Monday 23 September 2013

Gros Madame: Marie Clotilde of France

Marie Clotilde of France (Marie Adélaïde Clotilde Xavière; Versailles, France, 23rd September 1759 – Naples, Italy, 7th March 1802)

Marie Clotilde by Johann Julius Heinsius, 1780
Marie Clotilde of France by Johann Julius Heinsius, 1780
After leafing through my papers this last week and perusing my articles, my own grandpa Gilfliurt declared at dinner, "I don't know why you don't just move to France!", so Frenchified does he feel things have become here on Henrietta Street. He's a traditional old sort and his claret-fuelled outburst left me in no doubt that I may as well throw caution to the wind and gad back across the channel in search of a lady of France!

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.

Marie Clotilde

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, 1775

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.

Pen and Sword
Amazon UK
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Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)


Lauren Gilbert said...

Lovely post. It's nice to read about a happy couple.

Catherine Curzon said...

Thank you; it was a pleasure to write!

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the post immensely and so nice to hear of such a devoted couple.

Catherine Curzon said...

Such a pleasure to find an arranged marriage that was happy!

The Bronze Baroness said...

A wonderful story. Thanks for sharing it. :-)

Catherine Curzon said...

A pleasure!

Unknown said...

Still a great post all these years later!

Catherine Curzon said...

Very kind, thank you; I thought she was due a revisit given the anniversary!

Unknown said...

I'm so thrilled I found you, goodness I spent most of the day endulging in the decadence! I'm looking very forward to reading your books!