|Archduchess Maria Antonia of Austria by Martin van Meytens, 1767-1768|
With betrothals arranged with various royal houses, Maria Theresa intended that one of her daughters would marry the 14 year old Louis, Dauphin of France. However, smallpox swept through the House of Habsburg-Lorraine and killed or permanently disfigured the possible candidates for this key marriage other than 12 year old Archduchess Maria Antonia, who had survived the disease earlier in her childhood. The Empress presented Maria Antonia as a match for Louis and negotiations began in earnest, led by Étienne François, Duc de Choiseul.
|Louis XVI by Joseph-Siffrein Duplessis, 1776|
Over the two years that followed an enormous dowry of 200,000 crowns was agreed upon and the family of the groom to be began to view their likely new member with a critical eye. Her teeth were crooked and her smile unpleasant, they commented, and the young lady was subjected to months of unanaesthetised corrective surgery at the hans of dentist, Pierre Laveran, until both France and Austria were satisfied. Her wardrobe, hair, make up and etiquette skills were overhauled and finally, it was agreed that the young Archduchess was fit to marry into the Bourbon household.
On 19th April 1770, Maria Antonia attended the Augustinerkirche in Vienna to be married by proxy to Louis. Her brother, Ferdinand, served as groom for the ceremony and she officially took the name and title, Marie Antoinette, Dauphine of France.
|The Augustinerkirche in Vienna|
By now all of 14, Marie Antoinette immediately began the journey to her new life and two weeks later she was handed over to her French carers, including our old friend, Madame Etiquette, better known as Anne d'Arpajon, comtesse de Noailles. Finally, on 16th May, the bride and groom were married ceremonially in the royal chapel at Versailles before a crowd of 5000 who crowded into grandstands in the Hall of Mirrors to watch the procession pass. It was to be the start of a far from settled union plagued by politics, gossip and intrigue but for now let us leave the newlyweds on this, the 244th anniversary of their marriage.
To read about the tragedy that befell a public firework display in honour of the marriage, click here.
Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.