Women in History: Queens and Princesses

31) The last Madame Royale

Marie Thérèse Charlotte of France (19 December 1778 – 19 October 1851) was the eldest child of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

She married her cousin, Louis Antoine, Duke of Angoulême, the eldest son of the future Charles X. Once married, she assumed her husband’s title and was known as the Duchess of Angoulême. She became the Dauphine of France upon the accession of her father-in-law to the throne of France in 1824. Technically she was Queen of France for twenty minutes, in 1830, between the time her father-in-law signed the instrument of abdication and the time her husband, reluctantly, signed the same document

Apparently eager to extend the naturalness and freedom of her country haven to all aspects of her offspring’s life, Marie Antoinette outfitted Madame Royale in the simple, unstructured muslin gaulles that she and her adult friends had made famous, and the young princes in sporty, unconfining sailor suits.

These were the costumes worn by Marie Antoinette’s two oldest children in a portrait that the Swedish artist Adolf Ulrik von Wertmuller painted of them and their mother – posing in front of the Petit Trianon’s Temple of Love – for Gustavus III, King of Sweden. And when the painting was shown at the Paris Salon of 1785, the public again rallied against the inappropriate clothing styles it placed on display, even though the Queen herself had been represented wearing altogether traditional panniers, a cinched corset, lace sleeves, pearl bracelets, and a low headdress that Rose Bertin has confected from a slate-blue satin that highlighted the blue of the consort’s eyes, For the Wertmuller portrait, Marie Antoinette had even abandoned her signature Habsburg roses, though Madame Royale held a clutch of them, as if reprising, in miniature, her mother’s pose in La Reine en gaulle. In this way, the royal children’s unconventional outfits may have reflected badly on their mother, despite her visible effort to reign in her own previous excesses of fashion.

Queen of Fashion, What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution - Caroline Weber