Born on 13 August 1752 at the Schönbrunn Palace, 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, Marie Leszczyńska. Maria Carolina was the daughter who resembled her mother most. Maria Carolina formed a very close bond with her youngest sister, Marie Antoinette. 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 smallpox epidemic. 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.