duchesse de lamballe

Princess Maria Teresa of Savoy-Carignan, Princess de Lamballe, and Yolande Martine Gabrielle de Polastron, Duchess de Polignac (both born on this day, September 8, 1749were close friends and confidants of Queen Marie Antoinette.

On the third of September 1792, during the French Revolution, Maria was brought before a hastily assembled tribunal which demanded she “take an oath to love liberty and equality and to swear hatred to the King and the Queen and to the monarchy”. She refused, upon which her trial summarily ended with the words, “Élargissez madame” (“Take madame away”). She was immediately taken to the street and thrown to a group of men who killed her within minutes. Following this, her head was placed upon a pike and was paraded beneath Marie Antoinette’s window at the Temple, where she was imprisoned. Those who were carrying it wished the queen to kiss the lips of her favourite, as it was a frequent slander that the two had been lovers.

After the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789, all the members of the Polignac family went into exile. Gabrielle went with her family to Switzerland, where she kept in contact with the Queen through letters. There she developed a terminal illness. She died in Austria in December 1793, shortly after hearing of the execution of Marie-Antoinette. Her family simply announced that she had died as a result of heartbreak and suffering. Most historians have concluded that she died of cancer, though contradictory royalist reports of her death suggested consumption as an alternative cause.Her beauty and early death became metaphors for the demise of the old regime.

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“Rousseau says: If we assume man has been corrupted by an artificial civilization, what is the natural state? The state of nature from which he has been removed? Imagine wandering up dan down the forest without industry, without speech, and without home.”

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Marie Antoinette to the princesse de Lamballe, 1791:

No, once again, do not return, my dear heart. Do not throw yourself into the tiger’s jaws. I suffer already too much uneasiness for my husband and my poor little children … Adieu, my dear heart; your friendship is my consolation and my only happiness.

Marie Antoinette to the duchesse de Polignac, 1790:

I can tell you, dear heart, that I love you tenderly. My health keeps up but my heart is overwhelmed with troubles, sorrows, and anxieties. Every day we hear of new misfortunes and the greatest of all for me is to be separated from all my friends. I neither see nor meet eyes or hearts that understand me. I should be too happy if I only knew they were all in safety… Adieu, dear heart, nothing but death can make me cease to love you.