Born on 13 August 1752 at the
Vienna, Maria Carolina was the thirteenth and sixth surviving child of
Maria Theresa, Queen of Hungary and Bohemia and ruler of the Habsburg dominions, and
Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor. She was a namesake of her elder sisters —
Maria Carolina, who died two weeks after her first birthday, and
Maria Carolina, who died several hours after being baptised —, but she was called Charlotte by her family. Her godparents were King
Louis XV of France and his wife,
 Maria Carolina was the daughter who resembled her mother most. Maria Carolina formed a very close bond with her youngest sister,
 From very early on they shared the same governess
Countess Lerchenfeld. A testament to their closeness is the fact that when one caught an illness the other did too.
 In August 1767 Maria Theresa separated the two girls, hitherto raised together under the auspices of Countess Marie von Brandis, because of their bad behaviour.
 Soon after in October of the same year, Maria Carolina's sister
Maria Josepha, destined to marry
Ferdinand IV of Naples as part of an alliance with Spain, died during a
 Anxious to save the Austro-Spanish alliance
Charles III of Spain, father of Ferdinand IV, requested one of Maria Josepha's sisters as a replacement.
 The Empress offered the court of Madrid, negotiating on behalf of that of Naples,
Maria Amalia or Maria Carolina.
 Because Maria Amalia was five years older than his son Charles III opted for the latter.
 Maria Carolina reacted badly to her engagement, crying, entreating and saying that Neapolitan marriages were unlucky.
 Her objections, however, did not delay her preparation for her new role as Queen of Naples by the
Countess of Lerchenfeld.
 Nine months later, on 7 April 1768, Maria Carolina married Ferdinand IV of Naples by proxy, her brother
Ferdinand representing the bride-groom.