Part 5.2 is the second of four parts of Chapter 5.
A Childhood at Versailles consists of the first 5 chapters of the memoirs of Mme de Boigne (1781-1866), née Adèle d’Osmond, who was a French salon hostess and writer. She was born in the Château de Versailles and lived at the court of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette until her family fled to England during the Revolution. Later in her long life, she married a rich soldier of fortune 30 years her senior, hosted a brilliant salon in Paris, and became an intimate of the last French queen, Marie-Amélie, consort of King Louis Philippe (r. 1830-1848). Childless herself, Mme de Boigne addressed her memoirs to her grandnephew. The memoirs were not published until 1907, under the title Récits d’une tante, or An Aunt’s Tales. They’ve never been published in English, as far as I know, so I’ve decided to translate the first 5 chapters, the ones that take place mainly at Versailles, and post them here on this blog for interested readers to enjoy for free.
The chapters are quite lengthy, so I’ve broken each one into several parts. In Part 5.2, the author tells of the Court of Naples, where they stayed for the better part of a year after leaving Rome. The Queen of Naples was Marie Antoinette’s sister, Maria Carolina…
A Childhood at Versailles, Chapter 5, Part 2 (5.2)
We stayed for ten months in Naples. My mother was very well received and much spoiled by the Queen,25 who made her tell of the Court of France and all the beginnings of the Revolution, so interesting for her as a queen and as a sister.
I was admitted into the society of the princesses her daughters, and it is there that began my liaison, if I dare use that expression, with the Princess Amélie, since become Queen of the French. We spoke French and English, we read together, and I went to spend days with her at Portici and at Caserta. She distinguished me among all her other little companions. I was on less good terms with her sisters, even though we were together almost as often.
Nonetheless, after Madame Amélie, I liked Madame Antoinette, later Princess of the Asturias, well enough. As for Madame Christine, who became Queen of Sardinia, we excluded her from all our pleasures, in which, though she was older, she would gladly have taken part.
The two eldest princesses, the Empress and the Grand Duchess of Tuscany, were already married at that time.
There were many foreigners in Naples, and I believe that it was very amusing there; for myself, as will be understood, I took little part in those gaieties. I was sometimes taken to the opera. I was already a good musician, and I was beginning to have a rather pretty voice, about which Cimarosa enthused. He did not give lessons, but he frequently came to hear me sing, and had given me a singing master, whom he directed.
The moment to leave Naples was approaching. Sir John Legard renewed his invitation to my parents to follow him to England. Communications with Saint Domingue, from which some help was still expected, were easier there. My father had kept in Holland all his furnishings for the embassy, which could be turned to account. Finally, in the last resort, Sir John was offering, with all possible tact, an honourable refuge. During the ten months that we had spent in Naples, he had showered my parents with all the marks of friendship. By staying in Italy, we would have had to have increasing recourse to Mesdames’ purse. They themselves were beginning to find themselves embarrassed, and those around them would not gladly have seen a new family instal itself in their circle.
All these reflections decided my parents to accept Sir John’s earnest offer, after having obtained Madame Adelaîde’s agreement to it. She consented to their departure, adding that if they found themselves unable to establish themselves in England, she would share her last piece of bread with them.26
25. Maria Carolina, daughter of the Austrian emperor Francis I and of the Empress Maria Theresa, and wife of Ferdinand IV, King of Naples, born in 1752, died in 1814.
26. See, in the Pièces Justificatives, the autograph letters of Madame Adélaïde to the Marquise d’Osmond.
This concludes Part 5.2. Part 5.3 should appear sometime in the first week of August, 2018.