torn in her allegiance, vacillating between joining her husband on Elba or returning to her father, Emperor Francis

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L’impératrice Marie-Louise.

Perhaps the liveliest topic buzzing in the salons the week of the scheduled opening was the reputed imminent arrival of Napoleon’s wife, Marie Louise.

Since the fall of the empire, the twenty-three-year-old woman had been torn in her allegiance, vacillating between joining her husband on Elba or returning to her father, Emperor Francis, and the family in Vienna. She had spent a great deal of time pondering her choices and had, in the end, decided to return to Vienna

She was supposed to arrive at any moment, and speculation raged on how she would react to the sight of Vienna carried away in its celebration of her husband’s downfall.

Marie Louise 12 December 1791 – 17 December 1847) Austrian archduchess who reigned as Duchess of Parma from 1814 until her death. She was Napoleon‘s second wife and, as such, Empress of the French from 1810 to 1814.

Key Points

  • When after a few years of marriage it became clear that Josephine could not have a child, Napoleon began to think seriously about the possibility of divorce even though he still loved his wife. Despite her anger, Josephine agreed to the divorce so the Emperor could remarry in the hope of having an heir. Matters came to a head at the end of November 1809 at the Tuileries in Paris when Napoleon at last told Josephine that he was going to divorce her. Her shrieks could be heard all over the palace; she collapsed on the floor and Napoleon and another man had to carry her to her apartments.
  • In addition to the desire for an heir, Napoleon sought the validation and legitimization of his Empire by marrying a member of one of the leading royal families of Europe. In 1810, he married 19-year-old Marie-Louise, Archduchess of Austria, and a great niece of Marie Antoinette by proxy. Thus, he married into a German royal and imperial family.
  • Marie-Louise was daughter of Archduke Francis of Austria and his second wife, Maria Theresa of Naples and Sicily. Her father became Holy Roman Emperor as Francis II. Marie-Louise was a great-granddaughter of Empress Maria Theresa through her father and thus a great niece of Marie Antoinette. She was also a maternal granddaughter of Queen Maria Carolina of Naples, Marie Antoinette’s favorite sister.
  • Marie-Louise’s formative years overlapped with a period of conflict between France and her family. She was brought up to detest France and French ideas but became an obedient wife and settled in quickly in the French court. Napoleon initially remarked that he had “married a womb,” but their relationship soon matured.
  • Despite the initial excitement and peace over the marriage and resulting alliance between the two long-time enemies, France and Austria soon engaged in another military conflict. Until Napoleon’s abdication and exile, the marriage between him and Marie-Louise was always shaped by European politics.
  • Although Marie-Louise did not join her husband in exile and returned to Vienna, she remained loyal to her husband.
Full name
GermanMaria Ludovica Leopoldina Franziska Therese Josepha Lucia
ItalianMaria Luigia Leopoldina Francesca Teresa Giuseppa Lucia


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