the heroine of gaeta

how do you solve a problem like marie?

Do you know my sister, Marie? She was barely 12 when I was whisked away from my family to become Empress, but over the years following, we grew quite close. In fact, I named my favorite child after her.

They called her the Queen of Two Sicilies, which has such a romantic sound, does it not? Ha! The marriage of Poor Marie at age 17 to feeble, asexual King Francis of Naples was anything but romantic. Francis was a religious zealot, anxiety-ridden and afraid of his own shadow. Imagine my gorgeous sister, young, hopeful, willful. Bavarian through and through! She was tossed as a teenager into a kingdom threatened by revolution and anarchy, to rule beside a skinny little weasel who garnered no respect.

My sister and her wormy and sickly husband fled war-torn Naples, and sought refuge in the fortress at Gaeta during the political confusion surrounding the establishment Italy proper, where Marie’s defense of the fortress earned her the nickname “the heroine of Gaeta.” Alas, though Marie withstood several attacks on the fortress (I believe the King was meanwhile hiding under the bed), the fortress fell, and the couple escaped to Rome.

From then on, my sister (her confidence buoyed by all the political intrigue and turmoil and near assassination),  decided to live life on her own terms. For several years thereafter, brave-hearted Marie, traveled the world, swam naked in the sea, smoked cigars in public, and took a lover (who, by the way, was an officer of the Papal Guard). I actually facilitated this tryst, I’m proud to admit, as did our other politically-betrothed sister, the Countess Mathilde Trani.

sis with francis before "the operation"

Such was the pent up passion of my dear Marie, that she spit in the face of caution and ended up with child. If ever a big Bavarian family comes in handy, it’s when one of their ilk is knocked up out of wedlock. We three sisters pleaded illness and off we tarried to our family’s summer home, our beloved Possi, where we were greeted by dear Papa.  Always one to keep composure, he calmly offered, “Well, all right, such things happen. What’s the point of cackling?”

And, as it turned out, there was more than a bit of cackling amongst us bohemians at our Possenhofen idyll when it was revealed that dearest Marie had not merely one bastard in her womb, but two!

This story has somewhat of a happy ending, however. Understanding that scandal had its price, Marie handed her illegitimate baby girls over to the father, and returned to Francis, who admitted his sexual inadequacies, and underwent surgery to correct his particular penile deformation, and dear Marie was impregnated post-haste. Though the baby (who was born on my birthday) died in infancy, my sister and her husband developed an intimacy and new bond to rival any manufactured case study that Viagra could conjure, living, from then forward, rather happily ever after.