Aimez-vous Marie-Antoinette … ?

Aimez-vous Marie-Antoinette … ? Today, Tuesday October 14 2008, a bit of French history goes under the hammer here in Paris. Christie’s is to auction some objects which had belonged to the late Count and Countess of Paris. The Count, Pretender to the French Throne in his time – full name Henri Robert Ferdinand Marie […]

Aimez-vous Marie-Antoinette … ?

Today, Tuesday October 14 2008, a bit of French history goes under the hammer here in Paris. Christie’s is to auction some objects which had belonged to the late Count and Countess of Paris. The Count, Pretender to the French Throne in his time – full name Henri Robert Ferdinand Marie Louis Philippe d’Orléans, known as Henri, Comte de Paris – died in 1999. His wife, Princess Isabelle of Orléans-Braganza (her father was Pretender to the throne of the Empire of Brazil)died in 2003. The couple had separated and there were lots of problems with who was to inherit what, which means that the present Pretender to the French Crown (their eldest son) and his siblings are auctioning off their parents’ little knick-knacks.

Well, speak of knick-knacks; among the items are real gems. I don’t mean jewellery, but objects that had belonged to Marie-Antoinette and Louis XV1. Objects which maybe should be in a glass case in the Chateau of Versailles for all to see. If I were a rich woman … I’ll buy these and I will give them to France …

Under the hammer will go:

Cloths Marie-Antoinette had embroidered while imprisoned in Temple Prison. Their estimated value according to Christie’s: between €15/20 thousand – US$20,604/ 27,473 – ₤11,710/15,613 );

A lace fragment of a dress Marie-Antoinette had worn in Temple Prison. Estimated Value: between €4/5 thousand – US$5,494/6,867 – ₤3,123/3,903);

A miniature portrait of Louis XV11, Marie-Antoinette and Louis XV1’s son, painted while he was in Temple Prison with his parents. Estimated Value: €6/8 thousand (US$8,240/19,988 – ₤4,684/6,245);

A ring decorated with a locks of the hair of Marie-Antoinette and of Louis XV1. Estimated Value: €1,500 to 2,000 – US$2,020/,747 – ₤1,170/1,561);

A lock of Louis XV1’s hair when a child. Estimated Value: €2/3 thousand – US$2,747/4,120 – ₤1,561/2,412).

Briefly. Louis, Marie-Antoinette and their two children were taken to Temple Prison on August 13 1792. The prison’s walls were four metres (13 feet) thick which made the prison the most secure in Paris. Louis was taken off to be guillotined publicly on January 21 1793. Marie-Antoinette was then transferred to the Conciergerie from where she was taken, on a cart, also to be publicly guillotined. That was on October 16 1793. Their two children – Louis-Charles, heir to the throne, and Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte, or “Madame Royale”, remained behind in Temple Prison. The two children were separated and only Madame Royale survived the Revolution: she left for exile in Austria where she married and continued to live until her death in 1851. What had happened to the boy once he was separated from his older sister is a story of sheer horror.

On his father’s death Royalists had announced Louis-Charles as King Louis XV11. The boy, then aged eight and called ‘Capet’ (after Hugh Capet, founder of the royal Dynasty) by his guards, was kept in total isolation. He was beaten daily; food were thrown at him the way no decent person would even throw food at a dog and he was given alcohol to drink which quickly caused addiction. He died on June 8 1795. He was ten years old. An autopsy held to determine the cause of death, showed he had died of tuberculosis; his emaciated body was covered in sores and bruises from the daily beatings.

The autopsy surgeon had however secretly cut out the boy’s heart and he had taken it home where it was preserved in alcohol. The body was buried somewhere in a square in Paris and no-one recorded the location.

The Royalists, however, claimed that the boy had not died in the prison. They said that one of his warders had secretly spirited him away and that he grown up somewhere in France, his true identity forever hidden.

This was a rumour that kept on cropping up, then in the 1990s, the DNA of a child’s heart, said to be the boy’s, was compared with the DNA of strands of Marie-Antoinette’s hair. The DNA matched. The heart was then buried with the remains of Louis and Marie-Antoinette in Saint-Denis Cathedral north of Paris. The boy’s body is still missing.

The miniature portrait of him being sold today had once belonged to Madame Royale. She had taken it along to remember him when she was released from Temple Prison.

(The photos are from Christie’s catalogue)

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

2 Responses to “Aimez-vous Marie-Antoinette … ?”

  1. 2
    Jo Says:

    I so agree with you Satima, how very sad. I didn’t know the full history of what happened to the prince. People have done some dreadful things to their royal families in history. Yes, it is a pity someone won’t donate these items to a museum

  2. 1
    Satima Flavell Says:

    A terrible and tragic tale, Marilyn. Considering the historical value of those items, their valuations seem quite low. If only someone would buy them and give them to a museum where everyone could see them! Quick, go and buy a lottery ticket:-).

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