|Marie Clotilde of France by Johann Julius Heinsius, 1780|
Marie Clotilde was born in Versailles, the daughter of Princess Maria Joseph of Saxony and Louis, Dauphin of France. Nicknamed Gros Madame on account of her weight, Marie Clotilde was a quiet girl who enjoyed a very close relationship with her sister, Élisabeth, the bond growing stronger than ever when the two girls were raised by Madame de Marsan following the death of their parents. When the young lady was just 15 her brother Louis Auguste, was crowned king and his wife, Marie Antoinette, queen.
On 27th August 1775, Marie Clotilde was married by proxy to Charles Emmanuel, the son of Victor Amadeus III of Sardinia. The wedding had been planned for years as part of a wider scheme of political marriages and Marie Clotilde had been taught Italian to ensure she would be able to hold her own in the Sardinian court. She left Versailles and her devastated sibling immediately afterwards to travel to Turin in the care of her brother, the comte de Provence. On route to her new life she met her husband for the first time at Pont-de-Beauvoisin and the group went on together to join the Sardinian court at Chambéry, with a full wedding ceremony following soon afterwards.
We have witnessed so many royal marriages that ended unhappily and it is gives me a very warm glow to write that Marie Clotilde and Charles Emmanuel developed a strong and lasting love for one another. Her husband dismissed jibes about his bride's weight out of hand and though the marriage was to remain childless, their union was one of mutual adoration. They shared a strong Roman Catholic faith and Marie Clotilde swiftly became part of the family in Sardinia, forging strong friendships with her new sisters-in-law.
Marie Clotilde never returned to the country of her birth and was understandably devastated by the fate that befell her family during the Revolution. Though the Sardinian court provided protection to those who were able to escape, her brother and adored sister went to the guillotine and Marie Clotilde felt their loss keenly.
Marie Clotilde became Queen of Sardinia at the age of 37 but the reign of Charles Emmanuel was to last only two years before the French First Republic declared war on Sardinia, leaving Charles with a vastly depleted kingdom. The couple travelled Italy together and settled in Naples happily, gathering Charles Emmanuel's family to them.
When Marie Clotilde died, Charles Emmanuel abdicated the throne of Sardinia and lived on quietly, mourning the loss of his beloved wife. There is a simplicity to Marie Clotilde's life that I found genuinely touching; her story is not often told and it is a pleasure to wish her a very happy birthday!
Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.