CHAPTER II. LOUIS PHILIPPE AND HIS FAMILY.
Queen Marie Amelie was born in Naples in 1782. Her mother was a daughter of Maria Theresa, and sister to Marie Antoinette. This lady was not one who inspired respect, but she had some good qualities. She was a good mother to her children, and had plenty of ability. Of course she hated the French Revolution, and everything that savored of what are called liberal opinions. Her career, which was full of vicissitudes and desperate plots, ended by her being dismissed ignominiously from Naples by the English ambassador, and she went to end her days with her nephew at Vienna.
Marie Amelie used sometimes to tell her children how she had wept when a child for the death of the little dauphin, the eldest son of Louis XVI., who, before the Revolution broke out, was taken away from the evil to come. She was to have been married to him had he lived. When older, she had an early love-affair with her cousin, Prince Antoine of Austria; but he was destined for the Church, and the youthful courtship came to an untimely end. When she first met her future husband, she and her family were living in a sort of provisional exile in Palermo. The princess was twenty-seven, Louis Philippe was ten or twelve years older, and they seem to have been quite determined to marry each other very soon after their acquaintance began. It was not easy to do so, however, for the duke, as we have seen, was at that period too much a republican to suit even an English Admiral; but the princess declared that she would go into a convent if the marriage was forbidden, and on Dec. 25, 1809, she became the wife of Louis Philippe.
No description could do justice to the purity and charity of this admirable woman; and in her good works she was seconded by her sister-in-law, Madame Adelaide, and by her daughter.
"The queen," her almoner tells us, "had 500,000 francs a year for her personal expenses, and gave away 400,000 of them." "M. Appert," she would say to him, "give those 500 francs we spoke of, but put them down upon next month's account. The waters run low this month; my purse is empty." An American lady, visiting the establishment of a great dressmaker in Paris, observed an old black silk dress hanging over a chair. She remarked with some surprise: "I did not know you would turn and fix up old dresses." "I do so only for the queen," was the answer.
The imposture, ingratitude, and even insolence of some of Marie Amelie's petitioners failed to discourage her benevolence. For instance, an old Bonapartist lady, according to M. Appert, one day wrote to her: -
MADAME, - If the Bourbons had not returned to France, for the
misfortune of the country, my beloved mistress and protectress,
the Empress Marie Louise, would still be on the throne, and
I should not be under the humiliating necessity of telling you
that I am without bread, and that the wretched bed on which I
sleep is about to be thrown out of the garret I inhabit, because
I cannot pay a year's rent. I dare not ask you for assistance,
for my heart is with my real sovereign, and I cannot promise
you my gratitude. If, however, you think fit to preserve a life
which, since the misfortunes of my country, has been full of
bitterness, I will accept a loan. I should blush to receive a
I am, Madame, your servant, C.
When this impertinent letter was handed to the almoner, the queen had written on it: "She must be very unhappy, for she is very unjust. A hundred francs to be sent to her immediately, and I beg M. Appert to make inquiries concerning this lady's circumstances."
In vain the almoner remonstrated. The only effect of his remonstrance was that the queen authorized him to make her gift 300 francs if he found it necessary. When he knocked at the door of the garret of the petitioner, she opened it with agitation. "Oh, Monsieur!" she said, "are you the Commissioner of Police come to arrest me for my outrageous letter to the queen? I am so unhappy that at times I became deranged. I am sorry to have written as I did to a princess who to all the poor is good and charitable." For answer, M. Appert showed her her own letter, with the queen's memorandum written upon it. "There was no lack of heartfelt gratitude then," he says, "and no lack of poverty to need the triple benefaction."