Saturday, September 8, 2012

A Polish Princess

Portrait of Princess Aniela Czartoryski nee Radziwill
by Elisabeth Vigee Lebrun

Princess Aniela Radziwill was born on 3 October 1781 in Vienna, the eldest daughter of prominent Polish-Lithuanian nobleman Michał Hieronim Radziwiłł and Helena Przeździecka. She was also the younger sister of Prince Anton Radziwill, husband of Princess Louise of Prussia.

Princess Aniela was one of the leading beauties of her time. By the time she was 16, she was starting to make a charming impression on every young man who made her acquaintance. Aniela's sister-in-law, Princess Louise of Prussia, the wife of her brother Anton, wrote about Aniela in her memoirs: "My sister-in-law had grown much prettier... Her noble features, her beautiful touching face won her a great deal of admiration." She had many admirers, one of them was the Comte Clary. There were talks of marriage between the two, but Aniela's family had to give up the idea when they learned that she and Prince Constantine Czartoryski, a Polish nobleman, had fallen in love with each other.

It was said that he had eyes for no one but Aniela, and he was very keen in marrying her. But the marriage did not take place immediately. Prince Constantin's mother was not enthusiastic about the match because of some old resentment between her and Aniela's mother. But Princess Czartoryski had a change of heart after she met Aniela.

Constantin and Aniela were married in 1802 in Nieborow, and soon after the wedding, the portrait painter Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun was tasked to paint a portrait of Aniela. "Her beauty matched the portrait they had drawn of her," wrote Princess Louise, "but the gentle and engaging expression of her features, the rather melancholy look in her eyes, the expressive tones of her voice - especially when she sang - everything threw a charm over her face such as I have never known in anyone else." Constantin and Aniela settled in Pulawy where they enjoyed a happy married life.

Aniela had always had a delicate health, and she became constantly ill the years after her marriage. Unfortunately, only six years after her wedding, she succumbed to an illness and died, leaving her husband with two small children, Eudoxia and Adam.

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