Facts and Events
Marie Louise of Austria (Maria Ludovica Leopoldina Franziska Therese Josepha Lucia von Habsburg-Lothringen; 12 December 1791 – 17 December 1847) was the second wife of Napoleon I, Emperor of the French and later Duchess of Parma. As such, she was Empress of the French from 1810 to 1814, and subsequently ruler of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla from 1814 until her death.
As the eldest child of Habsburg Emperor Francis I of Austria and his second wife, Maria Theresa of Naples and Sicily, Marie Louise grew up during a period of continuous conflict between Austria and revolutionary France. A series of military defeats at the hands of Napoleon Bonaparte had inflicted a heavy human toll on Austria and led Francis to dissolve the Holy Roman Empire. The end of the War of the Fifth Coalition resulted in the marriage of Napoleon and Marie Louise in 1810, which ushered in a brief period of peace and friendship between Austria and the French Empire. Marie Louise dutifully agreed to the marriage despite being raised to despise France. She was an obedient wife and was adored by Napoleon, who had been eager to marry a member of one of Europe's leading royal houses to cement his relatively young Empire. With Napoleon, she bore a son, styled the King of Rome at birth, later Duke of Reichstaedt, who briefly succeeded him as Napoleon II.
Napoleon's fortunes began to change dramatically in 1812 after his failed invasion of Russia. The European powers, including Austria, resumed hostilities towards France in the War of the Sixth Coalition, which ended with the abdication of Napoleon and his exile to Elba. The 1814 Treaty of Fontainebleau handed over the Duchies of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla to Empress Marie Louise. She ruled the duchies until her death.
Marie Louise married morganatically twice after Napoleon's death in 1821. Her second husband was Count Adam Albert von Neipperg (married 1821), an equerry she met in 1814. She and Neipperg had three children. After Neipperg's death, she married Count Charles René de Bombelles, her chamberlain, in 1834. Marie Louise died in Parma in 1847.