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April 28, 2010

Marie Antoinette: adoption?

Marie Antoinette adored children, and was often surrounded by them.  I think it is safe to say this for two reasons, she grew up with many siblings and enjoyed the company once at Versailles (because she was so young herself), and also due to the fact that she could not/was not having children of her own in the years to follow. 

Around the time when her sister in law the Comtesse d'Artois had a child, Antoinette took part (size of part to be disputed) in raising a peasant boy.  The story is told by many, and even discussed in popular fiction books on the Queen.  One book, which reader Marika has pointed out to me, The Queen's Confession, discusses the topic of Antoinette and her adopted peasant boy.

As the story goes (embellishments accepted): She was riding in the carriage and by an accident, a peasant boy fell under the hooves of the horses.  Marie Antoinette was naturally very concerned, and had him brought to Versailles where he was taken care of by a nurse. After he was fully recovered from the dramatic accident, he was schooled, room and board on the crown.  Ironically, years later this boy was said to grow up and become a dangerous revolutionary, very anti Marie Antoinette and her family.

I can not speak for the story being accurate.  It is very possible it has been enhanced for effect over the years (undoubtedly so!).  However, the fact that she took in a young boy is confirmed in a letter written by the Comte de Mercy dated September 17, 1776 in which he writes that "the boy is neither turbulent nor troublesome." His role was not big in Marie Antoinette's life, as her daughter was born two years later.

15 comments

  1. I thought this was an interesting part of the story. Antonia Fraser mentions him and the story of how she found him in "The Journey" But after that one paragraph, he's never mentioned again. He was simply known as Jacques. (my name in French!) :)

    The paragraph is pretty short, so I'll just type it out.

    "This was kind of the experience that made one of Marie Antoinette's more desperate acts of charity comprehensible. The Queen was in her carriage near Lauveciennes when a little village boy of four or five with fair hair and big blue eyes fell under the horses' hoofs. He was unhurt. By the time the boy's grandmother had emerged from her cottage, the Queen was already clutching him to her with the words: "I must take him. He is mine." It helped that the boy's mother had died, leaving five other orphans. The grandmother certainly raised no objection when Jacques was whirled away to Versailles, especially since Marie promised to maintain the whole family financially. It was poor little Jacques who howled with homesickness as he was thoroughly scrubbed, before being dressed up in white-edged lace to be presented anew to the Queen. Undaunted, the Queen proceeded to share her food with Jacques whenever possible, as well as supervising his education and of course keeping her word about the financial arrangements. The sweet but desperately unreal impulse was characteristic of Marie Antoinette at this time."
    Fraser states she got (at least part) of her information from Ines de Kertanguy's book. Its in French, I’m not typing the whole title! lol

    In Fraser's notes she quotes from Kertanguy: "Unfortunately, but perhaps predictable, little Jacques later turned into a violent revolutionary, eager to blot out his quasi-royal past."

    I wonder where she or Kertanguy really got a lot of this information, of its all just hear-say. Personally, I believe if the story is true, "Jacques" probably turned his back on the royal family either when Marie had her own children, he was probably ignored and physically or emotionally abandoned. Or, as he got older, realized the only way he could save his head was to accuse the whole family as kidnapping him and that he was never truly happy there. To gain sympathy from the revolutionaries.
    Either way, it seems he was never mentioned at all in the events that fallowed his "adoption". If he was truly adopted as in today’s standard, he would have been treated as any other member of the family and have been in paintings, historically remembered and mentioned. Not just hear-say.
    Who knows.

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  2. OMG sorry, I didnt realize I would end up leaving a novel of my own!! *blushes*

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  3. I do love Antoinette but the little boy sounds more like a pet than an adoption! Of course she was very young and had no children of her own.

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  4. @Marquis Jacques very interesting! This is great info!

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  5. Very interesting, both Lauren and Marquis Jacques.

    I was wondering something, though. Do we know what happened to this little boy after Marie Antoinette had her first child? Was he sent back to where he lived before?

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  6. @Minerve, I think that was a point I was trying to make lol.
    There seems to be no inclination of what happend to him other then Kertanguy's claim. Like Heather said, he sounds more like Marie A's pet. :-/

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  8. I found this information on Elena's blog "Tea at Trainon"

    http://teaattrianon.blogspot.com/2007/03/marie-antoinettes-adopted-children.htmlrianon"

    Though her source says the boys name was Armand. One of the many debates lol

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  9. and this artical by Culture&Stuff.
    http://cultureandstuff.com/2010/02/22/marie-antoinette-and-her-children-the-queens-adopted-family/
    boy, Im on a role today. This topic has got me quite interested!! lol

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  10. @Marquis Jacques Thank you for all the great finds! I am promoting this comment convo on Twitter bc it is such a great and interesting topic!!

    So would you say 'pet' over 'charity' ??

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  11. I think I remember from reading "The Queen's Confession" (GREAT book, love Victoria Holt!) that his name was Jacques Armand, Armand being his family name or surname.
    I'm sure he wasn't exactly thrown out on the street after the births of the royal chidren, and was economically taken care of, but he probably lost his place as the Queen's dearest "own". Poor thing, that must have been confusing!

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  12. @lauran, I think that more than likely, she was known to be a very generous person, and she took in and helped take care of children and young mothers that she thought could use it. In the articles I found they say she also took in a girl after Therese was born. She was about the same age and they were raised like sisters up untill the royal family was sent to the tower.

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  13. The king and queen even left money to their adopted children in ther wills. Or at least doweries to the girls

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  14. @Marquis Jacques now that is interesting! What is your source on the wills?

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  15. well, I feel kind of sheepish because I didn't actualy read in a book, per-say, that Antoinette's adopted kids were left money in their wills. But on some other blogs I came across, it's said that Ernestine is named in the registry of expenses attributed to the Children of France and upon her mothers death this pension is paid to Ernestine directly from the King's own funds. (7th post down)

    http://forum.marie-antoinette.org/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=1236&hilit=Ernestine

    Im trying to find the other post where I read about the doweries left to Zoe and her sisters. But with the lack of sources people leave after their post, I guess we just have to take some information with a grain of salt.

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