The children of Marie Antoinette

Whatever happened to the children of Marie Antoinette?

King Louis XV escorted Marie Antoinette and Louis-Auguste to their bridal chamber on their wedding night in May 1770 and gave them his blessings and a goodnight kiss. Clearly nothing happened that night (the sheets were inspected extensively by the courtiers the next morning).

Marie-Antoinette with 3 of her children Marie-Thérèse, Louis-Charles and Louis-Joseph

Bear in mind the bride was 14 years old at the time and the groom was 15! It could be their inexperience that night, but nothing happened for the next 7 years to come.

It took eight years before Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI had their first child. Given that the queen's main task was to bring forth an heir and successor this was a frustratingly long time. Only after a visit of Marie Antoinette's brother, Emperor Joseph II, the problem, whatever it was, got solved. It was either that the emperor had to give them some kind of 'education', or he convinced Louis to have surgery to correct his problem.

Unfortunately the first child was a daughter, Marie Thérèse (20 December 1778 - 19 October 1851).

Marie Antoinette was happy with a daughter, a son would have belonged to the nation, a daughter she could keep to herself. 3 Years later, the long awaited son, the dauphin of France was born, Louis Joseph (22 October 1781 - 4 June 1789) and then 2 more children Louis Charles (27 March 1785 - 8 June 1795) and Sophie Beatrix (9 July 1786 - 19 June 1787). The Children of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI had no happy childhood.

Only the eldest daughter would grow up. Like many children in this period of time 2 of the children of Marie Antoinette died prematurely, Sophie Beatrix was not even a year old, and the Dauphin Louis Joseph died at the age of 7 from tuberculosis. After his death, Louis Charles became the new dauphin of France.

The children of Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution

Lousie Charles, dauphin of France

The story of this new heir is horrible. During the French Revolution the royal family was forced to live in the Tuileries, where they were guarded 24 hours a day.

When the situation was hopeless, the family tried to flee the country, but they were recognized when they were almost at the border at Varennes.

After this they were imprisoned in the tower of the Temple, an ancient fortress built by the Templars in Paris in the 13th century. For the family, used to the luxury and opulence of Versailles palace this was a horrible place. But it would become much worse.

The first period the family lived together, the king, the queen, their two children and the sister of the king, Princess Elisabeth. On 21 January 1793, Louis XVI was put to death under the guillotine.

The monarchy was now abolished, but the new rulers did not know what to do with the still living Louis Charles. Monarchists of course claimed he was King Louis XVII.

On July 3, 1793, only 8 years old, he was separated from his mother, sister and aunt and individually locked in the room where his father had been before his dead.

The medieval fortress Temple in Paris were the Bourbon family was imprisoned during the French Revolution.

He was kept in absolute isolation, completely neglected. He had virtually no contact with other people and was not informed of the execution of his mother and his aunt. He was dirty and sick, his room was not cleaned nor could he wash himself or his clothes. He was beaten and humiliated, all to try to punish him for his royal descent.

Most likely he was insane at the end of his life caused by this treatment. Eyewitnesses claim he did not speak anymore and could barely move. He was covered in pests and faeces.

Louis Charles, dauphin of France, died on June 8, 1795 after nearly four years in solitary confinement. His sister Marie Thérèse had been locked up in the tower above him all this time, but she could not contact him. She is the only one of the children of marie antoinette that would survive the revolution. 

Marie Thérèse, Madame Royale

Until very recently, there have been rumours and speculation that the child which died in the tower was not the real Dauphin. He'd been freed by royalists and another child would have been placed in the tower. This would be the real reason why he was separated from his family and no contact was allowed with him.

Fuelled by these stories many men claimed that they were the real Louis Charles and thus the first in line to the throne of France. These stories started in the years after the French Revolution and there are still people today who say they are the descendants of Louis XVII.

The recent developments in science, particularly the knowledge of DNA, made it possible to reveal the truth in 2000. After 200 years the mystery was finally solved.

There is a great book about the history of Louis Charles and the huge aftermath after his death written by Deborah Cadbury, the lost king of France. It is a fascinating and very sad story.

Princess Marie Thérèse of France and her younger brother Louis Joseph Xavier of France, Dauphin of France

It is not possible to visit the Temple tower where the family was imprisoned. The building became a place of pilgrimage for followers of the Bourbon family. Therefore it was demolished in 1808 by order of Napoleon.

However, when you get off the subway at station “Temple” you are at the right location!

When you visit Paris you can take a 

Books on the children of Marie Antoinette: