While researching the Secret Diary of Archduchess Maria Antonia, I spent a lot of time reading about the lives of her brothers and sisters and became really fascinated by them all as they were all such interesting characters and, probably as the result of being stifled by their mother often branched out to lead dramatic, if not eccentric lives.
I felt that it was important to place Maria Antonia in the midst of her family as she often comes across as a lonely, aloof character in later life, distanced from the court by the etiquette that was prevalent at Versailles and fatally alienated from the greater populace. Whereas during her upbringing in Austria, she was the second to last baby and the youngest girl in a family of thirteen (three other children died in early infancy) with older siblings who were old enough to be her parents.
I am going to be writing a series of posts over the next few weeks about each of her siblings in turn, to share their sometimes extraordinary and often romantic stories with you. In the meantime, here are some gorgeous pastels by Liotard of the younger children.
Maria Elisabeth, said to be the most beautiful and flirtatious of Maria Theresa’s daughters until small pox robbed her of her looks and she was forced to give up hopes of a brilliant marriage and remain in Vienna at her mother’s side.
Maria Amalia, probably the most interesting of the girls, who would fall madly in love with the dashing Prince Karl of Zweibrucken, only to be forbidden to marry him and instead be married to the Duke of Parma. Her departure from Vienna was much mourned as she was definitely the family socialite who loved parties, balls and the carnival.
Maria Johanna, who unfortunately died of small pox as a teenager.
Maria Josepha, said to be the prettiest and most charming of the girls. She was betrothed to the King of Naples and was forced to accompany her mother on an over night vigil in the Habsburg family crypt before her departure to be married. Sadly, the coffin of her sister in law, who had recently died of small pox was not properly closed and Josepha herself succumbed to the disease and died on the morning of the day that she was supposed to leave Vienna as a bride.
Maria Carolina, the sister who was closest to Maria Antonia in age. They were more like twins and were very naughty little girls who liked to play tricks on the courtiers and make fun of their governess until finally Maria Theresa heard about it and decided to separate them. After the death of Maria Josepha, it was decided that Carolina would go to Naples instead to marry King Ferdinand.