Marie Louise, Princess of Savoy

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Marie-Thérèse Louise di Savoia-Carignano
Madame la princesse de Lamballe by Antoine-François Callet (circa 1776, Callet).jpg
The Princesse de Lamballe
Born (1749-09-08)September 8, 1749
Turin, Italy
Died September 3, 1792(1792-09-03) (aged 42)
Paris, France
Occupation Superintendant of the Household at Versailles (appointed by Marie-Antoinette)
Spouse(s) Louis-Alexandre Joseph de Bourbon Penthièvre, Prince de Lamballe
Children none
Parent(s) Luigi Vittorio di Savoia-Carignano, Principe di Carignano (1721-1778) and Christine Henriette of Hesse-Rheinfels-Rotenburg (1717-1778)

Marie-Thérèse Louise di Savoia-Carignano, Principessa di Savoia-Carignano (September 8, 1749September 3, 1792) was an Italian-French courtier, aristocrat of the House of Savoy, and royal confidante to French queen Marie Antoinette. Her killing sparked a movement of anti-revolutionary propaganda, which ultimately led to the development and implementation of the Reign of Terror.


Her father was Luigi Vittorio di Savoia-Carignano, Principe di Carignano, a grandson of Vittorio Amedeo II di Savoia. Her mother, Christine Henriette of Hesse-Rheinfels-Rotenburg, was the daughter of Ernest Leopold, Landgrave of Hesse-Rotenburg. On 31 January 1767, she married by proxy Louis-Alexandre, Prince de Lamballe, a grandson of Louis XIV's illegitimate son, the comte de Toulouse, and the son of the duc de Penthièvre. Louis-Alexandre abandoned her soon after, and died in 1768, making Marie-Thérèse a widow at 19. [1] She was left an enormous fortune, becoming one of the wealthiest women in France[citation needed].

She befriended Marie-Antoinette shortly after the latter's marriage to the future Louis XVI. Marie-Antoinette appointed her Superintendent of the Household, the highest rank possible for a lady-in-waiting at Versailles, which earned Lamballe the resentment of many other aristocrats.[citation needed] Her pre-eminence in courtly high society was eventually eclipsed by Gabrielle, duchesse de Polignac, who arrived at Versailles in 1775.[citation needed]

In popular anti-monarchist propaganda of the time, the princesse de Lamballe was regularly portrayed in pornographic pamphlets, showing her as the queen's lesbian lover. Lamballe was by nature extremely prudish and at Versailles, there was never any gossip about her private life. However, the real purpose of the pamphlets was not to report the truth, but rather to undermine the public image of the monarchy by eroding respect for its central figures.[2] Later, the duchesse de Polignac and comte d'Artois also became staple figures in the pamphlets.


The Princesse de Lamballe accompanied the royal family to the Tuileries Palace after the March on Versailles in 1789. In Paris, her salon served as a meeting-place for the queen and the members of the National Constituent Assembly, many of whom the queen wished to win over to the cause of the Bourbon Monarchy.[3]

After a visit to the Great Britain in 1791 to appeal for help for the royal family, the princess wrote her will, since she feared death upon returning to Paris, which she nonetheless did out of loyalty to Marie-Antoinette. Lamballe returned to the Tuileries, where she continued her services to the queen until August 10, when she was imprisoned with the Royal Family in the Temple.[4]


Portrait by artist George S. Stuart

On August 19, she and the Marquise de Tourzel, governess to the royal children, were separated from the royal family and transferred to La Force prison.[5] On September 3, she was brought before a hastily assembled tribunal, who demanded she swear an oath of perpetual hatred against the French monarchy. This she refused to do on principle and shortly thereafter was brutally murdered.[6]

Some reports allege that she was raped and had her breasts cut off in addition to other bodily mutilations.[7][8] Most reports agree that her head was cut off, stuck on a pike and then carried away to a nearby café where it was laid down in front of the customers, who were asked to drink in celebration of her death.[7] There are other reports stating that the head was taken to a barber in order to dress the hair to make it instantly recognizable,[8] though this has been contested.[6] Following this, the head was replaced upon the pike and was paraded beneath Marie Antoinette’s prison window at the Temple.[9] Those who were carrying it wished the Queen to kiss the lips of her favourite, as it was a frequent rumor that the two had been lovers. The head was not allowed to be brought into the building, but the Queen's guards did force her to look out the window at the sight, whereupon the Queen fainted almost immediately.[9]

Five citizens of the local section in Paris delivered her body (minus her head which was then being displayed on a pike) to the authorities shortly after her death. Royalist accounts of the incident claimed her body was displayed on the street for a full day. Her heartbroken father-in-law finally succeeded in retrieving her corpse and had it interred in the Penthrièvre family crypt in the cathedral at Dreux.[10] Marie Grosholtz, more famously known as Madame Tussaud, was ordered to make the death mask.[11]

In films

The princesse de Lamballe has been portrayed in several films and miniseries. Two of the more notable portrayals were by Anita Louise in W.S. Van Dyke's 1938 film Marie Antoinette and by Mary Nighy in the 2006 film Marie Antoinette directed by Sofia Coppola.[12][13]


See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Chantal Thomas, The Wicked Queen: The Origins of the Myth of Marie-Antoinette
  3. ^ "Lamballe, Marie Thérèse Louise of Savoy-Carignamo". The Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica. 1911.
  4. ^ Imbert de Saint-Amand, Arthur. Marie Antoinette at the Tuileries, 1789-1791. New York Public Library: C. Scribner's sons. p. 286. ISBN 1901 Check |isbn= value: length (help). Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help)
  5. ^ Lever, Evelyne (2001). Marie Antoinette: The Last Queen of France. Macmillan. pp. 282–283. ISBN 0312283334. Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help)
  6. ^ a b de Baecque, Antoine (2002). Glory and Terror. Routledge. p. 79. ISBN 0415926173. Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help)
  7. ^ a b Hibbert, Christopher (1980). The Days of the French Revolution. Morrow. p. 175. ISBN 0688037046.
  8. ^ a b Durschmied, Erik (2002). Blood of Revolution. Arcade Publishing. p. 31. ISBN 1559706074.
  9. ^ a b Fraser, Antonia (2001). Marie Antoinette: The Journey. Anchor Books. p. 389. ISBN 0385489498.
  10. ^ Hardy, Blanche Christabel (1908). The Princesse de Lamballe. Harvard University: D Appleton & Co. p. 294.
  11. ^ Tussaud, John Theodore (1920). The Romance of Madame Tussaud's. University of Michigan: George H. Doran company. pp. 44, 88, 91.
  12. ^ "Marie Antoinette". Retrieved 2008-10-19.
  13. ^ "Mary Antoinette"., Inc. Retrieved 2008-10-19.
  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "article name needed". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. In turn, it gives the following references:
    • George Bertin, Madame de Lamballe (Paris, 1888).
    • Austin Dobson, Four Frenchwomen (1890).
    • B. C. Hardy, Princesse de Lamballe (1908).
    • Comte de Lescure, La Princesse de Lamballe d'après des documents inédits (1864).
    • Letters of the princess published by Ch. Schmidt in La Revolution française (vol. xxxix., 1900); L. Lambeau, Essais sur la mort de madame la princesse de Lamballe (1902).
    • Sir Francis Montefiore, The Princesse de Lamballe (1896).
    • The Secret Memoirs of the Royal Family of France ... now first published from the Journal, Letters and Conversations of the Princesse de Lamballe (London, 2 vols., 1826) have since appeared in various editions in English and in French. They are apocryphal, attributed to Catherine Flyde, Marchioness Govion-Broglio-Solari. A sample version from 1902.

External links