In 1762, Mozart went to the Austrian court, where he meet the royal family, including Marie Antoinette, and played for them. The story of Mozart proposing to the young archduchess is just a legend, but the little child prodigy did get a kiss from the Empress. Here’s how Antonia Fraser recollects the visit in her book Marie Antoinette: The Journey:
On 13 October 1762 “the little child from Salzburg”—Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart—came with his father and sister Nannerl to Schönbrunn. He played the harpsichord in the presence of the Empress, the Emperor, the court composer Georg Christoph Wagenseil and various of Maria Teresa’s offspring, including Antoine who was three months older than the prodigy. The child played “marvellously,” was the verdict, and he was rewarded with an honorarium of 100 ducats and presents from other nobles. He was also presented with a fine outfit that had belonged to the Archduke Max, a coat of lilac colour and a moiré waistcoat, all trimmed with gold braid. The concert was repeated, again at Schönbrunn, a week later.
Perhaps it is not true that the young Mozart flung himself at the young Marie Antoinette and declared that he would marry her when he grew up (an apocryphal story which, if it had in some amazing way come true, would certainly have altered the course of history). But his impetuosity was certainly in evidence; Antoine was present when he rushed up to the Empress and jumped on her lap, receiving a kiss in return. Mozart also responded to the Emperor’s teasing by accurately playing with one finger on a covered keyboard, and showed his own playfulness by demanding that Wagenseil should turn over his music for him, as he played the court composer’s own work. Shortly afterwards Mozart travelled on to France, where the French King’s daughter Madame Victoire became his patron, receiving a dedication of some piano sonatas in return. The Marquise de Pompadour was, however, less welcoming. “Who is this that will not kiss me?” enquired the “little Orpheus” of the haughty mistress: “The Empress kissed me.”
Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser
As Marie Antoinette left Vienna, her mother, the Empress Maria Theresa decided to write a letter to her son-in-law, the dauphin Louis:
Your bride, my dear dauphin, has just left me. I do hope that she will cause your happiness. I have brought her up with the design that she should do so, because I have for some time forseen that she would share your destiny.
I have inspired her with an eager desire to do her duty to you, with a tender attachment to your person, with a resolution to be attentive to think and do every thing which may please you. I have also been most careful to enjoin her a tender devotion toward the Master of all Sovereigns, being thoroughly persuaded that we are but badly providing for the welfare of the nations which are intrusted to us when we fail in our duty to Him who breaks sceptres and overthrows thrones according to his pleasure.
I say, then, to you, my dear dauphin, as I say to my daughter: ‘Cultivate your duties toward God. Seek to cause the happiness of the people over whom you will reign (it will be too soon, come when it may). Love the king, your grandfather; be humane like him; be always accessible to the unfortunate. If you behave in this manner, it is impossible that happiness can fail to be your lot.’ My daughter will love you, I am certain, because I know her. But the more that I answer to you for her affection, and for her anxiety to please you, the more earnestly do I entreat you to vow to her the most sincere attachment.
Farewell, my dear dauphin. May you be happy. I am bathed in tears.
The Life of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France by Charles Duke Yonge
In his book, Joseph II: In the shadow of Maria Theresa, Derek Beals thus describes the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa:
Maria Theresa was decidedly less attached of the old etiquette than her father had been. She mitigated it, and was often glad to take advantage of her pregnancies, and later of her widowhood, to modify or escape it.[…] She defied convention in a number of other ways. She froze her courtiers with the draught from the windows she insisted on keeping open; she loved to walk and talk in the gardens of her palaces; early in her reign, she danced, rode and sledged with abandon. She was relatively accessible, and won the devotion of many by her spontaneity and generosity. She liked to exempt friends and favoured visitors from rules of etiquette. She had her old governess, a mere countess Fuchs, buried in the family vault of the Habsburgs. She exploited what seems to have been elaborate conventions enabling the ruler and her family to appear incognito more or less when they pleased. She loved referring to herself as a mother of her subjects rather than their ruler. She showed at times a passionate devotion to her children, especially in nursing them during attacks of illness, even including smallpox, which Joseph had in 1757 and Charles two years later. She and her husband cultivated simplicity in the family circle, in the style captured by her daughter Marie Christine in her painting of their exchange of Christmas presents.
It’s a lovely description that shows a different side of the Empress, one that’s not often cited, don’t you think? It also clearly explains why her poor daughter Marie Antoinette had such a hard time trying to get used to living at the French court, with its many rules and etiquette strictly regulating every aspect of life…
Joseph II: In the shadow of Maria Theresa, 1741-1780 by Derek Edward Dawson Beales