Marie Josephine (20th April 1750 - 1st April 1771) is a Grandelumierian noblewoman. She is the first born child of Madame la Duchesse, Elisabeth Sophie de Bretagne.
Reign of Louis XI
Marie Josephine was born at Le Chateau de Saint-Etienne on April the 20th, 1750. She was the eldest child born to her father, Charles Xavier, and her mother, Elisabeth Sophie.
As a young child, Marie Josephine was rather shy and quiet. This gained the disapproval of her father, who wanted a strong child as his heir, thus Josephine's shy nature was a sign of weakness to him. He was often hard on her and tried to break her of her shy nature.
At the age of 5, Marie Josephine was sent away to an abbey to study at the Abbey of Our Lady of Chelles. She often wished to please her parents; in which case, she made it a priority to excel at her studies. She was a hard worker and did well in most of her studies. Josephine would find most of her enjoyment from music and dancing lessons. Josephine would often be found singing softly to herself or others, which was said to be the only time she would make a noise.
In 1763, at the age of 13, Josephine's father died. This left the young heir in distress. From then on, Josephine would begin to make herself more outspoken. She knew it to be her father's deepest wish, and it was the last honour she wanted to give to him. Although she left her shy nature behind as she aged, she still reminded polite and friendly to many.
Marie Josephine would become closer to her mother, Madame la Duchesse, during this time. Josephine would spend her time at court assisting her mother, to which they both enjoyed. In their spare time, Josephine would often sing or play the harpsichord for her mother. Madame le Duchesse would refer to her daughter, in correspondence, as "Son petit oiseau chanteur". This was the sign of that rare close maternal affection, a virtue that her mother would pass down to her daughter in years to come.
Reign of Louis XII
Marie Josephine's court life was seemingly comfortable and enjoyable. She spent most of her time with her mother, Madame la Duchesse, and notable courtiers. She often used her singing talents to entertain their Majesties, an accomplishment she excelled at. She found much enjoyment from doing so and would perform as often as possible.
Josephine tried her best to be courteous to everyone, and often tried to stay out of court gossip. However, it was said that she herself was having secret affairs with the Emperor Louis XII. Josephine denied any accusation, and was said to state that "One can think up such wild stories." Although, Josephine did have a close relationship with him, and showed great caring towards him. Louis XII even gifted Josephine a gilded birdcage, adorned in porcelain flowers which were intertwined among its bars. Another gift was bestowed on her, this time in the form of a Nightingale egg, a reference to the nickname which the Emperor had given her. The little brown bird was said to be her most beloved possession. Later on, while she was imprisoned at Le Tour de Temple, it was reported that she said, "I do not worry, for I know my darling Nightingale is flying free somewhere, and soon, I shall join her."
Tour du Temple
In 1768, the Peasants' Revolt broke out, Marie Josephine was taken prisoner along with her mother, and many others to Dijon and from Dijon to Le Tour de Temple. She stayed in a cell with her mother for some time. During their time together, Josephine helped the Madame la Duchesse write secret letters to other prisoners and to outside support. She would also try to keep spirits up by singing little tunes whenever she could. This did not last long as she was moved into a cell with her aunt and uncle, Madame la Princess and Monsieur la Prince.
When imprisoned with the Madame and Monsieur, Marie Josephine became gravely ill with a fever and a cough. Due to this, Josephine was bedridden for an extensive amount of time. La Duchesse would recover but would forever be sickly in the body from that time on. Years later, Josephine wrote in her memoirs, "My body may be weak, but my mind and soul are as strong as the rushing wind in Spring."
Marie Josephine lived comfortably enough under such circumstances. Josephine often found enjoyment from simple pleasures in life, and as a prisoner, there was often not much else to do but that. In the memoirs of La Duchesse, she recalls how she delighted in the simplest of tasks:
"It came to pass that the needle was my only means of distraction. I'd busy ourselves with large pieces of tapestry and would take much delight in amending articles of attire. If not that, I would hum tones along with the birds singing outside my window."
Marie Josephine was released from Le Tour de Temple after the Battle Dijon, which ended the Peasants' Revolt, in 1771. Josephine returned to her life at court after four years of being imprisoned.
Reign of Louis XIV
Upon Marie Josephine's return to court, she was given the title Madame la Duchesse, due to the death of her grandfather, Prince de Bretagne.
Marie Josephine found it odd to be back at court after so many years of imprisonment. She had lost many of her family members and many of her friends. She reported in her memoirs that, "The halls felt empty still, without the presence of those I use to hold dear." Although, Josephine continued to have her lively demeanour, and tried to live each day to its fullest.
The young Madame la Duchesse soon became Chancellor of Labour to Louis XIV. It was said that she was delighted to be working under her mother, Princess de Bretagne, and the Emperor, Louis XIV.
Marriage and Death
In November, 1767, Marie Josephine was wed to the 20 year old, Philippe Xavier, Comte de Sancerre. Their marriage was said to be a good match, and the young couple thrived. The young Comte, now known as Duc d’Anjou, was reported to have stated, “The Duchesse has such a way with words that even the most nervous of men would be put at ease by her side.” Sadly, this did not last long. The couple was soon separated during the Peasants' Revolt in 1768. They would not see each other during the four year imprisonment.
Upon the long awaited return to Le Château de Saint-Etienne, the, now Madame la Duchesse, would be reunited with her husband and return to her court life. Josephine soon found that her once warm, care-free husband, had became distant and serious in their time apart. The Duc would stay away from court life and his wife as much as possible. Their marriage only worsened when Josephine had difficulties conceiving a heir due to her ill health. The Duchesse expressed her frustrations in her memoirs,
“I have married a man whose expectations exceed the reality of our situation. A flower will not bloom without water, as a wife will not yield an heir without her husband.”
It was months later when Josephine decided to make a spontaneous trip to visit her husband. She left without much notice, except to the Emperor, and her mother, Princess la Bretagne. Regrettably, the Duchesse’s carriage never arrived at it’s destination. It was found that the Duchesse’s carriage had been involved in an accident, yielding no survivors.
It was only years later when Josephine’s memoirs were found. Only then was it known why the Duchesse had made such a hasty trip. She wrote the day before her travels,
“March 31, 1771: I shall watch as the gates of Saint-Etienne fade behind me as I carry the future of Bretagne within me. I am close to fulfilling my duty, I can almost taste victory on the tip of my tongue. The dawn shall bring forth a new beginning…”
Titles, Styles and Honours
- 17th April 1750 - 26th November 1752 Her Highness, Marquise d'Alencon
- 26th November 1752 - 15th March 1770 Her Highness, Duchesse d'Anjou
- 15th March 1770 - Present Her Highness, Madame la Duchesse