The Objects

2nd Apr 1815

Source: The Bowes Museum, by kind permission of Howard Coutts and Jane Whittaker.

The Duchesse d’Angoulême

Contributed by: Thomas Stammers

Eldest daughter and only surviving child of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, Marie-Thérèse, duchesse d’Angoulême, led a spirited opposition to Napoleon during the 100 Days. She had gone to Bordeaux at the start of March expecting to celebrate the first anniversary of Wellington’s capture of the port, but swung into action as the crisis unfolded.

Despite reports that Napoleon’s ally General Clauzel was closing in on Bordeaux, she steadfastly refused to flee and instead tried to rally the troops to the Bourbon cause. After constant pressure, she finally agreed to leave the port on 2nd April, accepting that to stay any longer was to risk the lives of her supporters. She boarded a ship to Spain, eventually travelling to England and joining her uncle Louis XVIII at Ghent.  In recognition of her brave show of defiance, Napoleon dubbed her the 'only man in the family'.

This psychologically acute study of Marie-Thérèse by Antoine-Jean Gros preceded completion of the full portrait commissioned by the Chamber of Deputies in 1816. In the same year, Gros was charged with immortalizing the duchess’ departure at Pauillac, Bordeaux, with the heroism and pathos of a grand history painting (see here). This more intimate portrait was purchased from the estate of lawyer Pierre-Antoine Berryer by John Bowes, a keen enthusiast for revolutionary and Napoleonic history. It is still in the Bowes Museum in Durham.