The Infanta Queen, the Lisbon Earthquake and Marie-Antoinette

Marie Antoinette Liotard

Marie Antoinette as a child by Liotard

A follow-up on my post on Marie-Anne-Victoire. There are at least two connections between the Infanta Queen and Marie-Antoinette. First, the Queen of Portugal and her husband, King Joseph I, were godparents to the little Archduchess. Of course, this did not mean that they would have attended the baptism and later acted as spiritual guides to the infant. In royal families this kind of link simply served to reinforce dynastic and diplomatic alliances, and sovereigns seldom left their countries. Royal godparents would never even meet their godchildren. It remained that Queen Marie-Anne-Victoire was Marie-Antoinette’s nominal godmother.

But there was another connection between Marie-Antoinette and Portugal: she was born on November 2, 1755, the day of the catastrophic Lisbon Earthquake. As usual, Madame Campan has much to say about it:

Marie Antoinette Josèphe Jeanne de Lorraine, Archduchess of Austria, daughter of François de Lorraine and of Maria Theresa, was born on the 2d of November, 1755, the day of the earthquake at Lisbon; and this catastrophe, which appeared to stamp the time of her birth with a fatal mark, without forming a motive for superstitious fear with the Princess, nevertheless made an impression upon her mind.

Does Madame Campan cite a single example of this “deep impression” the Lisbon Earthquake would have made on Marie-Antoinette’s mind? No. The good chambermaid loved drama, and could never resist adding some to her Memoirs whenever she thought it would enhance the story.  This is one of the few instances where I don’t put much trust in her testimony.

Lisbon earthquake

Lisbon earthquake

As for the impressions the coincidence made on the contemporaries, let us remember that news, bad or good, did not travel fast across 18th century Europe. By the time the Viennese realized the full extent of the Lisbon catastrophe, little Marie-Antoinette must have been several weeks old. Few must have been tempted to make the connection.

As for Queen Marie-Anne-Victoire, I was again reminded of her last week-end, when I visited the Royal Pomp exhibition at Versailles. There was jewelry that had belonged to her there. Extremely interesting show, by the way, and worthy of its own post.

It remains to wish everyone a happy 4th of July. And today happens to be my birthday, which I will celebrate with my family and closest friends in beautiful Bordeaux.

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