C H A P T E R 1
Both frigates were wrecked off the Adriatic coast in a storm only three days later. The Augusta lost all her masts and had to lay up in Pola (todays Croazia) for a long time; the Austria, on the other hand, was soon under way again and first reached Rio de Janeiro on the 14th June 1817. After her repairs the Augusta joined the Portuguese fleet of two ships in Gibraltar and all three ships put into Guanabara Bay off Rio on the 4th November 1817, where they were welcomed with cannon, bells, and fireworks.
The two Austrian frigates Austria (left) and Augusta by Thomas Ender.
Metternich, who had accompanied the Archduchess Leopoldine to Livorno, where she embarked, wrote letters to his family describing interesting events and detours during his journey across Italy. And I cannot resist including a few extracts here, in part because I myself have now lived in this beautiful country for several years. He enthuses about Padua, Ferrara, and Bologna, and then writes:
Florence, 14th June 1817: “We have been here since 11 o’clock yesterday morning… Everything I have seen so far exceeds my expectations. Good God! What fellows those men of the past were!.. The country is glorious… the climate is heavenly.”
And because the arrival of the “cursed squadron” – as he termed the Portuguese fleet – continued to be delayed: 26th July 1817: “The squadron is, happily, now at anchor in Livorno… I am off on my travels again, to the Baths of Lucca. I plan to begin my treatment tomorrow…” (He had eye problems and even had an eye specialist with him.)
Baths of Lucca, 28th July 1817: “I am staying in the house that Elisa (Napoleon’s eldest sister) had built for herself, or rather, had converted for herself (todays Vila Reale outside of Lucca). That should tell you that it is comfortable and well located… News from Livorno… that the squadron will weigh anchor before 15th August.”
Livorno, 10th August 1817: “I arrived here at eight in the evening. I found the entire court here, along with 4,000 foreigners, I saw my princess and went to an evening entertainment.”
11th August 1817: “This morning I was aboard the Portuguese warships… You cannot imagine how many people there are on such a warship… As well as the Austrian ladies the entire Portuguese court is there… The number of officers of all ranks has been tripled. In addition there are a considerable number of cows, calves, pigs, lambs, 4,000 chickens, several hundred ducks, and 4,500 canaries, as well as large and small birds from Brazil; so you can imagine that Noah’s Ark was just a child’s toy compared with the Johann VI.” (He was referring to the Dom João VI, one of the two warships transporting the bride. There were a total of 1,300 men on the São Sebastião and the Dom João VI. The numerous ornamental birds were for the entertainment of her Highness.)
13th August 1817: “Today around four I escorted her Ladyship the Archduchess on board her ship… her apartment pleased her very well… it would have been difficult to have decked it out more elegantly.”
And then from the Baths of Lucca on the 16th August 1817: “I have bade farewell to my Archduchess. The squadron set sail yesterday morning around half past six.”
Leopoldine had also said farewell to her muchloved sister Marie-Louise, by now elevated to Duchess of Parma, Piacenza, and Guastalla as a result of the Vienna Congress. At that time neither of them as yet had any idea that this was the last time they would see each other.