Marie Antoinette teaches her children to sacrifice themselves for the poor

December 20, 2010

Marie Antoinette and her children Painting by Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun

As a loving mother, Marie Antoinette bought Christmas presents for her children at the end of every year. One year that the winter was harsh and the poor were suffering much hardship, she ordered the best toys, dolls and games Paris had for sale and laid them out in a room for her children to see.

Calling the children in to enjoy the toys, the Queen explained: “My dear children, I wanted to give you beautiful gifts for Christmas and so I ordered these for you to choose from. However, I want to propose something better. There are many poor countrymen who are suffering because of the winter. They would suffer a little less if we could give them some alms. Would you like to alleviate the plight of the poor, foregoing your Christmas gifts this year and giving to the needy the money it would otherwise take to buy them?”

All of the gifts were returned to the merchants, but the Queen was careful to reimburse them for the expenses they had incurred in bringing the gifts to the palace.

Painting by Ludwig Richter


Madame Campan, Mémoires sur la vie de Marie-Antoinette (Paris: Nelson Éditeurs, 1823), p. 184. ( translation.)

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 35


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