Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Consort Profile: Queen Louise Marie of Orleans

Louise of Orleans, first Queen consort of the Belgians, was born HRH Princess Louise Marie Therese Charlotte Isabelle in Palermo, Sicily on April 3, 1812 to the future “Citizen King” of the French, Louis Philippe I and Princess Maria Amalia of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. In her formative years and education her primary influences were her pious mother and her aunt Princess Adelaide of Orleans who also had a great influence on persuading her father to accept the French crown. Princess Louise was a lovely young lady of eighteen when Louis Philippe became “King of the French” and she greatly adored her father, though she spent more time with her mother who had a much greater impact on her life. She was a somewhat shy girl with a charming personality and friendly and compassionate disposition. Pomp and splendor had little appeal to her, she had a humble attitude and preferred to spend her time exercising her artistic talents, reading and writing letters. Still, she always enjoyed a good party and for such a petite woman was an accomplished equestrian. From her mother she inherited a heartfelt devotion to the Catholic Church and there was, perhaps, something of her father in some of her more benign liberal views, wishing to see people free and happy rather than oppressed and downtrodden. She was not entirely thrilled when her father became King, an act which caused a split in the French Royal Family.

The Princess was only twenty-years-old when she was told that everything had been arranged for her to marry King Leopold I of the Belgians. The idea of marrying a stranger, and a German Protestant on top of that, was not attractive to her and there were many tears. But, royals are born to duty and she went ahead with the marriage to a man who seemed as opposite from her as two people could possibly be. She was quiet, retiring and innocent while he was experienced in the ways of the world, calculating and domineering. He was a Lutheran, she was a Catholic, he was an experienced, veteran soldier and she was a compassionate creature who abhorred bloodshed for any reason. He was tall, dark and handsome while she was small, blonde and, in her own eyes at least, far from a beauty. Nonetheless, she had been carefully chosen to be the first Queen of the Belgians. Friendly relations with France were important to maintain and Belgium was a Catholic country and it would make things easier on the Protestant monarch to have a Catholic consort and Catholic heirs to succeed him. On August 9, 1832 the Princess of Orleans and the King of the Belgians were married, in a civil ceremony, a Protestant ceremony and a Catholic ceremony to cover all bases.

The Belgians were soon won over by their charming and caring young new queen. Despite their differences she came to love and adore King Leopold and although he did not feel sufficiently the same to remain an always faithful husband, he did feel great affection for his wife and even greater respect for her talents and intelligence. Coming from France, she was quick to judge her new country, and the Belgians themselves, in the areas she deemed them to not be measuring up and her easy honesty at times got her into trouble by those who thought she was being entirely too critical. However, she had winning ways and proved invaluable to her husband in acting as a go-between in the recurring feuds between the liberals and more conservative Catholics in the new Kingdom of Belgium. Queen Louise had a great gift for being able to be appealing to both sides. She was also helpful in foreign relations, in regards to the Kingdom of France this goes without saying but she also won-over Britain’s Queen Victoria who she often sent gifts in the form of the latest fashions.

She also did her duty by the Kingdom of Belgium, producing four children; the short-lived Prince Louis-Philippe in 1833, the future King Leopold II in 1835, Prince Philippe Count of Flanders in 1837 and finally Princess Charlotte, the future Empress Carlota of Mexico, in 1840. All of her children took something from their mother. King Leopold II inherited her prominent nose though little of her winning personality other than, perhaps, a reluctance to have people executed (difficult as many may find that to believe). Prince Philippe was probably the most like his mother, being very withdrawn and very religious. Queen Louise was so uncomfortable in public that she rarely showed herself when not absolutely necessary and hated being in the public glare. Princess Charlotte inherited a great love of learning and a kind heart from her mother though she was always the favorite of her father. And Queen Louise was definitely known for her great compassion and generosity. When Flanders was struck by famine, the Queen was quick to help and there are innumerable accounts of her spontaneous acts of individual charity whenever she was struck by the plight of someone in need. For the ordinary people she came to be seen as an angel of mercy.

If anything, Queen Louise was too kind-hearted for her own good. Her concern for everyone around her caused her to worry quite a bit which may have had a harmful effect on her health. Her greatest stress and worry came with the Revolutions of 1848 and the downfall of the “July Monarchy” in France as for some time she had no idea whether her parents were even alive. As the years went by she became more religious and worried about the soul of her Protestant husband and she worried about how her son, Leopold II, would reign when the throne came to him due to his withdrawn nature and, shall we say, ‘inability to play well with others’. Weighted down by such worries, all too soon, her health began to fail and she became increasingly frail and delicate. Ultimately, she contracted tuberculosis and died in Ostend on October 11, 1850. The Kingdom of Belgium went into deep mourning at her death and King Leopold I was first in this, showing how deeply he had cared for his wife, saying she had died in as saintly a way as she had always lived her live, directing all sympathy toward her to her husband and children. She was a great and lovely lady and queen, a dutiful wife, caring mother and compassionate queen who sent the standard for royal charity in Belgium.


  1. I think the last picture is actually Louise-Marie's cousin Maria Carolina.

    1. I tried correcting it and the thing went crazy on me, that portrait is gone but not in the way I would have preferred. I had tried to replace it with the one at the top but that proved impossible so the last is gone and the one at the top is new.

      Sometimes I *really* hate technology.

  2. Oh, I know how that is. Pictures leaping around the page for no discernible reason...

    1. Pictures and text too, being copied and appearing at the top of the page -that was a new one on me.

  3. Perhaps the only good thing to come out of the July Monarchy was Queen Louise Marie and her descendants on the Belgium Throne.

    I've always found it strange that the Orleans women tended (with rare exception) to be extremely devout and pious Catholics and the Orleans men - not so much (the current Orleanist heir being a very different exception).

    I've also wondered if any of the Orleans family gave a thought to Madame Royale in her final exile in Austria as they struggled against the downfall of Louis-Phillipe. His attempts to keep the throne for his young grandson at least must have spurred memories when Charles X did the same for Henri V and Louis-Phillipe betrayed them. I know the male Orleanists turned Legitimist when there was a chance the Comte de Chambord would be restored in 1871 but what about the female members of the dynasty?


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