On 4 April 1790, Marie Therese of France received her First Holy Communion. Usually, such an event would have called for a big celebration, but with the country in turmoil it was reduced to a small affair. Even her father, Louis XVI wasn’t allowed to attend. His presence, like Susan Nagel points out in her book “Marie Therese, The Fate Of Marie Antoinette’s Daughter”, would “have required the presence of a battery of soldiers, and permission from the National Assembly to sanction the expenditure”. Here’s how Imbert de Saint-Amand describes the event in his book, “Marie Antoinette at the Tuileries, 1789-1791”:
Madame Royale displayed the best disposition, and from her infancy manifested those sentiments of piety which were the honor and consolation of her whole life. She made her first communion at the church of Saint Germain-l’Auxerrois on April 8, 1790. In the morning, Marie Antoinette led the young Princess into the King’s chamber and said to her, ” My daughter, throw yourself at your father’s feet and ask his blessing.” The child prostrated herself, and her father, raising her, addressed her in these words:
“From the bottom of my heart I bless you, my daughter, asking Heaven to give you grace to appreciate well the great action you are going to perform. Your heart is innocent in the sight of God; your prayers should be pleasing to Him: offer them for your mother and me; ask Him to grant me the grace necessary to secure the welfare of those whom He has placed under my dominion and whom I ought to consider as my children; ask Him to preserve the purity of religion throughout the kingdom; and remember well, my daughter, that this holy religion is the source of happiness, and our pathway through the adversities of life. Do not believe that you will be sheltered from them; you are very young, but you have already seen your father afflicted more than once.
You know not, my daughter, what Providence has decreed for you, whether you will remain in this realm or go away to live in another. In whatever spot the hand of God may place you, remember that you ought to edify by your example and to do good whenever you find an opportunity. But above all, my child, succor the unfortunate with all your might. God gave us our birth in the rank we occupy only that we might labor for their welfare and console them in their afflictions. Go to the altar where you are awaited, and implore the God of mercy never to let you forget the counsels of a tender father.”
The young Princess, profoundly moved, answered by her tears. It was customary for the daughters of France to receive a set of diamonds on the day of their first communion. Louis XVI told Madame Royale that he had done away with this too expensive usage. “My daughter,” he said, “I know your good sense too well to permit me to suppose that at a moment when you should be entirely occupied in preparing your heart to be a sanctuary worthy of the Divinity, you can attach much value to artificial ornaments. Moreover, my child, public wretchedness is extreme, the poor abound everywhere, and assuredly you would rather go without jewels than know that they are going without bread.”
The young Princess then went to her parish church, Saint Germain-l’Auxerrois. She approached the holy table with marks of the sincerest devotion. Marie Antoinette, in disguise, was present at the ceremony, which was of extreme simplicity and which produced in the royal family very sweet emotions. Louis XVI gave abundant alms on this occasion. The day before, the Dauphin had said to his governess, Madame de Tourzel, “I am very sorry not to have my Versailles garden any more. I would have made two beautiful bouquets for tomorrow, one for my mother, and the other for my sister.”