Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Marie Louise of Savoy, Princesse de Lamballe

Born on September 8 1749 in Turin but not much else is known of the early childhood of Marie Louise of Savoy. She married Louis Alexandre de Bourbon (prince de Lamballe) in 1767 and became a princess. After just five months of marriage Louis Alexandre took a mistress; he chose Mademoiselle de La Chassaigne who was an opera singer. He also had debts and went so far as to sell the jewellery of Marie Louise. But the marriage was shortlived - Louis Alexandre died in 1768.

Marie Louise was now a widow and a very wealthy one at that - she had inherited her husband's fortune that he had managed to keep from debt. She now moved to Paris where she lived at different châteaux. When the new Dauphine, Marie Antoinette, arrived she immediately became fond of Marie Louise - shortly afterwards, Marie Louise found herself the favourite of the next Queen of France. Marie Louise was now constantly present at court and moved easily in the royal family. By her close relationship with the Dauphine she was familiar with the Dauphin as well - she was presented to the Countess of Provence during a stay at Fontainebleau. Apparently, the Princesse de Lamballe held a very high position and she was present at the birth of the future Louis-Philippe in 1773.

When Marie Antoinette became Queen, Marie Louise's status rose as well. She was created Super Intendant of the Queen's Household immediately after the new King and Queen had been crowned. This was an extreme honour - in fact it was the highest rank a lady-in-waiting could achieve at court. This caused many jealous courtiers to resent the royal favourite. However, when de Duchesse de Polignac arrived at court Marie Louise's place - and importance - diminished. She was still a part of the Queen's closest company but she was no longer the sole favourite.

As a person Marie Louis was very prudish - she never engaged in any affair that might compromise her reputation. This pure, sweet personality was what had drawn Marie Antoinette to her in the first place.

Her loyalty continued through the decline of the monarchy's popularity. She accompanied the royal family when they were forced to leave Versailles in 1789. She opened her private salon to people who were supporters of the royalist cause. Marie Louise rented a house in Bath where she wrote her will before returning to France - she had sensed the atmosphere in the capitol and feared for her life. Despite this fear, she returned to Paris where she served Marie Antoinette at the Tuileries until 1792 when the palace was stormed.

Painting depicting the gruesome
murder of the former Princess
On August 19 she was separated from the royal family alongside Madame de Tourzel and they were both brought to the prison of La Force. On September 3 Marie Louise was brought before a hastily assembled tribunal which demanded that she swore loyalty to the new republic and openly declare her hatred of the monarchy. When the Princesse de Lamballe refused to swear to this she was sent away.
She was then taken outside to the streets of Paris where a mob of angry Parisians killed her within minutes - some reports tell us that she was raped and her breasts were cut off. After her death the Parisians continued to mutilate her body. They cut of her head, placed it on a spike and took it to the Queen's apartments where they waved it outside the Queen's windows. Her body was put on display for an entire day.
Marie Louise of Savoy's burial place is unknown and has been ever since the revolution.

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