Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Queen Marie Clotilde of France
She was only sixteen when she was married in 1775 to Prince Charles Emmanuel of Piedmont, son and heir of King Victor Amadeus III of Piedmont-Sardinia and Queen Maria Antonia Ferdinanda of Spain. This had been arranged well in advance and from the time she was very young the princess had been taught Italian so as it fit in quickly with the royal court in Turin. Many of the snobs at the French court, where being beautiful and fashionable often seemed the be-all and end-all, made mocking comments after her departure about her weight (though I will hasten to add that by our standards today she does not look to have been that overweight to me) to the effect that the Prince of Piedmont was getting ‘two wives instead of one’. The match was part of a diplomatic offensive of sorts involving several such marriages and so King Victor Amadeus III was only concerned that she would be able to have children but, Prince Charles Emmanuel was not bothered in the least by the size of his bride, saying he simply had “more to worship”. The gallant Savoy prince loved his wife from the start and she him in what would be a very happy and devoted marriage for the two.
Unfortunately, the concerns of Victor Amadeus III would prove well founded as the couple were never able to have children (though who can say if the responsibility rested with the bride or the groom). Nonetheless, Marie Clotilde and Charles Emmanuel were very happy together. Both were very devout Catholics and their shared faith proved a solid foundation for their union. Both also had good examples to follow coming from parents who were extremely devoted to each other as well. Marie Clotilde admired and respected her husband and Charles Emmanuel loved his wife regardless of what size dress she wore. Marie Clotilde was also warmly welcomed into the House of Savoy by her new sisters-in-law who all became fast friends and very supportive of each other. Marie Clotilde was never able to see France again as the outbreak of the Revolution prevented any such happy visits. Her brother and his Queen along with so many others, including her beloved sister Elisabeth were all sent to the guillotine by the bloodthirsty revolutionaries. It was a heart-wrenching time for Marie Clotilde but she took refuge in her faith, her in-laws were supportive and her father-in-law, King Victor Amadeus III, was happy to provide sanctuary for those of the French Royal Family who could escape including Clotilde’s brother the Count of Artois and her aunts Madame Adelaide and Madame Victoire.
In 1796 the old King died and Marie Clotilde became Queen consort alongside her husband who became King Charles Emmanuel IV of Piedmont-Sardinia. Despite being greatly outmatched, as a matter of principle the late Victor Amadeus III had declared war on the revolutionary republic only to be soundly beaten and forced to sign a humiliating peace. However, only a few years after coming to the throne, French republican forces invaded again forcing Charles Emmanuel and Marie Clotilde to flee to the island of Sardinia. Sustained by their faith and little else the couple later moved to Rome and later Naples, aided by the patrician Colonna family. During this time, Marie Clotilde was an angel of mercy to her husband’s dying aunt, Princess Maria Felicita of Savoy (herself a saintly woman) while in Naples. The woman died later in Rome and only a year later, on March 7, 1802, Queen Marie Clotilde departed this life as well, at the age of only 42, to the very end being concerned with the welfare of others and the care of her husband. The King was so distraught by her passing that he abdicated his rights and joined the Society of Jesus. Marie Clotilde of France, Queen consort of Piedmont-Sardinia was buried in Naples at the Church of Santa Caterina a Chiaia. On April 10, 1808 His Holiness Pope Pius VII (who had known the Queen personally) declared her “venerable”, the first step in the process of beatification. As far as I know, her cause has not since progressed. She was, nonetheless, a great Christian, a great wife and a great queen.