Thursday, December 8, 2011
Consort Profile: Maria Anna of Savoy
Given her many charming qualities, it is remarkable she escaped marriage until she was 27 years old when, in an agreement between families, she was pledged to marry the heir to the Hapsburg thrones. For the princess, it was far from being a happy occasion. King Ferdinand V of Hungary (the highest title he held at the time) was an epileptic, suffered from water on the brain and a number of ailments that caused him to be somewhat (I stress somewhat) mentally deficient. The two were married by proxy in Turin on February 12, 1831 and later met in person to be married on February 27 in Vienna at the chapel of the Cardinal Archbishop of Olmütz. When the Princess first met her husband-to-be she reportedly could not look at him without crying. It was a first impression of course, and she did not know him at all, but he was certainly not the strong, handsome prince young girls dream of marrying. He had to be helped just to shuffle along, have names and information constantly repeated to him and was already become somewhat infirm. For a vibrant, beautiful young girl it could hardly be considered a happy occasion at first sight. However, the princess had been raised with a strong sense of duty and she dried her eyes, kept a stiff upper lip and took seriously her marriage vows to her husband.
Rebellions spread like wild fire across the Hapsburg domains and violence and rioting even broke out in Vienna itself. As the Imperial Family was forced to flee, the scene brought back memories and the stories of similar horrors told by her elders to Empress Maria Anna about the invasion of Piedmont by the French Revolutionaries that had forced her own family into exile before she was born. The Hapsburgs did not go into exile of course, but it was an extremely traumatic event for the Empress. The family came back to Vienna, with Maria Anna sitting beside the Emperor in their carriage, quietly weeping at the misfortune that had overtaken them. What was worse was that their return had been premature and they were soon forced to leave again in even greater haste with the younger Archdukes riding alongside the carriages, shielding those inside from the mobs screaming “death” with their own bodies. A great deal of history could have been quickly changed in the course of that frenzied flight. It was clear to all what had to be done, Emperor Ferdinand I must abdicate. He did so on December 2, 1848, reading out his act of abdication with some difficulty, passing the Crown to his nephew the new Emperor Francis Joseph. Empress Maria Anna, who retained her title, kissed her nephew and then accompanied her husband to mass after which they packed their bags and retired to private life.