Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution
TimelineGlobal Revolution
Royal LifeAbout the Film
Famous Faces

The Queen's Crony: Princesse de Lamballe

The Queen's Crony: Princesse de Lamballe Marie Thérèse Louise de Savoie-Carignan, the Princesse de Lamballe, was born in Turin in 1749 to the aristocratic House of Savoy.  At 17, she married the prince de Lamballe, one of the sons of the Duc de Penthièvre.  The Duke was the grandson of one of King Louis XIV's illegitimate sons and one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in France.  His daughter married Louis XV's cousin, the Duc d'Orléans who became known during the Revolution as Philippe Egalité and  most notoriously cast the deciding vote convicting Louis XVI of treason.  Their son, the Princesse de Lamballe's nephew, would take the throne in 1830 as France's last king, Louis-Philippe.

When the Prince de Lamballe died in 1768, only a year after his marriage, the young Princesse was left an 18-year-old widow.  With her powerful connections to the French Royal family, it is not surprising that she was asked to come to Versailles as companion to the dauphine, shortly after Marie Antoinette's arrival in 1770.  When she became Queen, Marie Antoinette appointed the Princesse de Lamballe  Superintendant of the Queen's Household, a post she held until her death in 1792.

Along with the duchesse de Polignac, the Princesse de Lamballe was one of Marie Antoinette's closest friends.   She was part of the group of young women who were the Queen's companions  at the Petit Trianon and participated in the various theatrical activities that took place there.  She was thus also one of the women whom pamphleteers and journalists accused of engaging in lesbian orgies there with the Queen. 

When the Royal Family was taken back to Paris by the crowd in October 1789, the Princesse de Lamballe went with them as a loyal friend and retainer of the Queen.  When the Royal Family attempted to flee France in June 1791, she took off in the other direction, toward England.  Learning of their capture at Varennes, she returned to Paris, where she joined Marie Antoinette and was imprisoned with her family at the Tuileries and, later, at the Temple. 

In August 1792, the two women were separated when the Princesse de Lamballe was transferred to La Force Prison, in another part of Paris.  The following month  the Princesse became the most prominent victim of the September Massacres when the crowd  dragged her from her prison cell, killed her, and then mutilated her body.  They then put her head on a pike and paraded it in triumph before the window of the terrified Queen. with the grotesque demand that she be  forced "to kiss the lips of her intimate."
 

Famous Faces

Rumors and RevolutionThe Teen Queen: Marie AntoinetteHis Royal Hesitancy: Louis XVIThe Iron Fist: Maria TheresaSwede on the Side: Axel von FersenThe Queen's Crony: Princesse de LamballeMonsieur Moneybags: Jacques NeckerPass the Buck Chuck: Charles-Alexandre de CalonneMad Max: Maximilien RobespierreThe Warmonger: Jacques Pierre BrissotDear Abbe: Emmanuel Joseph SieyèsCrooked Cardinal: Cardinal de RohanAmerica's Sweetheart: Marquis de Lafayette
Explore Versailles Queen's Chamber

The Queen's Friends
Learn more about Marie Antoinette's friends & enemies.

Versailles
Explore the royal palace.

Fact or Fiction Quiz