The famed French Queen consort Marie Antoinette led a complex and multifaceted life before being overthrown by revolutionaries. Nonetheless, she had four biological children with her notoriously weak husband King Louis XVI, before facing her execution in 1793. They were: Marie Thérèse Charlotte, born on December 9, 1778, Louis Joseph Xavier François, born in 1781, Louis XVII, born in March 1785, and Sophie Hélène Béatrix, born in July 1786. Tragically she was separated from her children during the French Revolution, and only one of them eventually survived to tell the tale of her family history. Below we take a closer look at who her children were in more detail.
Marie Thérèse Charlotte
Marie Thérèse Charlotte was the first and eldest child of Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI, and was born in 1778. Also known as Madame Royale, she was raised in the French court at Versailles. Following the French Revolution, she was the only surviving child in her family, and one of only a handful of royal children to make it out of the conflict alive. Revolutionaries had originally sentenced her to death, but she narrowly escaped this fate when her sentence was reduced to a permanent exile. In 1824, she became the Dauphine de France, following marriage to her cousin, Louis Antoine, Duke of Angouleme.
Louis Joseph Xavier François
Louis Joseph Xavier François was the second child of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, born in 1781. As the first boy to be born into his family, he became next in line to the throne, before his elder sister Marie, as was customary at the time. Born and raised in the palace of Versailles, he was a fragile child from the age of 3 onwards who suffered a series of illnesses, including regular high fevers. His family sent him to live in the Chateau de la Muette for a year in 1784, where the air was reportedly beneficial to one’s health and he began to show signs of improvement. On his return to the palace of Versailles, however, his health took another downward turn – following a series of particularly high, aggressive fevers, he died of tuberculosis in 1789.
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The younger brother of Marie and Louis Joseph, Louis XVII was born in 1785 and spent his early years in the palace of Versailles alongside his siblings. In 1792, he was locked up by revolutionaries in the Temple prison as the French Revolution took hold. By this point he was the successor to the throne, following the death of his older brother in 1789.
Tragically Louis was never released from prison; he died of tuberculosis while locked away in 1795 at the mere age of 10, most likely due to the harsh conditions of life in imprisonment. Because of the secrecy surrounding his death, rumors spread that he was in fact still alive and had gone into hiding, while various individuals claiming to be the future King Louis came forward. It wasn’t until 1999, following extensive research on Louis’ remains, that his death in the Temple Prison in 1795 was confirmed.
Sophie Hélène Béatrix
Sophie Hélène Béatrix was the youngest child of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, born in 1786. Following her birth, she was legally titled Her Royal Highness, but became known in her short life as Madame Sophie. Sadly, Sophie’s life was cut short at the age of just 11 months old, following complications after contracting tuberculosis, much like her two older brothers. Marie Antoinette’s foster brother Joseph Weber tried to comfort her following Sophie’s death by claiming the young baby would not yet have formed a close attachment to her mother, to which Marie Antoinette replied,” Don’t forget that she would have been my friend.”