Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Great Enterprise

I've always wanted to tackle or, more accurately, dissect and discuss, the Royal Family's famed June 1791 attempted escape from what was essentially captivity in the Tuileries Palace in Paris.  The topic has seemed too large for me to do it justice, but I have a new book that's so fascinating that my already tenuous hold on my mental health pretty much depends upon me getting this all out of my head.

So, plan is:  I'll take it chapter by chapter and just write at will.  I'll think of my new project as "The Great Enterprise" which is how the escape plan is referred to on the night of the departure by Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Comte and Comtesse de Provence when they met for dinner hours before they set off.

Lenôtre also wrote Paris in the Revolution which, I've mentioned, includes detailed, very detailed, descriptions of places and situations.  His quest for exactitude absolutely speaks to my soul.  I so need to understand EXACTLY.  It's a little quirk I have.  So, I'm totally psyched to be reading primary source details about the flight to (rather, that prematurely ended in) Varennes and the prospect of recording them here.  Maybe then I'll be able to sleep at night.







Sunday, December 28, 2014

Château de Digoine

Architectural Digest December 2014 issue features a spread on a newly restored Burgundy château owned by a French television producer slash collector whose choices reflect a love of history not merely of monetary value nor beauty.  Pardon me for being so crass as to bring up money, but maybe Hollywood should rethink salaries.  According to the article, the producer, Jean-Louis Remilleux came from "modest circumstances."  He's come a long way.  I haven't seen the homes of Tom Hanks nor Stanley Kubrick, but doubt they measure up.  The French producer knows how to spend it well, though.  Architectural Digest quotes him, "I have a nostalgia for a time I never experienced... Antiques are not dead things.  They teach us a lot about how we lived and thought." He completed this little fixer upper in a year and said of his "addiction," "it's cheaper than cocaine and better for my health."

Remilleux lives in the château, but parts of it are open for visitors. How spectacular!  If Burgundy were within walking distance of Paris, I'd love to take the tour. Damn my navigation limitations!  I'd love to see the Marie Antoinette room with its Alexander Kucharsky "image" (that makes me wonder whether or not it's an original) of the Queen mourning Louis XVI.  It's mentioned in the article, but not represented in the photos.




The canapé beneath the mirror belonged to Madame Geoffrin in whose salon gathered the brilliant artists, politicians and intellectuals of the 18th century.  If only furniture could speak...






The bed once belonged to famous French Revolutionary Madame Roland. Its setting at Château de Digoine is more sumptuous than that in her relatively humble home would've been.  I wonder what Madame Roland would've thought had she known where her bed would end up.  I bet she'd have feigned indignation, but strutted, internally.

Treat yourself to this Architectural Digest article with its sumptuous photographs of the home and collection and interview with the château's owner, Jean-Louis Remilleux.  If you're like me, reading it and viewing the pictures will provide a character-building, envy-squelching opportunity.

Thanks to Tea at Trianon blog for bringing the article to my attention.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas Vacation

Christmas 2014 is over, but I still have a week of vacation left and our children are still home.


Wreath is slightly off-center.  Par for the course.  So close, yet so far away, Madeleine.  And, what's with the unlit colored lights string?  Actually, this is an old picture.  The porch looked better this year.  Still, if I don't stop looking at Southern Living before the holidays, implement a suicide watch next November.



Elf ornament from my childhood Christmas tree
Elf on a Shelf's Grandpa




This was Jessi's fifteenth year of tearing wrapping paper off her Christmas stuffed animal with her teeth before gnawing it until the squeaker falls out and we have to snatch it up before she chokes on her gift.


We had Christmas morning at about two p.m., because first we had to go to the barn.



My French toast casserole was a triumph.  

The smell of spray starch evoked memories of 
Dessi ironing my older brother's Norfolk Catholic button down shirts 
and made ironing my mother's linen napkins feel like an honor.


Micah and Shuyang wrapping gifts



Watching Shuyang hang her first Christmas ornament was a great, but hearing her giggle at her first viewing of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation was even better.



David



Terry and Jessi




Blog Fuel

Heath Lee, author of an upcoming book about POW wives/fellow French fanatic/new friend, sent me a package of French treats - the book about Josephine, a small book about French style, and a pin - for no reason... just because she's awesome.

My brother, Michael, knowing my close ties with Virginia Beach, sent me a book that features VB postcards - very cool and sentimental.  

David, English major son and newly robed lawyer, who shares my love of words and compulsion (before I got lazy, bc no one reads my words anyway) for finding just the right word, gave me Garner's Modern American Usage - sure to lead me to words that provide the satisfying mental click that occurs when I'm able to express myself exactly as I'd like. 

Micah, daughter who knows me like a well-read book, selected an assortment of especially significant blog posts - on family, horses, childhood, history - and had them made into a book. Nothing could have meant more to me both for the motive and the content.  She said all the time she spent putting it together was the reason she got an A and two Bs, rather than the three As she wanted, when grades came out.

Listen to Your Mother




~ Marie Antoinette at about the age at which she wrote the Count Rosenberg letter ~

It pains me to acknowledge that Marie Antoinette wasn't perfect.  

But, so what, who likes perfect people anyway?  

Her tendency toward mockery and cattiness reached back to her childhood in Vienna and was no secret to her mother.  That irreverent spirit may've been one of the characteristics Empress Maria Theresa had in mind when she wrote to Louis XV, Marie Antoinette's future father-in-law, requesting patience for the fourteen year old archduchess who would soon be in his care... "Her intentions are excellent, but given her age, I pray you to exercise indulgence for any careless mistake."  The Empress had tried to nip that playful mischief in the bud by separating her youngest daughter from her sidekick, the Empress' second youngest daughter,  Maria Carolina, in the children's wing of the palace.

It was one thing, though, to hear through the grapevine that her daughter, the Dauphine, then Queen of France, giggled with her ladies over the nicknames she assigned various members of her household.  It was entirely different when Marie Antoinette wrote to Count Rosenberg, an old friend of the Austrian Imperial family, bragging that she'd manipulated her husband, the King of France, the poor man, "le pauvre homme," into giving her permission to meet with the duc de Choiseul.  The letter is an illuminating example of her interference in the workings at court, as well, as she told him of her machinations regarding the appointment of her close friend, Princesse de Lamballe to a post that should've, by tradition, gone to another family.   

Marie Antoinette to Count Rosenberg, 13 July 1775

I was not at my ease, Monsieur, when I wrote you my last letter because it was to go by post.  I must go all the way back to M. d'Auguillon's departure to give you a full account of my behavior.  That departure is altogether my work.  I had had enough;  that nasty man kept all sorts of spying and unpleasant talk.  He tried to brave me more than once in the business of M. de Guines;  immediately after the judgement, I asked the King for his removal.  It is true I didn't want to use a lettre de cachet, be he gained nothing by this because instead of staying in Touraine, as he wanted to do, he was asked to keep going all the way to Aiguillon, which is in Gascony.

You may have heard about the audience I gave the duc de Choiseul at Rheims.  People have talked about it so much that I wouldn't be surprised if old Maurepas was afraid he was going to be sent home for a rest.  You may well believe that I didn't see him without first telling the King, but you will never guess the stratagem I used not to look as if I were asking for his permission.  I told him that I felt like seeing M. de Choiseul and that I was only puzzled about the day.  I managed it so well that the poor man settled himself the hour at which it would be most convenient for me to see him.  I think I used my prerogative as a woman to the full.

At last we are going to be rid of M. de la Vrillièrre.  Although he was hard of hearing, he still heard that it was time he left, for fear he might find the door locked against him.  He will be replaced by M. de Malesherbes...

I have made a great loss... in Mme de Cossé...  Mme de Chimay has replaced her. 

I have quite another project in mind.  The maréchale de Mouchy will be leaving, I'm told.  I do not know who I will take in her place;  but I have asked the King to take advantage of this change to appoint Mme de Lamballe as Superintendent.  Imagine how happy I am;  I will make my intimate friend happy and will enjoy it even more than she.  This is a secret;  I am not yet telling the Empress. Only the Emperor knows;  insist that he tell no one - you can easily see why..."

Count Rosenberg was horrified by the Queen's casual disrespect for the King and passed the letter on to her mother who wrote her a reproachful letter two weeks later.

Empress Maria Theresa


Maria Thesesa to Marie Antoinette, 30 July 1775

Madame my dear daughter,

The courier goes a day earlier as it is carrying money to the [Austrian] Netherlands;  I wanted to tell you at the earliest possible opportunity how the too magnificent present of the hair of my dear children pleased me;  it is perfectly worked and does honor to the artisans of Paris and to my dear daughter, who wanted to treat her old Mama.

But how little that pleasure lasted!  I cannot hide from you that a letter you sent to Rosenberg upset me most dreadfully.  What style!  What frivolity!  Where is the kind and generous heart of the Archduchess Antoinette?  All I see is intrigue, low hatred, a persecuting spirit, and cheap wit - intrigue of a sort a Pompadour or a Barry would have indulged in so as to play a great role, something which is utterly unfitting for a Queen, a great Princess of the House of Lorraine and Austrin, who should be full of kindness and decency.  Your too early successes and your entourage of flatterers have always made me fear for you, ever since that winter when you wallowed in pleasures and ridiculous fashions.  Those excursions from pleasure to pleasure without the King and in the knowledge that he doesn't enjoy them and that he either accompanies you or leaves you free out of sheer good nature - all that causes me to mention in my letters justified concern.  Now I see it all too confirmed by your letter.

What a tone!  "The poor man!"  Where is the respect and the gratitude you owe him for all his kindness?  I leave you to your own thoughts and say no more, although there would be much more to be said.

Nor do I mention the secret you are trying to keep in regard to your appointment of the Lamballe.  I wrote you what I did for your own good.  Two Piedmontese sisters-in-law, one of which has provided an heir to the throne, and the other leading the wisest and quietest life which earns the approval of all sensible people, and all foreigners, and you want your Superintendent to be another Piedmontese?...

Your happiness can vanish all too fast, and you may be plunged, by your own doing, into the greatest calamities.  This is the result of your terrible dissipation, which prevents your being assiduous about anything serious.  What have you read?  And, after that, you dare to opine on the greatest State matters, on the choice of ministers?  What does the abbé do?  And Mercy?  It seems to me that you dislike them because instead of behaving like low flatterers, they want you to be happy and do not amuse you or take advantage of your weaknesses.  You will realize all this one day but it will be too late.  I hope not to survive that dreadful time, and I pray to God that He end my days sooner, since can no longer help you but cannot bear to lose or watch the sufferings of my dear child, whom I will love dearly till my last breath."

For the record, mother wasn't above pressuring daughter to use those feminine wiles to get what mother wanted from Louis XVI.  Nor was she, early on, above showing a lack of respect for him in her letters.  All the same, Marie Antoinette's life would've probably ended differently had she heeded her mother's warnings.

I have Marie Antoinette's and Maria Therese's correspondence in book form, because I prefer holding a book in my hand to reading one on a screen, but some of their letters (among others) can also be found at this website.  You could also order Secrets of Marie Antoinette, by Olivier Bernier on Amazon.com  which contains the expanded collection.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Wandering around France with Keeper


My little dog's name is Keeper, because when I tasked Micah with finding me a puppy ("You know what I like, go find me a puppy.") the summer before she went away to college, she found two.  I took them both home overnight to get to know them better and kept this one.  Thus, the name.  He's half Bichon Frise and half Shih Tzu.   Mind wandering, habitually looking to snag a French angle, I thought maybe I should've named him Bijoux - French for jewelry, and a combination of his two breeds, sort of.  Bi Tzu.  We could call him Bee.  

That led wandering mind to G. Fouquet's early 20th century art nouveau jewelry store relocated from Rue St. Honore to Musée Carnavalet in Paris and the day I visited it with my sister-in-law, Michele, in March 2012.  



The design of the fashionable store was as much a showpiece as the jewelry they displayed.  
Not my style, but interesting.


Michele peeking out the front door of the reconstructed jewelry store.  








*********************************************************************************

While we're on the subject of jewelry, this is our March 2013 private Versailles guide and a mock-up of the Queen's famous necklace, that of the Diamond Necklace Affair.  It was in one of the rooms on our back room tour of the chateau.  I love the expression on the guide's face.  Serious about the subject.  She liked us, because we (Elissa and I) were serious and she could tell that we know more about French history than the average tourist.  I hung on her every word and dragged as many out of her as possible.




She seems to be saying, "Now let me get this just right." which I appreciate.

The Diamond Necklace Affair story is outlandish, by any standards.  As convoluted and outrageous as it was, it was damaging and was an important step stone toward the French Revolution and the demise of Bourbon Monarchy.

Gossip and slanderous libelles had so sullied Marie Antoinette's image that when she unknowingly became a central player in a scam involving...

1) a royal descendant born into poverty turned prostitute/con artist
2) a fabulously wealthy, well-connected Cardinal de Rohan, former ambassador to Marie Antoinette's mother's Viennese Court where his immoral and disrespectful behavior earned him the eternal disdain of mother and daughter
3) the royal jewelers Boehmer and Bessange who created, at the request of the previous king for his mistress, a monstrosity of a diamond necklace, that they peddled, unsuccessfully, to the world's rich and royal
4) an occultist named Cagliostro who claimed to have been reincarnated
5) random other oddball characters

.... people found it conceivable that it was true.  Some of those that knew it wasn't true nevertheless relished seeing their enemy Queen unfairly persecuted.

A few of the tantalizing scenes that captivated Paris' attention for months...

1)  The queen's routine burning of a note from the jewelers asking for payment for a necklace she hadn't purchased
2)  The Cardinal's arrest, in his pontifical robes, as he prepared to say Mass at Versailles
3)  The Cardinal's secretary's speedy and surreptitious burning of incriminating evidence as instructed by scribbled note penned by a panicked Cardinal
4)  a prostitute/Queen lookalike hired at the Palais Royale,  den of iniquity/residence of the King's traitorous cousin, the duc d'Orleans
5)  said prostitute, not fully aware of the significance of her role, impersonating the Queen in the garden of Versailles
6)  the Cardinal living in relative luxury in the Bastille while his powerful family stood shoulder to shoulder in his defense
7) Jeanne de la Motte's public branding after the Parlement de Paris trial and her subsequent descriptive pornographic publications describing fictional Versailles orgies and such

Though Marie Antoinette was completely innocent, the accusations were believable enough to a public who'd been fed a steady diet of mistruths and exaggerations - some of which were rooted in Marie Antoinette's frivolous behavior.

You might enjoy this cohesive summary of the famous story.  If you really enjoy it, let me know.  I'm always in the market for a new best friend.

I could wander on and on about this for hours, but will wrap this up with something I read somewhere (in the book "Marie Antoinette:  The Journey by Antonia Fraser, I think).  Its slightly raunchy tone might be the reason no one has ever acknowledged the humor I see in the story. Whenever I've gotten up the nerve to relate it, listeners seem to cringe a bit.  Not all that much more than they cringe when I summon the courage to tell any French Revolution anecdote, though, so maybe it's not too offensive.  During the 18th century there was a popular style of very long necklace often gifted to mistresses by their aristocratic lovers.  They were called "la rivière" (the river) because they appeared to flow to their source.  That's pretty clever, I think.  Also, the French word for jewelry, "bijoux," is French slang along the lines of "the family (female) jewels."  Libelists and cartoonists of the Diamond Necklace Affair era gleefully used the play on words when linking the diamond necklace to Marie Antoinette.

And, on that note, I'll wander away...




"You asked me what I want this year..."




Sunday, December 14, 2014


 One hundred fiftieth year of Christmas wreaths at Arlington



And, now my father beside her, gravestone not yet laid.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Fabric of my Family

For some years, until David was in junior high and basketball began to interfere with vacations, we often spent a week or so at Terry's parents' cabin in Ruidoso, NM, during the summer. When I say cabin, I mean one that was built during the Depression by an uncle who needed a place to live.  One that has no running water.   I loved it.  Coal Miner's Daughter, Amish, are my preferred way of life. Or so I tell myself until something shiny catches my eye on Ebay.




A real honest-to-goodness log cabin.  Side view.  Terry and me by the front door on the right.



Looking at old pictures, I'm always struck by the clear remembrance of textures.  The first thing that comes to mind when I look at an old picture, even some from fifty years ago, is how the different items felt to the touch.  




 Occasionally, we left the relative safety of the cabin and camped, in an old Army tent, on Monjeau (a mountain).  This picture doesn't make clear how terrified I was all that night with nothing between us and a serial killer but a thick, musty-smelling, army drab colored tent. And, Terry's .45 which he carried tucked in his pants.

I'd just read A Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule - about Ted Bundy - and the most innocuous hiker seemed like a psychopath ready to make us headline news.


On this day, Micah and Terry climbed a huge outcropping of rocks with a dangerous drop and a spectacular view.  We normally did, too, but that year David and I stayed with our dog, Buster, at the bottom.   Terry took a picture of Micah standing with her head thrown back, eyes closed and arms spread wide.  She wrote a story about that day for a 4th or 5th grade assignment that Fall in which she poured all the feelings, that are evident on her face, onto the page.  I was going to add it to the blog, but pulled it out of a scrapbook and discovered it's six pages long.  It ends with "My dad and I stood up and together, hand in hand, and began the steep decline down The Rock.  I will never forget that wonderful moment." and her teacher's comment, "This is a masterful narrative, Micah.  What a wonderful talent you have!! A+ 100"



The Monk and Big Bunny, behind us on the bottom bunk, make frequent appearances in vacation pictures.  Travel light, we don't.

Some of my favorite memories of Ruidoso, and of my children's childhood, in general, are of reading aloud to Terry and the kids at night.  There's a Texas Library Assoc. list of recommended school age books called the Texas Bluebonnet Award list- they're all so great - though, sometimes, I thought, maybe kind of heavy and thought-provoking for children. We read them anyway. So good!  Oh, that reminds me of how much I loved school book fairs!  I wonder if elementary schools still have book fairs.  And, when I was in elementary school myself, how much I loved the Scholastic book order. Makes my heart pound just to think of it!

For Ruidoso, I chose titles like Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls and Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare, that fit the setting.  My reading aloud skills have disintegrated with disuse, but I used to be pretty good according to my audience.



This is David on what may've been his first trip to the cabin.  One of my favorite pictures of him - with his DD towel.  It was monogrammed with D's, the set a wedding gift, and David eventually pulled all the monogram threads out, leaving a rough, knobby section of material.  I still have that towel. Terry's parents were with us as evidenced by the dominoes on the table, an interrupted game of the West Texas staple, "Forty-Two." I love the simple furniture in the cabin.  Straight out of the 40's or 50's, I'd guess.



Micah, wearing the sweatshirt David is wearing in the picture, above, of him holding his towel (he called it a "tadder") in the kitchen.  We're sitting by Eagle Creek which is, I think, my favorite place to hike in Ruidoso.  That water is icy cold and the kids always stripped down to their underwear and played in it and loved for Terry to hold them upside down and dunk their heads in it.

A good friend from Norfolk visited me in San Francisco after I first got married.  At first, really, the main thing we had in common was that we'd shared a boyfriend, off and on.  But, we began to correspond after I moved away and became good friends and she came to stay with me.  In fact, she visited twice, the second time drove with us to Lubbock when we moved there from SF.  Anyway, she and I both bought the shirt I'm wearing in the above - me in red and her in blue - in SF.  It was the best shirt I've ever owned.  We recently got back in touch (through fb, naturally) and both talked about how soft and comfortable it was.


David, a picnic, a book, Oreos, and velour.  I still have his little tennis shoes, too, with holes in the toes from pushing himself and stopping himself on a little riding toy back home.



Monjeau lookout.  Don't judge me for that fanny pack.  I wish those things weren't pariahs now.  I'd love to wear one in Paris.  So handy.

Micah wearing more of David's hand-me-downs on the same Oreo picnic...  Though it's not my favorite very baby picture of her, it's one of my favorites of us together.  Easy to see why.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

New York, November 2014



Instead of responding to the frequent Bag Lady refrain, Micah attempts to take the situation in hand and provides calming step-by-step directions from Newark's airport to Penn Station.  She skipped a step, a stop and train change, but amended directions and I got there safe and sound.  She and her friend, Elizabeth, met me at Penn Station and, from then on, I was in her good hands.

In no particular order, here are a few of the things we did...


... went to two law school classes - primary impression:  NYU law professors are intelligent, 
articulate and their vocabularies are um, what's the word..., um, better, uh, way better than mine




...went to Washington Square Park which used to remind me of a Simon and Garfunkel song.   Then, I learned that in the 17th century, the Dutch freed slaves (but not the slaves' children) on the condition that they live on the property surrounding their settlement.  Compassion wasn't their motive.  The freed slaves served as a human buffer between the settlers and those pesky Native Americans who wanted to reclaim the property, now known as Washington Square Park, that the Dutch had stolen from them.  Plus,  20,000 18th century yellow fever victims are buried under the park. All that death really brought the place to life for me.

This is one of my favorite Simon and Garfunkel songs, The Only Living Boy in NY.  I love my memories of singing Simon and Garfunkel songs with David while he plays guitar.


Micah, Haley, and I went to Michael's, the store, and bought craft supplies. 



I love these girls.  Haley visited us last Christmas break.  Her stay must not've been a disaster because she already has reservations to come again this year.   She's one of my all-time favorites among Micah's friends, partly because she exhibits the beautiful quality of looking beyond the obvious in people and situations to understand who they are and why they are as they are.  I love that in a person.  



We went to see Maury and Rachael who just moved to New Jersey, right across the river from NYC.  And, they just had my brother, Michael's first grandchild, Maury, Jr., whom I met for the first time.
 







David, do you see the resemblance between Kevin and your new 2nd cousin?



We ate out and ordered in.


 

We went to the Met...




... where I saw the original of this famous David painting of Antoine Lavoisier and his wife, Marie-Anne.  Lavoisier is known as the Father of Chemistry.  They married when she was 13 years old and he, 28, at the request of her father who wanted to spare her the other option of marrying a man three times her age.  After they married, she was his lab assistant and helpmate.  He was guillotined during the French Revolution.  She remarried, but insisted on keeping his name to honor him.  Jacques-Louis David, who painted this portrait, later voted for Lavoisier's death.  Marie-Anne's father was guillotined the same day as her husband, so I presume David voted for his death, too.


I'd never seen this before.:  The Public Viewing of David's "Coronation" at the Louvre 
by Louis Leopold Boilly

Eh, it was okay, but not a David.  This coming from someone whose artistic skill is limited to a square house with four square window, a rectangular door, a triangular roof and a chimney.  My usual doodling of choice. Analyze that.  Art references remind me of a line in the Denzel Washington movie, Man on Fire: "His art is death and he's about to paint his masterpiece."  Another great line from that moive, "Revenge is a meal best served cold."  Before you get the notion that I have a memory for movie plots or quotes, keep in mind that I saw Man on Fire this afternoon.  









Thursday, November 27, 2014

Sibling Rivalry and Subject Rambling



Parenting gone awry:  armed adult children in the living room
But, they're getting along well, so mission accomplished.


Before I launch off into what's really a mediocre anecdote about royal sibling rivalry, here are two sample pages from "Siblings Without Rivalry," a book that will bring back fond memories for my children.  Haha. There was another book with the unwieldy title "How to Talk so Children will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk," by the same team, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.  I almost credit (blame?) them for my parenting beliefs. Them (they?) and La Leche League.  Left to rely on my own instincts, I'd have been an impatient, sarcastic, yeller - a direct result of my disadvantaged childhood in a home with four brutish (well, two of the four, anyway) older brothers. 

Not only did I read the books and train myself to think and speak more sensitively, when David and Micah fought or got jealous of each other when they were very young, sometimes I'd sentence them to reading the book.

Encouraging them to express their feelings and opinions has come back to bite me many times, but they're exceedingly delighted that I did.  They took the philosophy and ran with it, sometimes leaving footprints imbedded in me.  (That reminds me of a commercial for a new detective tv show that I heard on the radio the other day.:  sample dialog, disembodied voice, deadpan, "The fatal wound was that of a stiletto heel."  Cue crazy female laughter.)


Download the FREE pdf of Siblings Without Rivalry, if you'd like.

Or, "How to Talk to Kids so Kids will Listen..."HERE.

So, anyway, the not wildly exciting, yet importanttomadeleine, Marie Antoinette sibling rivalry anecdote...

Marie Antoinette was one of sixteen children born to the Empress Maria Theresa and Francis I. Within the brood, there were the usual rivalries, alliances, jealousies.  Show me a passel of kids and I'll show you rivalry.

One of the eleven sisters, Maria Christina, was especially resented, because she was the Empress' favorite and she, alone, was allowed to marry for love.  Throughout their lives, she seemed to lord her favored status over her siblings.  Marie Antoinette, as Dauphine, then as Queen of France, was forever blaming Maria Christina for passing on gossip - true and untrue - about her to their mother. (The blame was deserved, but her advisor, Count Mercy Argenteau, was more often the culprit.) When Maria Christina visited Versailles, Marie Antoinette made herself scarce as much as possible, didn't invite her to the Petit Trianon and, oh, the pain of it, didn't present her with her personal symbol of affection, a scrapbook of her visit. 

Another of the sisters, Maria Carolina (the third Maria Carolina named thus after two who'd died) was only slightly older than Marie Antoinette and the two were especially close.  So close and so mischievous that they had to be separated as children.  When she was sixteen, Maria Carolina was married off to Ferdinand IV after his original fiancée, her older sister, Maria Josepha, died from smallpox (see Post Script, below) on what would've been her wedding day.

Catherine Hyde, servant to Princesse Lamballe and editor of her journal, (maybe... see Post Post Script, below) relates a task she was assigned -  the delivery of letters to Marie Antoinette's and Princesse de Lamballes' family and friends.  She describes the reactions of Marie Antoinette's sisters, Maria Christina, Duchesse of Parma and Maria Carolina, Queen of Naples, each recipients of letters.

Shortly before the October 10 invasion of the Tuileries, the Princesse de Lamballe, Princess Elizabeth and Marie Antoinette each entrusted a packet of letters to Miss Hyde to be secreted out of Paris for delivery to friends and family.  With the words, "Tell my sisters the state of Paris.  Inform them of our cruel situation.  Describe the riots and convulsions you have seen.  Above all, assure them how dear they are to me, and how much I love them.," Marie Antoinette handed over the letters and threw herself on the sofa in tears.  

Miss Hyde was given the Queen's cipher for use in decoding the letters and gifts of a gold watch, chain, and seals from Marie Antoinette and, from the Princesse de Lamballe, a pocketbook of gold enamel with the word "Souvineer" in diamonds on one side and the Princesse's initials on the other. Her explicit travel instructions included telling no one of her route, traveling via coach not her own, writing to no one of her plans, procuring a passport and avoiding Danton who would recognize her.  

While Miss Hyde traveled, the invasion of the Tuileries occurred, after which the Royal Family was moved to the Temple prison.  It was a tragic turning point about which Miss Hyde observed, "There wasn't a feeling heart in Europe unmoved at their afflicting situation."  She goes on to say, "It would be uncandid in me to be silent concerning the marked difference I found in the two royal sisters of Her Majesty."




Maria Christina, Duchesse of Parma, the imperious much older sister





Maria Christina, Duchesse of Parma

"I had never had the honor before to execute any commissions for her royal highness the Duchess of Parma, and, of course, took that city in my way to Naples....  I did not reach Parma till after the horrors which had taken place at the Tuileries on the 10th of August, 1792.  The whole of the Royal Family of France were then lodged in the Temple." 

"I arrived at Colorno, the country residence of the Duchesse of Parma, just as her royal highness was going out on horseback....  I ordered my servant to inform one of the pages, that I came by express from Paris, and requested the honour to know when it would be convenient for her royal highness to allow me a private audience, as I was going, post haste, to Rome and Naples. Of course, I did not choose to tell my business either to my own or her royal highness's servant, being in honour and duty bound to deliver the letter and the verbal message of her then truly unfortunate sister, in person and in privacy. The mention of Paris, I saw, somewhat startled and confused her. Meantime, she came near enough to my carriage for me to say to her in German, in order that none of  the servants, French or Italian, might understand, that I had a letter to deliver into her own hands, without saying from whom. She then desired I would alight, and she soon followed me; and after having very graciously ordered me some refreshments, asked me from whom I had been sent. I delivered her majesty's letter. Before she opened it, she exclaimed, " O Dio! .... Oh, God ! all is lost, it is too late !" I then gave her the cipher and the key. In a few minutes I enabled her to decipher the letter.  On getting through it, she again exclaimed, "E tutto inutile! it is entirely useless ! I am afraid they are all lost. I am sorry you are so situated as not to allow of your remaining here to rest from your fatigue. Whenever you come to Parma, I shall be glad to see you." 

"She then took out her pocket handkerchief, shed a few tears, and said, that as circumstances were now so totally changed, to answer the letter might only commit her, her sister, and myself; but that if affairs took the turn she wished, no doubt, her sister would write again. She then mounted her horse, and wished me a good journey; and 1 took leave, and set off for Rome. I must confess, that the conduct of the Duchess of Parma appeared to me rather cold, if not unfeeling. Perhaps she was afraid of showing too much emotion, and wished to encourage the idea, that princesses ought not to give way to sensibility, like common mortals. "


Maria Carolina, Queen of Naples




Maria Carolina, Queen of Naples

"But how different was the conduct of the Queen of Naples! She kissed the letter: she bathed it with her tears ! Scarcely could she allow herself time to decipher it. At every sentence she exclaimed,
"Oh, my dear, oh, my adored sister! What will become of her!  My brothers are now both no more! Surely she will soon be liberated!" Then, turning suddenly to me, she asked with eagerness, " Do you not think she will? Oh, Maria, Maria! why did she not fly to Vienna ? Why did she not come to me instead of writing ? Tell me, for God's sake, all you know!"

"Oh, God of Heaven!" cried the queen- "All that dear family may ere now have been murdered! Perhaps, they are already numbered among the dead! Oh, my poor, dear, beloved Maria! Oh, I shall go frantic! I must send for General Acton." Wringing her hands, she pulled the bell, and in a few minutes the general came. On his entering the apartment, she flew to him like one deprived of reason. " There!" exclaimed she. "There! Behold the fatal consequences! " howing him the letter." Louis the XVI is in the state of Charles the First of England, and my sister will certainly be murdered." "No, no, no!" exclaimed the general. "Something will be done. Calm yourself, madam," Then, turning to me. "When," said he, "did you leave Paris ?" "When all was lost!" interrupted the queen. "Nay," cried the general; "pray let me speak. All is not lost, you will find: have but a little patience."  "Patience!" said the queen. " For two years I have heard of nothing else. Nothing has been done for these unfortunate beings." She then threw herself into a chair. "Tell him!" cried she to me: "tell him! tell him!"

At this point, the Queen of Parma collapses and is put to bed and Catherine Hyde discusses the situation with the General until he tells that she doesn't look well and insists she not continue her journey until she's rested.  She, ill with fever and exhaustion, takes his advice.  She's confined to bed for days where she's cared for by Maria Carolina's servants.

Catherine Hyde recorded the account of the difference in the manner of Marie Antoinette's two sisters upon receipt of their respective last letters, in her notes when she published the journal of her mistress, the Princesse de Lamballe.  She closes the subject with these words.:

"I was certainly somewhat prepared for a difference of feeling between the two princesses, as the unfortunate Maria Antoinette, in the letters to the Queen of Naples, always wrote, "to my much beloved sister, the Queen of the two Sicilies, &c," and to the other, merely, " to the Duchess of Parma, &c." But I could never have dreamt of a difference so little flattering, under such circumstances, to the Duchess of Parma."



Maria Carolina, at about the time she receives the letter from Marie Antoinette
 Vigée Le Brun, 1791


P. S.
Rather dramatic story on Maria Josepha's death...  Just as she was preparing to journey to her wedding, her mother, the formidable Empress Maria Theresa, insisted that she go down into the family crypt and pray at the tomb of her sister-in-law, a recently deceased victim of smallpox.  The story is that Maria Josepha contracted the disease because the tomb was improperly sealed, but Europe was in the clutches of a smallpox epidemic and she'd recently been inoculated.  She died within days, on what what have been her wedding date. I read that she began to show signs earlier than the incubation period would've allowed had her exposure been a result of the trip to the vault, but, at the time, that was the belief.

P. S. S.
Miss Hyde, supposed journal editor, is a mysterious, shadowy figure.   I've never, knowingly, encountered her in anything except for said journal.  A journal, published more than thirty years after the fact, which may or may not be apocryphal.  It's good reading with its anecdotes (some of which correspond with accepted historical facts) and its insider's view (most of which is unsubstantiated). It's certainly not impossible that the identity of a woman whose job it was to deliver secret information and secret correspondence, run secret errands, surreptitiously gather secrets from the streets, take part in what amounted to a counter revolution, could be lost to history.  If she existed, her job description necessitated flying under the radar.  There must've been many low profile players in the drama whose identities aren't corroborated and have been lost to history.  So, did Miss Hyde exist?  Maybe.  Was the journal based on the Princesse's writings?  Maybe.