresaP

Until now, the queen had preserved a de-
meanor perfectly tranquil and majestic. But
this affectionate enthusiasm of her subjects en-
tirely overcame her imperious spirit, and she
burst into a flood of tears. But, apparently
ashamed of this exhibition of womanly feeling,

1740.] Parentage and Ciiii-diiood. 17

'J'li« qut>c>n heads her itrmj-.^ She overthrows her cnemicn.

she almost immediately regained her composure,
and resumed the air of the indomitable sover-
eign. The war cry immediately resounded
throughout Hungary. Chieftains and vassals
rallied around the banner of Maria. In person
she inspected and headed the gathering army,
and her spirit inspired them. "With the ferocity
of despair, these new recruits hurled themselves
upon the invaders. A few battles, desperate
and sanguinary, were fought, and the army of
Maria was victorious. England and Holland,
apprehensive that the destruction of the Aus-
trian empire would destroy the balance of power
in Europe, and encouraged by the successful>^-e-
sistance which the Austrians were now nWking,
came to the rescue of the heroi<^ queen. The
tide of battle was turned. The armies of
France, Germany, and Spain were driv^en from
the territory which they had overrun. Maria,
with untiring energy, followed up her successes.
She pursued her retreating foes into their own
country, and finally granted peace to her ene-
mies only by wresting from them large portions
of their territory. The renown of these ex-
ploits resounded through Europe. The name
of Maria Theresa was embalmed throughout
the civilized world. Under her vigorous SAvay,


18 Maria Antoinette. [1740.

Character of Maria Theresa. Character of her husband.

Austria, from the very brink of ruin, was ele-
vated to a degree of splendor and power it had
never attained before. These conflicts and vic-
tories inspired Maria with a haughty and im-
perious spirit, and the loveliness of the female
character was lost amid the pomp of martial
achievements. The proud sovereign eclipsed
the woman.

It is not to be supposed that such a bosom
could be the shrine of tenderness and affection.
Maria's virtues were all of the masculine gen-
der. She really loved, or, rather, liked her hus-
band ; but it was with the same kind of emo-
tion Vvdth which an enersietio and ambitious


man loves his wife. She cherished him, pro-
tected him, watched over him, and loaded him
with honors. He was of a mild, gentle, con-
fiding spirit, and would have made a lovely wife.
She was ambitious, fearless, and commanding,
and would have made a noble husband. In fact,
this was essentially the relation which existed
between them. Maria Theresa governed the
empire, while Francis loved and caressed the

The queen, by her armies and her political
influence, had succeeded in having Francis
crowned Emperor of Germany. She stood upon

1745. J PAHi:M'Af;i: and Childhood. 19

Crowning of Franci?. Maria Tlierosa's rer, own.

f • ;;^ ■

the balcony as the imposing ceremony was per-
formed, and was the first to shout " Loilg live
the Emperor Francis I." Like Napoleon, she
had become the creator of kinsfs. Austria was
now in the greatest prosperity, and Maria The-
resa the most illustrious queen in Europe. Her
renown filled the civilized world. Through her
whole reign, though she became the mother of
sixteen children, she devoted herself with un-
tiring energy to the aggrandizement of her em-
pire. She united w^ith Russia and Prussia in
the infamous partition of Poland, and in the
banditti division of the spoil she annexed to her
own dominions twenty-seven thousand square
miles and two millions five hundred thousand

From this exhibition of the character of Maria
Theresa, the mother of Maria Antoinette, the
reader will not be surprised that she should have
inspired her children with awe rather than with
affection. In truth, their imperial mother was
so devoted to the cares of the empire, that she
was almost a stranger to her children, and could
have known herself but few of the emotions of
maternal love. Her children were placed under
the care of nurses and governesses from tiiti.
birth. Once in every eight or ten days the


Maria Antoinette.



1 Theresa's sternness.


queen appropriated an hour for the inspection
of the nursery and the apartments appropriated
to the children ; and she performed this duty
with the same fidelity with which she examined
the wards of the state hospitals and the military

The following anecdote strikingly illustrates
the austere and inflexible character of the em-
press. The wife of her son Joseph died of the
confluent small-pox, and her body had been con-
signed to the vaults of the royal tomb. Soon
after this event, Josepha, one of the daugh-
ters of the empress, was to be married to the
King of Naples. The arrangements had all
been made for their approaching nuptials, and
she was just on the point of leaving Vienna
to ascend the Neapolitan throne, when she re-
ceived an order from her mother that she must
not depart from the empire until she had, in ac-
cordance with the established custom, descended
into the tomb of her ancestors and offered her
parting prayer. The young princess, in an ag-
ony of consternation, received the cruel requisi-
tion. Yet she dared not disobey her mother.
She took her little sister, Maria Antoinette,
whom she loved most tenderly, upon her knee,
and, weeping bitterly, bade her farewell, saying

1765.] Parentage and Childhood. 21

Fatal result. Denth of Francis.

that she was sure she should take the dreadful
disease and die. Trembling in every fiber, the
unhappy princess descended into the gloomy
sepulcher, where the bodies of generations of
kinoes were molderins^. She hurried throuirh
her short prayer, and in the deepest agitation
returned to the palace, and threw herself in de-
spair upon her bed.

Her worst apprehensions were realized. The
fatal disease had penetrated her veins. Soon it
manifested itself in its utmost virulence. After
lingering a few days and nights in dreadful suf-
fering, she breathed her last, and her own loath-
some remains were consigned to the same silent
chambers of the dead. Maria Theresa com-
manded her child to do no more than she would
have insisted upon doing herself under similar
circumstances. And when she followed her
daughter to the tomb, she probably allowed her-
self to indulge in no regrets in view of the course
she had pursued, but consoled herself with the
reflection that she had done her duty.

The Emperor Francis died, 1765, leaving
Maria Theresa still in the vigor of life, and quite
beautiful. Three of her counselors of state, am-
bitious of sharing the throne with the illustri-
ous queen, entered into a compact, by which

22 Maria Antoinette. [1755.

Plan of the counselors. ^ Birth of Maria Antoinette.

they were all to endeavor to obtain her hand in
marriage, agreeing that the successful one
should devote the pov^er thus obtained to the
aggrandizement of the other two. The empress
was informed of this arrangement, and, at the
close of a cabinet council, took occasion, with
great dignity and composure, to inform them
that she did not intend ever again to enter into
the marriage state, but that, should she hereaft-
er change her mind, it would only be in favor of
one who had no ambitious desires, and who
would have no inclination to intermeddle with
the affairs of state ; and that, should she ever
marry one of her ministers, she should immedi-
ately remove him from all office. Her coun-
selors, loving power more than all things else,
immediately abandoned every thought of ob-
taining the hand of Maria at such a sacrifice.

Maria Antoinette, the subject of this biogra-
phy, was born on the 2d of November, 1755.
Few of the inhabitants of this world have com-
menced life under circumstances of greater
splendor, or with more brilliant prospects of a
life replete with happiness. She was a child of
great vivacity and beauty, full of light-hearted-
ness, and ever prone to look upon the sunny side
of every prospect. Her disposition was frank,

1755.] Parentage and Childhood. 2o

Maria Antoinette's character. Afiecting scene.

cordial, and affectionate. Her mental endow-
ments were by nature of a very superior order.
Laughing at the restraints of royal etiquette,
she, by her generous and confiding spirit, won
the love of all hearts. Maria Antoinette was
but slightly acquainted with her imperial moth-
er, and could regard her with no other emotions
than those of respect and awe; but the mild
and gentle spirit of her father took in her heart
a mother's place, and she clung to him with
the most ardent affection.

When she was but ten years of age, her fa-
ther was one day going to Inspruck upon some
business. The royal cavalcade was drawn up
in the court-yard of the palace. The emperor
had entered his carriage, surrounded by his ret-
inue, and was just on the point of leaving, when
he ordered the postillions to delay, and request-
ed an attendant to bring to him his little daugh-
ter Maria Antoinette. The blooming child was
brought from the nursery, with her flaxen hair
in ringlets clustered around her shoulders, and
presented to her father. As she entwined her
arms around his neck and clung to his embrace,
he pressed her most tenderly to his bosom, say-
ing, " Adieu, my dear little daughter. Father
wished once more to press you to his heart."

24 Maria Antoinette. [1755.

Maria Antoinette's grief. Maria Tlieresa as a mother.

The emperor and his child never met again.
At Inspruck Francis was taken suddenly ill,
and, after a few days' sickness, died. The grief
of Maria Antoinette knew no bomids. But the
tears of childhood soon dried up. The parting
scene, however, produced an impression upon
Maria which was never effaced, and she ever
spoke of her father in terms of the warmest af-

Maria Theresa, half conscious of the imper-
fect manner in which she performed her mater-
nal duties, was very solicitous to have it under-
stood that she did not neglect her children ; that
she was the best mother in the world as well
as the most illustrious sovereign. "When any
distinguished stranger from the other courts of
Europe visited Vienna, she arranged her six-
teen children around the dinner-table, towering
above them in queenly majesty, and endeavor-
ed to convey the impression that they were the
especial objects of her motherly care. It was
not, however, the generous warmth of love, but
the cold sense of duty, which alone regulated
her conduct in reference to them, and she had
probably convinced herself that she discharged
her maternal obligations with the most exem-
plary fidelity.

1765.] Parentage and Childhood. 2d

Mode of education. Petty nrtificea.

The family physician every morning visited
each one of the children, and then briefly report-
ed to the empress the health of the archdukes
and the archduchesses. This report fully sat-
isfied all the yearnings of maternal love in the
bosom of Maria Theresa ; though she still, that
she miirht not fail in the least des^ree in moth-
erly affection, endeavored to see them with her
own eyes, and to speak to them with her own
lips, as often as once in a week or ten days.
The preceptors and governesses of* the royal
household, being thus left very much to them-
selves, were far more anxious to gratify the im-
mediate wishes of the children, and thus to se-
cure their love, than to urge them to efforts for
intellectual improvement. Maria Antoinette,
in subsequent life, related many amusing an-
ecdotes illustrative of the petty artifices by
which the scrutiny of the empress was eluded.
The copies which were presented to the queen
in evidence of the progress the children were
making in hand-writing were all traced first
m pencil by the governess. The children then
followed with the pen over the penciled lines.
Drawings were exhibited, beautifully executed,
to show the skill Maria Antoinette had attain-
ed in that delightful accomplishment, which

26 Maria Antoinette. [1765.

Maria's proficiency in French. She forgets her native tongue.

drawings the pencil of Maria had not even
touched. She was also taught to address stran-
gers of distinction in short Latin phrases, when
she did not understand the meaning of one sin-
gle word of the language. Her teacher of Ital-
ian, the Abbe Metastasio, was the only one who
was faithful in his duties, and Maria made very
great proficiency in that language. French
being the language of the nursery, Maria nec-
essarily acquired the power of speaking it with
great fluency, though she was quite unable to
write it correctly. In the acquisition of French,
her own mother tongue, the German, was so to-
tally neglected, that, incredible as it may seem,
she actually lost the power either of speaking
or of understanding it. In after years, chagrin-
ed at such unutterable folly, she sat down with
great resolution to the study of her own native
tongue, and encountered all the difficulties
which would tax the patience of any foreigner
in the attempt. She persevered for about six
weeks, and then relinquished the enterprise in
despair. The young princess was extremely
fond of music, and yet she was not taught to
play well upon any instrument. This became
subsequently a source of great mortification to
her, for she was ashamed to confess her igno-

1765.] Parentage and Childhood. 27

Maria's taste for music. Her ignorance of general literature, etc.

ranee of an accomplishment deemed, in the
courts of Em'ope, so essential to a polished ed-
ucation, and yet she dared not sit down to any
instrument in the presence of others. When
she first arrived at Versailles as the bride of
the heir to the throne of France, she was so
deeply mortified at this defect in her education,
that she immediately employed a teacher to
give her lessons secretly for three months. Dur-
ing this time she applied herself to her task with
the utmost assiduity, and at the end of the time
gave surprising proof of the skill she had so
rapidly attained. Upon all the subjects of his-
tory, science, and general literature, the prin-
cess was left entirely uninformed. The activ-
ity and energy of her mind only led her the
more poignantly to feel the mortification to
which this ignorance often exposed her. When
surrounded by the splendors of royalty, she fre-
quently retired to weep over deficiencies which
it was too late to repair. The wits of Paris
seized upon these occasional developments of
the want of mental culture as the indication of
a weak mind, and the daughter of Maria The-
resa, the descendant of the Caesars, was the butt,
in saloon and cafe, of merriment and song. Ma-
ria was beautiful and graceful, and winning in

28 Maria Antoinette. [1768.

The French teachers. Their character.

all her ways. But this imperfect education,
exposing her to contempt and ridicule in the
society of intellectual men and women, was not
among the unimportant elements which con-
ducted to her own ruin, to the overthrow of the
French throne, and to that deluge of blood which
for many years rolled its billows incarnadine
over Europe. N^ X

Maria Theresa had sent to Paris for two teach-
ers of French to instruct her daughter in the
literature of that country over which she was
destined to reign. From that pleasure-loving
metropolis two play actors were sent to take
charge of her education, one of whom was a
man of notoriously dissolute character. As the
connection between Maria Antoinette and Lou-
is, the heir apparent to the throne of France, was
already contemplated, some solicitude was felt
by members of the court of Versailles in refer-
ence to the impropriety of this selection, and
the French embassador at Vienna was request-
ed to urge the empress to dismiss the obnoxious
teachers, and make a different choice. She im-
mediately complied with the request, and sent
to the Duke de Choiseul, the minister of state
of Louis XV., to send a preceptor such as would
be acceptable to the court of Versailles. After

1768.] Parentage and Childhood. 29

The Abb€ de Vermond. He ehamefully abuses his trust

no little difficulty in finding one in whom all
parties could unite, the Abbe de Vermond was
selected, a vain, ambitious, weak-minded man,
who, by the most studied artifice, insinuated
himself into the good graces of Maria Theresa,
and gained a great but pernicious influence
over the mind of his youthful pupil. The cab-
inets of France and Austria having decided the
question that Maria Antoinette was to be the
bride of Louis, who was soon to ascend the
throne of France, the Abbe de Vermond, proud
of his position as the intellectual and moral
guide of the destined Queen of France, shame-
fully abused his trust, and sought only to ob-
tain an abiding influence, which he might use
for the promotion of his own ambition. He
carefully kept her in ignorance, to render him-
self more necessary to her ; and he was never
unwilling to involve her in difficulties, that she
might be under the necessity of appealing to him
for extrication.

Instead of endeavoring to prepare her for the
situation she was destined to fill, it seemed to
be his aim to train her to such habits of thoufjht
and feeling as would totally incapacitate her to
be happy, or to acquire an influence over the
gay but cerem.ony-loving assemblages of the

30 Maria Antoinette. [1769

Etiquette of the French court. Etiquette of the Austrian court.

Tuileries, Versailles, and St. Cloud. At this

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Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottHistory of Maria Antoinette → online text (page 1 of 15)