Saturday 26 April 2014

Maria Amalia of Naples and Sicily, Queen of the July Monarchy

Maria Amalia of Naples and Sicily (Maria Amalia Teresa; Caserta, Italy, 26th April 1782 - Surrey, England, 24th March 1866)

Maria Amalia with her children Henry of Orleans, Duke of Aumale and Antoine of Orléans, Duke of Montpensier by Louis Hersent, 1835
Maria Amalia with her children Henry of Orleans, Duke of Aumale and Antoine of Orléans, Duke of Montpensier by Louis Hersent, 1835

Noble ladies are always popular visitors to the salon and our guest today is certainly one of those! Born to a king and married to a future king of France, Maria Amalia of Naples and Sicily lived a turbulent and unsettled life that saw her crossing Europe in search of a place to settle.

Maria Amalia was born into European royalty as the daughter of King Ferdinand I of Two Sicilies and Maria Carolina of Austria. Her grandparents were our old friends, Francis I and Empress Maria Theresa of Austria and of course, she could number a most iconic queen of France amongst her aunties. An exceptionally studious and pious girl, in her infancy the young princess was betrothed to her cousin, Louis Joseph, Dauphin of France. this would have been an illustrious match for Maria Amalia but it was not to be, as her future husband passed away aged just seven.

Louis Philippe by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1841
Louis Philippe by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1841

Within a few short years the landscape of France changed forever as the revolution swept through the land and the Neapolitan court stood against France as part of the First Coalition. Eventually, as the revolutionary wars spread across the continent, the royal family fled their home bound for Sicily, just the first of several new homes that the itinerant nobles would occupy as they tried to remain one step ahead of the fighting.

Of course, the Neapolitan family were not the only people fleeing the fighting and when Maria Amalia was 24 she encountered the exiled Louis Philippe d'Orléans. the stage was soon set for marriage and in 1809 the couple were wed; in total they would have ten children, all but two of whom survived to adulthood. Their relationship was plagued by constant financial tribulations, though these did little to deter their spending, and the family struggled to settle with their return to France in 1814 cut short by Napoleon's reemergence onto the political scene.

Maria Amalia by Louis Hersent, 1828
Maria Amalia of Naples and Sicily by Louis Hersent, 1828

Although Maria Amalia had no interest in politics and no wish to serve as a political wife, she had no choice in 1830 when the July monarchy saw the Duke and Duchess installed as King and Queen Consort of France in 1830. Like others before them, they did not hold onto the French throne and were forced to fell for England once more in the wake of the 1848 revolution. This time, they would not return to France before their deaths.

Widowed that same year, Maria Amalia remained in residence in England and devoted herself to philanthropy and her faith. She lived out a private and secluded old age and at her death aged 83 was finally returned to France, where she was laid to rest in Chapelle Royale de Dreux.

Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.

Pen and Sword
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Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)


Unknown said...

Isn't it fascinating how so many of these reluctant women were thrust into politics and diplomacy?

Catherine Curzon said...

It is indeed and Maria Amalia was far from keen on political manoeuvring!

Manuel Diezx said...

I just discovered your Page, and I'm enjoying your articles.
May I point something out? Maria Amalia was not simply "European Nobility". She was Royalty.
Almost anybody with a title can be Noble, but only those belonging to the family of kings are Royal

Catherine Curzon said...

Thank you for your comment, it's a pleasure to meet you! I would never want to sell Maria Amalia short and have edited the post to amend "nobility" to "royalty", giving her her due.