French Queen Marie-Antoinette had two key ladies-in-waitings who were favorites, and skimming the Marie-Antoinette (1975) miniseries had me wondering how much they’ve been on screen (result: not enough!). The first was Marie Thérèse Louise of Savoy, Princesse de Lamballe (1749-92).
The Princesse de Lamballe grew up in Turin, now northern Italy but then part of Savoy. She married Louis Alexandre de Bourbon-Penthièvre, a grandson of Louis XIV‘s legitimised son (and thus great-grandson of Louis). She then moved to Versailles, where after only a year, her husband died. She was left a rich widow and became a fixture at the court.
When Marie-Antoinette married the dauphin, the Princesse de Lamballe was of the correct rank — and was very kind and welcoming — and the two became very good friends. Eventually Marie-Antoinette named Lamballe the Superintendent of the Queen’s Household, an official government post, making her the highest ranked lady-in-waiting. Lamballe was an introvert and eventually was displaced by the Duchesse de Polignac as the first in the queen’s favor; the two ladies never got along.
Once the French Revolution broke out, Lamballe joined the royal family at the Tuileries palace, hosting entertainments in hopes of building support for the royals. As a key supporter of the queen, Lamballe’s reputation was derided by the French public, and eventually she was imprisoned by the revolutionaries. She was put on trial, where she refused to swear her hatred of the royal family, after which she was literally released to a rioting mob that killed her. Famously, rioters put her head on a pike and paraded it outside of Marie-Antoinette’s cell window (the queen did not actually see it herself, but knew it was happening). Lamballe’s remains were never found.
Let’s run down the too-few, too-small appearances of the Princesse de Lamballe on screen! Sadly she’s usually a small enough character that even when she’s listed in a film’s credits, I can’t find a photo of her. But here’s what I can find:
Elisa Ruis in La Marseillaise (1938)
“A vast political, social, and military panorama of the French Revolution up to the autumn of 1792,” per Wikipedia.
Anita Louise in Marie Antoinette (1938)
One of the many too-small-for-how-much-of-a-court-fixture-she-actually-was roles, but luckily there’s a lot of photos of Lamballe from this biopic!
Marie Sabouret in Royal Affairs in Versailles (1954)
An episodic tromp through French history.
Catherine Sola in Le tribunal de l’impossible: “Le Baquet de Frederic-Antoine Mesmer” (1974)
One episode of a French TV show about the hypnotist.
Anne Lefol in Marie Antoinette (1975)
A French TV miniseries that’s a biopic of the queen.
Gabrielle Lazure in La Révolution Française (1989)
A French film that attempts to tell a balanced and neutral take on the French Revolution.
?? in The Affair of the Necklace (2001)
The actress isn’t credited, but she’s there as Marie-Antoinette’s main companion.
Mary Nighy in Marie-Antoinette (2006)
Sofia Coppola’s feature film biography.
Jasmine Blackborow in Marie Antoinette (2022)
She’s Marie Antoinette’s first real friend at Versailles, but too nice to compete with Polignac.
Bethan Cullinane in Dangerous Liaisons (2022)
Lamballe shows up twice at a formal party as a mostly-background character.
Who’s your favorite Princesse de Lamballe on screen?