Saturday, July 19, 2014

I was your king's daughter: the poetry of Marie Thérèse Charlotte in captivity

As her family members were taken from her, one by one, the young Marie Thérèse Charlotte began to suffer increasingly isolated and strict prison conditions. After her aunt Elisabeth was taken from her, Thérèse was denied both her request for a female companion to stay with her and her frequent requests to be allowed to see her young brother. Small comforts, such as a tinder box to light the small stove in her room, were taken away and she was subject to submit to room searches at any time of the day or night.

This strict imprisonment did not last forever. As the harsher restrictions on the imprisoned Marie Thérèse began to be lifted, the young teenager was allowed to request small comforts such as additional books to read, paper and writing tools which had been previously denied her. During this period, she began to write her memoirs about her experiences during the revolution.

She also wrote poetry that expressed her hopes, fears, feelings and the experiences of her imprisonment. Original manuscripts of at least some of Madame Royale's poetry were kept in the family of Madeleine Bocquet-Chanterenne, a young woman who was sent to be the teen's companion. Thérèse affectionately referred to her as her 'dear Renète.'

The following are some excerpts from translations of some of the poetry that Marie Thérèse wrote during her imprisonment in the Temple and were kept by the family of Madeleine Bocquet-Chanterenne. Although simply written, her words reflects the pain and sorrow that the young girl experienced in her often terrifying and lonely captivity.

I was your king's daughter
separated from all my family.
I languish in this sad jail
Alas! I say with good reason
Even though I am alone and sad
My jail would appear happy to me
If I was in this place with my brother.


To my mother, to the Conciergerie
I asked to be reunited
But as an answer, my jailers
Say: this has nothing to do with us.
Spread your blessings on her,
God! Open promptly your jail.

A short time ago, at night
I was sleeping peacefully in my bed.
I got suddenly woken up
By the enraged noise of my locks.
They were coming to my door, they were knocking.
I replied immediately: who is there?
I was asked to open up, I replied:
I am getting up and leaving my bed.
I was hoping that I would get out,
I was expecting to leave the tower.
I go to the door, I finally open it!
They come in with my jailer
I look at them, hoping they would ask me
to follow them and come.
But alas! They stare at me
And suddenly without saying a word, they go out with my jailer.

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