The Secret Diary of a Princess examines in some detail the often strained relationships that Marie Antoinette had with her sisters. The Imperial court at Vienna must have been a really weird place to grow up with such a domineering mother in Maria Theresa, who on one hand expected her daughters to obey without question and on the other expected them to be as forceful and politically savvy as she was herself as well as expecting them to bow their heads meekly and marry whatever princelings she chose for them, despite the fact that she herself had fought to be allowed to choose her own husband and was forever praising the wonders of conjugal love.
Marie Antoinette was Maria Theresa’s second to last child out of seventeen (thirteen of whom survived the pitfalls and dangers of eighteenth century childhood) and her youngest daughter out of eight who survived infancy. The atmosphere in which Marie Antoinette grew up must have been bewildering to such a sensitive child – on one hand the court was dominated by her mother and at the same time was a very feminine place, unsurprising with so many pretty princesses about the place, daydreaming of marriage and glorious futures.
Archduchess Maria Anna Josepha Antonia, born on the 6th of October 1738 and died on the 19th November 1789. Maria Anna was known as Marianna and was the heiress presumptive to the Imperial throne until the birth of her brother Joseph in 1741.
The Archduchess Maria Christina Johanna Josepha Antonia, born on the 13th May 1742 and died on the 24th June 1798. Maria Christina was known to the family as ‘Mimi’ and was her mother’s obvious favourite, who she adored and pandered to above all of her other children because they shared the same birthday.
The Archduchess Maria Elisabeth Josepha, born on the 13th August 1743 and died on 22nd September 1808. Lovely Elisabeth was said to be the most beautiful and charming of Maria Theresa’s daughters and was clearly destined to make a splendid match with some overseas prince. She was not particularly intelligent but was an excellent musician like all of her siblings and was graceful and flirtatious too.
The Archduchess Maria Amalia Josepha Johanna Antonia, born on the 26th February 1746 and died on 18th June 1804. I’ve already written about Amalia at some length here as the story of her romance with Karl of Zweibrucken is so interesting.
The Archduchess Maria Johanna Gabriella Josepha Antonia, born on the 4th February 1750 and died on the 23rd December 1762, at the age of twelve. Not much is known about Johanna before she died of smallpox as a young girl.
The Archduchess Maria Josepha Gabriella Johanna Antonia Anna, born on the 19th March 1751 and died on the 15th October 1767, at the age of sixteen. Many families, particularly large ones, have one particular member who ‘glues’ all of the others together and whose role is to smooth down quarrels and generally be liked and get along with everyone. That would appear to have been Josepha’s place amongst the brood of Maria Theresa.
The Archduchess Maria Carolina Louisa Josepha Johanna Antonia was born on the 13th August 1752 and died on the 8th September 1814. Known to her family as Carlotta or Charlotte, Carolina was a charming, hot headed and strong willed girl who it was said reminded the Empress of herself as a young girl, something that seems to have provided her with as much anxiety as pride.