Marie Louise – a childhood spent in the shadows of world politics

Lorenzo Bartolini (after Francois Joseph Bosio): Bust of Empress Marie Louise, ca. 1811

For Archduchess Marie Louise, born in Vienna in 1791, both her childhood and her youth were overshadowed by the turbulent, and for the Austrian Imperial household often traumatic, events of world politics.

Lorenzo Bartolini (after Francois Joseph Bosio): Bust of Empress Marie Louise, ca. 1811

These included the execution of her aunt, Marie Antoinette (1793), the expulsion of her relatives from their Italian principalities (1796-98), the loss of important areas of her homeland and the repeated occupation of her hometown, Vienna, by the French (1805, 1809). The “archenemy” who seemed to be responsible for all these events was a man called Napoleon Bonaparte.

Marie Louise’s father, Emperor Franz, was not equal to the extraordinary political and military challenges of his age, and so, in truth, power rested in other hands, like those of the ambitious and skilful politician Clemens von Metternich, or the talented military officer, Archduke Karl. Even the Emperor saw himself more as a loving father to his people, and he devoted far more time and attention to his own children than was usual in royal families at the time. He enjoyed a particularly close relationship with his eldest daughter, Marie Louise, who was generally believed to be his favourite child. And so, in spite of the constant wars, which twice forced her family to flee from Vienna, she and her siblings grew up in what was to all intents and purposes a peaceful bourgeois environment.

Monica Kurzel-Runtscheiner