Princess Marie Louise of Savoy

Princess Marie Louise of Savoy
Marie Louise de Savoie
Princess of Lamballe
Marie Louise by Joseph Duplessis
Spouse Louis Alexandre de Bourbon
Full name
Maria Teresa Luisa di Savoia
Father Louis Victor, Prince of Carignan
Mother Christine of Hesse-Rotenburg
Born 8 September 1749(1749-09-08)
Palazzo Carignano, Turin, Italy
Died 3 September 1792(1792-09-03) (aged 42)
Murdered in Paris, France

Maria Luisa of Savoy (Maria Teresa Luisa; 8 September 1749 – 3 September 1792) was a member of the House of Savoy. She was married at the age of 16 to Louis Alexandre de Bourbon, Prince de Lamballe, the heir to the greatest fortune in France. After her marriage, which lasted a year, she went to court and became the confidante of Queen Marie Antoinette. Her death in the massacres of September 1792 during the French Revolution sparked a movement of anti-revolutionary propaganda[citation needed], which ultimately led to the development and implementation of the Reign of Terror.



Marie Louise was born in Turin. Her father was Louis Victor, Prince of Carignano, a maternal grandson of Victor Amadeus II of Sardinia and his mistress Jeanne d'Albert de Luynes.

Her mother, Christine of Hesse-Rotenburg, was the daughter of Ernest Leopold, Landgrave of Hesse-Rotenburg. Her aunts included, Polyxena of Hesse-Rotenburg, the wife of Charles Emmanuel III of Sardinia (Victor Amadeus III was her first cousin) and Caroline of Hesse-Rotenburg was a Princess of Condé and wife of Louis Henri, Duke of Bourbon. Louis Joseph, Prince of Condé was another first cousin who was at the French court.[1]

On 31 January 1767, she married by proxy Louis Alexandre de Bourbon, prince de Lamballe, grandson of Louis XIV's legitimised son, Louis Alexandre de Bourbon, comte de Toulouse, and the only surviving son of Duke of Penthièvre, who had arranged the marriage.

The Prince of Lamballe was a débauché[citation needed]. For the first few months of the marriage, he was devoted to his wife. The couple spent their honeymoon at the Château de Nangis,then went to reside in Paris. Five months into the marriage, the prince took as his mistress Mademoiselle de La Chassaigne, an opera dancer. At one point, Louis Alexandre even sold his wife's diamonds to raise money to pay his debts.[citation needed]

In 1768, at the age of nineteen, Marie Louise became a widow when her husband died of a venereal disease[citation needed] at the Château de Louveciennes. She inherited her husband's already considerable fortune, making her wealthy in her own right.

She lived at the Hôtel de Toulouse in Paris, and at the Château de Rambouillet. On 4 January 1769, there was an announcement of the marriage of Marie Louise's sister-in-law Mademoiselle de Penthièvre, heiress to the greatest fortune in France, to the young Philippe d'Orléans, duc de Chartres, and old friend of the late prince de Lamballe.

The princesse de Lamballe was present at every ceremony, and the new Dauphine, to whom she was presented, was charmed with her and overwhelmed her with attentions which the spectators did not fail to notice. More than one saw even then the dawn of an intimacy which later was to give so much trouble to the two friends.

At that time, Madame de Lamballe was almost constantly at court. During 1771, she assisted at every ceremonial. The "Gazette de France" mentions her presence in the chapel at high mass on Holy Thursday, at which the king was present accompanied by the royal family, the Dukes of Bourbon and Penthièvre. In May, she went to Fontainebleau, was there presented by the king to the future Countess of Provence (first cousin), and attended the supper after. She was present at the birth of the future Louis-Philippe of France in Paris in October 1773.

At the accession of her husband to the throne in May 1774, at the death of Louis XV, Marie Antoinette became Queen of France. In September of the next year, she appointed Marie Louise "Superintendent of the Queen's Household", the highest rank possible for a lady-in-waiting at Versailles, which earned Marie Louise the resentment of many aristocrats.[citation needed] Her pre-eminence in courtly high society was eventually eclipsed by Yolande de Polastron, duchesse de Polignac, who arrived at Versailles in 1775.

Marie Louise was by nature extremely prudish and there was never any gossip about her private life. However, in popular anti-monarchist propaganda of the time, she was regularly portrayed in pornographic pamphlets, showing her as the queen's lesbian lover to undermine the public image of the monarchy.[2]


The princesse de Lamballe accompanied the royal family to the Tuileries Palace after the Women's March on Versailles in October 1789. In Paris, her salon served as a meeting place for the queen and the members of the National Constituent Assembly, many of whom the queen wished to win over to the cause of the Bourbon Monarchy.[3]

During her stay at a house she rented in the Royal Crescent, Bath,[4] Great Britain in 1791 to appeal for help for the French royal family, the princess wrote her will, since she feared death upon returning to Paris. Nonetheless, she did return out of loyalty to Marie Antoinette. She went to the Tuileries, and continued her services to the queen until the attack on the palace on 10 August 1792, when the royal family took refuge in the Legislative Assembly, and was later imprisoned in the Temple, after the Legislative Assembly was taken.[5]


Aristocratic heads on pikes - a cartoon from the French Revolution

On 19 August, she and the Marquise de Tourzel, governess to the royal children, were separated from the royal family and transferred to the La Force prison.[6] On 3 September, she 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".[7] 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.[8][9]

Some reports allege that she was raped and that her breasts were cut off, in addition to other bodily mutilations,[10][11] and that her head was cut off and stuck on a pike. Other reports say that it was brought to a nearby café where it was laid in front of the customers, who were asked to drink in celebration of her death.[10] Other reports state that the head was taken to a barber in order to dress the hair to make it instantly recognizable,[11] though this has been contested.[9] Following this, the head was replaced upon the pike and was paraded beneath Marie Antoinette’s window at the Temple.[12]

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. The head was not allowed to be brought into the building, but the queen's guards did force her to look out of the window at the sight, whereupon she fainted almost immediately.[12] In her historical biography, Marie Antoinette : The Journey Antonia Fraser claims that the queen did not actually see the head of her long-time friend, but was aware of what was occurring, stating, "...the municipal officers had had the decency to close the shutters and the commissioners kept them away from the of these officers told the King '..they are trying to show you the head of Madame de Lamballe'...Mercifully, the Queen then fainted away".[12]

Five citizens of the local section in Paris delivered her body (minus her head which was still being displayed on a pike) to the authorities shortly after her death. Royalist accounts of the incident claimed her body was displayed on the street for a full day. Her body (like that of her brother-in-law Philippe Égalité) was never found, which is why it is not entombed in the Orléans family necropolis at Dreux.[13][14] According to Madame Tussaud, she was ordered to make the death mask.[15]

In media

The princesse de Lamballe has been portrayed in several films and miniseries. Two of the more notable portrayals were by Anita Louise in W.S. Van Dyke's 1938 film Marie Antoinette and by Mary Nighy in the 2006 film Marie Antoinette directed by Sofia Coppola.[16][17]



  1. ^ Bertin, Georges. "Full text of Madame de Lamballe". Retrieved 2009-11-26. 
  2. ^ Chantal Thomas, The Wicked Queen: The Origins of the Myth of Marie-Antoinette
  3. ^ "Lamballe, Marie Thérèse Louise of Savoy-Carignano". The Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica. 1911. 
  4. ^ Lowndes, William (1981). The Royal Crescent in Bath. Redcliffe Press. ISBN 978-0905459349. 
  5. ^ Imbert de Saint-Amand, Arthur; Léon Imbert de Saint-Amand, Elizabeth Gilbert Martin. Marie Antoinette at the Tuileries, 1789-1791. New York Public Library: C. Scribner's sons. pp. 286. ISBN 1901.,M1. 
  6. ^ Lever, Evelyne; Catherine Temerson (2001). Marie Antoinette: The Last Queen of France. Macmillan. pp. 282–283. ISBN 0312283334.,M1. 
  7. ^ de Decker, Michel, La Princesse de Lamballe, mourir pour la Reine, chapter Élargissez madame, p. 246, Librairie Académique Perrin, Paris, 1979, (Collection historique dirigée par André Castelot), ISBN : 2-262-00156-1 (French)
  8. ^ de Decker, p. 246.
  9. ^ a b de Baecque, Antoine; Charlotte Mandell (2002). Glory and Terror. Routledge. pp. 79. ISBN 0415926173. 
  10. ^ a b Hibbert, Christopher (1980). The Days of the French Revolution. Morrow. pp. 175. ISBN 0688037046. 
  11. ^ a b Durschmied, Erik (2002). Blood of Revolution. Arcade Publishing. pp. 31. ISBN 1559706074. 
  12. ^ a b c Fraser, Antonia (2001). Marie Antoinette: The Journey. Anchor Books. pp. 389. ISBN 0385489498. 
  13. ^ de Decker, chapter Ils sont blanchis par le malheur, p. 265.
  14. ^ According to author Blanche Christabel Hardy,Hardy, Blanche Christabel (1908). The Princesse de Lamballe. Harvard University: D Appleton & Co.. pp. 294.  her heartbroken father-in-law finally succeeded in retrieving her corpse and had it interred in the Penthièvre family crypt at Dreux.
  15. ^ Tussaud, John Theodore (1920). The Romance of Madame Tussaud's. University of Michigan: George H. Doran company. pp. 44, 88, 91. 
  16. ^ "Marie Antoinette". Retrieved 2008-10-19. 
  17. ^ "Mary Antoinette"., Inc.. Retrieved 2008-10-19. 


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