Maria Carolina and Marie Antoinette: Sisters and Queens in the mirror of Jacobin Public Opinion
Recca, C., « Maria Carolina and Marie Antoinette: Sisters and Queens in the mirror of Jacobin Public Opinion ». Royal Studies Journal, 1(1), 2014, p. 17–36.
Marie Antoinette of France and Maria Carolina of Naples were both Mediter- ranean queens who embodied power within European society at the end of the Ancien Régime. During their childhood the two sisters were inseparable, sharing the same governess, Countess Walburga von Lerchenfeld. But as soon as Maria Theresa noticed that the two girls behaved badly, always getting in trouble together, her displeasure at their actions led to her decision to separate them in August 1767. Despite this separation they continued to maintain a strong bond through a dense correspondence of letters of which today, unfortunately, there is no trace. Their destinies as queen consorts, planned by the empress, were different according to the magnificence of the respective Court in which they were to rule. However, one similarity shared by the sisters was in the reception and reaction to their presence within their new realms. Both in France and in Naples, the first label that the two queens acquired was that of being a for- eigner. This article will analyze the main features of the negative portraits of these two queens in the French and Neapolitan pre- and post-revolutionary periods. As a case study we first focus attention on French pornographic literature spread via pamphlets which lead to the end of the Ancien Régime as a political and social system.
According to the topos theory, which describes the French pamphlets, they were a vicious and brutal representation of the aristocratic world’s private life, with details of how they expressed themselves through deviant sexual practices. These accusations were hurled at the opponents of the Revolution and always dwelled on sickness, lack of physi- cal and moral vigor, and embarrassment: all predominantly negative qualities of the French aristocrats which were the opposite of the coveted ‘patriotic energy’.