As the French Revolution raged on during the 1790s, Louis XVII was executed and his wife, daughter and son were held captive in separate jails, throughout Paris. A chance encounter brought a Maine sea captain to Paris and his daughter to the same prison that housed Marie Antoinette. A plan was hatched to rescue Marie Antoinette and bring her to America, to a house in the small seaport of Wiscasset, Maine. Unfortunately the house would never receive its royal guest.
Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution
Marie Antoinette is famous for many things. For her lavish hairstyles and gorgeous wardrobe. For saying that infamous line “Let them eat cake!” (which she didn’t say) and for being the last queen of France. Thanks to a great deal of unjust propaganda from political enemies, the people of France hated Marie Antoinette. They viewed her as no better than a common whore. While many called for execution, there were several pockets of royalist who wished to rescue the Queen and restore the Dauphin to the French throne.
Captain Stephen Clough and Marie Antoinette
Captain Stephen Clough (sometimes referred to as Captain Nathan Cloud or Samuel Clough) was manning the sloop, Sally, when it was impounded by the French during the French Revolution. Captain Clough’s daughter Sally was held at the same prison as Marie Antoinette. According to legend, as well as documents found in the attic of the Marie Antoinette House, a plan was formed to smuggle Marie Antoinette out of her prison, onto the sloop. Captain Clough’s wife was preparing their home in Wiscasset to house the Queen. At first, all went according to plan. Many of the queen’s possessions were loaded onto the Sally, including vases, clocks, a bed, tapestries and six royal cats. However, when it came time to rescue Marie Antoinette, she refused to go without her son. So, Captain Clough set sail for Wiscassett without his royal houseguest. Instead, Marie Antoinette was executed in October 1793.
The Marie Antoinette House in Wiscasset Maine
Wiscasset, Maine was one of the largest seaports northeast of Boston. It was a hub of trade at the start of the 19th Century. Captain Clough’s house was situated along the northern end of Jeremy Squam. In 1838 the house was moved across the Sheepscot River, to what is now the town of Edgecombe, Maine. The house still stands today, a reminder of the link between Maine and the last Queen of France. The house has also served as an explanation of several rare French antiques that have been passed around coastal Maine for generations.
The house in Wiscasset was not the only place prepared for Marie Antoinette. Another home in Pennsylvania was outfitted for a royal guest as well.
The Legend of the Maine Coon Cat & Marie Antointte
So what happened to all those cats that Captain Clough smuggled onto his ship? According to legend the long haired Persian and angora cats bred with Maine cats, resulting in the Maine Coon cat. The Maine Coon cat, like the pine tree and the moose, is one of Maine’s most notable symbols.
Nagle, Susan. Marie Therese Child of Terror: The Fate of Marie Antoinette’s Daughter. New York: Bloomsbury, 2008.