1797–1826

1816 – A fateful year for Leopoldine

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At the age of 19 Leopoldine’s future remained uncertain. Her preference would undoubtedly have been to take up the position of director of the Imperial Mineral Collection, but at that time this was unthinkable for a woman, especially a member of the royal family.

1816 brought changes to the family life of Emperor Franz I. In March 1816, after a two-year wait, Marie Louise left for her new home in Parma, and in April 1816 her ‘beloved second mother’, Maria Ludovica, died. Leopoldine was inconsolable: ‘she made me what I am’. In July 1816 Leopoldine’s younger sister Marie Clementine married her uncle, Prince Leopold of Salerno, and the date for her father’s next marriage to Carolina Augusta of Bavaria was already set for November 1816. Leopoldine felt increasingly isolated and saw no prospects for her future. Emperor Franz I, who was well aware of her interest in minerals, is said to have joked that he would keep a position as Court Mineralogist open for her in case it proved impossible to find her a husband.

Leopoldine knew that diplomats were engaged in preliminary negotiations with Prince Friedrich August of Saxony to arrange a marriage with her. It had also reached her ears that she would not please the Saxon prince, which undoubtedly made her yet more unsure of herself. For Leopoldine was not happy with her appearance, and what is more, was aware that in company she often sat ‘as silent as a post’. She fell into despair. After all, she was already nineteen years old.

Finally, in the summer of 1816 Emperor Franz I stated that the Leopoldine ‘affair’ was going to be settled favourably and on 24 September 1816 she was officially informed by her father that an enquiry had been received from Rio de Janeiro: Prince Pedro of the House of Bragança wished to take a wife from the House of Habsburg. For Leopoldine this was a childhood dream come true – she was going to Brazil! The diplomats spoke very highly of Pedro of Bragança, praising his education and enthusing about his Latin temperament.

Gloria Kaiser