Death of a Princess: Marie Sophie Hélène Béatrice

On this day in 1787, Marie Sophie Hélène Béatrice de France, Marie Antoinette’s fourth child, died of tuberculosis.  For four days, the eleven-month-old petite princess suffered convulsions, brought on by 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."

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.

It typically cost 350,000 livres to bury a royal child of France, but because of the wretched state of the economy, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette opted for a less elaborate burial for their beloved youngest child.

Princess Sophie was buried at the Royal Basilica of Saint Denis north of Paris.

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.
  • Libelous pamphlets circulated around Paris suggesting Princess Sophie was really the child of Axel von Fersen or Cardinal de Rohan.
  • Princess Sophie began suffering violent convulsions four days before her death, triggered, some suggest, by the pain of teething.
  • 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."


  1. What a sad story. Poor Marie Antoinette. Thank you for sharing this litte story about Princess Sophie. I love your blog!

    1. You are quite welcome! I am happy to learn you enjoy Titillating Tidbits! All the best.

  2. Your blog is amazing, so I'm sure you're not surprised that it's won some awards for Excellence in Blogging! Come accept your awards!

    1. Merci beaucoup! Accolades always feel so lovely. Bisous.

  3. Why would Mercy be writing to Maria Theresa about baby Sophie? Wasn't the empress died before even Louis Joseph was born?

    1. Please forgive my typo. Of course, Maria Theresa was dead before Sophie was born. Thank you for pointing out my error.


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