Marie Antoinette's Would-Be Friend: Marie Sophie Hélène Béatrice de France

Princess Sophie
On July 9, 1786, Marie Antoinette woke with vague pains in her abdomen and a general feeling of unwellness.  Although heavy with child, she doubted her discomfort was being caused by labor pains.

The pains persisted, increasing in their urgency.  Finally, at four-thirty in the afternoon the various state officials and courtiers were summoned to witness the glorious event (as required by protocol) . 

Three hours later, at seven thirty in the evening, Marie Sophie Hélène Béatrice de France, the fourth child of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette was born.

Sadly, this petite princess would not live to celebrate her first birthday.  She died of tuberculosis on June 19, 1787.

Her death would plunge Marie Antoinette into deep despair.  According to Madame Campan, the queen's first-lady-in-waiting and most trusted servant, Marie Antoinette would come to view Princess Sophie's death as the first in a string of misfortunes. 

Did you know...
  • Marie Antoinette cut her strawberry-blonde hair shortly before the birth of her fourth child. The change in "do" shook her self-confidence and she would often nervously run her fingers through her short locks.   
  • Some have speculated that Sophie was actually Axel von Fersen's child?
  • Though most kings refused to rejoice the birth of a female child, Louis XVI was delighted over the birth of his daughter.
  • Comte Mercy, Austria's Ambassador to France, wrote to Empress Maria Theresa that he believed Marie Antoinette would give birth at the end of July, causing some to speculate that Princess Sophie was born prematurely.
  • Princess Sophie began suffering violent convulsions five days before her death, triggered, some suggest, by the pain of teething.
  • The Duchesse de Polignac, Governess of the Royal Children of France and Marie Antoinette's dear friend, was touring England when Princess Sophie died.  She was, therefore, not available to provide comfort to the grieving queen.
  • Marie Antoinette turned to her sister-in-law, Madame Elisabeth, for comfort.  She even invited the king's sister to view Princess Sophie's little corpse. (An unwelcome and unhappy invitation, to be sure)
  • Marie Antoinette was devastated over the loss of her fourth child, Sophie-Béatrice.  When someone suggested she couldn’t have been too attached to a child who had only lived a year, the Queen responded, "Don't forget that she would have been my friend."
  • While still grieving the loss of her youngest child, Marie Antoinette suffered cruel attacks over her appearance.  Like the modern day magazines that slap unflattering pictures of overweight celebrities on their covers, Marie Antoinette was publicly called fat and unattractive.  Even her brother Joseph took a jab, saying that she had "the fine face of a good fat German."
  • It typically cost 350,000 livres to bury a royal child of France, but because of the wretched state of the economy, Louis XVI & Marie Antoinette opted for a less elaborate burial for their beloved youngest child.
  • An autopsy was performed on Princess Sophie, during which it was discovered that the unfortunate princess was underdeveloped.  It was also noted that she had been about to cut three baby teeth.
  • Princess Sophie was buried at the Royal Basilica of Saint Denis north of Paris.


  1. This post makes me very sad, but still I am glad to have read it. Thank you for teaching me about poor little Sophie.

  2. Poor little Sophie, and poor Marie-Antoinette (and Louis), I cannot imagine what the loss of a child would do to someone...

  3. how exactly did princess sophie died.......did she been alone on the convulsions?

  4. I read "A Fatal Friendship" about 30 years ago. A great story about Marie, her young life and Count Ferson. Later I traveled to Paris and on the Versaille to see Petit Trianon. It is hard to believe Marie had so much dumped on her as a young girl. She was basically a child.

  5. Marie was just a child herself.


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