Dispelling the “Tyrannical” Myth

July 16, 2020

Marie Thérèse Charlotte of France, Madame Royale at the Temple Tower.

Madame Royale, older and graver than her brother, felt more deeply the anxiety of the situation. The queen, to bring a little gayety into her life, had organized in Madame de Tourzel’s apartments small informal gatherings, to which she went occasionally to drink tea, and where her daughter met young people of her own age. They played little games, ran through the rooms which were thrown open, even played hide-and-seek, which the dauphin later remembered with pleasure. More serious pursuits, however, occupied the time and engrossed the heart of the young princess. Since her arrival at Paris, the curé of St Eustache came every Sunday to teach her the Catechism, and to prepare her for her first communion. She performed the solemn act at St Germain l’Auxerrois on the Wednesday of Passion Week, March 31. In the early morning the queen led her daughter to the king’s chamber, saying to her, “My daughter, throw yourself at your father’s feet and ask his blessing.” Madame knelt; the king blessed her, raised her up and addressed to her these grave and pious words: ―

Église Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois.

“It is from the bottom of my heart that I bless you, my child, while praying Heaven to grant you a full realization of the great act which you are about to accomplish. Your heart is innocent in the eyes of God; your vows should be acceptable to Him; offer them to Him for your mother and for me. Ask Him to accord me the grace necessary to bring about the happiness of those over whom he has given me empire, and whom I should consider as my children. Beg of Him that He deign to preserve religious purity in the kingdom; and remember, my daughter, that our holy religion is the source of all happiness, and our support in the adversities of life. Do not believe yourself secure from them. You are very young, but you have already more than once seen your father in affliction. You do not know, my daughter, to what Providence destines you: whether you are to remain in the kingdom, or whether you are to go to live in another. To whatever place the hand of God may lead you, remember that you must teach others by your example, and do good whenever you find the opportunity; but, above all, my child, relieve the unfortunate as much as is in your power. God has placed us in this rank of life only that we may work for their happiness, and console them in their sorrows.”

Louis XVI with the Dauphin. départemental de l’Isère

Such were the instructions which the “tyrant” gave to his children, and his actions followed closely upon his words. It was customary for the Children of France to receive a set of diamonds on the day of their First Communion. Madame Royale did not receive this splendid gift. The ceremony was performed with extreme simplicity. The young princess arrived at the church, accompanied by her governess and her under-governess, Madame de Mackau; she showed the greatest composure, and approached the Holy Table with marks of sincerest devotion.

Marie-Angélique de Mackau née de Fitte de Soucy, governess to the royal children.

The queen, who had received the Easter sacrament two days before, assisted at the ceremony incognito and without attendance, “as simply dressed as a bourgeoise,” relates an eyewitness, but with extreme piety, and with her eyes constantly fixed on the young communicant. On the same day generous alms were distributed to the poor of the various parishes of Paris; they were the price of the diamond necklace, which Madame Royale had not received.

The Life of Marie Antoinette, Volume 2, by Maxime de La Rocheterie; Translated from the French by Cora Hamilton Bell; New York, Dodd Mead and Company 1893. Pgs 69-71.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 735



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