Princess Marie Amélie Louise Hélène d'Orléans, more commonly known as simply “Amélie”, was the eldest child of Prince Philippe of Orléans, Count of Paris and Princess Marie Isabelle of Orléans. Amélie was born on September 28, 1865 in Twickenham, London. Her father was the son of Ferdinand Philippe, Prince Royal of France and Duke of Orléans and Helene of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. He was a claimant to the French throne from 1848 until his death in 1894, as he was the paternal grandson of King Louis Philippe I of the French. Amélie’s mother was an Infanta of Spain by birth, being the daughter of Infanta Luisa Fernanda, the youngest daughter of King Ferdinand VII of Spain and his fourth wife, Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies, and Prince Antoine, Duke of Montpensier, himself a son of King Louis Philippe I of the French and Maria Amalia of Naples and Sicily. Thus, Amélie’s parents were first cousins, though her father was ten years older than her mother.
|Amélie of Orléans|
Amélie was born a year after her parents married and she had five younger siblings who lived to adulthood, three sisters and two brothers. Her siblings were: Prince Philippe, Duke of Orléans, Princess Hélène (Duchess of Aosta by marriage), Princess Isabelle (Duchess of Guise by marriage), Princess Louise (Princess of Bourbon-Two Sicilies by marriage), and Ferdinand, Duke of Montpensier. Amélie and her family lived in exile in England since her parents had been forced to flee France after King Louis Philippe I was deposed in 1848. The family wasn’t allowed back into France until after the fall of the Second French Empire in 1871 when Amélie was just six years old. They settled down in the Hôtel Matignon in Paris and the Château d'Eu in Normandy. Amélie was a very caring and nurturing older sister to her siblings and acted like a second mother to them. While she was very close with her father, as they both loved nature and horses, she was more distant with her mother. Marie Isabelle was a strict and rigid parental figure and would slap Amélie in front of other people if she thought her daughter wasn’t behaving well enough. Because of her mother’s treatment, Amélie would become a very loving and compassionate mother towards her own children, as she was determined not to follow in her mother’s footsteps. She received a substantial education and her favorite subjects were history (especially French history), archaeology, poetry, and fiction. Besides her native French, Amélie was learned in Latin and German. She was a serious reader whose hobbies included drawing, oil painting, riding, fishing, and walking. She became interested in the arts, especially the opera and the theater. Overall, Amélie was an attractive, elegant, and tall young girl with dark hair and eyes, soft features, and a welcoming smile. She was admired for her benevolence, empathy, and her constant willingness to help others. The Princess of Orléans also genuinely enjoyed meeting ordinary people in France and engaging in conversation with them so that she could learn more about their hardships and joys.
|Carlos, Prince Royal of Portugal and his wife, Amélie of Orléans|
In 1884, the Prince Royal of Portugal, Carlos, saw a photograph of Princess Amélie and was smitten with her. Prince Carlos was the eldest child of King Luís I of Portugal and Princess Maria Pia of Savoy, the daughter of King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy and his first wife, Archduchess Adelaide of Austria. In January of 1886, he left Lisbon to meet Amélie face-to-face at Chantilly Castle, the home of Amélie’s great-uncle. The French princess and the Portuguese heir to the throne shared a mutual attraction to one another from the time they met. Though both shared a birthday, Carlos was two years older than Amélie. They attended a gala dinner upon their initial meeting during which it was apparent that Carlos was absorbed with just one thing – Amélie. After the dinner, Carlos was so confident that Amélie was the one for him that he wrote to his father: “no other creature is more beautiful than her.” Before Amélie met Carlos, her family had tried to marry her to a prince or nobleman of Austria or Spain. Meanwhile, Carlos’s parents tried to match him with Archduchess Marie Valerie of Austria (the youngest child of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria and Empress Elisabeth), Princess Mathilde of Saxony, Princess Viktoria of Prussia, or Princess Victoria of Wales (a daughter of King Edward VII of the U.K. and Alexandra of Denmark). But after meeting Amélie, it was clear that Carlos would marry no one but her. So, the couple were soon engaged and by May 19th of the same year she had met Carlos, Amélie arrived in Portugal at the Palace of Necessidades in Lisbon adorned in a beautiful blue and white silk dress with a hat in the colors of the monarchist Portuguese flag. Three days after her arrival, Princess Amélie married Prince Carlos on May 22, 1886 in the Church of São Domingos in Lisbon. The ceremony was a huge event that seemingly everyone in the city attended and political differences were forgotten. Amélie wore a white gown of faille silk with a long train and a lace veil, which was a gift from her friends in France. Though she chose not to wear any jewelry, she did sport a garland of orange blossoms on her brow. With her marriage to Carlos, the twenty-one year old Amélie became the Princess Royal of Portugal and the Duchess of Braganza.
|Amélie of Orléans, Princess Royal of Portugal|
The newlyweds had a short honeymoon in the city of Sintra before moving into the Palace of Belém where Amélie learned that her parents, who had come to Lisbon for their daughter’s wedding and were currently staying in the Palace of Necessidades, had been exiled from France a second time. The reasoning behind this was because the lavish celebrations of Amélie’s wedding had sparked royalist feelings in France (the government had always been suspicious of Amélie’s family and viewed public interest in her wedding as a threat). Amélie and Carlos were happy together during the first few years of their marriage. Almost right after the wedding, Amélie became pregnant and on March 21, 1887, she gave birth to a son named Luís Filipe after a long and arduous labor. The infant boy was named the Prince of Beira and the Duke of Barcelos upon his birth. Soon after Amélie recovered from her delivery, she traveled with her husband to London for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee where Amélie was able to meet her French relatives who were living in exile in England. After the festivities, Amélie and Carlos spent some time in Edinburgh, Scotland where they discovered that Amélie was pregnant again. She gave birth to a daughter named Maria Anna on December 14, 1887 but the baby was premature and died soon after the delivery. The loss of their child devastated Amélie and her husband to the point where they couldn’t talk to each other about their daughter’s death for days. Physically, Amélie never recovered from the labor and suffered from chronic heart problems for the rest of her life.
|King Carlos I of Portugal and Queen Amélie|
Initially, Amélie was unpopular with the Portuguese people not because of her personality or appearance but because the monarchy itself was unpopular. The republicans found that by attacking Amélie, they could attack the monarchy. So, she was criticized for everything she did, no matter it if was a mandatory royal duty or a private hobby. Amélie liked to personally visit institutions for the poor and meet with the people there. The aristocracy saw this as unfitting for a future queen while the republicans panned her as a liar and a phony. But Amélie ignored all these criticisms and founded the Institute Princess Dona Amelia to support workers’ social rights and the National Association against Tuberculosis. She dedicated much of her time to promoting health care and became a significant financial donor to the Red Cross, schools, and hospitals. Eventually, the people warmed to her and she became a popular figure, which lessened the rising reproach of the monarchy. Amélie was much more likeable than her formal mother-in-law because she was much more relaxed, calm, and open-minded. The Portuguese also liked the fact that Amélie made a successful effort to become fluent in their native tongue. However, she was criticized for being a spendthrift and for being too vain and over concerned with French fashion in the eyes of the republicans. Though Carlos always cared for and respected his wife, he was never faithful to her and engaged in various extramarital affairs. On October 19, 1889, Carlos’s father died and he ascended the throne as King Carlos I of Portugal with Amélie, who was just twenty-four years old, as his Queen Consort.
|Amélie of Orléans, Queen Consort of Portugal|
(Vittorio Matteo Corcos, 1905)
As the Queen of Portugal, Amélie was very active in her work with charities and the welfare of the poor and sick. Less than a month after her husband’s accession, Amélie gave birth to her last child – a son named Manuel, who was named the Duke of Beja. Amélie mainly resided at the Ducal Palace of Vila Viçosa, the seat of the House of Braganza with her young sons while her husband ruled. But it was clear that a storm was brewing amongst their subjects. The monarchy’s popularity with the people was at an all time low and the kingdom was suffering from manufacturing troubles, criticism from the media, republican and socialist resentment, and a broke economy. When King Carlos went on a series of official visits to foreign countries in late 1895, Amélie served as his regent during his absence. She spent much of her free time writing about her thoughts, troubles, and emotions in her private diary and whenever she needed some time alone or to just relax, she would ride or take a short trip to the ocean. Amélie’s heart problems worsened in 1902 and her doctors suggested that she take a vacation to improve her health. Thus, the Queen took her two sons with her on a three-month voyage in the Mediterranean on her husband’s yacht, the Amélia. Though the Queen and her sons enjoyed their trip throughout Europe, the press heavily criticized Amélie for the excessive luxury of her cruise. Her health didn’t improve as a result of the vacation; in fact, she suffered from a stroke that summer. Her relationship with her husband also became more distant, as he no longer asked for her opinion or advice on political events like he had always done in the past. As the years passed, general hostility towards the monarchy continued to rise and Carlos’s position on the throne seemed less and less secure. Socialism was becoming popular throughout Portugal and Catholic Church, which had once been a highly influential institution in both government and daily life, was fading into the background. The greatest threats to the monarchy was the militant Republican Party and their revolutionary, conspiratorial left-wing organization, the Carbonária. The monarchy itself was crumbling from internal tensions since the royalist parties that made up Carlos’s regime were constantly at each other’s throats.
|Amélie of Orléans, Queen of Portugal|
Portugal finally exploded on February 1, 1908 when the King and Queen, along with their sons, were travelling by open carriage to the Palace of the Necessidades. Two republicans fired a series of shots at the carriage, which hit the King and his two sons. While Amélie was uninjured and her youngest, Manuel, was just hit in the arm, her oldest son, Luís Filipe, was mortally wounded and her husband died immediately from the hit he received. Luís Filipe lingered for about twenty minutes before dying from his wounds at the age of twenty. He was buried next to his father, who was forty-four years old at the time of his assassination, in the Pantheon of the Braganzas. The death of King Carlos and his oldest son and heir, the Prince Royal, was known as the Lisbon Regicide. Amélie was grief-stricken at the shocking deaths of her husband and son but she knew that she had to be strong for her young son, Manuel, who succeeded to the throne as King Manuel II at the age of eighteen. Manuel was only alive because his mother had prevented his death by hitting a gunman in the face with her bouquet. But he had never been expected to succeed to the throne and as a result, he was completely unprepared for his new position as the leader of an anti-monarchist country. In the two years that Manuel sat on the throne, his mother had a huge amount of influence over him. She wrote the official texts that he would sign, read dispatches to him and then gave her opinion on what he should do, and headed political meetings. But her control over Manuel just further enraged the republicans. It was only a matter of time before the country devolved into rebellion. The revolution finally began on October 3, 1910 and just two days later, the Republican Party had successfully overthrown Manuel and replaced that constitutional monarchy with a republic. Amélie and her son had no choice but to escape Lisbon for Ericeira, after which they headed to Gibraltar, a British territory in Spain, on the Amélia with the late King Carlos’s brother, Prince Alfonso, and his mother, Queen Maria Pia.
|Manuel II of Portugal and his wife, Augusta Victoria of Hohenzollern|
Amélie lived the rest of her life in exile. She lived in England until 1920, after which she moved back to her native France since the cold English winters were negatively affecting her health. She resided in the Château de Bellevue, a mansion in Chesnoy, and she spent much of her time helping the local community by supporting charities and the Red Cross. There was not enough support for Manuel, who now lived in England, to ever make a serious attempt to reclaim his throne. In 1913, he married his second cousin, the German Princess Augusta Victoria of Hohenzollern, a daughter of William, Prince of Hohenzollern, and Princess Maria Teresa of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, the only child of Prince Louis, Count of Trani and Duchess Mathilde Ludovika in Bavaria. Although Manuel and Augusta Victoria had a peaceful and happy marriage, they had no children. When World War I broke out in 1914, both Amélie and her son participated in humanitarian activities, such as working in hospitals for the wounded. She lost Manuel on July 2, 1932 when the forty-two year old king in exile died of suffocation from an abnormal swelling in his tracheal oedema. The Portuguese government permitted his remains to be buried with those of his father and brother in the Royal Pantheon of the House of Braganza but Amélie and Augusta Victoria were not allowed to attend the funeral. In fact, Amélie was not permitted to set foot in Portugal until World War II, when the government allowed her to return. She refused this invitation until after the war, when on May 19, 1945, the fifty-ninth anniversary of her arrival in Portugal as the betrothed of Prince Carlos, Amélie went back to Portugal for the first time in thirty-four years. She was received with open arms by the Portuguese people, who welcomed her arrival quite enthusiastically. She only stayed in Portugal for a few days, taking the time to visit the tombs of her husband and her sons before she met her pen pal and close friend, António de Oliveira Salazar, the Prime Minister of Portugal, for the first time. In the last three years of her life, Amélie’s physical and mental health deteriorated rapidly. She suffered from dementia and by 1951, she was asking people why she had been exiled and who had killed her sons. On October 25, 1951 at her home in France, the eighty-six year old Amélie of Orléans, the last Queen Consort of Portugal, passed away. She was buried in the Royal Pantheon of the Braganza alongside her husband and sons.