A Letter from Marie Antoinette to the Princesse de Lamballe | Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: A Letter from Marie Antoinette to the Princesse de Lamballe

May 24, 2010

A Letter from Marie Antoinette to the Princesse de Lamballe

Princess of Lamballe 1788 by Anton Hickel at the Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna

The friendship between Marie Antoinette and the Princesse de Lamballe seemed to be one that grew from tragedy and would later be strengthened by it.  The princesse was widowed at eighteen. She was only a few years older than Marie Antoinette and the two became good friends at Versailles.

They were able to bond and became very close, close enough for people to talk about the nature of the relationship.  Marie Antoinette shared a similar friendship with the duchesse de Polignac, but the friendship was not as strong. It was so strong that...

Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun  (Paris 1755-1842). Portrait de la princesse de Lamballe. Photo Audap & Mirabaud. Paris.

When Marie Antoinette and her family were at the Tuileries, and the Revolution boiled, the princesse stayed in apartments right next door.  She responded greatly to the dire situation the royal family was in, and endeavored to support her friend.  Sometimes she would leave to tend to her aged father in law, the duc de Penthièvre at the chateau de Vernon.

It was during one of these trips to Vernon that Marie Antoinette thought it best that Lamballe stay at the chateau and not return to Paris. She was concerned for her safety.  To persuade her friend not to return, she wrote the following letter.

Portrait of Marie Antoinette, 1783, by Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun. Versailles.
"Do not leave Vernon, my dear Lamballe, before you are perfectly recovered. The good Duc de Penthièvre would be sorry and distressed, and we must all take care of his advanced age, and respect his virtues. I have so often told you to take heed of yourself, that if you love me you must think of yourself; we shall require all our strength in the times in which we live. Oh do not return, or return as late as possible. Your heart would be too deeply wounded; you would have too many tears to shed over my misfortunes, you who love me so tenderly. This race of tigers which infests the kingdom would cruelly enjoy itself if it knew all the sufferings we undergo. Adieu, my dear Lamballe; I am always thinking of you, and you know I never change."¹

The French writer, Alphonse de Lamartine, noted that this letter was found in the Princesse de Lamballe's hair, after she was killed in Paris.² 

¹Marie Antoinette to the Princesse Lamballe. From Abbott, John S. C. "Makers of History: Maria Antoinette with Engravings." Harper & Brothers Publishers: New York and London. 1901.

²Lamartine, de, Alphonse. 1848. History of the Girondists; or, Personal memoirs of the patriots of the French Revolution. S.l: s.n.].


  1. How very sad...two lovely but doomed ladies.

  2. I have just found your site whilst researching my MA dissertaion of fashion in Eighteenth Century Jamaica and just wanted to say how much I have enjoyed browsing and reading.

    ome amazing content, especially the images! Was a welcome break from my research!

  3. Might I ask where you happened upon a translation of this letter? Thank you!