Versailles, and Madame Elizabeth!

I can’t help been a lover of travel fares to indulge on history. It is rather condense and long, but writing about a wonderful personage of my Versailles merits an effort. I will tell the story of Madame Elizabeth. One of my favorite personalities of the history of Versailles and France and have visited her places several times.

Élisabeth Philippine Marie Hélène de France, dite Madame Élisabeth, was born May 3 1764 in Versailles and baptised at the Royal Chapel in the castle in the presence of her grandfather king Louis XV, and her grandmother the queen Marie Lesczynska  ; as well as the godparents the princess and her uncle Felipe I of Spain duke of Parma and her godmother the great aunt Elizabeth Farnese, princess of Parma that gives her the name and represented there as well by Marie-Adelaide de France daughter of Louis XV. She is registered in the Church collegiale of Notre Dame. She died under the abusive guillotine on May 10 1794 in the revolution square today Place de la Concorde. She was the 8th and last children of the dauphin Louis Ferdinand and Marie Josephe de Saxe, and sister of king Louis XVI.

She was imprisoned in 1792 same time as the king and ask to present in front of the revolutionary tribunal under the terror and ordered to be executed ,simply for defending her brother. Recognised by her piety and acts of charity as well as her death associated as a martyr she was declared a Servant of God by the Catholic Church in 1953.

Early on she is left orphan after the death of her father from tuberculosis and the two years after the mother. Both of them only 36 years old leaving five children including the oldest at 13 the future king Louis XVI.

Madame Elizabeth received an excellent education and is interested in the arts. Where she is introduce to the arts by her nanny The countess de Marsan along with her older sister Madame Clotilde (by 6 yrs). With great influence from her Aunts she follows a Catholic course of great piety and devotion while at the same time certain liberties.

On May 10 1774 the king Louis XV died and Louis-Auguste at the age of 19 yrs old becomes king Louis XVI. The education of Madame Elizabeth changed to a new nanny that of Baroness de Mackau that gains her confidence as well as her own daughter. Shortly, after the coronation, the older sister Madame Clotilde is married to the Prince of Piemont ,leaving for Turin, and the young Elizabeth finds herself alone in Versailles at the age of 11. At age 15, she obtained the ok to have her own house and proper revenues from the court.

In 1783, the king offered her the Domaine de Montreuil, purchased from the Rohan-Guéméné and located in the village of Montreuil not far from the Château de Versailles. Now it is a district of Versailles well praise and the home sits in a lovely park still named the Domaine de Montreuil. From 1784 to the revolution, major reconstruction and development work was undertaken. The buildings are rebuilt in the neo-classical taste and the gardens in the Anglo-Chinese taste then in vogue (dummy cave, streams, waterfall, etc.). Some of the cabinetry work in the house is now display in the  Louvre Museum and the Nissim-de-Camondo museum of Paris.
Madame Elisabeth will be close to her sister-in-law Queen Marie AntoinetteFavorable to smallpox, which allows to guard against smallpox, a deadly and frequent contagious disease, which affects all the layers of the population, leaving the best of horrible scars on the face, she calls her doctor. The latter is surprised to find her surrounded by her ladies, but also by the peasants of her land, who can thus gracefully benefit from the progress of medicine. She, also deprived herself for four years of the gifts which the king gave him so that one of his ladies in her entouraged, Mademoiselle de Causans, could constitute the dowry necessary for her marriage with the Marquis of Raigecourt, a gentleman from Lorraine, of whom she was in love.
On May 3, 1789, Madame Elisabeth  reached the legal age majority. The next day she attends the Church of Saint Louis de Versailles at the opening of the general states.  On 4 June 1789, the dauphin (heir to the throne) died at the age of 7 years at the Château de Meudon.  Madame Elisabeth  approached the Queen, her sister-in-law, to support the king. On October 6, 1789 , the Royal family is forcibly brought back by the people to Paris.  While, she could easily withdrawed to the Bellevue Castle near Meudon, she chose to share the fate of her brother. The princess (Madame Elizabeth)  adopted an ultra position, without any concession to the supporters of a constitutional monarchy.  As early as 1790, she supported the principle of an alliance of emigrants with the foreign powers which it awaited salvation. Through the Count of Virieu, among others, she regularly corresponded with the count of Artois, his brother, who emigrated to Turin and then to Koblenz, whose ideas she shared.
One of her letters to the Count of Artois  (Louis XVI brother; and later Louis XVIII) was discovered one day on an officer who carried it, and the missive was given for examination at the National Assembly. Princess Elisabeth said of the king that he was allowed to be led by his ministers sold to the Assembly, and that there was nothing to be hoped for without outside help. She recommended to the Count of Artois to act by himself, committing him to put the other sovereigns of Europe in their interests, for, she said, Louis XVI is so weak that he would sign his own condemnation if required of him.  She also objected to the civil constitution of the clergy and to any measure that diminished the royal prerogatives or those of the Church. The Aunts and nannies ladies went for the papal states in 1791 and offer the niece to accompany them; however, Madame Elizabeth once again choose to stay with the Royal couple. She followed her brother and sister-in-law on the foiled flight to Montmédy on June 20, 1791.
When the king was suspended by the legislature on August 10, 1792 and dethroned a month later, the assembly decreed that  Louis Capet (Louis XVI), his wife(Marie-Antoinette)  and children (Louis-Charles and Marie-Thérèse), as well as Elisabeth, would be detained until further notice at the Temple prison.  A letter from the Marquise de Bombelles  informed by her daughter, Madame Alissa de Chazt, who secretly communicates with the prisoners , gives this news to the Marquis de Raigecourt, husband of her best friend:
“I had as you the same information about our unfortunate princess, her thinness is, it is said, scary, but religion supports her, and she is the consoling angel of the Queen, of her children;” Let us hope that she and hers will not succumb to so many evils. How could one complain by having the imagination filled with the painful picture of the inhabitants of the temple? »
The king was executed on 21 January 1793. Early July, in order to avoid any attempt to escape, the young Louis-Charles,then 8 yrs old (would have been Louis XVII but strangely disappeared without trace), was separated from his mother and aunt, then Marie-Antoinette, on the decree of Barère, Reporter of the Public Salvation Committee, was sent back to the Revolutionary Court and sent on August 1st to the Conciergerie.  In the winter of 1793, Madame Elisabeth, ignoring the execution of her sister-in-law, shared her cell with her 15-year-old niece on which she saw after the execution of her parents and the separation of her brother the little “Louis XVII”.  The “sister of the tyrant” gave the political police an opportunity to hold a trial after which Elizabeth was sentenced to death. To the public accuser who treats her as “the sister of a tyrant”, she would have replied: “If my brother had been what you say, you would not be where you are, nor me, where I am!”
On May 10 1794 , she was driven by cart in the place of the revolution(Place de la Concorde), the last of a batch of 25 persons. It is at this moment that she learns from her companions of misfortune the fate of Marie-Antoinette. Before she was executed, she unsuccessfully claimed the help of a priest that Fonseca-Tinville refused with derision.  After her  guillotine altar, she continues to comfort her companions and companions of misfortune. She saves the life of one of them, Madame de Sérilly, convincing her to reveal a possible early pregnancy.
Her truncated and stripped body was thrown into one of the common graves of the Errancis cemetery. After the revolution, the remains could not be identified despite the testimony of a gravedigger who located the common grave. The bones exhumed during the work of piercing avenues are placed in the catacombs of Paris with those of the other people.  A medallion represents her in the Basilica of  Saint-Denis.
In the continuing process of beatification, as Madame Elisabeth died in the smell of holiness. According to Madame de Genlis, a rose smell spread over the Place de la revolution (now Concorde) after her execution. Her cause in beatification was officially introduced on December 23rd 1953 by the Cardinal-Archbishop of Paris Maurice Feltin. She was thus declared Servant of God. As the procedure did not start, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois  proceeded to reopen her cause of beatification in 2016. It was then Abbé Xavier Snoëk, parish priest of Sainte-Élisabeth of Hungary Church in Versailles, who was appointed postulator of the cause. In May 2017, the Archdiocese of Paris recognized as the private Association of the faithful the actors of its cause of beatification!!!
The domaine de Montreuil is a park of 7,2 hectares of beautiful trees, and nice clean gardens, in which the house where she lived after a gift from her brother king Louis XVI in 1783. There was already a fortress here in the 1375 and was later acquired by the  Prince de Rohan-Guéméné (of Brittany!) and his wife Madame de Guéméné in 1772.
The house is a two level building in stone streaked with horizontal slitting and surmounted by broken attics. The ensemble included a chapel on a circular plane and zenithal lighting, as well as a Turkish boudoir. The fence wall, along the avenue of Paris, crowned by a balustrade, it served as a terrace from which one could admire the park and the garden ; the drawings are preserved in the National Library, the Musée Carnavalt and the Musée Latha, to keep the memory of this building domaine.
Madame Elisabeth establishes a small health center in Montreuil in a room in the house for the poor in the vicinity. These are cared for by the doctor and botanist Louis Guillaume Le McCann, who brought rare plants into the garden of the estate. The revolution ends these occupations.
Having escaped the fragmentation of properties during the French Revolution, the Clausse family became owners in the early 19C, Charles Louis Clausse, Mayor of Versailles died on September 10, 1831. Between the WW important restorations are done by the next owner Jean-Baptiste Chantrell. In 1955 his daughter Lydie sells the property to a real estate company. The maison de Madame Élisabeth belongs since 1984 to the General Council of the Yvelines dept 78. The Orangerie, acquired byt the deparment of Yvelines 78 since 1997 serves as a temporary exposition center.  There was a milking barn and cows now gone.  What remains of the original building are just 3 rooms: the apartment bedroom of Madame Élisabeth (never used as under aged she needed to sleep in the castle); the Turkish doudoir and the Harpsichord Room
The link here is of the current owners, the General Council of the Yvelines, the regional government entity. It has nevertheless a nice Video of it! In French; https://www.yvelines.fr/loisirs/les-proprietes-du-departement/parcmadameelisabeth/
The Catholic site on her beautification process and more history in French: http://www.paris.catholique.fr/madame-elisabeth-princesse-et.html
And more in English at the Chateau de Versailles official page here: http://en.chateauversailles.fr/discover/history/madame-Elisabeth
Truly remarkable and so sorry so many comes to Versailles and just don’t walk the 10 minutes to go her house at 73 Avenue de Paris (road D10) up straight from the castle/museum. Go for it, it’s a beautiful walk in Royal Versailles.
enjoy your week wherever you are and happy travels. cheers
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2 Comments to “Versailles, and Madame Elizabeth!”

  1. Versailles history is simply fascinating. I’ve just finished reading a book about it and just made me want to go back. I hope I will and, if I do, I’ll be sure to visit Madama Elizabeth’s house. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

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