Duke Maximilian Joseph in Bavaria, Elisabeth in Bavaria, Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria, King Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies, King Francis II of the Two Sicilies, Maria Sophie in Bavaria, Sisi
Maria Sophie, Duchess in Bavaria October 4, 1841 – January 19, 1925) the last Queen consort of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
Maria Sophie was born on October 4, 1841, at the Possenhofen Castle in Possenhofen, the Kingdom of Bavaria. Her parents were Princess Ludovika of Bavaria and Duke Maximilian Joseph in Bavaria. She was the sixth of ten children and one of the eight that survived to adulthood. She and her siblings enjoyed an unrestricted childhood, shared between Possenhofen Castle in the summers and the Herzog-Max-Palais in Munich.
She was the younger sister of the better-known Elisabeth of Bavaria (“Sisi”) who married Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria.
In the winter of 1857, at the age of 16, Marie Sophie’s hand was sought by Francis, Crown Prince of Naples, Duke of Calabria, and the eldest son of King Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies. The marriage was political, since King Ferdinand II wished to ally himself with the Emperor of Austria, Franz Josef I, a powerful fellow absolutist.
At that time the kingdom was already threatened by revolutionary forces. At that time Marie Sophie had not experienced menarche, and underwent treatments to induce menses. She also had to learn Italian.
In January 1859 she traveled to Vienna to spend time with her sister before they went to Trieste to formally enter her new kingdom, and say farewell to her family on the Neapolitan royal yacht Fulminante. She set sail for Bari on February 3, 1859.
On January 8, 1859 in Munich at the Allerheiligen-Hofkirche Maria Sophie was married by proxy and then again married in-person on February 3, 1859 in Bari to Prince Francis, the Duke of Calabria, the eldest son of King Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies and his first wife, Maria Christina of Savoy.
Within the year, with the death of the king, her husband ascended to the throne as King Francis II of the Two Sicilies, and Maria Sophie became Queen of a realm that was shortly to be overwhelmed by the forces of Giuseppe Garibaldi and the Piedmontese army.
In September 1860, as the Garibaldine troops were moving towards Naples, his capital, King Francis II decided to leave the city. At the beginning, he planned to organise a resistance in Capua. However, after that city had also been lost to the Garibaldines in the aftermath of the battle of the Volturnus (October), he and Marie Sophie took refuge in the strong coastal fortress of Gaeta, 80 km north of Naples.
During the Siege of Gaeta in late 1860 and early 1861, the forces of King Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia-Piedmont bombarded and eventually overcame the defenders. It was this brief “last stand of the Bourbons” that gained Marie Sophie the reputation of the strong “warrior queen” that stayed with her for the rest of her life. She was tireless in her efforts to rally the defenders, giving them her own food, caring for the wounded, and daring the attackers to come within range of the fortress cannon.
With the fall of Gaeta and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, Marie Sophie and her husband went into exile in Rome, the capital of what for 1,000 years had been the sizeable Papal States, a large piece of central Italy but which, by 1860, had been reduced to the city of Rome, itself, as the armies of Victor Emanuel II came down from the north to join up with Garibaldi, the conqueror of the south.
King Francis II set up a government in exile in Rome that enjoyed diplomatic recognition by most European states for a few years as still the legitimate government of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
Her wealth and privilege were, to a certain extent, overshadowed by personal tragedies. Her marriage was not consummated for many years, as her husband suffered from phimosis.