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Marie Antoinette
"Marie Antoinette à la Rose", one of the most famous portraits of Marie Antoinette; it was meant to counteract the scandal caused by the "muslin" dress portrait, by Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun
Queen consort of France
Tenure 10 May 1774–21 September 1792
Spouse Louis XVI of France
Marie-Thérèse, Duchess of Angoulême
Louis-Joseph, Dauphin of France
Louis XVII of France
Sophie Hélène Béatrice
House House of Habsburg-Lorraine
Father Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor
Mother Maria Theresa of Austria
Born 2 November 1755(1755-11-02)
Hofburg Palace, Vienna, Austria
Died 16 October 1793 (aged 37)
Place de la Révolution, Paris, France
Burial Saint Denis Basilica, France

(21 January 1815, at time of Bourbon Restoration)

Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna von Habsburg-Lothringen (French: Marie Antoinette Josèphe Jeanne de Habsbourg-Lorraine, IPA: [maʁi ɑ̃twanɛt]; Vienna, 2 November 1755 – Paris, 16 October 1793) was an Archduchess of Austria and the Queen of France and Navarre. She was the fifteenth and penultimate child of Empress Maria Theresa and Emperor Francis I.

At the age of fourteen, on the day of her marriage to Louis-Auguste, Dauphin of France, she became Dauphine de France. At the death of King Louis XV, in May 1774, her husband ascended the French throne as Louis XVI, and Marie Antoinette assumed the title of Queen of France and Navarre. After seven years of marriage she gave birth to a daughter, Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte, the first of their four children.

During the Reign of Terror, at the height of the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette's husband was deposed and the royal family was imprisoned. Marie Antoinette was tried, convicted of treason and executed by guillotine on 16 October 1793, nine months after her husband.


Early life

Marie Antoinette by Jean-Etienne Liotard, 1762

Maria Antonia was born on November 2, 1755 at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria. Maria Antonia was the youngest daughter of Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor, and Maria Theresa, Queen of Hungary and Bohemia and ruler of the Habsburg dominions. Maria Antonia was described "a small, but completely healthy Archduchess."[1] She was known at the Austrian court as Madame Antoine.[2]

Maria Antonia and her older sister, Maria Carolina were the two youngest girls and were raised together. They also shared the same governess. They became extremely close. She thoroughly enjoyed music and learned to play the harpsichord. She played for many people at the court.

The laxity of court life was compounded by the "private" life which was developed by the Habsburgs, who resided mainly in the Schönbrunn Palace. In their "private" life, the family dressed in bourgeois attire, played games with "normal" (non-royal) children, had their schooling, and were treated to gardens and menageries. Maria Antonia later attempted to recreate this atmosphere through her renovation of the Petit Trianon in France.

By many accounts, her childhood was somewhat complex. On the one hand, her parents had instituted several innovations in court life which made Austria one of the more progressive courts in Europe. While certain court functions remained formal by necessity, the Emperor and Empress nevertheless presided over many basic changes in court life. This included allowing relaxations in who could come to court (a change which allowed people of merit as well as birth to rise rapidly in the imperial favour), relatively lax dress etiquette, and the abolition of certain court protocols, including a ritual in which dozens of courtiers could be in the Empress' bedchamber, watching when she gave birth – the Empress disliked the ritual, and would eject courtiers from her rooms when she went into labour.[3]

While she had an idyllic "private" life, her initial role in the political arena – and in her mother's main aim of alliance through marriage – was relatively minuscule. As there were so many other children who could be married off, Maria Antonia was sometimes neglected by her mother; as a result, Maria Antonia later described her relationship with her mother as one of awe-inspired fear.[4] She also developed a mistrust of intelligent older women as a result of her mother's close relationship with Maria Antonia's older sister, the Archduchess Maria Christina, who shared their mother's birthday and was her favorite child. Marie Antonia had a cat named Macaron when she was 5 years old.[4] The lack of supervision also resulted in a sub-par education in many regards, and she could barely read or write properly in her native German by the time she was twelve. This was due in large measure, however, to the fact that French, not German, was the language most commonly spoken at the Austrian court. It was for that reason that the young archduchess was usually referred to as "Madame Antoine" and signed herself as "Antoine Archiduchesse" in French.[5]

Marriage to Louis: 1767–1770

The events leading to her eventual betrothal to the Dauphin of France began in 1765, when Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor, died of a stroke in August of that year, leaving Maria Theresa to co-rule with her elder son and heir, the Emperor Joseph II.[6] By that time, marriage arrangements for several of Maria Antonia's sisters had begun, with the Archduchess Maria Josepha betrothed to King Ferdinand of Naples, and Don Ferdinand of Parma tentatively set to marry one of the remaining eligible archduchesses. The purpose of these marriages was to cement the various complex alliances that Maria Theresa had entered into in the 1750s due to the Seven Years' War, which included Parma, Naples, Russia, and more importantly Austria's traditional enemy, France.[7] Without the Seven Years' War to "unite" the two countries briefly, the marriage of Maria Antonia and the Dauphin Louis-Auguste might not have occurred.

Marie Antoinette at the clavichord, by Franz Xaver Wagenschön (1768).

In 1767, a smallpox outbreak hit the family. Maria Antonia was one of the few who were immune to the disease because she already had it at a young age. Her sister, Maria Josepha, caught it from the improperly sealed tomb of her sister-in-law (of the same name), and died quickly afterwards. Her mother, Maria Theresa, caught it and died. Her sister, Maria Elisabeth, caught it but survived. Her father, Joseph, also caught it and nearly died. Her brother, Charles Joseph, and sister Maria Johanna, had already earlier caught the smallpox which ended in their deaths in 1761 and 1762 respectively.

This ultimately left twelve-year-old Madame Antoine as the only potential bride left in the family for the fourteen-year-old Louis Auguste, who was also her second cousin once removed. After painstaking work between the governments of France and Austria, the dowry was set at 200,000 crowns; as was the custom, portraits and rings were exchanged.[8] Finally, Antoine was married by proxy on 19 April in the Church of the Augustine Friars, Vienna; her brother Ferdinand stood in as the bridegroom. She was also officially restyled as Marie Antoinette, Dauphine of France.[9]

Marie Antoinette was officially handed over to her French bearers on 7 May 1770, on an island on the Rhine River near Kehl. Chief among them were the comte de Noailles and his wife, the comtesse de Noailles, who had been appointed the Dauphine's Mistress of the Household by Louis XV.[10] She met the King, the Dauphin Louis-Auguste, and the royal aunts (Louis XV's daughters, known as Mesdames), one week later. Before reaching Versailles, she also met her future brothers-in-law, Louis Stanislas Xavier, comte de Provence; and Charles Philippe, comte d'Artois, who came to play important roles during and after her life.[11] Later, she met the rest of the family, including her husband's youngest sister, Madame Élisabeth, who at the end of Marie Antoinette's life became her closest and most loyal friend.

The ceremonial wedding of the Dauphin and Dauphine took place on 16 May 1770, in the Palace of Versailles, after which was the ritual bedding.[12] It was assumed by custom that consummation of the marriage would take place on the wedding night. However this did not occur, and the lack of consummation plagued the reputation of both Louis-Auguste and Marie Antoinette for seven years to come.[13]

The initial reaction to the marriage between Marie Antoinette and Louis-Auguste was decidedly mixed. On the one hand, the Dauphine herself was popular among the people. Her first official appearance in Paris on 8 June 1773 at the Tuileries was considered by many royal watchers a resounding success, with a reported 50,000 people crying out to see her. People were easily charmed by her personality and beauty. She was tall, and had fair skin, straw-blond hair, and deep blue eyes.

Marie Antoinette, at the age of thirteen; this miniature portrait was sent to the dauphin, so he could see his bride before he met her, by Joseph Ducreux (1769).

At Court, however, the match was not so popular among the elder members of court due to the long-standing tensions between Austria and France, which had only recently been mollified. Many courtiers had been active at promoting a match between the dauphin and various Saxon princesses instead. Behind her back, Mesdames called Marie Antoinette "l'Autrichienne", the "Austrian woman." (Later, on the eve of the Revolution, and as Marie Antoinette's unpopularity grew, l'Autrichienne was easily transformed into l'Autruchienne, a pun making use of the words autruche "ostrich" and chienne "bitch".)[14] Others accused her of trying to sway the king to Austria's thrall, destroying long-standing traditions (such as appointing people to posts due to friendship and not to peerage), and of laughing at the influence of older women at the royal court.[15] Many other courtiers, such as the comtesse du Barry, had tenuous relationships with the Dauphine .

However, Marie Antoinette's relationship with the comtesse du Barry was one which was important to rectify, at least on the surface, as Madame du Barry was the mistress of Louis XV, and thus not without considerable political influence over the king. In fact, she had been instrumental in the ousting from power of the duc de Choiseul, who had helped orchestrate the Franco-Austrian alliance as well as Marie Antoinette's own marriage. However, Louis XV's daughters, Mesdames, hated Mme du Barry due to her unsavory relationship with their father. With manipulative coaching, the aunts encouraged the Dauphine to refuse to acknowledge the favourite, which was considered by some to be a political blunder. After months of continued pressure from her mother and the Austrian minister, the comte de Mercy-Argenteau, Marie Antoinette grudgingly agreed to speak to Mme du Barry on New Year's Day 1772. Although the limit of their conversation was Marie Antoinette's banal comment to the royal mistress that, "there are a lot of people at Versailles today", Mme du Barry was satisfied and the crisis dissipated. Later, Marie Antoinette became more polite to the comtesse, pleasing Louis XV.[16]

From the beginning, the Dauphine had to contend with constant letters from her mother, who wrote to her daughter regularly and who received secret reports from Mercy d'Argenteau on her daughter's behaviour. Marie Antoinette would write home in the early days saying that she missed her dear home. Though the letters were touching, in later years, Marie Antoinette said she feared her mother more than she loved her.[17] The Dauphine was constantly criticised by her mother for her inability to "inspire passion" in her husband, who rarely slept with her and had no interest in doing so, being more interested in his hobbies such as lock-making and hunting. The Empress went so far as saying directly to Marie Antoinette that she was no longer pretty, and had lost all her grace.

Louis Auguste as Dauphin of France, by Louis-Michel Van Loo (1769).
Portrait of Marie Antoinette in hunting attire in 1771. This portrait was a favorite of her mother, Maria Theresa.

To make up for the lack of affection from her husband and the endless criticism of her mother, Marie Antoinette began to spend more on gambling and clothing, with cards and horse-betting, as well as trips to the city and new clothing, shoes, pomade and rouge.[14] She was expected by tradition to spend money on her attire, so as to outshine other women at Court, being the leading example of fashion in Versailles (the previous queen, Maria Leszczyńska, died in 1768, two years prior to Marie Antoinette's arrival).

Marie Antoinette also began to form deep friendships with various ladies in her retinue. Most noted were the sensitive and "pure" widow, the princesse de Lamballe, whom she appointed as Superintendent of her Household, and the fun-loving, down-to-earth Yolande de Polastron, duchesse de Polignac, who eventually formed the cornerstone of the Queen's inner circle of friends (Société Particulière de la Reine).[15] The duchesse de Polignac later became the Governess of the royal children (Gouvernante des Enfants de France), and was a friend of both Marie Antoinette and Louis. The closeness of the Dauphine's friendship with these ladies, influenced by various popular publications which promoted such friendships, later caused accusations of lesbianism to be lodged against these women.[16] Others taken into her confidence at this time included her husband's brother, the comte d'Artois; their youngest sister, Madame Elisabeth; her sister-in-law, the comtesse de Provence; and Christoph Willibald Gluck, her former music teacher, whom she took under her patronage upon his arrival in France.[17]

On 27 April 1774, a week after the première of Gluck's opera, Iphigénie en Aulide, which had secured the Dauphine's position as a patron of the arts, Louis XV fell ill. On 4 May, the dying king was pressured to send the comtesse du Barry away from Versailles; on 10 May, at three in the afternoon, he died of smallpox at the age of sixty-four.[18] Louis-Auguste was crowned King Louis XVI of France on 11 June 1775 at the cathedral of Rheims. Marie Antoinette was not crowned alongside him, merely accompanying him during the coronation ceremony.[19]

Reign: 1774–1792

1774–1778: The early years

From the outset, despite how she was portrayed in contemporary libelles, the new queen had very little political influence with her husband. Louis, who had been influenced as a child by anti-Austrian sentiments in the court, blocked many of her candidates, including Choiseul,[20] from taking important positions, aided and abetted by his two most important ministers, Chief Minister Maurepas and Foreign Minister Vergennes. All three were anti-Austrian, and were wary of the potential repercussions of allowing the queen – and, through her, the Austrian empire – to have any say in French policy.[21]

Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, in coronation robes by Jean-Baptiste Gautier Dagoty, 1775.
Archduke Maximilian Francis visited Marie Antoinette and her husband on 7 February 1775 at the Château de la Muette.

Marie Antoinette's situation became more precarious when, on 6 August 1775, her sister-in-law, the comtesse d'Artois, gave birth to a son, the duc d'Angoulême—the presumptive heir to the French throne when his father, the comte d'Artois, became king Charles X of France in 1824. This resulted in release of a plethora of graphic satirical pamphlets, which mainly centered on the king's impotence and the queen's searching for sexual relief elsewhere, with men and women alike. Among her rumored lovers were her close friend, the princesse de Lamballe, and her handsome brother-in-law, the comte d'Artois, with whom the queen had a good rapport.[22]

This caused the queen to plunge further into the costly diversions of buying her dresses from Rose Bertin and gambling, simply to enjoy herself. On one famed occasion, she played for three days straight with players from Paris, straight up until her 21st birthday. She also began to attract various male admirers whom she accepted into her inner circles, including the baron de Besenval, the duc de Choigny, and Count Valentin Esterházy.[23]

She was given free rein to renovate the Petit Trianon, which was given to her as a gift by Louis XVI on 15 August 1774; she concentrated mainly on horticulture, redesigning in the English mode the garden, which in the previous reign had been an arboretum of introduced species. Although the Petit Trianon had been built for Louis XV's mistress, Madame de Pompadour, it became associated with Marie Antoinette's perceived extravagance. Rumors circulated that she plastered the walls with gold and diamonds.[24]

"...the innovativeness of Marie Antoinette's country retreat would attract her subjects’ fierce disapproval, even as it aimed to bolster her autonomy and enhance her prestige," (Weber 132).

An even bigger problem, however, was the debt incurred by France during the Seven Years' War, still unpaid. It was further exacerbated by Vergennes' prodding Louis XVI to get involved in Great Britain's war with its North American colonies, due to France's traditional rivalry with England.[25]

In the midst of preparations for sending help to France, and in the atmosphere of the first wave of libelles, Emperor Joseph came to call on his sister and brother-in-law on 18 April 1777, the subsequent six-week visit a part of the attempt to figure out why their marriage had not been consummated.

It was due to Joseph's intervention that, on 30 August 1777, the marriage was officially consummated. Eight months later, in April, it was suspected that the queen was finally pregnant. This was confirmed on 16 May 1778.[26]

1778–1781: Motherhood

Marie Antoinette in a court dress worn over extremely wide panniers, by Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun (1778).
Marie Antoinette with her children Madame Marie Therese Charlotte of France and Dauphin Louis Joseph of France, 1785.

In the middle of her pregnancy, two events occurred which impacted the queen's later life. First, there was the return of the handsome Swede, Count Axel von Fersen, to Versailles for two years. Secondly, the king's wealthy but spiteful cousin, the duc de Chartres, was disgraced due to his questionable conduct during the Battle of Ouessant against the British. In addition, Marie Antoinette's brother, the Emperor Joseph, began making claims on the throne of Bavaria based upon his second marriage to the princess Maria Josepha of Bavaria. Marie Antoinette pleaded with her husband for the French to help intercede on behalf of Austria but was rebuffed by the king and his ministers. The Peace of Teschen, signed on 13 May 1779, ended the brief conflict, but the incident once more showed the limited influence that the queen had in politics.[27]

Marie Antoinette's daughter, Marie-Thérèse Charlotte, given the honorific title at birth of Madame Royale, was finally born at Versailles, after a particularly difficult labor, on 19 December 1778, following an ordeal where the queen literally collapsed from suffocation and hemorrhaging. The queen's bedroom was packed with courtiers watching the birth, and the doctor aiding her supposedly caused the excessive bleeding by accident. The windows had to be torn out to revive her. As a result of this harrowing experience, the queen and the king banned most courtiers from entering her bedchamber for subsequent labors.[28]

The baby's paternity was contested in the libelles and most notably by the comte de Provence, who had always been open about his desire to replace his brother as king through various means. However, the child's paternity was never contested by the king himself, who was close to his daughter.[29]

The birth of a daughter meant that pressure to have a male heir continued, and Marie Antoinette wrote about her worrisome health, which might have contributed to a miscarriage in July 1779. Antonia Fraser expresses doubts as to whether there was a pregnancy in 1779, ascribing the queen's belief that she had a miscarriage to Antoinette's irregular menstrual cycle. The memoirs of the queen's lady-in-waiting, Madame Campan, state explicitly that the miscarriage came about after the queen exerted herself too strenuously in closing a window in her carriage, felt that she had hurt herself, and lost the child eight days later. Campan adds that the king spent a morning consoling the queen at her bedside, and swore to secrecy all those who were aware of the accident.[30]

Meanwhile, the queen began to institute changes in the customs practiced at court, with the approval of the king. Some changes, such as the abolition of segregated dining spaces, had already been instituted for some time and had been met with disapproval from the older generation. More importantly was the abandonment of heavy make-up and the popular wide-hooped panniers for a more simple feminine look, typified first by the rustic robe à la polonaise and later by the 'gaulle,' a simple muslin dress that she wore in a 1783 Vigée-Le Brun portrait. She also began to participate in amateur plays and musicals, starting in 1780, in a theatre built for her and other courtiers who wished to indulge in the delights of acting and singing.[31]

In 1780, two candidates who had been supported by Marie Antoinette for positions, the marquis de Castries, and the comte de Ségur, were appointed Minister of the Navy and Minister of War, respectively. Though many believed it was entirely the support of the queen that enabled them to secure their positions, in truth it was mostly that of Finance Minister Jacques Necker.[32]

Marie Antoinette en chemise, portrait of the queen in a "muslin" dress; this controversial portrait was viewed by her critics to be improper for a queen, by Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun (1783).

Later that year, Empress Maria Theresa's health began to give way due to dropsy and an unnamed respiratory problem. She died on 29 November 1780, in Vienna, at the age of sixty-three, and was mourned throughout Europe. Though Marie Antoinette was worried that the death of her mother would jeopardise the Franco-Austrian alliance (as well as, ultimately, herself), Emperor Joseph reassured her through his own letters (as the empress had not stopped writing to Marie Antoinette until shortly before her death) that he had no intention of breaking the alliance.

Three months after the empress' death, it was rumored that Marie Antoinette was pregnant again, which was confirmed in March 1781. Another royal visit from Joseph II in July, partially to reaffirm the Franco-Austrian alliance and also a means of seeing his sister again, was tainted with false rumors that Marie Antoinette was siphoning treasury money to him.[33]

The queen gave birth to Louis Joseph Xavier François, who was given the title of duc de Bretagne, on 22 October 1781. The reaction to the birth of an heir was best summed up by the words of Louis XVI himself, as he wrote them down in his hunting journal: "Madame, you have fulfilled our wishes and those of France, you are the mother of Dauphin".[34] He would, according to courtiers, try to frame sentences to put in the phrase "my son the Dauphin" in the weeks to come.[35] It also helped that, three days before the birth, the majority of the fighting in the conflict in America had been concluded with the surrender of General Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown.[36]

1782–1785: Declining popularity

Despite the general celebration over the birth of the Dauphin, Marie Antoinette's political influence, such as it was, did not benefit Austria. Instead, after the death of the comte de Maurepas, the influence of Vergennes was strengthened, and she was again left out of political affairs. The same happened during the so-called Kettle War, in which her brother Joseph attempted to open up the Scheldt River for naval passage. Later, another attempt by him to claim Bavaria was rebuffed as being against French interests.[37]

When accused of being a "dupe" by her brother for her political inaction, Marie Antoinette responded that she had little power. The king rarely talked to her about policy, and his anti-Austrian education as a child fortified his refusals in allowing his wife any participation in his decisions. As a result, she had to pretend to his ministers that she was in his full confidence in order to get the information she wanted. This led the court to believe she had more power than she did. As she wrote,"Would it be wise of me to have scenes with his (Louis XVI's) ministers over matters on which it is practically certain the King would not support me?".[38]

An engraving of Marie Antoinette à la paysanne, or Marie Antoinette as a peasant; she often dressed as one with her friends at her Hameau, imitating the simple life.

Marie Antoinette's temperament was more suited to personally directing the education of her children. This was against the traditions of Versailles, where the queen usually had little say over the Enfants de France, as the royal children were called, and they were instead handed over to various courtiers who fought over the privilege. In particular, after the royal governess at the time of the Dauphin's birth, the princesse de Guéméné, went bankrupt and was forced to resign, there was a controversy over who should replace her. Marie Antoinette appointed her favourite, the duchesse de Polignac, to the position. This met with disapproval from the court, as the duchess was considered to be of too "immodest" a birth to occupy such an exalted position. On the other hand, both the king and queen trusted Mme de Polignac completely, and the duchess had children of her own to whom the queen had become attached.[39]

In June 1783, Marie Antoinette was pregnant again. That same month, Count Axel von Fersen returned from America, in order to secure a military appointment, and he was accepted into her private society. He left in September to become a captain of the bodyguard for his sovereign, Gustavus III, the king of Sweden, who was conducting a tour of Europe. Marie Antoinette suffered a miscarriage on the night of 1–2 November 1783, prompting more fears for her health.[40]

Trying to calm her mind, during Fersen's first visit, and later after his return on 7 June 1784, the queen occupied herself with the creation of the Hameau de la reine, a model hamlet in the garden of the Petit Trianon with a mill and twelve cottages, nine of which are still standing. The Hameau was one of Marie Antoinette's contributions to augmenting the chateau at Versailles and it can be to this day viewed by the public. Its creation, however, unexpectedly caused another uproar when the actual price of the Hameau was inflated by her critics. In truth, it was copied from another, far grander "model village" built in 1774 for the prince de Condé on his estate at Chantilly. The comtesse de Provence's version included windmills and a marble dairyhouse.[41] Started in 1783 and finished in 1787, to designs of the Queen's favoured architect, Richard Mique, the hamlet was complete with farmhouse, dairy, and mill.[42] Public records indicate that in 1781 the Comtesse de Provence's bought land for her Hameau which was completed in 1783, just before work started on the Queen's Hameau.[43] Also, the "Temple of Love" (a physical structure built as a part of the Queen's Hameau) bears a marked and striking resemblance to the rotunda of the Pavillon de Musique, which was the folie built by the Comtesse de Provence situated in her Hameau.[44]

In addition to the creation of the Hameau, Marie Antoinette had other notable interests and activities. She became an avid reader of historical novels, and her scientific interest was piqued enough to become a witness to the launching of hot air balloons. She was fascinated by Rousseau's "back to nature" philosophy, as well as the culture of the Incas of Peru and their worship of the sun, about which she had books in her library. Briefly, she even sought out important British personages such as the Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger, and the British ambassador to France, the Duke of Dorset.[45] She also developed an interest in learning English, and while she never became fluent, she was able to write in broken English to her friend, the Duchess of Devonshire, whose life was very similar to her own.

Despite the many things which she did in her spare time, her primary concern became the health of the Dauphin, which was beginning to fail. By the time Fersen returned to Versailles in 1784, it was widely thought that the sickly Dauphin would not live to be an adult. As a consequence, it was rumored that the king and queen were attempting to have another child.[40] During this time, Beaumarchais' play The Marriage of Figaro premiered in Paris. After initially having been banned by the king due to its negative portrayal of the nobility, the play was ironically finally allowed to be publicly performed because of its overwhelming popularity at court, where secret readings of it had been given.[46]

After Fersen's six-week visit was over, the queen reported that she was pregnant in August. With the future enlargement of her family in mind, she bought the Château de Saint-Cloud, a place she had always loved, from the duc d'Orléans, the father of the previously disgraced duc de Chartres. She intended to leave it as an inheritance to her younger children without stipulation. This was a hugely unpopular acquisition, particularly with some factions of the nobility who already disliked her, but also with a growing percentage of the population who felt shocked that a French queen might own her own residence independent of the king. Despite having the baron de Breteuil working on her behalf, the purchase did not help the public's frivolous image of the queen. The château's expensive price, almost 6 million livres, added with the substantial extra cost of redecorating it, ensured that there was less money going towards repaying France's substantial debt.[47]

On 27 March 1785, Marie Antoinette gave birth to a second son, Louis Charles, who was created the duc de Normandie. Noticeably stronger than the sickly Dauphin, the new baby was affectionately nicknamed by the queen, chou d'amour.[48] This naturally led to suspicions of illegitimacy once more. These suspicions along with the continued publication of the libelles, a never-ending cavalcade of court intrigues, the actions of Joseph II in the Kettle War, and her purchase of Saint-Cloud combined to sharply turn popular opinion against the queen, and the image of a licentious, spendthrift, empty-headed foreign queen was fast taking root in the French psyche.[49] A second daughter, Sophie Hélène Béatrice de France, was born on 9 July 1786 and died on 19 June 1787.

This State Portrait by Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun (1787) of Marie Antoinette and her children Marie Thérèse, Louis Charles (on her lap), and Louis Joseph, was meant to help her reputation by depicting her as a mother and in simple, yet stately attire.
Sophie Hélène Béatrice de France, Mademoiselle Sophie, by Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun (1786).

The continuing deterioration of the financial situation in France, although cutbacks in the royal retinue had been made, ultimately forced the king, in collaboration with his current Minister of Finance, Calonne, to call the Assembly of Notables, after an hiatus of 160 years. The assembly was held to try to pass some of the reforms needed to alleviate the financial situation when the Parlements refused to cooperate. The first meeting of the assembly took place on 22 February 1787, at which Marie Antoinette was not present. Later, her absence resulted in her being accused of trying to undermine the purpose of the assembly .[50]

However, the Assembly was a failure with or without the queen, as it did not pass any reforms and instead fell into a pattern of defying the king, demanding other reforms and for the acquiescence of the Parlements. As a result, the king dismissed Calonne on 8 April 1787; Vergennes died on 13 February. The king, once more ignoring the queen's pro-Austrian candidate, appointed a childhood friend, the comte de Montmorin, to replace Vergennes as Foreign Minister.[51]

During this time, even as her candidate was rejected, the queen began to abandon her more carefree activities to become more involved in politics than ever before, and mostly against the interests of Austria. This was for a variety of reasons. First, her children were Enfants de France, and thus their future as leaders of France needed to be assured. Second, by concentrating on her children, the queen sought to improve the dissolute image she had acquired from the "Diamond Necklace Affair". Third, the king had begun to withdraw from a decision making role in government due to the onset of an acute case of depression from all the pressures he was under. The symptoms of this depression were passed off as drunkenness by the libelles. As a result, Marie Antoinette finally emerged as a politically viable entity, although that was never her actual intention. In her new capacity as a politician with a degree of power, the queen tried her best to help the situation brewing between the assembly and the king.[51]

This change in her political role signaled the beginning of the end of the influence of the duchesse de Polignac, as Marie Antoinette began to dislike the duchesse's huge expenditures and their impact on the finances of the Crown. The duchesse left for England in May, leaving her children behind in Versailles. Also in May, Étienne Charles de Loménie de Brienne, the archbishop of Toulouse and one of the queen's political allies, was appointed by the king to replace Calonne as the Finance Minister. He began instituting more cutbacks at court.[52]

Brienne, though, was not able to improve the financial situation. Since he was her ally, this failure adversely affected the queen's political position. The continued poor financial climate of the country resulted in the 25 May dissolution of the Assembly of Notables because of its inability to get things done. This lack of solutions was wrongly blamed on the queen. In reality, the blame should have been placed on a combination of several other factors. There had been too many expensive wars, a too-large royal family whose large frivolous expenditures far exceeded those of the queen, and an unwillingness on the part of many of the aristocrats in charge to help defray the costs of the government out of their own pockets with higher taxes. Marie Antoinette earned the nickname of "Madame Déficit" in the summer of 1787 as a result of the public perception that she had single-handedly ruined the finances of the nation.[53]

The queen attempted to fight back with her own propaganda that portrayed her as a caring mother, most notably with the portrait of her and her children done by Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, which premiered at the Royal Académie Salon de Paris in August 1787. This attack strategy was eventually dropped, however, because of the death of the queen's youngest child, Sophie. Around the same time, Jeanne de Lamotte-Valois escaped from prison in France and fled to London, where she published more damaging lies concerning her supposed "affair" with the queen.[54]

The political situation in 1787 began to worsen when the Parlement was exiled, and culminated on 11 November, when the king tried to use a lit de justice to force through legislation. He was unexpectedly challenged by his formerly disgraced cousin, the duc de Chartres, who had inherited the title of duc d'Orléans at the recent death of his father. The new duc d'Orléans publicly protested the king's actions, and was subsequently exiled. The May Edicts issued on 8 May 1788, were also opposed by the public. Finally, on 8 July and 8 August, the king announced his intention to bring back the Estates General, the traditional elected legislature of the country which had not been convened since 1614.[55]

Another state portrait of Marie Antoinette, by Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun (1788)

Marie Antoinette was not directly involved with the exile of the Parlement, the May Edicts or with the announcement regarding the Estates General. Her primary concern in late 1787 and 1788 was instead the improved health of the Dauphin. He was suffering from tuberculosis, which in his case had twisted and curved his spinal column severely. He was brought to the château at Meudon in the hope that its country air would help the young boy recover. Unfortunately, the move did little to alleviate the Dauphin 's condition, which gradually continued to deteriorate.[56]

The queen, however, was present with her daughter, Madame Royale, when Tippu Sahib of Mysore visited Versailles seeking help against the British. More importantly she was instrumental in the recall of Jacques Necker as Finance Minister on 26 August, a popular move, even though she herself was worried that the recall would again go against her if Necker was unsuccessful in reforming the country's finances.[56]

Her prediction began to come true when bread prices started to rise due to the severe 1788–1789 winter. The Dauphin 's condition worsened even more, riots broke out in Paris in April, and on 26 March, Louis XVI himself almost died from a fall off the roof.

"Come, Léonard, dress my hair, I must go like an actress, exhibit myself to a public that may hiss me", the queen quipped to her hairdresser, who was one of her "ministers of fashion" (Weber), as she prepared for the Mass celebrating the return of the Estates General on 4 May 1789. She knew that her rival, the duc d'Orléans, who had given money and bread to the people during the winter, would be popularly acclaimed by the crowd much to her detriment. The Estates General convened the next day.[57]

During the month of May, the Estates General began to fracture between the democratic Third Estate (consisting of the bourgeoisie and radical nobility), and the royalist nobility of the Second Estate, while the king's brothers began to become more hardline. Despite these developments, the queen could only think about her son, the dying Dauphin . His mother at his side, the seven-year old boy passed away at Meudon on 4 June, succumbing to tuberculosis, and leaving the title of Dauphin to his younger brother Louis Charles. His death, which would have normally been nationally mourned, was virtually ignored by the French people, who were instead preparing for the next meeting of the Estates General and a hopeful resolution to the bread crisis. As the Third Estate declared itself a National Assembly and took the Tennis Court Oath, and as others listened to rumors that the queen wished to bathe in their blood, Marie Antoinette went into mourning for her eldest son.[58]

July 1789–1792: The French Revolution

Prise de la Bastille, by Jean-Pierre-Louis-Laurent Houel, depicting the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789.

The situation began to escalate violently in June as the National Assembly began to demand more rights, and Louis XVI began to push back with efforts to suppress the Third Estate. However, the king's ineffectiveness and the queen's unpopularity undermined the monarchy as an institution, and so these attempts failed. Then, on 11 July, Necker was dismissed. Paris was besieged by riots at the news, which culminated in the storming of the Bastille on 14 July.[59]

In the days and weeks that followed, many of the most conservative, reactionary royalists, including the comte d'Artois and the duchesse de Polignac, fled France for fear of assassination. Marie Antoinette, whose life was the most in danger, stayed behind in order to help the king promote stability, even as his power was gradually being taken away by the National Constituent Assembly, which was now ruling Paris and conscripting men to serve in the Garde Nationale.[60]

By the end of August, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (La Déclaration des Droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen) was adopted, which officially created the beginning of a constitutional monarchy in France.[61] Despite this, the king was still required to perform certain court ceremonies, even as the situation in Paris became worse due to a bread shortage in September. On 5 October, a mob from Paris descended upon Versailles and forced the royal family, along with the comte de Provence, his wife and Madame Elisabeth, to move to Paris under the watchful eye of the Garde Nationale. The king and queen were installed in the Tuileries Palace under surveillance.[62] During this limited house arrest, Marie Antoinette conveyed to her friends that she did not intend to involve herself any further in French politics, as everything, whether or not she was involved, would inevitably be attributed to her anyway and she feared the repercussions of further involvement.[63]

Despite the situation, Marie Antoinette was still required to perform charitable functions and to attend certain religious ceremonies, which she did. Most of her time, however, was dedicated to her children.[64]

A highly realistic portrait of Marie Antoinette, done around 1791, by Alexandre Kucharsky.

Despite her attempts to remain out of the public eye, she was falsely accused in the libelles of having an affair with the commander of the Garde Nationale, the marquis de La Fayette. In reality, she loathed the marquis for his liberal tendencies and for being partially responsible for the royal family's forced departure from Versailles.[65] This was not the only accusation Marie Antoinette faced from such "libelles." In such pamphlets as "Le Godmiché Royal", (translated, "The Royal Dildo"), it was suggested that she routinely engaging in deviant sexual acts of various sorts.[1] From acting as a tribade, (in her case in the lesbian sense), to sleeping with her son, Marie Antoinette was constantly an object of rumor and false accusations of committing sexual acts with partners other than the king. Later, allegations of this sort (from incest to orgiastic excesses) were used to justify her execution. Ultimately, none of the charges of sexual depravity have any credible evidentiary support. Marie Antoinette was simply an easy target for rumor and criticism.

Constantly monitored by revolutionary spies within her own household, the queen played little or no part in the writing of the French Constitution of 1791, which greatly weakened the king's authority. She, nevertheless, hoped for a future where her son would still be able to rule, convinced that the violence would soon pass.[66]

During this time, there were many plots designed to help members of the royal family escape. The queen rejected several because she would not leave without the king. Other opportunities to rescue the family were ultimately frittered away by the indecisive king. Once the king finally did commit to a plan, his indecision played an important role in its poor execution and ultimate failure. In an elaborate attempt to escape from Paris to the royalist stronghold of Montmédy planned by Count Axel von Fersen and the baron de Breteuil, some members of the royal family were to pose as the servants of a wealthy Russian baroness. Initially, the queen rejected the plan because it required her to leave with only her son. She wished instead for the rest of the royal family to accompany her. The king wasted time deciding upon which members of the family should be included in the venture, what the departure date should be, and the exact path of the route to be used. After many delays, the escape ultimately occurred on 21 June 1791, and was a failure. The entire family was captured twenty-four hours later at Varennes and taken back to Paris within a week.[67]

The result of the fiasco was a further decline in the popularity of both the king and queen. The Jacobin Party successfully exploited the failed escape to advance its radical agenda. Its members called for the end to any type of monarchy in France.[68]

Though the new constitution was accepted on 14 September, Marie Antoinette hoped through the end of 1791 that the distasteful political drift she saw occurring toward representative democracy could be stopped and rolled back. She fervently hoped that the constitution would prove unworkable, and also that her brother, the new Austrian emperor, Leopold II, would find some way to defeat the revolutionaries. However, she was unaware that Leopold was more interested in taking advantage of France's state of chaos for the benefit of Austria than in helping his sister and her family.[69]

The result of Leopold's aggressive tendencies, and those of his son Francis II, who succeeded him in March, was that France declared war on Austria on 20 April 1792. This caused the queen to be viewed as an enemy, even though she was personally against Austrian claims on French lands. The situation became compounded in the summer when French armies were continually being defeated by the Austrians and the king vetoed several measures that would have restricted his power even further. During this time, due to her husband's political activities, Marie-Antoinette received the nickname of "Madame Veto".[70]

Marie Antoinette with her children and Madame Élisabeth, when the mob broke into the Tuileries Palace on 20 June 1792.

On 20 June, "a mob of terrifying aspect" broke into the Tuileries and made the king wear the bonnet rouge (red Phrygian cap) to show his loyalty to France.[71]

The vulnerability of the king was exposed on 10 August when an armed mob, on the verge of forcing its way into the Tuileries Palace, forced the king and the royal family to seek refuge at the Legislative Assembly. An hour and a half later, the palace was invaded by the mob who massacred the Swiss Guards.[72] On 13 August, the royal family was imprisoned in the tower of the Temple in the Marais under conditions considerably harsher than their previous confinement in the Tuileries.[73]

A week later, many of the royal family's attendants, among them the princesse de Lamballe, were taken in for interrogation by the Paris Commune. Transferred to the La Force prison, she was one of the victims of the September Massacres, killed on 3 September. Her head was affixed on a pike and marched through the city. Although Marie Antoinette did not see the head of her friend as it was paraded outside her prison window, she fainted upon learning about the gruesome end that had befallen her faithful companion.[74]

On 21 September, the fall of the monarchy was officially declared, and the National Convention became the legal authority of France. The royal family was re-styled as the non-royal "Capets". Preparations for the trial of the king in a court of law began.[75]

Charged with undermining the First French Republic, Louis was separated from his family and tried in December. He was found guilty by the Convention, led by the Jacobins who rejected the idea of keeping him as a hostage. However, the sentence did not come until one month later, when he was condemned to execution by guillotine.[76]

1793: "Widow Capet" and death

Marie Antoinette on the way to the guillotine. (Pen and ink by Jacques-Louis David, 16 October 1793)

Louis was executed on 21 January 1793, at the age of thirty-eight.[77] The result was that the "Widow Capet", as the former queen was called after the death of her husband, plunged into deep mourning; she refused to eat or take any exercise. There is no knowledge of her proclaiming her son as Louis XVII; however, the comte de Provence, in exile, recognised his nephew as the new king of France and took the title of Regent. Marie-Antoinette's health rapidly deteriorated in the following months. By this time she suffered from tuberculosis and possibly uterine cancer, which caused her to hemorrhage frequently.[78]

Despite her condition, the debate as to her fate was the central question of the National Convention after Louis's death. There were those who had been advocating her death for some time, while some had the idea of exchanging her for French prisoners of war or for a ransom from the Holy Roman Emperor. Thomas Paine advocated exile to America.[79] Starting in April, however, a Committee of Public Safety was formed, and men such as Jacques Hébert were beginning to call for Antoinette's trial; by the end of May, the Girondins had been chased out of power and arrested.[80] Other calls were made to "retrain" the Dauphin, to make him more pliant to revolutionary ideas. This was carried out when Louis Charles was separated from Antoinette on 3 July, and given to the care of a cobbler.[80] On 1 August, she herself was taken out of the Tower and entered into the Conciergerie as Prisoner No. 280.[81] Despite various attempts to get her out, such as the Carnation Plot in September, Marie Antoinette refused when the plots for her escape were brought to her attention.[82]

She was finally tried by the Revolutionary Tribunal on 14 October. Unlike the king, who had been given time to prepare a defense, the queen's trial was far more of a sham, considering the time she was given (less than one day) and the Jacobin's misogynistic view of women in general. Among the things she was accused of (most, if not all, of the accusations were untrue and probably lifted from rumors begun by libelles) included orchestrating orgies in Versailles, sending millions of livres of treasury money to Austria, plotting to kill the duc d'Orléans, incest with her son, declaring her son to be the new king of France and orchestrating the massacre of the Swiss Guards in 1792.

Marie Antoinette's execution on 16 October 1793.

The most infamous charge was that she sexually abused her son. This was according to Louis Charles, who, through his coaching by Hébert and his guardian, accused his mother. After being reminded that she had not answered the charge of incest, Marie Antoinette protested emotionally to the accusation, and the women present in the courtroom – the market women who had stormed the palace for her entrails in 1789 – ironically began to support her.[83] She had been composed throughout the trial until this accusation was made, to which she finally answered, "If I have not replied it is because Nature itself refuses to respond to such a charge laid against a mother." However, in reality the outcome of the trial had already been decided by the Committee of Public Safety around the time the Carnation Plot was uncovered, and she was declared guilty of treason in the early morning of 16 October, after two days of proceedings.[84] The same day at 12:15 pm, two and a half weeks before her thirty-eighth birthday, wearing a simple white dress, she was executed Place de la Révolution (present-day Place de la Concorde).[85][86] Her last words were, "Pardon me Sir, I meant not to do it", to Sanson the executioner, whose foot she accidentally stepped on before she was executed by guillotine. Her body was thrown into an unmarked grave in the former Madeleine cemetery, rue d'Anjou, (which was closed the following year). Both her body and that of Louis XVI were exhumed on 18 January 1815, during the Bourbon Restoration, when the comte de Provence had become King Louis XVIII. Proper Christian burial of the royal remains took place three days later, on 21 January, in the necropolis of French Kings at the Basilica of St Denis.[87]

Historical legacy and popular culture

Memorial to King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette, sculptures by Edme Gaulle and Pierre Petitot in the Basilica of Saint-Denis.

Marie Antoinette's effect on the Revolution of France started well before 1789. By simply having a nationality of an Austrian origin, she was easily a target of ridicule and criticism. By altering several of the King's decisions, such as the removal of Jacques Necker from the office of finance Minister, introducing her political views to Louis XVI, and acting directly with the political assemblies of France, Marie Antoinette made an impact on the revolution that should not be taken lightly. With words placed in her mouth by the libelles, and rumors of illegitimate sexual encounters circulating throughout France, Marie Antoinette became an object of disgust and questionable motives. With these accusations reflecting onto the crown of the King, the legitimacy of the monarchy came into question. Without her influence on the King, his advisors, and the general public of France, the stability of the crown may not have been in question in the intensity that it was throughout the entirety of the revolutionary period.

In popular culture, the phrase "Let them eat cake" is often attributed to Marie Antoinette. However, there is no evidence to support that she ever uttered this phrase, and it is now generally regarded as a "journalistic cliché"[88] which first appeared in The Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, written before Marie Antoinette even arrived in France.[89]

Family and ancestry


French heraldic crowns - King.svg Louis XVI of France
Marie Antoinette
Queen consort of France and Navarre
Marie Thérèse Charlotte
First Dauphin
French heraldic crowns - Dauphin.svg
French heraldic crowns - King.svg
Louis Charles
Sophie Hélène Béatrix



  1. ^ Fraser, Antonia (2001). Marie Antoinette. Anchor. 
  2. ^ Fraser, Antonia, Marie Antoinette, The Journey, Anchor Books, (American edition, 2002): in Part One: Madame Antoine, p. 6.
  3. ^ After the problems encountered at the birth of Marie Antoinette's first child, her husband, king Louis XVI, did not allow the public in his wife's bedroom at the birth of the dauphin on 22 October 1781, and let only a handful of trusted courtiers witness the birth. (Fraser, pp. 166–170.)
  4. ^ a b Fraser, 22.
  5. ^ Fraser, 31–33.
  6. ^ Fraser, 25.
  7. ^ Fraser, 10–12.
  8. ^ Fraser, 42–50.
  9. ^ Fraser, 51–53.
  10. ^ Fraser, 58–62.
  11. ^ Fraser, 64–69.
  12. ^ Fraser, 70–71.
  13. ^ Fraser, 157.
  14. ^ a b Fraser, 47.
  15. ^ a b Fraser, 94, 130–31.
  16. ^ a b Fraser, 87–90, 97–99.
  17. ^ a b Fraser, 80–81.
  18. ^ Fraser, 113–116.
  19. ^ Fraser, 132–137.
  20. ^ Fraser, 136–137.
  21. ^ Fraser, 124–127.
  22. ^ Fraser, 137–139.
  23. ^ Fraser, 140–145.
  24. ^ Fraser, 150–151.
  25. ^ Fraser, 152.
  26. ^ Fraser, 160–162.
  27. ^ Fraser, 164–166.
  28. ^ Fraser, 166–170.
  29. ^ Fraser, 169.
  30. ^ Fraser, 172.
  31. ^ Fraser, 174–179.
  32. ^ Fraser, 183–184.
  33. ^ Fraser, 184–187.
  34. ^ Fraser, 187–188.
  35. ^ Fraser, 191.
  36. ^ Fraser, 194.
  37. ^ Fraser, 19–197.
  38. ^ Fraser, 197–198.
  39. ^ Fraser, 198–201.
  40. ^ a b Fraser, 202.
  41. ^ Fraser, 206–207.
  42. ^ Lever, Evelyne. "Marie Antoinette: Last Queen of France" page 158.
  43. ^ Bernd H. Dams and Andrew Zega "Folie de Batir."page 130–131
  44. ^ Seulliet, Philippe. World Of Interiors "Swan Song: Music Pavillion of the Last Queen of France." World of Interiors. July 2008 Page 116
  45. ^ Fraser, 208.
  46. ^ Fraser, 214–215.
  47. ^ Fraser, 216–220.
  48. ^ Fraser, 224–225.
  49. ^ Fraser, 226.
  50. ^ Fraser, 246–248.
  51. ^ a b Fraser, 248–250.
  52. ^ Fraser, 250–255.
  53. ^ Fraser, 254–255.
  54. ^ Fraser, 255–258.
  55. ^ Fraser, 258–259.
  56. ^ a b Fraser, 260–261.
  57. ^ Fraser, 270–273.
  58. ^ Fraser, 274–278.
  59. ^ Fraser, 282–284.
  60. ^ Fraser, 284–289.
  61. ^ Fraser, 289.
  62. ^ Fraser, 298–304.
  63. ^ Fraser, 304.
  64. ^ Fraser, 304–308.
  65. ^ Fraser, 319.
  66. ^ Fraser, 320–321.
  67. ^ Fraser, 333–348.
  68. ^ Fraser, 350–352.
  69. ^ Fraser, 354–359.
  70. ^ Fraser, 365–368.
  71. ^ Fraser, 368.
  72. ^ Fraser, 373–379.
  73. ^ Fraser, 382–386.
  74. ^ Fraser, 389.
  75. ^ Fraser, 392.
  76. ^ Fraser, 395–398.
  77. ^ Fraser, 399.
  78. ^ Fraser, 404–405, 408.
  79. ^ Fraser, 398, 408.
  80. ^ a b Fraser, 411–412.
  81. ^ Fraser, 414–415.
  82. ^ Fraser, 418.
  83. ^ Fraser, 429–435.
  84. ^ Fraser, 424–425, 436.
  85. ^ Fraser, 440.
  86. ^ The Times October 23, 1793, The Times.
  87. ^ Fraser, 411, 447.
  88. ^ Lady Antonia Fraser, Marie Antoinette: The Journey, p.xviii, 160; É. Lever, Marie-Antoinette: The Last Queen of France, pp. 63–5; Susan S. Lanser, article 'Eating Cake: The (Ab)uses of Marie-Antoientte,' published in Marie-Antoinette: Writings on the Body of a Queen, (ed. Dena Goodman), pp. 273–290.
  89. ^ The Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, his putative autobiographical work, where he wrote the following in Book 6 (1736):

    « Enfin je me rappelai le pis-aller d’une grande princesse à qui l’on disait que les paysans n’avaient pas de pain, et qui répondit : Qu’ils mangent de la brioche. J’achetai de la brioche. »

    "Finally I recalled the worst-recourse of a great princess to whom one said that the peasants had no bread, and who responded: "Let them eat brioche..."
    Rousseau does not name the "great princess", and it must be noted that he was an eighteenth-century philosophe and fiction writer, not an historian.


  • Fraser, Antonia (2001). Marie Antoinette, The Journey. Anchor. ISBN 0-7538-1305-X. 
  • Hermann, Eleanor (2006). Sex With The Queen. Harper/Morrow. ISBN 0-0608-4673-9. 
  • Wollstonecraft, Mary (1795). An Historical and Moral View of the Origin and Progress of the French Revolution and the Effect it Has Produced in Europe. St. Paul's. 

Further reading

  • Cronin, Vincent Louis and Antoinette. (1974) Collins. ISBN 0-8095-9216-9
  • Lasky, KathrynThe Royal Diaries- Marie Antoinette, Princess of Versailles: Austria-France, 1769. (2000) Scholastic. ISBN 0-4390-7666-8
  • Lever, Evelyne Marie Antoinette: The Last Queen of France. (2000) St. Martin's Griffin. ISBN 0-312-28333-4
  • Loomis, Stanley The Fatal Friendship. (1972) Gyldendal. ISBN 0-931933-33-1
  • Nasalund, Sera Jeter Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette. (2006) Morrow. ISBN 0-0608-2539-1
  • André Romijn Vive Madame la Dauphine – Book one of the Marie Antoinette Trilogy. (2008) ISBN 978-0955410024
  • Thomas, Chantal The Wicked Queen: The Origins of the Myth of Marie-Antoinette. (1999) trans. by Julie Rose. Zone Books. 0-9422-9939-6
  • Vidal, Elena Maria Trianon: A Novel of Royal France. (2000) Neumann Press ISBN 978-0911845969
  • Weber, Caroline Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution. (2006) Henry Holt and Co. ISBN 0-8050-7949-1
  • Stefan Zweig "Marie Antoinette The Portrait of an Average Woman" (1932) ISBN 4-87187-855-4
  • MacLeod, Margaret AnneThere Were Three Of Us In The Relationship — The Secret Letters of Marie Antoinette — Paperback Book |

External links

Marie Antoinette
Born: 2 November 1755 Died: 16 October 1793
French royalty
Title last held by
Maria Josepha of Saxony
Dauphine of France
16 May 1770 – 10 May 1774
Title next held by
Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte of France
Title last held by
Marie Leszczyńska
Queen consort of France and Navarre
10 May 1774 – 1 October 1791
as Queen of the French
as Queen of France
Queen consort of the French
1 October 1791 – 21 September 1792
Title next held by
Joséphine de Beauharnais
as Empress of the French
Titles in pretence
Loss of title
Queen consort of France and Navarre/
Queen consort of the French

1 October 1791 – 21 January 1793
Title next held by
Marie Josephine Louise of Savoy


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

It is quite certain that in seeing the people who treat us so well despite their own misfortune, we are more obliged than ever to work hard for their happiness.

Marie Antoinette (1755-11-021793-10-16) was Queen of France and Archduchess of Austria. She was the daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I and his wife Maria Theresa of Austria, the wife of Louis XVI, and the mother of Louis XVII. She was guillotined during the French Revolution. She was born Archduchess Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna of the Habsburg dynasty.


  • It is quite certain that in seeing the people who treat us so well despite their own misfortune, we are more obliged than ever to work hard for their happiness. The king seems to understand this truth; as for myself, I know that in my whole life (even if I live for a hundred years) I shall never forget the day of the coronation.
    • Quoted in Antonia Fraser, Marie Antoinette (2001) [New York: Anchor Books, 2006, ISBN 0307277747], p. 135
    • After learning of the bread shortages that were occurring in Paris at the time of Louis XVI's coronation in Rheims. Tradition persists that Marie Antoinette joked "Let them eat cake!" (Qu'ils mangent de la brioche.) This phrase, however, occurs in a passage of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Confessions, written in 1766, when Marie Antoinette was ten years old and four years before her marriage to Louis XVI. Cf. The Straight Dope, "On Language" by William Safire at The New York Times, and in the discussions at Google groups.

External links

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

Additions, corrections and discussions on this subject by users of the Classic Encyclopedia can be found on the discussion page

MARIE ANTOINETTE (1755-1793), queen of France, ninth child of Maria Theresa and the emperor Francis I., was born at Vienna, on the 2nd of November 1755. She was brought up under a simple and austere regime and educated with a view to the French marriage arranged by Maria Theresa, the abbe Vermond being appointed as her tutor in 1769. Her marriage with the dauphin, which took place at Versailles on the 16th of May 1770, was intended to crown the policy of Choiseul and confirm the alliance between Austria and France. This fact, combined with her youth and the extreme corruption of the French court, made her position very difficult. Madame du Barry, whose influence over Louis XV. was at that time supreme, formed the centre of a powerful anti-Choiseul cabal, which succeeded in less than a year after the dauphin's marriage in bringing about the fall of Choiseul and seriously threatening the stability of the Austrian alliance. Thus the young princess was surrounded by enemies both at court and in the dauphin's household, and came to rely almost entirely upon the Austrian ambassador, the comte de Mercy-Argenteau, whom Maria Theresa had instructed to act as her mentor, at the same time arranging that she herself should be kept informed of all that concerned her daughter, so that she might at once advise her and safeguard the alliance. Hence arose the famous secret correspondence of Mercy-Argenteau, an invaluable record of all the details of Marie Antoinette's life from her marriage in 1770 till the death of Maria Theresa in 1780.

Marie Antoinette soon won the affection and confidence of the dauphin and endeared herself to the king, but her position was precarious, and both Mercy and Maria Theresa had continually to urge her to conquer her violent dislike for the favourite and try to conciliate her.

The accession of the young king and queen on the death of Louis XV. (May 10, 1774), was hailed with great popular enthusiasm. But her first steps brought Marie Antoinette into open hostility with the anti-Austrian party. She was urgent in obtaining the dismissal of d'Aiguillon, and did all in her power to secure the recall of Choiseul, though without success. Thus from the very first she appeared in the light of a partisan, having against her all the enemies of Choiseul and of the Austrian alliance, and was already given the nickname of "l'autrichienne" by mesdames the king's aunts. At the same time her undisguised impatience of the cumbrous court etiquette shocked many people, and her taste for pleasure led her to seek the society of the comte d'Artois and his young and dissolute circle. But the greatest weakness in her position lay in her unsatisfactory relations with her husband. The king, though affectionate, was cold and apathetic, and it was not till seven years after her marriage that there was any possibility of her bearing him an heir. This fact naturally decreased her popularity, and as early as September 1 774, was made the subject of offensive pamphlets and the like, as in the case of the affdire Beaumarchais. (See Beaumarchais.) The end of the period of mourning for the late king was the signal for a succession of gaieties, during which the queen displayed a passion for amusement and excitement which led to unfortunate results. Being childless, and with a husband who could not command her respect, her longing for affection led her to form various intimate friendships, above all with the princesse de Lamballe and the comtesse Jules de Polignac, who soon obtained such an empire over her affections that no favour was too great for them to ask, and often to obtain. Thus for the benefit of Madame de Lamballe the queen revived the superfluous and expensive office of superintendent of her household, which led constant disagreements and jealousies among her ladies and offended many important families. In frequenting the salons of her friends the queen not only came in contact with a number of the younger and more dissipated courtiers, whose high play and unseemly amusements she countenanced, but she fell under the influence of various ambitious intriguers, such as the baron de Besenval, the comte de Vaudreuil, the duc de Lauzun and the comte d'Adhemar, whose interested manoeuvres she was induced to further by her affection for her favourites. Thus she was often led to interfere for frivolous reasons in public affairs, sometimes with serious results, as in the case of the trial of the comte de Guines (1776), when her interference was responsible for the fall of Turgot. At the same time her extravagance in dress, jewelry and amusements (including the gardens and theatricals at Trianon, of the cost of which such exaggerated reports were spread about) and her presence at horse-races and masked balls in Paris without the king, gave rise to great scandal, which was seized upon by her enemies, among whom were Mesdames, the count of Provence, and the duke of Orleans and the Palais Royal clique.

At this critical period her brother, the emperor Joseph II., decided to visit France. As the result of his visit he left with the queen a memorandum in which he pointed out to her in plain terms the dangers of her conduct.' He also took advantage of his visit to advise the king, with such success that at last, in 1778, the queen had the hope of becoming a mother. For a time the emperor's remonstrances had some effect, and after the birth of her daughter, Marie Therese Charlotte (afterwards duchesse d'Angouleme) in December 1778, the queen lived a more quiet life. The death of Maria Theresa (Nov. 29, 1780) deprived her of a wise and devoted friend, and by removing all restraint on the rashness of Joseph II. was bound to increase the dislike of the Austrian alliance and cause embarrassment to Marie. Antoinette. Her position was very much strengthened by the birth (Oct. 22, 1781) of a dauphin, Louis Joseph Xavier Francois, and on the death of Maurepas, which left the king without a chief minister, she might have exerted a considerable influence in public affairs had she taken a consistent interest in them; but her repugnance to serious matters triumphed, and she preferred to occupy herself with the education of her children, to whom she was a wise and devoted mother, 2 and with her friends and amusements at Trianon. Personal motives alone would lead her to interfere in public affairs, especially when it was a question of obtaining places or favours for her favourites and their friends. The influence of the Polignacs was now at its height, and they obtained large sums of money, a dukedom, and many nominations to places. It was Madame de Polignac who obtained the appointment of Calonne as controller-general of the finances,' and who succeeded Madame de Guemenee as "governess of the children of France" after the bankruptcy of the prince de Guemenee in 1782.4 Again, in response to Mercy and Joseph II.'s urgent representations, Marie Antoinette exerted herself on behalf of Austria in the affairs of the opening of the Scheldt (1783-1784) and the exchange of Bavaria (1785), in which, though she failed to provoke active interference on the part of France, she succeeded in obtaining the payment of considerable indemnities to Austria, a fact which led to the popular legend of her having sent millions to Austria, and aroused much indignation against her. Later, on the recommendation of Mercy and Vermond, she supported the nomination of Lomenie de Brienne in 1787, an appointment which, though widely approved at the time, was laid to the queen's blame when it ended in failure.

Two more children were born to her; Louis Charles, duke of Normandy, afterwards dauphin, on the 27th of March 1785, and Sophie Helene Beatrix (d. June 19, 1787), on the 9th of July 1786. In1785-1786the affair of the Diamond Necklace 1 See Arneth, Marie Antoinette, Joseph II. and Leopold II., pp. 1-18.

2 v. the Instructions donnees a la marquise de Tourzel, governess of the children of France, dated the 24th of July, 1789, in la Rocheterie and Beaucourt, Lettres de Marie Antoinette, ii. 131.

' But see Arneth and Flammermont, i. 228, foot-note.

4 This had reflected discredit on the queen, Madame de Guemenee having been one of her intimate friends.

revealed the depth of the hatred which her own follies and the calumnies of her enemies had aroused against her. The public held her responsible for the bankrupt state of the country; and though in 1788, following the popular outcry, she prevailed upon the king to recall Necker, it was impossible for him to avert the Revolution. The year 1789 was one of disaster for Marie Antoinette; on the 10th of March her brother Joseph II. died, and on the 4th of June her eldest son. The same year saw the assembling of the States-general, which she had dreaded, the taking of the Bastille, and the events leading to the terrible days of the 5th and 6th of October at Versailles and the removal of the royal family to the Tuileries. Then began the negotiations with Mirabeau, whose high estimate of the queen is well-known (e.g. his famous remark, "The king has only one man on his side, and that is his wife"). But the queen was violently prejudiced against him, believing him among other things to be responsible for the events of the 5th and 6th of October, and he never gained her full confidence. She was naturally incapable of seeing the full import of the Revolution, and merely temporised with Mirabeau. She dreaded the thought of civil war; and even when she had realized the necessity for decisive action the king's apathy and indecision made it impossible for her to persuade him to carry into effect Mirabeau's plan of leaving Paris and appealing to the provinces. Her difficulties were increased by the departure of Mercy for the Hague in September 1790, for Montmorin who now took his place in the negotiations had not her confidence to the same extent.. Feeling herself helpless and almost isolated in Paris, she now relied chiefly on her friends outside France - Mercy, Count Axel Fersen, and the baron de Breteuil; and it was by their help and that of Bouille that after the death of Mirabeau, on the 8th of April 1791, the plan was arranged of escaping to Montmedy, which ended in the flight to Varennes (June 21, 1791).

After the return from Varennes the royal family were closely guarded, but in spite of this they still found channels of communication with the outside world. The king being sunk in apathy, the task of negotiation devolved upon the queen; but in her inexperience and ignorance of affairs, and the uncertainty of information from abroad, it was hard for her to follow any clear policy. Her courageous bearing during the return from Varennes had greatly impressed Barnave, and he now approached her on behalf of the Feuillants and the constitutional party. For about a year she continued to negotiate with them, forwarding to Mercy and the emperor Leopold II. letters and memoranda dictated by them, while at the same time secretly warning her friends not to accept these letters as her own opinions, but to realize that she was dependent on the Constitutionals.' She agreed with their plan of an armed congress, and on this idea both she and Fersen insisted with all their might, Fersen leaving Brussels and going on a mission to the emperor to try and gain support and checkmate the émigrés, whose desertion the queen bitterly resented, and whose rashness threatened to frustrate her plans and endanger the lives of her family.

As to the acceptance of the constitution (Sept. 1791), "tissue of absurdities" though the queen thought it, and much as she would have preferred a bolder course, she considered that in the circumstances the king was bound to accept it in order to inspire confidence.' Mercy was also in correspondence with the Constitutionals, and in letter after letter to him and the emperor, the queen, strongly supported by Fersen, insisted that the congress should be formed as soon as possible, her appeals increasing in urgency as she saw that Barnave's party would soon be powerless against the extremists. But owing to the lengthy negotiations of the powers the congress was continually postponed. On the 1st of March 1792 Leopold II. died, and was succeeded by the young Francis II. Marie Antoinette's actions were now directed entirely by Fersen, for she suspected Mercy and the emperor of sacrificing her to the interests of Austria (Fersen, i. 251; Arneth, pp. 254, 256, &c.). The declaration of war which ' Letters of 31st July 1791 to Mercy. Arneth, p. 193 and 194, and letter of 1st August.

2 Arneth, pp. 196, 203; Klinckowstrom, Fersen, i. 192.

the king was forced to make (April 20) threw her definitely into opposition to the Revolution, and she betrayed to Mercy and Fersen the plans of the French generals (Arneth, p.2S9; Fersen, ii. 220, 289, 308, 325, 327). She was now certain that the life of the king was threatened, and the events of the 10th of June added to her terrors. She considered their only hope to lie in the intervention of the powers and in the appeal to force, and endorsed the suggestion of a threatening manifesto 3 which should hold the National Assembly and Paris responsible for the safety of the king and royal family. Immediately after Brunswick's manifesto followed the storming of the Tuileries and the removal of the royal family to the Temple (Aug. 10). During all these events and the captivity in the Temple Marie Antoinette showed an unvarying courage and dignity, in spite of her failing health and the illness of her son. After the execution of the king (Jan. 17, 1793) several unsuccessful attempts were made by her friends to rescue her and her children, among others by Jarjayes, Toulan and Lepitre, and the "baron de Batz," and negotiations for her release or exchange were even opened with Danton; but as the allied armies approached her trial and condemnation became a certainty. She had already been separated from her son, the sight of whose ill-treatment added terribly to her sufferings; she was now parted from her daughter and Madame Elizabeth, and removed on the 1st of August 1793 to the Conciergerie. Even here, where she was under the closest guard and subjected to the most offensive espionnage, attempts were made to rescue her, among others Michonis' "Conspiration de l'oeillet." On the 14th of October began her trial, her defence being entrusted to Chauveau-Lagarde and Tronson-Ducourdray. Her noble attitude, even in the face of the atrocious accusations of Fouquier-Tinville, commanded the admiration even of her enemies, and her answers during her long examination were clear and skilful. The following were the questions finally put to the jury: (1) Is it established that manoeuvres and communications have existed with foreign powers and other external enemies of the republic, the said manoeuvres, &c., tending to furnish them with assistance in money, give them an entry into French territory, and facilitate the progress of their armies ?

(2) Is Marie Antoinette of Austria, the widow Capet, convicted of having co-operated in these manoeuvres and maintained these communications ?

(3) Is it established that a plot and conspiracy has existed tending to kindle civil war within the republic, by arming the citizens against one another ?

(4) Is Marie Antoinette, the widow Capet, convicted of having participated in this plot and conspiracy ?

The jury decided unanimously in the affirmative, and on the 16th of October 1793 Marie Antoinette was led to the guillotine, leaving behind her a touching letter to Madame Elizabeth, known as her "Testament." As to the justice of these charges, we have seen how the queen was actually guilty of betraying her country, though it was only natural for her to identify the cause of the monarchy with that of France. To civil war she was consistently opposed, and never ceased to dissociate herself from the plans of the emigres, but here again her very position made her an enemy of the republic. In any case, all her actions had as their aim - firstly, the safeguarding of the monarchy and the king's position, and later, when she saw this to be impossible, that of securing the safety of her husband and her son.

Belloc,Marie-Antoinette, pp. 311-312, states that clause of Brunswick's manifesto was "drafted" by Marie Antoinette, i.e. that the idea of holding Paris responsible for the safety of the royal family was first suggested by her. He bases this statement entirely upon the queen's letters of July 3rd to Fersen, of July 4th to Mercy, the reception of which Fersen notes in his Journal on July 8th and 9th (Fersen ii. 21). But these letters were obviously the answer to Fersen's letter of June 30th to the queen (Fersen ii. 315), in which he tells her the terms of the manifesto. Moreover, the suggestion of holding the Assembly responsible is to be found as early as in the memo. of the Constitutionals of September the 8th, 1791, and is included in the Instructions of Mallet du Pan (Mems. ed. Sayous, i. 281, and appendix 445). Fersen (Fersen ii. 3 2 9, 337, 18th July and 28th July to the queen, and p. 338, 29th July to Taube) states that it was he who drew up the manifesto by means of the marquis de Limon.

For a bibliographical study see: M. Tourneux, Marie Antoinette devant l'histoire. Essai bibliographique (2nd ed., Paris, 1901); id. Bibliogr. de la ville de Paris.. . (vol. iv. 1906), nos. 20980-21338; also Bibliogr. de femmes celebres (Turin and Paris, 1892, &c.). The most important material for her life is to be found in her letters and in the correspondence of Mercy-Argenteau, but a large number of forgeries have found their way into certain of the collections, such as those of Paul Vogt d'Hunolstein (Correspondance inedite de Marie Antoinette, (3rd ed., Paris, 1864), and F. Feuillet des Conches Louis X VI., Marie Antoinette et Madame Elisabeth, lettres et documents inedits (6 vols., Paris, 1864-1873), while most of the works on Marie Antoinette published before the appearance of Arneth's publications (1865, &c.) are based partly on these forgeries. For a detailed examination of the question of the authenticity of the letters see the introduction to Lettres de Marie Antoinette. Recueil des lettres authentiques de la reine, public pour la societe d'histoire contemporaine, par M. de la Rocheterie et le marquis de Beaucourt (2 vols., Paris, 1895-1896); also A. Geffroy, Gustave III. et la cour de France (2 vols., Paris, 1869), vol. ii., appendix. Of the highest importance are the letters from the archives of Vienna published by Alfred von Arneth and others: A. von Arneth, Maria Theresia and Marie Antoinette, ihr Briefwechsel 1770-1780(Paris and Vienna, 1865); id., Marie Antoinette, Joseph II. and Leopold II. ihr Briefwechsel (Leipzig, Paris and Vienna, 1866); id. and A. Geffroy, Correspondance secrete de Marie-Therese et du comte de Mercy-Argenteau (3 vols., Paris, 1874); id. and J. Flammermont, Correspondance secrete du comte de Mercy-Argenteau avec Joseph II. et le prince de Kaunitz (2 vols., Paris, 1889-1891); for further letters see Comte de Reiset, Lettres de la reine Marie Antoinette a la landgrave Louise de Hesse-Darmstadt (1865); id. Lettres inedites de Marie Antoinette et de Marie-Clotilde, reine de Sardaigne (1877). See also Correspondance entre le comte de Mirabeau et le comte de la March, 1789-1791, recueillie ... par F. de Bacourt (3 vols., Paris, 1857), and Baron R. M. de Klinckowstrom, Le Comte de Fersen et la cour de France (2 vols., Paris, 1877-1878). Memoirs: See most contemporary memoirs, e.g. those of the prince de Ligne, Choiseul, Segur, Bouille, Dumouriez, &c. Some, such as those of Madame Campan, Weber, Clery, Mme de Tourzel, are prejudiced in her favour; others, such as those of Besenval, Lauzun, Soulavie, are equally prejudiced against her. M. Tourneux (op. cit.) discusses the authenticity of the memoirs of Tilly, Clery, Lauzun, &c. The chief of these memoirs are: Mme Campan, Memoires sur la vie privee de Marie Antoinette (5th ed., 2 vols., Paris, 1823, Eng. trans. 1887), the inaccuracy of which is clearly demonstrated by J. Flammermont in Etudes critiques sur les sources de l'histoire du xviii e siecle: Les Memoires de Mme Campan, in the Bulletin de la Faculte des lettres de Poitiers (4th year, 1886, pp. 56, 109); J. Weber, Memoires concernant Marie Antoinette (3 vols., London, 1804-1809; Eng. trans., 3 vols., London, 1805-1806); Memoires de M. le baron de Besenval (3 vols., Paris, 1805); Memoires de M. le duc de Lauzun (2nd ed., 2 vols., Paris, 1822); E. Bavoux, Mems. secrets de J. M. Augeard, secretaire des commandements de la reine M. Antoinette (Paris, 1866); Mme Vigee-Le-Brun, Mes souvenirs (2 vols., Paris, 1867); Memoires de Mme la duchesse de Tourzel, ed. by the duc de Cars (2 vols., Paris, 1883); Memoires de la baronne d'Oberkirch (2 vols., Paris, 1853).

GENERAL WORKS: - See the general works on the period and on Louis XVI., and bibliographies to articles Louis XVI. and FRENCH REVOLUTION. A. Sorel, L'Europe et la Rev. fr. (ii. passim) contains a good estimate of Marie Antoinette. See also E. and J. de Goncourt, Histoire de Marie Antoinette (Paris, 1859); P. de Nolhac, Marie Antoinette, dauphine (Paris, 1897); id. La Reine Marie Antoinette (8th ed., 1898), which gives good descriptions of Versailles, Trianon, &c.; M. de la Rocheterie, Histoire de Marie Antoinette (2 vols., Paris, 1890); A. L. Bicknell, The Story of Marie Antoinette; R. Prolss, Konigin Marie Antoinette, Bader aus ihrem Leben (Leipzig, 1894); G. Desjardins, Le Petit-Trianon (Versailles, 1885). For her trial and death, see E. Campardon, Marie Antoinette a la Conciergerie (1863). H. Belloc's Marie Antoinette (London, 1909) is very biassed and sometimes misleading. (C. B. P.)

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From Marie Antoinette (1755-1793), French queen.


Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinettes

Marie Antoinette (plural Marie Antoinettes)

  1. Someone with an extravagant and luxurious lifestyle.
    • 2002, Francis Gordon Clarke, The history of Australia[1], ISBN 0313314985, 9780313314988, page 195:
      By the end of the year 2000, Howard seemed likely to be remembered as the Marie Antoinette of Australian politics for his incorrigible use of public monies to support the Howard family's personal comfort.

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Marie Antoinette
File:Marie-Antoinette, 1775 - Musée Antoine Lé
Marie Antoinette
Tenure 10 May 1774 – 21 September 1792
Spouse Louis XVI of France
Marie Thérèse, Duchess of Angoulême
Louis Joseph, Dauphin of France
Louis XVII of France
Full name
Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna
House House of Habsburg-Lorraine
Father Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor
Mother Maria Theresa, Queen of Hungary and Bohemia
Born 2 November 1755(1755-11-02)
Hofburg Palace, Vienna, Austria
Died 16 October 1793 (aged 38)
Place de la Révolution, Paris, France
Burial (21 January 1815, at time of Bourbon Restoration)

Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna (IPA: [maʁi ɑ̃twanɛt]) (2 November 1755 – 16 October 1793), widely known as Marie Antoinette, was an Archduchess of Austria and the queen of France and Navarre. She became the queen consort of Louis XVI of France in 1770.[1] Her marriage was at first an unhappy one, and it was not properly consummated for several years.[2] This made her very unpopular. She was not actively interested in politics. Her lack of power, habits of spending money, and the bad idea the French people had of her helped begin the popular French Revolution,[1] in which she was executed.



Childhood in Vienna (1755-1767)

File:Marie Antoinette
A picture of Marie "Antoine" Antoinette when she was seven years old by Martin van Meytens.

On the morning of 2 November 1755 Maria Teresa, Queen of Hungary and Empress of the Holy Roman Empire, gave birth to Marie Antoinette, her fifteenth child and last daughter.[3] The Empress quickly became well again after giving birth, and was reported to have looked happy and healthy.[4] Marie Antoinette was taken care of by Constance Weber, a wet-nurse. When Marie Antoinette was a child, she often gave gifts to Constance Weber and her son, Joseph. According to Joseph, Marie Antoinette once said to Constance, "Good Weber, have a care for your son."[5]

Joseph Weber added that the Archdukes and Archduchesses were allowed to make friends with "ordinary" (common) children.[6] Except on formal celebrations, people who did not have a very high birth or title were still liked and allowed into the court. Marie Antoinette was known as "Antoine" when she was young. The Austrian court young Madame Antoine grew up in was already beginning to become much less formal.[7] Antoine was taught by Countess Brandeis, who loved Marie Antoinette and treated her very kindly. Antoine's first recorded letter, written when she was 11 or 12, was to "dearest Brandeis" from "your faithful pupil (student) who loves you dearly, Antoine".[8] However, though the countess taught Antoine about morality and religion, she did not educate her on many other subjects, and Antoine did not like to concentrate.[9] Later, one of her friends said that when she talked, her words were not connected, "like a grasshopper".[10] In fact, when Antoine was 12 she could not write or even speak French and German properly,[11] though she spoke Italian well.[12] She greatly loved music, though. In 1759, shortly before she became four years old, Antoine sang a French song at a party for her father, while her brothers and sisters sang Italian songs.[13] She listened to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart playing "marvellously"[13] once, too.[11] She was also famous for her beautiful dancing and the graceful way she carried her head.[13] She had been officially taught by the famous French ballet master Jean-Georges Noverre.[14] Sadly, she was much less skilled at reading.[15]

Still, she loved her childhood home in Vienna and later missed it very much. She once said about her mother, "I love the Empress but I'm frightened (afraid) of her, even at a distance; when I'm writing to her, I never feel completely at ease (comfortable)."[16] She disliked her sister, the Archduchess Marie "Mimi" Christine, who her mother seemed to love most.[16] But her relationship with her sister Maria "Charlotte" Carolina was quite different: they loved each other warmly.[4] They were very close, and a painter later said that they "resembled (looked like) each other greatly".[17] Charlotte was more forceful, and Antoine was usually thought prettier.[17]

A political marriage (1767-1770)

At the beginning of 1767 the Empress had five daughters with her. Marie Christine was already married to Prince Albert of Saxony. Elizabeth, who was thought very pretty, was 23, Amalia almost 21, Josepha was 16, Charlotte was 14, and Antoine was now 12.[18] The Empress wanted Josepha, who was gentle and pretty, to marry Charles III of Spain.[18] But then bad things started to happen. Her son Joseph's second wife died because of smallpox and was buried. After that Maria Teresa caught the smallpox and almost died.

Then Maria Teresa took her daughter Josepha, who was about to begin her bridal journey to Naples, to go to the tomb of Joseph's wife to pray. But the tomb had not been closed tightly enough. Probably because of this, Josepha suddenly caught smallpox and died. Elizabeth also caught the disease. She lived, but her beauty was gone.[18] Antonia, who had caught smallpox when she was two years old and become healthy again, did not catch the disease.[19]

But a bride was still needed for King Ferdinand of Naples. Maria Teresa quickly wrote a letter explaining what had happened to Charles III of Spain a month after Josepha died. "I grant you ... one of my daughters to make good the loss," she wrote. "I do currently (right now) have two who could fit, one is the Archduchess Amalia who is said to have a pretty face and whose health should promise ... the other is the Archduchess Charlotte who is also very healthy and a year and seven months younger than the King of Naples." Soon, the King of Naples married Charlotte and Amalia was married to Louis XV's grandson, Don Ferdinand of Parma. Amalia was not happy with her mother's decision.

The only daughter left was now Marie Antoinette. Empress Maria Theresa decided to use Antonia to make Austria become friendly with France. After long discussions, Antonia was engaged to Louis-Auguste, Dauphin of France. The duc de Choiseul from France and the Prince of Starhemberg from Austria helped arrange the wedding.[20]

They immediately began preparing Marie Antoinette for her marriage. Her teeth were crooked, but a French dentist came to fix it.[21][22][23] After a painful three months, Marie Antoinette had a smile that was "very beautiful and straight".[21][22][23] Her thick "mountain of curls" were dressed by Larsenneur, a famous hairdresser who powdered and softened her hair.[21] Marie Antoinette also had a high forehead which was thought unfashionable at that time,[24] though she had a long, graceful neck.[22]

Her education was also changed. In November 1768, the Abbe Jacques-Mathieu de Vermond went to Vienna to teach Antonia. She was clever, but without the knowledge a future queen should have. She was also lazy and unable to concentrating.[25] She could not read or write properly in French or German, but a year after Vermond had arrived, she could speak it well enough. By the time she left Austria, she was speaking French easily and well, even if it had a small German accent.[26] The Abbe also found that Marie Antoinette did not know much about French history, which they studied carefully together. In the end, Marie received a fairly good education.[27]


Marie Antoinette was publicly executed by guillotine in Paris, France, on October 16, 1793, months after the death of her husband. Her youngest son Louis-Charles, later died of tuberculosis and malnutrition during the revolution. She was buried in the Saint Denis Basilica. Her eldest daughter, Marie Therese was the only one of their family to survive the revolution.




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