Maria Luisa Leopoldina Francesca Teresa Giuseppa Lucia of Hapsburg-Lorraine, known simply as Maria Luisa of Austria or Maria Luigia of Parma, was empress consort of the French from 1810 to 1814 as the wife of Napoleon I, and the reigning duchess of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla from 1814 to 1847 by decision of the Vienna Congress.
Daughter of the Austrian emperor Francis I, in 1810 was given in marriage to Napoleon Bonaparte to seal the peace of Vienna between France and Austria, following the defeat suffered by the latter in the battle of Wagram (1809). Unwillingly arriving at the imperial court of the Tuileries, Maria Luisa soon began to appreciate her new position, although the French did not love her. She herself could not be comfortable in the country that, less than twenty years earlier, had beheaded another Austrian archduchess, her great-aunt Marie Antoinette.
When Napoleon was defeated by the sixth coalition, Maria Luisa decided not to follow him in his exile on the Island of Elba, but returned with his son to the court of Vienna. Even after the hundred days and the decisive defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, the empress decided to remain faithful to the Habsburg family. The Vienna Congress rewarded it by giving it the life of the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza. Sharply criticized by the French for abandoning Napoleon at the time of the misfortune, Maria Luigia - so she had decided to Italianise her name - was nevertheless loved by the citizens of Parma, who gave her the name of "good duchess".
He was born in the Hofburg, the Viennese imperial palace, just before midnight on December 12, 1791, the eldest daughter of the Archduke Franz Joseph and his second wife, the first cousin Maria Teresa of Bourbon-Naples. The paternal grandfather Leopold II and the maternal grandmother Maria Carolina were brothers, both sons of the Empress Maria Teresa of Austria; on the other hand the maternal grandfather Ferdinando I delle Due Sicilie and the paternal grandmother Maria Ludovica di Borbone-Spagna were also brothers, both sons of Charles III of Spain and Maria Amalia of Saxony. The girl was baptized Maria Luisa Leopoldina Francesca Teresa Giuseppa Lucia, but in the family she would be called with the diminutive Louisl (Luisetta). He had little more than two and a half months when, at the death of his grandfather Leopold II, his father became emperor with the name of Francis II.
Far from the war that was fought between Austria and France (where Queen Antonietta, her great-aunt, was guillotined on October 16, 1793), the young Archduchess lived a carefree childhood between the Hofburg, Schönbrunn Palace and of Laxenburg. Neglected by her mother Maria Teresa, who gave her neither affection nor support, Maria Luisa tightened an intense relationship with her father Francesco, who considered her his favorite daughter. Among the numerous group of brothers and sisters he favored Leopoldina, the future empress of Brazil, and Francesco Carlo, the future father of Emperor Francesco Giuseppe. In addition, Maria Luisa made a deep affectionate relationship with her governess, Victoria Colloredo, and with her daughter, Victoire de Poutet.
The young Archduchess was rather simply educated, following the dictates of the Catholic religion, with the intention of making her a polite and obedient girl. He studied languages, in particular French, the international language of the time, and Italian, the mother tongue of his parents, while his German was always incorrect.  The rest of his culture foresaw general and in-depth notions of literature, calculation, geography and history of the House of Austria and the main European dynasties. The Viennese imperial family, which since the time of Maria Teresa led a private "bourgeois" life, appreciated that her archduchesses devoted themselves to small female arts: Maria Luisa loved gardening, cooking, embroidery and music (her instrument it was the piano).
Although she was far from the war, Maria Luisa felt the echo of the battles fought by Austria against Napoleon Bonaparte's France. A profound hatred was instilled in her for the French leader, who in his eyes looked like the devil. When, in 1804, the news arrived in Vienna that Napoleon had kidnapped and executed the Duke of Enghien, a prince of the French royal family, the habens of Marie Antoinette came to mind to the Habsburgs and began to fear the fall of other crowned heads. Before the eyes of Maria Luisa, Bonaparte was the incarnation of the Revolution, the Antichrist who wanted to destroy the Church and the European monarchies, while his beloved parent was the defender of order and justice. Meanwhile, however, fearing that Napoleon obliterated the Holy Roman Empire, Francis II elevated the archduchy of Austria to the empire and proclaimed himself emperor of Austria as Francis I.
In 1805 there was a decisive turning point, as Napoleon attacked Austria directly and inflicted a severe defeat on the Austrian army at the Battle of Ulm (October 20). A month later the French emperor entered Vienna: Maria Luisa and her brothers repaired in Hungary. From Ofen the Archduchess hoped that the fate of the war would favor the allies and to the mother wrote: "The fates will hang on the side of father, and finally arrive the hour when this usurper will be humiliated. Perhaps God lets him come to such an extent to deprive him, after he has dared so much, of every way out. " But things went against his expectations and Napoleon won the famous and decisive battle of Austerlitz (December 2, 1805). The defeat followed the peace of Presburg, somewhat unfavorable for Austria which was deprived of many territories; shortly thereafter, in August 1806, the Holy Roman Empire ceased to exist.
On April 13, 1807, Empress Maria Theresa died after giving birth to her twelfth child, a child who died at birth. Francesco I looked for a new wife in the family and in January 1808 he married his cousin Maria Ludovica d'Asburgo-Este, daughter of Ferdinando, his uncle. Maria Luisa, who was only four years younger than her stepmother, was already her friend and their relationship intensified. Maria Ludovica, who because of a fragile and delicate health could not have children, considered her husband's ones. Of the major said: "I do not think I could love her more if I had her in her womb, after all she deserves it, because her character is in the end excellent".
In 1809 the armed conflicts between France and Austria resumed, hoping to cancel the Presburg peace treaty. But even this time Napoleon proved to be a more skilled strategist, turning the war to his advantage. On May 4, the imperial family fled again from Vienna, which was again occupied by the French on 12 May. From Ofen Maria Luisa wrote to her father: "We live constantly in fear, without knowing if every new day will bring us joy or new worries". The Napoleonic armies prevailed over the Austrian armies and the archduke had to leave the city to take refuge further east, to Eger, where Maria Ludovica took care of the education of her stepchildren, who incited hatred against Napoleon. On 6 July 1809 Napoleon won the battle of Wagram and Austria surrendered him; followed the Schönbrunn treaty, which proved to be worse than the previous one.
Following a failed attempt, Napoleon began to think about what would become of the empire if he had died since he had no legitimate children. Conscious of not being sterile (had illegitimate children), the emperor resolved to divorce his wife Giuseppina di Beauharnais. When Maria Luisa heard the news, she wrote to her father: "In the gazette I read about Napoleon's divorce from his wife; I must confide to you, dear dad, that the thing has seriously alarmed me: the thought that I may be in the list of those that will perhaps be proposed in isposa is not an unlikely eventuality, which led me to make you a confession, which I entrust myself to His paternal heart ". Maria Luisa went on to tell him that at Ofen he had deepened his acquaintance with Archduke Francis, brother of Empress Maria Ludovica, and asked his father if a marriage was possible. The Archduchess was evidently agitated, since she wrote the letter "Ofen, January 5, 1809" instead of 1810. Maria Ludovica, who advocated this union, tried to act as an intermediary with the emperor Francis I, but without obtaining any result.
Napoleon considered eighteen possible suitors; then, discarding the French candidates, the choice was restricted to the fourteen-year-old Anna Pavlovna Romanova, sister of Tsar Alexander I and the eighteen-year-old Maria Luisa. The stubborn denial of the Tsarina Maria Fëdorovna and the political activity of Metternich, who feared an alliance between France and Russia, made the choice fall on Maria Luisa and the Austrian minister succeeded in convincing Emperor Francis I to grant his daughter to the enemy. Maria Luisa, who was never kept informed by official negotiations, on January 23, 1810 wrote to her friend Victoire de Poutet, daughter of Countess Colloredo: "I know that you marry me already in Vienna with the great Napoleon, I hope this will remain a speech and I am grateful to you, dear Victoire, for the good wishes; in this regard I formulate the countertops so that this does not happen and if it is to be done, I believe that I will be the only one who will not rejoice. "
When Metternich officially informed the Archduchess of her forthcoming wedding, Maria Luisa went to complain to her father, who justified himself by saying that the agreement had been taken by his ministers without him knowing anything about it: it was not true, since it was unthinkable that the negotiations had taken place without informing the emperor, but in the end Maria Luisa, educated in obedience like all the archduchesses, accepted "patiently and reasonably her fate", as her uncle Ranieri had to say. The diplomacies of France and Austria were in a hurry to conclude the marriage, while Napoleon was in Paris waiting for his young Austrian bride. The marriage was officiated by proxy in the Augustinerkirche, the church of the imperial palace of the Hofburg, March 11, 1810. On the arm of Maria Luisa, in place of Bonaparte, there was Archduke Charles, the former commander of the troops Austrians who had triumphed against Napoleon at Aspern, but who had been humiliated at Wagram.
Maria Luisa's leave from her father and from the Austrian court took place on the evening of March 13 in Sankt Pölten, from where the bride left for Soissons, a place planned for the meeting with the groom. Since such a wedding did not happen for decades, Napoleon wanted the remise ceremony to follow the protocol used forty years earlier with Marie Antoinette. The wooden construction made of three rooms (Austrian, Neutral and French), in which Maria Luisa was to enter as Archduchess of Austria and leave her as empress of France, was erected between Altheim and Braunau. After crossing Bavaria and Württemberg in the general triumph of the people, well disposed towards France, and having received the tribute of the French people from beyond the Rhine, on March 27th it was reached at Courcelles-sur-Vesles by Napoleon who wanted to show them his impatience anticipating the meeting, after having galloped quickly in the rain. Maria Luisa, at first frightened and then surprised, was embarrassed until the end of the journey.
Arrived in carriage at the castle of Compiègne, at 21.30, Maria Luisa was presented to the reunited court. Napoleon decided to break the protocol, consuming that same night the first night of marriage: he had asked the bishop of Nantes if the marriage by proxy in Vienna had conferred the rights of a husband on his wife; received a positive response, he had decided to join his wife before the ceremony in Paris. After having assured herself about the collaborative intentions of the bride, Napoleon instructed her sister Carolina to summarize briefly her female duties for that night. He will then recall the emperor, in the exile of the island of Elba: «I went to her and she laughed. He laughed all night. "
The civil marriage of Napoleon Bonaparte and Maria Luisa took place in the castle of Saint-Cloud on 1 April 1810. At first Bonaparte had decided to marry in Versailles, but then chose the castle where, in 1799, he had completed his stroke. of State, proclaiming himself First Consul of the Republic. Five years later, still in Saint-Cloud, he had been appointed emperor. At the ceremony the first split occurred in the college of cardinals: fourteen cardinals took part in the wedding, fourteen refused.
The next day, on April 2, in the Salon Carré of the Louvre, transformed into a chapel, a religious ceremony took place, officiated by Cardinal Joseph Fesch, maternal uncle of the groom. The cleavage in the clergy became more evident, because the fourteen absentees were added three more: the cardinals, in fact, did not want to attend the wedding, because Napoleon was still under excommunication, which he had received in 1809, and was considered by them "bigamo ", lacking the ratification of Pope Pius VII in his divorce from Giuseppina di Beauharnais.  Napoleon was very annoyed by this cardinalist rebellion and had the rebel cardinals confined to the province under police surveillance. The discontent occurred, however, even within the court: Napoleon's sisters and sister-in-law did not want to bring the Austrian train, as Maria Luisa was called, with the same name reserved for Marie Antoinette. The empress did not know that there was talk of her in this way already throughout Paris: the Bonapartists preferred Giuseppina, the republicans hated her as nephew of the queen guillotined, the monarchists did not forgive her to give with her wedding a kind of pseudo-illegitimacy to the family of Bonaparte.
Napoleon immediately began to become attached to Maria Luisa, who admired for the nobility of her birth, on the other for the domestic virtues of which she was endowed. Maria Luisa proved to be the ideal wife for the emperor: educated from childhood to obedience, she was devoted and affectionate and did not meddle in political affairs. Maria Luisa was, using the words of Napoleon, a "delightful child", gave the husband to you with great dismay of the courtiers and called him "Nanà" or "Popò". Metternich tried to influence the empress in order to exercise some control over her husband and direct him to a pro-Austrian policy, but Maria Luisa not only did not wish to do so, but was also unable to do so.
Although it was appreciated by the emperor, Maria Luisa was for the French the new Autrichienne (Austrian), nephew of the hated Marie Antoinette, ascent to the gallows with joy of the Parisians. She herself, though in letters to her father claimed to be happy, sometimes showed a certain bitterness. The poet Lamartine spoke of it as a "statue of the melancholy of the north abandoned in the middle of a French encampment, amid the noise of arms". Always used to leaning on someone stronger and more authoritarian, the empress began to find in Napoleon that charismatic figure that for many years had been represented by Francis I.
At the Tuileries four rooms were reserved in which Queen Marie Antoinette lived in the times of the Revolution: Maria Luisa did not feel at home in that country and as Napoleon recalled: «she was always afraid of being among the French who had killed her aunt ». The empress did not like the courtroom and all that circle of complacent and accommodating nobles; in his diary he wrote: "I do not like to praise myself in the face, especially when the eulogy is not true, as when they tell me I am beautiful." On the other hand, Maria Luisa found her first companion, the Duchess of Montebello, to her liking. The courtiers soon began to despise her: Maria Luisa was very shy and did not have the charm and ease of Empress Giuseppina and, unlike the latter, preferred intimacy to the life of a Parisian society. He was content to play his part of the first woman next to his wife, showing the rigid teaching taught at the court in Vienna. She felt inadequate in that court she felt foreign and was the center of attention weighed: "Our state is really unhappy; when you are tired, you are forced to receive; when one wants to cry, one must laugh and one is not even pitied. "
In the family context, Maria Luisa soon had to clash with the Bonaparte clan, who before her had covered Giuseppina with hatred. If Napoleon's mother, Letizia Ramolino, was content to throw contemptuous glances at the Austrian, her daughters wanted to ridicule her at court. The only person with whom he got along was Ortensia di Beauharnais, queen of Holland.
In private life, the empress dedicated herself to those activities that had filled her days in Vienna and were pleasing to Napoleon. Maria Luisa continued to deal with embroidery and sewing work; playing remained his favorite activity and dedicated himself to harp, harpsichord and piano. The Italian Ferdinando Paër gave her singing lessons and Maria Luisa helped him in his Parisian career: in 1812 he became director of the Théâtre de l'Opéra italien du Théâtre de l'Impératrice. Prud'hon and Isabey were his drawing masters instead. Reading was an important pastime for her, but also a tool for learning and education. Although blamed, he loved to read the works of Chateaubriand: Atala, René, The genius of Christianity or the beauties of the Christian religion. With reserves he also devoted himself to reading frivolous texts such as those of Madame de Genlis and Restif de la Bretonne, but he did not like the typically French coquetry.
Maria Luisa paid much attention to the meals and was extremely greedy for sweets, which was not good for her line. She enjoyed playing pool, walking in the Elysée gardens, riding a horse in Saint-Cloud. The hunting did not aggravate it and followed the matches only in the carriage. With regard to Versailles he showed himself to be dichotomized: he loved the Petit Trianon park, which reminded her of Laxenburg, but at the same time everything still seemed strongly permeated by the melancholic aura of Marie Antoinette. Raised in the devout environment of Vienna, the empress liked Sunday mass and various religious festivals. Within the limits allowed by her husband and under the strict control of the state apparatus, she also took care of charity.
In July 1810, three months after the first night in Compiègne, Maria Luisa wrote to her father that she was pregnant. The pregnancy did not present any particular problems and for the unborn child a special title was already ready: king of Rome if he had been a male, princess of Venice had it been a - unwanted - female. The birth was long and painful and had to resort to the tools: March 20, 1811, after twelve hours of labor, Maria Luisa gave birth to a child. On June 9, 1811, in the cathedral of Notre-Dame, Napoleon was baptized Joseph Joseph, in honor of his father, maternal grandfather, paternal uncle and paternal grandfather. His godfathers were the Grand Duke of Tuscany Ferdinand III of Lorraine (representing the emperor), Letizia Ramolino, Giuseppe Bonaparte and Ortensia of Beauharnais. Maria Luisa, like many other sovereigns before her, had no way of dealing directly with the child; on the contrary, Napoleon had already planned his education and education by keeping his wife on the sidelines. To one of his ladies he confided: "My child is stolen, I would like to rock him, take him in a wheelchair, be me to show it to the emperor. I am sure that in Austria I would have the right to spend my days with my son ".
In May 1812 Napoleon left for the campaign of Russia; Maria Luisa followed him to Dresden, where she could meet her father and stepmother. While Napoleon was proceeding in what was to be his ruin, Maria Luisa was able to travel to the territories of the paternal empire: in June she went to Prague and then set off again in July. On the 18th of that month he officially returned to Paris. Throughout the period of the expedition, the emperor and the empress wrote many letters and remained in constant contact. On October 19, 1812 Napoleon's retreat from Russia began, while in Paris Maria Luisa was increasingly anxious: if Napoleon died, she would become regent for her son. On December 18, just before midnight, Napoleon introduced himself to his wife, after losing a huge number of soldiers.
The new year, 1813, opened with declarations of war against Russia, Prussia and England. Napoleon did his utmost to have Maria Luisa intervene at the Vienna court asking for help. On February 5, 1813 the regency clause was introduced and on March 30, Maria Luisa was appointed regent of the empire. On April 15 Napoleon left for Germany. The regency was a burden on the empress, although her role was only representative: all decisions on the state were taken by Napoleon and activated through his faithful. The official duties of the regent were to preside over the Senate, the Council of State, the Council of Ministers and the Private Council. Meanwhile, under the pressing stress of Napoleon, the empress continued to ask for help from her father, but without results. Austria remained neutral and carried out unnecessary peace negotiations between the conflicting states. Napoleon did not accept the conditions of the peace of Prague and on 11 August 1813 also Austria went to war alongside the allies. After Austria entered the war, the position of the empress worsened. Maria Luisa was more and more looked after as the Autrichienne and the conscripts of October, wanted by Napoleon to call new recruits to arms, they were called "marialuigini". Between October 16th and 19th the decisive battle of Lipsia took place: Napoleon lost and on November 9th he returned to Paris.
The consequences of the defeat were considerable: France was reduced to the borders it had at the time of the Republic. Within the country there were now many people who no longer praised the emperor, mainly because of the doubling of taxes and the recruitment of 300,000 men. Austria intervened in favor of France to prevent it from being invaded: the allies committed themselves to recognizing the Bonaparte dynasty and the natural borders in exchange for renunciation of domination over the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Italy and Spain. Napoleon, however, rejected the proposal. In response to this the Allies were preparing to invade France.
1814 did not open positively; Maria Luisa was desperate and confided to Ortensia: "I bring misfortune wherever I go. All those I have dealt with have been more or less touched, and since childhood I have only spent my life escaping. " On 23 January, Maria Luisa was appointed regent for the second time. On the morning of the 25th Napoleon said goodbye to his son and his wife in tears. They would never see each other again. In the letters that the regent sent to her husband she did not show a positive situation at all: she was very melancholy, women and children left Paris, the paintings and the treasures of the Louvre were kept safe. On 8 February 1814 Napoleon wrote to his brother Giuseppe that if he died, the empress and the crown prince should have gone to Rambouillet rather than end up in the hands of the Austrians: "I would prefer that my son be choked, instead of ever seeing him in Vienna , educated by an Austrian prince ».
Maria Luisa wrote to her husband trusting in peace: "Now I do not long for peace; far away from you I feel so derelict and so sad, that all my desires are restricted to this alone ». Napoleon again sent his wife to write to his father asking him to change the party, but Francesco I was adamant. Yet another peace negotiation, which began on 5 February at Châtillon-sur-Seine, proved to be a failure. Between March 20th and March 21st Napoleon was defeated at the battle of Arcis-sur-Aube; later, he made the mistake of trying to catch the enemy behind him instead of stopping him in front of Paris. The allies sent 8,000 men behind Napoleon, 180,000 headed to the capital. The city was in chaos and on March 28, during the Council, the Minister of War put forward the hypothesis to evacuate the empress and the crown prince. The other ministers, however, decided that the regent would remain in Paris. Then Giuseppe intervened and read the explicit orders of the emperor written in a letter of March 16: if it was impossible to defend the city, his wife and his son would have to leave the capital and head to the Loire.
On the morning of March 29, 1814, the imperial parade left Paris, threatened to the west where the Cossacks had already invaded Neully. The day after, Paris capitulated. The Empress's journey ended on the evening of April 2 in Blois, where the court moved and continued to hold Council meetings. It was the fourth anniversary of their marriage and Maria Luisa wrote to Napoleon, who was in Fontainebleau: "I believe that peace will restore all my serenity. It is really necessary that you present it to us as soon as possible ". On the same day in Paris, the Senate declined the emperor. Napoleon urged his wife to write a letter to Francis I to recommend herself and her son. Maria Luisa wrote: "The state of affairs is so sad and frightening for us, that I seek refuge with my son near you. It is therefore in your hands, dear father, that I forgive my salvation". On 6 April Napoleon abdicated without conditions, without any succession for Napoleon II nor a regency for his mother. The day after the news arrived in Blois along with a letter from Napoleon for Maria Luisa: "Goodbye, my good Louise, I'm sorry for you. Write to your father and ask him to give you Tuscany; as for me, I do not want the island of Elba ".
Initially Maria Luisa made the decision to join him in Fontainebleau, then was persuaded to stay in Blois. She wrote to her husband asking for instructions because some were reaching out to join him, others to come back to his father. Napoleon did not answer, and in Blois came a tsar's aide and a representative of the French interim government who persuaded her to leave for Orléans. In the city the valuables were confiscated, not only the state property, but also the gifts made by her husband. Maria Luisa was terrified, she feared to end Marie Antoinette and wrote to Napoleon that she had a fever, that spit blood and that she needed help. On 11 April Napoleon wrote to her and reported the decisions made with the allies: he would have had Elba, her and her son the duchy of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla. He kept telling her that he would have preferred to give her Tuscany, so that she could reach him for a permanent stay on the island of Elba. Maria Luisa did not follow her husband in misfortune and on April 16 he met with his father in Rambouillet.
Francis I returned to re-occupy his role as a guide who for four years had been the emperor of the French. On April 24, 1814 began the return trip to Austria of Maria Luisa. On 2 May the Rhine passed and left France; in his diary he wrote: "I wish every good to poor France. May she enjoy the peace she has needed for so long and sometimes feel some compassion for a person who has remained fond of her and who regrets her destiny and the friends she has to leave behind. " During the rest of the journey her psychophysical conditions worsened considerably: she lost more and more, had a continuous febbriciattola and wished "the peace that is found only in the grave". In Austria it was welcomed with manifestations of joy by the population and began to recover. For the future he expected to find support in Vienna, a kingdom in Parma and some stays on Elba with his wife.
In Vienna Maria Luisa was initially welcomed with great demonstrations of affection; after the first times, however, her serenity began to annoy the public opinion and her family, since she did not even show a little 'afflicted for the misfortune rushed to her husband. In June 1814 Francesco I granted Maria Luisa a holiday in the spa town of Aix-les-Bains; alongside his daughter he placed his trusted general, Adam Albert von Neipperg. Towards the end of August the ex-empress showed her intention to return to Vienna to discuss her future and that of her son. Napoleon wrote to her that he was waiting for her at Elba for September, but Maria Luisa had no desire to go there, and in any case she would not have done so without her father's consent. During the return trip through Switzerland, Maria Luisa expressed the feelings of love she had begun to feel for Neipperg, with whom she joined between 25 and 26 September. When the news became public knowledge, Maria Luisa was harshly criticized by both the French and the Austrians.
Meanwhile, the European powers were trying to reorganize the countries "upset" by the Napoleonic conquests and the congress of Vienna was convened for October 1, 1814. Maria Luisa was kept away from the initiatives of the congress and was led to court life in the castle of Schönbrunn. Metternich thought to defend his claims on the Duchy of Parma, which was contested by the Bourbons. On March 8, 1815, Maria Luisa was informed of Napoleon's flight from the island of Elba: the former empress collapsed emotionally because she feared she had to return to France. He wrote to his father asking for help, which soon came from the allies. The congress powers immediately declared war on Napoleon and Maria Luisa hoped she would lose it. Her husband wrote to her that he was waiting for her in April and asked her officially back to Francesco I; but neither the emperor nor his daughter were willing to accept. For her part Maria Luisa was convinced of her future in Parma with Neipperg, sent to fight in Italy, and her father wrote: "I would be extremely helpful because of the progress of my house and also because I trust him and because I would like to have [in Parma] one of here, since I do not want to make new acquaintances! ».
On 31 May 1815 Maria Luisa was reassured by the pact between Austria, Prussia and Russia: the three great powers recognized the Duchy of Parma to Maria Luisa and her son; once the war was over, they would also get the recognition of England, France and Spain. Less than a month later, on June 18, 1815, Napoleon was finally defeated at the Battle of Waterloo. On 15 August 1815, while Napoleon was on his way to Saint Helena, Maria Luisa wrote to his father: "I hope that you will be treated kindly and kindly, and I beg you, dear father, to work for this to happen; this is the only thing I dare to ask for him and it is the last time I take his fate to heart, for I must be grateful to him for the quiet indifference in which he has let me live instead of making me unhappy. " Napoleon arrived at Saint Helena on October 17; on December 12th, twenty-fourth birthday of Maria Luisa, the ex-empress reunited with her lover Neipperg.
When the proceedings of the congress resumed, England, France and Spain refused to grant Parma to Maria Luisa and her son, seen as a dangerous idol for the rebirth of Bonapartism. In reality, the child did not represent any danger since it was now treated and educated as an Austrian archduke and even called Francesco (Franz). In the end the ducats were granted annuity to Maria Luisa, but she was not allowed to take her son to Italy. She was deprived of the imperial dignity, of which she continued to boast, and was given the title of "Her Majesty the Archduchess Maria Luisa of Austria, Duchess of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla". His son, whose future was still uncertain, was momentarily called "the Prince of Parma's Serene Highness".
The new duchess left for Italy on March 7, 1816. At her side was the beloved and trusted Neipperg. In Italy there would be no lack of support: the Lombard-Veneto Kingdom was directly dependent on Vienna; the Grand Duchy of Tuscany was ruled by Ferdinand III, one of his dearest uncles; Francesco IV, brother of Empress Maria Ludovica, reigned in Modena. His grandfather Ferdinando I delle Due Sicilie sat on the throne of Naples. Before, however, to take possession of his duchy the former French empress also wanted to italianize his name. After the German Marie Luise and the French Marie Louise chose the Italian Maria Luigia and February 29, 1816 made public his choice with a decree. During the journey there was a serious mourning: the twenty-eight empress Maria Ludovica, long sick with tuberculosis, died on 7 April 1816 in Verona. The official entry into the duchy took place on April 19, shortly after he wrote to his father: «The people welcomed me with such enthusiasm that tears came to my eyes». His first destination was the ducal palace of Colorno, his future summer residence. The next day he entered Parma. A chronicler of the time wrote: "He entered the capital at 5 pm. He set off from Colorno in a country train and took the gala to the casino of Lieutenant Colonel Fedolfi. Behind the ministerial letter, the Cathedral was magnificently decorated. He was asked to substitute in this function from the Em. Bishop, somewhat discomfited, mgr. Scutellari and this prelate with the canons and with twelve consortiums appeared in the chapel of the Consortium.
Maria Luigia never really dealt with politics; it was Neipperg, his first butler and foreign minister, to move the government under the directives that Metternich sent him from Vienna. The duchess confined herself to the representative functions she had already held in the past. Maria Luigia only desired "to be able to spend my life here in the greatest tranquility" and her subjects agreed with her. On 1 May 1817, from the relationship with Neipperg, a child was born, Albertina, to whom she gave the title of Countess of Montenuovo (Italianization of Neuberg, from Neipperg). On 8 August 1819 they had another son, William. In 1822 and 1823 Maria Luigia gave birth to two other children, Matilde and Gustavo, who died almost immediately. Obviously he could not recognize his children, who were illegitimate, and for this they could not live in the palace. The situation made her suffer, also because their existence was known in Vienna and the parmigiani.
As for the other son, in Vienna, his destiny had been decided: Francesco would not have succeeded his mother on the throne of Parma, who would return to the Bourbons at the death of the duchess. Maria Luigia wrote to her father: "It is my duty as a mother and my firm will to see places while I am alive the fundamentals of my son's future arrangement",  requesting the Palatine-Bavarian territories of Bohemia belonging to Uncle Ferdinando III of Tuscany. At the end the child was given the territories and the title of "Serenissima the Duke of Reichstadt". To collect the imperial licenses that established the titles and the rank of her son, Maria Luigia went as far as Vienna. He remained there from 2 July to 1 September 1818; it was a joy for her to be able to embrace Francesco, who was truly loved by her grandfather, and it was a pain to have to leave him again. He would see it again two years later and then in 1823, in 1826, in 1828, in 1830 and finally in 1832, on his deathbed.
On 5 May 1821 Napoleon died. Maria Luigia became aware of her husband's death by reading the "Gazzetta del Piemonte" on July 19th, while he was at Villa Sala with Neipperg and his sons. Then he confided in his friend, Victoire de Poutet, Countess of Crenneville, to whom he wrote: "I am today in great uncertainty, the" Gazzetta del Piemonte "announced in such a positive way the death of the Emperor Napoleon who is not almost as much as possible to doubt it; I confess that I was extremely struck by it, because even though I never had very strong feelings of any kind for him, I can not forget that he is the father of my son and that far from mistreating me as the world believes, he has always witnessed to me all the regards, the only thing you could wish for in a political marriage. I have therefore been very afflicted and although we must be happy that He has finished his unfortunate existence in such a Christian way, I would have nevertheless desired him many years of fortune and life, provided he was far from me. In the uncertainty of what is the truth, I settled in Sala, not wanting to go to the theater, until something sure is known ». A few days later, on July 24, Maria Luigia wrote to her son Francesco: "I am sure that you will feel this pain deeply, as I feel it, because you would be ungrateful if you forgot all the goodness that He had for you in your tender childhood; I am also sure that you will try to imitate his virtues, avoiding at the same time the rocks that ended up losing him ». Napoleon did not leave his wife and son with liquid money, but with relics of love. Maria Luigia, however, tried in vain to get some of her estate for her son.
By now a widow, Maria Luigia could legalize her relationship with Neipperg who married Aug. 8, 1821 with secret morganatic wedding, since her husband's rank was inferior to hers. The children of Maria Luigia went to live in an annex of the Palazzo Ducale and were followed by a housekeeper and a tutor. In Parma, Maria Luigia was able to replicate the bourgeois and Biedermeier environment that had characterized her childhood in Vienna.
Her husband died of heart problems eight years after the wedding, February 22, 1829. Maria Luigia wept very much his death, but from Vienna she was forbidden to publicly carry the grief. The will of Neipperg spoke in clear terms about marriage and children, which the duchess wished to adopt. Vienna officially recognized their existence by means of a written confession, rendered by Maria Luigia on March 17, 1829, which was included in the secret Acts of the State archives. However, she was not allowed to recognize or adopt her children. Emperor Francis I revealed to the Duke of Reichstadt that Neipperg, the man who came to visit him from time to time and whom he esteemed, had indeed been his stepfather. When he learned of the two half-brothers, the prince said he had a "good but weak" mother.
In 1830 the July revolution drove the Bourbons restored from the throne of France forever. From there, the revolt spread also in the rest of Europe and in 1831 there were also some movements in the duchies of Modena and Parma. Maria Luigia had always had a rather mild vision towards the Carbonari compared to her father and to the reactionary cousin Francesco IV of Modena. However, it was Vienna that commanded Parma, through the baron Josef von Werklein, and not the reigning duchess. On February 4, 1831 Bologna was raised, which belonged to the Papal State, and a few days later the parmigiani also demonstrated in front of the Palazzo Ducale with the cry: "Constitution and death in Werklein!" The object of their protests was not the respected duchess; On February 12, Maria Luigia wrote to her father: "Between 6 and 7 pm a terrible noise began on the main square, which then ran through all the streets to the Palace, where, next to voices of cheers to my address , there were scornful words against Werklein and the authorities ».
The cannons were lined up, but a delegation of notables asked the duchess not to shoot the people. Maria Luigia, who did not want to resort to violence, however, did not know how to act and decided to leave the city, which was prevented by the parmigiani, who saw in her the guarantor of acceptance of their requests. Between February 14th and 15th, however, he managed to leave Parma, escorted by the ducal grenadiers and the newly created National Guard; in Parma, meanwhile, a temporary government was established by Count Claudio Linati. From Piacenza, Maria Luigia wrote to her father to find another job at Werklein, "which can not be of any use, but can be very damaging". Francis I sent his troops and on 2 March in Fiorenzuola d'Arda there was the first and last unsuccessful attempt of the rebels. On 8 August, the Duchessa returned to the capital: the parmigiani were unhappy, not because of the return of Maria Luigia, but because of the presence of Austrian troops in the city. In order to avoid further tumults, Maria Luigia decided not to condemn the leaders of the rebels and on 29 September 1831 she herself proclaimed an amnesty.
The Duke of Reichstadt Francis had been educated according to the principles of the Habsburgs and had pursued his military career, becoming official in 1828. However, his health was extremely poor, mainly due to a premature growth that had made him a slender tall boy almost a meter and ninety. His unfortunate fate as the son of a fallen emperor and his delicate and melancholy beauty, earned him sympathy and compassion, especially from his aunt Sofia of Bavaria. At the age of twenty he fell ill with tuberculosis, which consumed him until his death. His status at the beginning of June 1832 worsened considerably. Maria Luigia was kept completely unaware of her son's health, because she wanted her to stay in Parma, given the delicate political moment. As soon as more serious news arrived from Vienna, Maria Luigia did not hesitate to leave, although she had fever and cough, but lost some time in Trieste because the emperor arrived late. On June 24 he finally saw his son, who hugged her. Francis died on July 22, 1832, invoking his mother who was at his bedside. His death was planted with great consternation of his mother, grandfather and the whole Austrian court.
In Parma, after the departure of Werklein, Metternich sent as his substitute Wenzel Philipp von Maréschall. The new minister soon began to criticize the duchess, who not only did not want to adopt a repressive regime, but also behaved too freely in her private life. Maria Luigia had loved a lot and had been called back by Neipperg; after his death, the duchess consoled herself by starting to surround herself with numerous lovers.  Maréschall was replaced in 1833 and a Frenchman, Count Charles-René de Bombelles (1785-1856) was sent to his post. Six months after her arrival, February 17, 1834, Maria Luisa and Bombelles secretly sealed a morganatic marriage. The new weddings were not dictated by love, but by the convenience of having a husband next door, who was also the first man in the state.
On 2 March 1835 Francesco I died; Maria Luisa wrote to her friend Victoire: "I have lost the being that in the most difficult circumstances of my life I have been a father, a friend and a counselor".  With the new emperor, his brother Ferdinando I, Maria Luigia had purely formal relations.
The economic and social bourgeoisization that had taken place under the government of Maria Luigia, began to bear fruit shortly before the revolutions of 1848. Also in Parma there were manifestations of enthusiasm for the election of Pope Pius IX, while the presence Austrian in Italy was increasingly blamed. The Duchess herself, however beloved in the course of her thirtieth government, felt she was treated with more coldness than in the past. On December 9, 1847, Maria Luigia, a woman aged prematurely, experienced chest pains that worsened in the evening when chills and fever appeared. Despite this, the Duchessa wanted to preside over the Council and when she withdrew she said in Italian: "Goodbye, my friends".  On December 12, the day of his fifty-sixth birthday, he seemed to recover and then worsen again. The whole city was dismayed by grief and in front of the palace a large crowd gathered in silence. He asked for the extreme unction and the Viaticum, then he gave a reading of his will: he appointed universal heir of his patrimony his cousin, Archduke Leopoldo Luigi (son of his uncle Ranieri, viceroy of Lombardy-Veneto); his two sons, who could not be his heirs as illegitimate, had 300,000 florins each and some personal belongings. Next to her were her husband, daughter and son-in-law (her son was serving as an officer in an Austrian garrison). On the day of his death he was perfectly lucid: around twelve o'clock on December 17, 1847, after having had many retching, he quietly fell asleep so as not to wake up again. At seventeen she was dead.  His doctor Fritsch indicated rheumatic pleurisy as the cause of death.  The body was embalmed by Dr. Giuseppe Rossi, the man who had raised his two sons before his wedding with Neipperg thirty years earlier. On the eve of Christmas the funeral ceremony was celebrated. Field Marshal Josef Radetzky, commander-in-chief of the Austrian troops in Italy, sent a squadron of one hundred and fifty hussars to Parma as an escort of honor. Accompanied by these soldiers, the former empress of the French and Duchess of Parma began her last journey to Vienna. Of her brothers and sisters she had survived only Maria Clementina, princess of Salerno, Ferdinando I, emperor of Austria, and Francesco Carlo, archduke of Austria.
According to the Vienna congress, the title of Duke of Parma and Piacenza passed to Prince Charles II of Parma, nephew of the last ruler before Maria Luigia, but that of Duke of Guastalla passed to Duke Francesco V d'Este. The Duchess Maria Luigia was buried in the Imperial Crypt in Vienna, close to her son, the Duke of Reichstadt and her father, Emperor Francis I. In 1940 Hitler had the remains of Napoleon II moved to Les Invalides, alongside those of his father . Between 1960 and 1962 there was a new reorganization of the bodies and the body of Maria Luigia was transferred to the new chapel, in front of that of his nephew, the unfortunate emperor of Mexico Massimiliano.