Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette

Overview
Marie Antoinette was an Archduchess of Austria and the Queen of France and of Navarre. She was the fifteenth and penultimate child of Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa and Holy Roman Emperor Francis I
Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor
Francis I was Holy Roman Emperor and Grand Duke of Tuscany, though his wife effectively executed the real power of those positions. With his wife, Maria Theresa, he was the founder of the Habsburg-Lorraine dynasty...

.

In April 1770, on the day of her marriage to Louis-Auguste
Louis XVI of France
Louis XVI was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre until 1791, and then as King of the French from 1791 to 1792, before being executed in 1793....

, Dauphin of France, she subsequently became Dauphine of France. Marie Antoinette assumed the title of Queen of France and of Navarre when her husband, Louis XVI of France
Louis XVI of France
Louis XVI was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre until 1791, and then as King of the French from 1791 to 1792, before being executed in 1793....

, ascended the throne upon the death of Louis XV
Louis XV of France
Louis XV was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and of Navarre from 1 September 1715 until his death. He succeeded his great-grandfather at the age of five, his first cousin Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, served as Regent of the kingdom until Louis's majority in 1723...

 in May 1774.
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Quotations

I put on my rouge and wash my hands in front of the whole world!

Expressing her irritation at her very public life as royalty. She gave birth to her first child in her bedchamber before an audience of hundreds of courtiers.

A son would have belonged to the state, but you shall be mine, and have all my care; you shall share my happiness and soften my sorrows.

About her first child, Princess Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte|Marie Thérèse Charlotte.

Mon chou d'amour is charming, and I love him madly. He loves me very much too, in his own way, without embarrassment.

Of her youngest son Louis XVII of France|Louis Charles

I'm fine, don't worry.

Short note to the Austrian ambassador to France, after the march on Versailles|Versailles

The Church. The Church... we're next.

Whispered to the Louise-Elisabeth, Marquise de Tourzel|Marquise de Tourzel on learning of the creation of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy|Civil Constitution of the Clergy (1790) subordinating the rights and privileges of the Roman Catholic Church to those of the revolutionary government of France.

If I have not replied it is because Nature itself refuses to respond to such a charge laid against a mother.

When pressed to answer accusations that she had sexual relations with her young son.

There is nothing new except what has been forgotten.

I have seen all, I have heard all, I have forgotten all.

Encyclopedia
Marie Antoinette was an Archduchess of Austria and the Queen of France and of Navarre. She was the fifteenth and penultimate child of Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa and Holy Roman Emperor Francis I
Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor
Francis I was Holy Roman Emperor and Grand Duke of Tuscany, though his wife effectively executed the real power of those positions. With his wife, Maria Theresa, he was the founder of the Habsburg-Lorraine dynasty...

.

In April 1770, on the day of her marriage to Louis-Auguste
Louis XVI of France
Louis XVI was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre until 1791, and then as King of the French from 1791 to 1792, before being executed in 1793....

, Dauphin of France, she subsequently became Dauphine of France. Marie Antoinette assumed the title of Queen of France and of Navarre when her husband, Louis XVI of France
Louis XVI of France
Louis XVI was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre until 1791, and then as King of the French from 1791 to 1792, before being executed in 1793....

, ascended the throne upon the death of Louis XV
Louis XV of France
Louis XV was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and of Navarre from 1 September 1715 until his death. He succeeded his great-grandfather at the age of five, his first cousin Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, served as Regent of the kingdom until Louis's majority in 1723...

 in May 1774. After seven years of marriage, she gave birth to a daughter, Marie-Thérèse Charlotte, the first of four children.

Initially charmed by her personality and beauty, the French people generally came to dislike her, accusing "L'Autre-chienne" (a pun
Pun
The pun, also called paronomasia, is a form of word play which suggests two or more meanings, by exploiting multiple meanings of words, or of similar-sounding words, for an intended humorous or rhetorical effect. These ambiguities can arise from the intentional use and abuse of homophonic,...

 in French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 playing with the words "Autrichienne" meaning Austrian (woman) and "Autre-chienne" meaning Other bitch) of being profligate
Spendthrift
A spendthrift is someone who spends money prodigiously and who is extravagant and recklessly wasteful, often to a point where the spending climbs well beyond his or her means...

 and promiscuous, and of harboring sympathies for France's enemies, particularly Austria, her country of origin.

After the royal family's flight to Varennes
Flight to Varennes
The Flight to Varennes was a significant episode in the French Revolution during which King Louis XVI of France, his wife Marie Antoinette, and their immediate family attempted unsuccessfully to escape from Paris in order to initiate a counter-revolution...

, Louis XVI was deposed and the monarchy abolished on 21 September 1792
Proclamation of the abolition of the monarchy
During the French Revolution, the proclamation of the abolition of the monarchy was a proclamation by the National Convention of France announcing that it had abolished the French monarchy on 21 September 1792.-Prelude:...

; the royal family was subsequently imprisoned at the Temple Prison. Nine months after her husband's execution
Execution of Louis XVI
The execution of Louis XVI by means of the guillotine took place on 21 January 1793 at the Place de la Révolution in Paris. It was a major event of the French Revolution...

, Marie Antoinette was herself tried, convicted of treason
Treason
In law, treason is the crime that covers some of the more extreme acts against one's sovereign or nation. Historically, treason also covered the murder of specific social superiors, such as the murder of a husband by his wife. Treason against the king was known as high treason and treason against a...

, and executed by guillotine
Guillotine
The guillotine is a device used for carrying out :executions by decapitation. It consists of a tall upright frame from which an angled blade is suspended. This blade is raised with a rope and then allowed to drop, severing the head from the body...

 on 16 October 1793.

Even after her death, Marie Antoinette is often considered to be a part of popular culture
Marie Antoinette in popular culture
Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, is best remembered for her legendary extravagance and for her death: she was executed by guillotine during the Reign of Terror at the height of the French Revolution in 1793 for the crime of treason...

 and a major historical figure, being the subject of several books, films and other forms of media. Some academics and scholars have deemed her frivolous and superficial, and have attributed the start of the French Revolution to her; however, others have claimed that she was treated unjustly and that views of her ought be more sympathetic.

Early life


Maria Antonia of Austria was born on 2 November 1755 at the Hofburg Palace
Hofburg Imperial Palace
Hofburg Palace is a palace located in Vienna, Austria, that has housed some of the most powerful people in Austrian history, including the Habsburg dynasty, rulers of the Austro-Hungarian empire. It currently serves as the official residence of the President of Austria...

 in Vienna, Austria; on the next day, she was baptised Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna (also known as Maria Antonia Josephina Johanna). She was the youngest daughter of Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor
Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor
Francis I was Holy Roman Emperor and Grand Duke of Tuscany, though his wife effectively executed the real power of those positions. With his wife, Maria Theresa, he was the founder of the Habsburg-Lorraine dynasty...

, and Maria Theresa, Queen of Hungary and Bohemia, and ruler of the Habsburg dominions; her godparents were the King of Portugal and his wife. In her family, she was simply called Antonia. Described at her birth as "a small, but completely healthy Archduchess", she was also known at the Austrian court as Antonia, but more often as Madame Antoine, since French was commonly spoken in the Hofburg. After all, Viennese society itself was multilingual, with many able to speak German, French, Italian and/or Spanish.

The relaxed ambience of court life in the Hofburg, where it was possible to often deviate from protocol, was compounded by the private life which was developed by the Habsburgs even before Maria Antonia was born. In their private life, the family dressed in bourgeois attire, played games with non-royal children (they were, in fact, encouraged to play with such 'common' children by their parents), and were treated to gardens and menageries. She later attempted to recreate this atmosphere through her renovation of the Petit Trianon
Petit Trianon
The Petit Trianon is a small château located on the grounds of the Palace of Versailles in Versailles, France.-Design and construction:...

 in France.

Maria Antonia had a simple and carefree childhood, especially in comparison to that of Louis XVI. She was never lonely, since she never had the chance to be alone. This was particularly evident in her relationship with her older sister, Maria Carolina
Maria Carolina of Austria
Maria Carolina of Austria was Queen of Naples and Sicily as the wife of King Ferdinand IV & III. As de facto ruler of her husband's kingdoms, Maria Carolina oversaw the promulgation of many reforms, including the revocation of the ban on Freemasonry, the enlargement of the navy under her...

: they were the two youngest girls, and shared the same governesses, first Countess Brandeis, then Countess Lerchenfeld
Countess Lerchenfeld
Marie Walburge Gräfin Lerchenfeld, also known as Countess Lerchenfeld or Madame de Lerchenfeld, served Maria Theresa in Vienna as the governess of several of her children. Marie Antoinette, future queen of France, was among her charges. She is mentioned in the book Marie Antoinette: Princess of...

, until 1767; Carolina once described her sister as someone she "loved extraordinarily".

The Imperial family was one that thoroughly enjoyed music. Antonia herself learned to play the harpsichord
Harpsichord
A harpsichord is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It produces sound by plucking a string when a key is pressed.In the narrow sense, "harpsichord" designates only the large wing-shaped instruments in which the strings are perpendicular to the keyboard...

, spinet
Spinet
A spinet is a smaller type of harpsichord or other keyboard instrument, such as a piano or organ.-Spinets as harpsichords:While the term spinet is used to designate a harpsichord, typically what is meant is the bentside spinet, described in this section...

 and clavichord
Clavichord
The clavichord is a European stringed keyboard instrument known from the late Medieval, through the Renaissance, Baroque and Classical eras. Historically, it was widely used as a practice instrument and as an aid to composition, not being loud enough for larger performances. The clavichord produces...

, as well as the harp
Harp
The harp is a multi-stringed instrument which has the plane of its strings positioned perpendicularly to the soundboard. Organologically, it is in the general category of chordophones and has its own sub category . All harps have a neck, resonator and strings...

, taught by Gluck. During the family's musical evenings, she would sing French songs and Italian arias. She also excelled at dancing – an accomplishment often remarked by those who saw her, whether friendly or hostile, having been carefully trained in it since her early youth. She had an "exquisite" poise and a famously graceful deportment; Horace Walpole once quoted Virgil as to her gait, saying, "vera incessu patuit dea" (she was in truth revealed to be a goddess by her step). She also loved dolls as a young girl, as captured by a family portrait in which seven-year-old Antonia excitedly held up a fancy doll. Numerous dolls arrived at the Hofburg as soon as Marie Antoinette turned 13, wearing miniature versions of the ball gowns, afternoon dresses, and gold-trimmed gowns proposed for her.

Antonia's education was poor, or at least it lacked the rigorous in training as Louis XVI's; her handwriting, for instance, was sprawling and careless in form. It was not so much the teachers themselves, though, that made her education sub-par, but rather her lack of willingness to contribute intellectually to her lessons. Often, her tutors would finish the work themselves, out of fear of losing their positions. Under the guidance of Gluck, she excelled to some extent in her musical endeavors. She drew often; at ten, for example, she had drawn a good chalk likeness of her father. She learned Italian, from Metastasio
Metastasio
Pietro Antonio Domenico Trapassi, better known by his pseudonym of Metastasio, was an Italian poet and librettist, considered the most important writer of opera seria libretti.-Early life:...

, on top of the necessary French and German, as well as Austrian history and French history, though from an Austrian perspective. But while she flourished in her learning of Italian, her other languages proved to be a weak point. Conversations with her were stilted, and her ability to read and write German and French (the 'universal' language of Europe at this point in time) was undeniably poor.

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 most 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 the type of people who could come to court (a change which allowed people of merit, as well as birth, to rise rapidly in the hierarchy of imperial favor at court), relatively lax dress etiquette, and the abolition of certain antiquated court rituals, including one in which dozens of courtiers could be present in the Empress' bedchamber while she gave birth. The Empress disliked the ritual, and would eject courtiers from her rooms when she went into labor.

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 small. Because there were so many other children who could be married off, Maria Antonia was sometimes neglected by her mother. As a result, she later described her relationship with her mother as one of awe-inspired fear. She also developed a mistrust of intelligent older women as a result of her mother's close relationship with the Archduchess Maria Christina, Duchess of Teschen, Marie Antoinette's older sister.

Marriage to Louis: 1770–1793



The events leading to her eventual betrothal to the Dauphin of France began in 1765, when her father, Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor, died of a stroke in August, leaving Maria Theresa to co-rule with her elder son and heir, the Emperor Joseph II
Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor
Joseph II was Holy Roman Emperor from 1765 to 1790 and ruler of the Habsburg lands from 1780 to 1790. He was the eldest son of Empress Maria Theresa and her husband, Francis I...

. By that time, marriage arrangements for several of Maria Antonia's sisters had begun: the Archduchess Maria Josepha
Archduchess Maria Josepha of Austria
Archduchess Maria Josepha Gabriela Johanna Antonia Anna of Austria . She was the daughter of Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor and Maria Theresa of Austria, Holy Roman Empress...

 was betrothed to King Ferdinand of Naples
Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies
Ferdinand I reigned variously over Naples, Sicily, and the Two Sicilies from 1759 until his death. He was the third son of King Charles III of Spain by his wife Maria Amalia of Saxony. On 10 August 1759, Charles succeeded his elder brother, Ferdinand VI, as King Charles III of Spain...

, and one of the remaining eligible archduchesses was tentatively set to marry Don Ferdinand of Parma
Ferdinand, Duke of Parma
Ferdinand Maria Philip Louis Sebastian Francis James of Parma was Duke of Parma from 1765 to 1802. He was the second child and only son of Philip, Duke of Parma and Princess Louise-Élisabeth of France, eldest daughter of Louis XV of France and Maria Leszczyńska...

. 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
Seven Years' War
The Seven Years' War was a global military war between 1756 and 1763, involving most of the great powers of the time and affecting Europe, North America, Central America, the West African coast, India, and the Philippines...

, which included Parma
Parma
Parma is a city in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna famous for its ham, its cheese, its architecture and the fine countryside around it. This is the home of the University of Parma, one of the oldest universities in the world....

, Naples
Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

, Russia, and more importantly Austria's traditional enemy, France. 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.

In 1767, a smallpox
Smallpox
Smallpox was an infectious disease unique to humans, caused by either of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor. The disease is also known by the Latin names Variola or Variola vera, which is a derivative of the Latin varius, meaning "spotted", or varus, meaning "pimple"...

 outbreak hit the family. Maria Antonia was one of the few who were immune to the disease because she already had had it at a young age. Her sister, Maria Josepha, came down with it after visiting the improperly sealed tomb
Tomb
A tomb is a repository for the remains of the dead. It is generally any structurally enclosed interment space or burial chamber, of varying sizes...

 of her sister-in-law (of the same name), and died quickly afterwards. This was not, however, due to her visit to the tomb; she must have been infected sometime before visiting the tomb, because the rash appeared only two days after her visit. Her mother, Maria Theresa, caught it and, though she survived, she suffered from the effects of the disease for the rest of her life. Her sister, Maria Elisabeth
Archduchess Maria Elisabeth of Austria (1743–1808)
For the earlier archduchess of the same name, see Archduchess Maria Elisabeth of Austria.Archduchess Maria Elisabeth Josepha of Austria was the sixth child of Maria Theresa, Queen of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia and Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor.-Biography:Maria Elisabeth was born on 13 August 1743...

, caught it but survived. Her brother, Charles Joseph, and sister Maria Johanna
Archduchess Maria Johanna Gabriela of Austria
Maria Johanna Gabriela of Austria . She was the eleventh child of Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor and Maria Theresa of Austria, Holy Roman Empress . She died of smallpox.-Life:Maria Johanna was born on 4 February 1750...

, had already died of smallpox in 1761 and 1762 respectively.

This ultimately left 12-year-old Maria Antonia as the only potential bride left in the family for the 14-year-old Louis Auguste, who was also her second cousin once removed
Cousin
In kinship terminology, a cousin is a relative with whom one shares one or more common ancestors. The term is rarely used when referring to a relative in one's immediate family where there is a more specific term . The term "blood relative" can be used synonymously and establishes the existence of...

, through Leopold I
Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor
| style="float:right;" | Leopold I was a Holy Roman Emperor, King of Hungary and King of Bohemia. A member of the Habsburg family, he was the second son of Emperor Ferdinand III and his first wife, Maria Anna of Spain. His maternal grandparents were Philip III of Spain and Margaret of Austria...

. During the marriage negotiations, they lamented the crookedness of her teeth. Straightaway, a French doctor was called to perform some painful oral surgeries. Performed without anesthesia and requiring three long months to take, at last Marie Antoinette's smile, "very beautiful and straight", satisfied France. After painstaking work between the governments of France and Austria, the dowry
Dowry
A dowry is the money, goods, or estate that a woman brings forth to the marriage. It contrasts with bride price, which is paid to the bride's parents, and dower, which is property settled on the bride herself by the groom at the time of marriage. The same culture may simultaneously practice both...

 was set at 200,000 crowns; as was the custom, portraits and rings were exchanged. Finally, Antonia was married by proxy
Proxy marriage
A proxy wedding or is a wedding in which the bride or groom is not physically present, usually being represented instead by another person...

 on 19 April in the Church of the Augustine Friars
Augustinerkirche
The Augustinian Church in Vienna is a parish church located on Josefsplatz, next to the Hofburg, the winter palace of the Habsburg dynasty in Vienna. Originally built in the 14th century as the parish church of the imperial court of the Habsburgs, the harmonious Gothic interior was added in the...

, Vienna; her brother Ferdinand
Archduke Ferdinand of Austria-Este
Archduke Ferdinand Karl Anton Joseph Johann Stanislaus of Austria-Este was a son of Holy Roman Emperor Franz I and Maria Theresa of Austria. He was the founder of the House of Austria-Este and Governor of the Duchy of Milan between 1765 and 1796...

 stood in as the bridegroom. She was also officially restyled as Marie Antoinette, Dauphine of France. Through her father, Marie Antoinette became the second (after Margaret of Valois, the renowned Queen Margot) French queen ever to descend from Henry II of France
Henry II of France
Henry II was King of France from 31 March 1547 until his death in 1559.-Early years:Henry was born in the royal Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, near Paris, the son of Francis I and Claude, Duchess of Brittany .His father was captured at the Battle of Pavia in 1525 by his sworn enemy,...

 and Catherine de' Medici
Catherine de' Medici
Catherine de' Medici was an Italian noblewoman who was Queen consort of France from 1547 until 1559, as the wife of King Henry II of France....

.

Marie Antoinette was officially handed over to her French relations on 7 May 1770, on an island on the Rhine River near Kehl
Kehl
Kehl is a town in southwestern Germany in the Ortenaukreis, Baden-Württemberg. It is located on the river Rhine, directly opposite the French city of Strasbourg.-History:...

. Chief among them were the comte de Noailles
Philippe de Noailles, duc de Mouchy
Philippe de Noailles, comte de Noailles and later prince de Poix, duc de Mouchy, and duc de Poix à brevêt , was a younger brother of Louis de Noailles, and a more distinguished soldier than his brother...

 and his wife, the comtesse de Noailles, who had been appointed the Dauphine's Mistress of the Household by Louis XV. She met the King, the Dauphin Louis-Auguste, and the royal aunts (Louis XV's daughters, known as Mesdames
Mesdames de France
Mesdames is a form of address for several adult females. In the 18th century, Mesdames de France was used to designate the daughters of Louis XV of France, most of whom lived at the royal court and never married.-Filles de France:...

), one week later. Before reaching Versailles, she also met her future brothers-in-law, Louis Stanislas Xavier, comte de Provence
Louis XVIII of France
Louis XVIII , known as "the Unavoidable", was King of France and of Navarre from 1814 to 1824, omitting the Hundred Days in 1815...

; and Charles Philippe, comte d'Artois
Charles X of France
Charles X was known for most of his life as the Comte d'Artois before he reigned as King of France and of Navarre from 16 September 1824 until 2 August 1830. A younger brother to Kings Louis XVI and Louis XVIII, he supported the latter in exile and eventually succeeded him...

, who came to play important roles during and after her life. Later, she met the rest of the family, including her husband's youngest sister, Madame Élisabeth
Élisabeth Philippine Marie Hélène of France
|align=left|Élisabeth of France , known as Madame Élisabeth, was a French princess and the youngest sister of King Louis XVI...

, who at the end of Marie Antoinette's life would become 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
Palace of Versailles
The Palace of Versailles , or simply Versailles, is a royal château in Versailles in the Île-de-France region of France. In French it is the Château de Versailles....

, after which was the ritual bedding. It was assumed by custom that consummation
Consummate
Consummation or consummation of a marriage, in many traditions and statutes of civil or religious law, is the first act of sexual intercourse between two individuals, following their marriage to each other...

 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.

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 had fair skin, straw-blond hair, and deep blue eyes.
However, at Court 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 actively promoted a marriage between the dauphin and various Saxon
Electorate of Saxony
The Electorate of Saxony , sometimes referred to as Upper Saxony, was a State of the Holy Roman Empire. It was established when Emperor Charles IV raised the Ascanian duchy of Saxe-Wittenberg to the status of an Electorate by the Golden Bull of 1356...

 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".) 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. Many other courtiers, such as the comtesse du Barry
Madame du Barry
Jeanne Bécu, comtesse du Barry was the last Maîtresse-en-titre of Louis XV of France and one of the victims of the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution.-Early life:...

, had tenuous relationships with the Dauphine.

Her relationship with the comtesse du Barry was one which was important to rectify, at least on the surface, because Madame du Barry was the mistress of Louis XV, and thus had considerable political influence over the king. In fact, she had been instrumental ousting from power the duc de Choiseul
Étienne François, duc de Choiseul
Étienne-François, comte de Stainville, duc de Choiseul was a French military officer, diplomat and statesman. Between 1758 and 1761, and 1766 and 1770, he was Foreign Minister of France and had a strong influence on France's global strategy throughout the period...

, who had helped orchestrate the Franco-Austrian alliance as well as Marie Antoinette's own marriage. 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
Florimond Claude, Comte de Mercy-Argenteau
Florimond Claude, comte de Mercy-Argenteau was an Austrian diplomat.He was the son of Antoine, comte de Mercy-Argenteau, and entered the diplomatic service of Austria going to Paris in the train of Reichsfürst Kaunitz...

, 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, for the most part, dissipated. There was, however, a further level of animosity from the view of the Mesdames raised by this situation – they felt somewhat 'betrayed' in their stance against du Barry. Later, Marie Antoinette became more polite to the comtesse, pleasing Louis XV, but also particularly her mother.

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. Her mother constantly criticized her 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.


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. 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
Maria Leszczynska
Marie Leszczyńska was a queen consort of France. She was a daughter of King Stanisław Leszczyński of Poland and Catherine Opalińska. She married King Louis XV of France and was the grandmother of Louis XVI, Louis XVIII, and Charles X. In France, she was referred to as Marie Leczinska...

, had 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). 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. Others taken into her confidence at this time included her husband's brother, the comte d'Artois; their youngest sister, Madame Élisabeth; her sister-in-law, the comtesse de Provence
Marie Josephine Louise of Savoy
Marie Joséphine of Savoy was the wife of the future King Louis XVIII of France...

; and Christoph Willibald Gluck
Christoph Willibald Gluck
Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck was an opera composer of the early classical period. After many years at the Habsburg court at Vienna, Gluck brought about the practical reform of opera's dramaturgical practices that many intellectuals had been campaigning for over the years...

, her former music teacher, whom she took under her patronage upon his arrival in France.

On 27 April 1774, a week after the première of Gluck's opera, Iphigénie en Aulide
Iphigénie en Aulide
Iphigénie en Aulide is an opera in three acts by Christoph Willibald Gluck, the first work he wrote for the Paris stage. The libretto was written by Leblanc du Roullet and was based on Jean Racine's tragedy Iphigénie...

, which had secured the Dauphine's position as a patron of the arts, Louis XV fell ill with smallpox. On 4 May, the dying king was pressured to send the comtesse du Barry away from Versailles; on 10 May, at 3 pm, he died at the age of 64. 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.

1774–1778: Early years


From the outset, despite how she was portrayed in contemporary libelles
Libelle (literary genre)
A libelle is a political pamphlet or book which slanders a public figure. Libelles held particular significance in France under the Ancien Régime, especially during the eighteenth century, when the pamphlets’ attacks on the monarchy became both more numerous and venomous...

, 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
Étienne François, duc de Choiseul
Étienne-François, comte de Stainville, duc de Choiseul was a French military officer, diplomat and statesman. Between 1758 and 1761, and 1766 and 1770, he was Foreign Minister of France and had a strong influence on France's global strategy throughout the period...

, from taking important positions, aided and abetted by his two most important ministers, Chief Minister Maurepas and Foreign Minister Vergennes
Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes
Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes was a French statesman and diplomat. He served as Foreign Minister from 1774 during the reign of Louis XVI, notably during the American War of Independence....

. 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.
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
Louis-Antoine, Duke of Angouleme
Louis Antoine of France, Duke of Angoulême was the eldest son of Charles X of France and, from 1824 to 1836, the last Dauphin of France...

 (who later became the presumptive heir to the French throne when his father, the comte d'Artois
Charles X of France
Charles X was known for most of his life as the Comte d'Artois before he reigned as King of France and of Navarre from 16 September 1824 until 2 August 1830. A younger brother to Kings Louis XVI and Louis XVIII, he supported the latter in exile and eventually succeeded him...

, 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.

This caused the queen to plunge further into the costly diversions of buying her dresses from Rose Bertin
Rose Bertin
Marie-Jeanne Rose Bertin was the French milliner and dressmaker to Queen Marie Antoinette...

 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
Pierre Victor Besenval de Bronstatt
Pierre Victor, baron de Besenval de Brünstatt was the last commander of the Swiss Guards in France.Born at Solothurn, he was the son of Jean Victor de Besenval, colonel of the regiment of Swiss Guards in the pay of France, who was charged in 1707 by Louis XIV with a mission to Sweden to reconcile...

, the duc de Coigny, and Count Valentin Esterházy.

She was given free rein to renovate the Petit Trianon
Petit Trianon
The Petit Trianon is a small château located on the grounds of the Palace of Versailles in Versailles, France.-Design and construction:...

, a small château on the grounds of Versailles, 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
Arboretum
An arboretum in a narrow sense is a collection of trees only. Related collections include a fruticetum , and a viticetum, a collection of vines. More commonly, today, an arboretum is a botanical garden containing living collections of woody plants intended at least partly for scientific study...

 of introduced species. Although the Petit Trianon had been built for Louis XV's mistress, Madame de Pompadour
Madame de Pompadour
Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour, also known as Madame de Pompadour was a member of the French court, and was the official chief mistress of Louis XV from 1745 to her death.-Biography:...

, it became associated with Marie Antoinette's perceived extravagance. Rumors circulated that she plastered the walls with gold and diamonds.

"...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
British North America
British North America is a historical term. It consisted of the colonies and territories of the British Empire in continental North America after the end of the American Revolutionary War and the recognition of American independence in 1783.At the start of the Revolutionary War in 1775 the British...

, due to France's traditional rivalry with Great Britain.

In the midst of preparations for sending help to France, and in the atmosphere of the first wave of libelles, Holy Roman Emperor Joseph
Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor
Joseph II was Holy Roman Emperor from 1765 to 1790 and ruler of the Habsburg lands from 1780 to 1790. He was the eldest son of Empress Maria Theresa and her husband, Francis I...

 came to call on his sister and brother-in-law on 18 April 1777, the subsequent six-week visit in Versailles 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 with her first child. This was confirmed on 16 May 1778.

1778–1781: Motherhood



In the middle of her pregnancy, two events occurred which had a profound impact on the queen's later life. First, there was the return of the handsome Swede, Count Axel von Fersen – whom she had met previously on New Year's Day, 1774, while she was still Dauphine – to Versailles for two years. Secondly, the king's wealthy but spiteful cousin, the duc de Chartres
Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orléans
Louis Philippe Joseph d'Orléans commonly known as Philippe, was a member of a cadet branch of the House of Bourbon, the ruling dynasty of France. He actively supported the French Revolution and adopted the name Philippe Égalité, but was nonetheless guillotined during the Reign of Terror...

, was disgraced due to his questionable conduct during the Battle of Ouessant
Battle of Ushant (1778)
The Battle of Ushant took place on 27 July 1778, during the American War of Independence, fought between French and British fleets 100 miles west of Ushant, a French island at the mouth of the English Channel off the north-westernmost point of France...

 against the British. In addition, Marie Antoinette's brother, the Emperor Joseph, began making claims on the throne of Bavaria
Bavaria
Bavaria, formally the Free State of Bavaria is a state of Germany, located in the southeast of Germany. With an area of , it is the largest state by area, forming almost 20% of the total land area of Germany...

 based upon his second marriage to the princess Maria Josepha of Bavaria
Maria Josepha of Bavaria
Maria Josepha , Empress of the Holy Roman Empire, Princess of Bavaria, was the daughter of Charles Albert, Elector of Bavaria and Maria Amalia of Austria and the second wife of Emperor Joseph II...

. 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.

Marie Antoinette's daughter, Marie-Thérèse Charlotte, given the honorific title at birth of Madame Royale
Madame Royale
Madame Royale was a style customarily used for the eldest living unmarried daughter of a reigning French monarch.It was similar to the style Monsieur, which was typically used by the King's second son...

, was finally born at Versailles, after a particularly difficult labour, 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. This incident has a variant: some sources purport that it was the Princesse de Lamballe who lost consciousness, and to prevent the queen from doing the same, the king himself – rather unusually – let in some air by tearing off the tapes that sealed the windows. In any case, as a result of this harrowing experience, the queen and the king banned most courtiers from entering her bedchamber for subsequent labours.

The baby's paternity was contested in the libelles but not by the king himself, who was close to his daughter.

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.

Meanwhile, the queen began to institute changes in the customs practised 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
Pannier (clothing)
Panniers or side hoops are women's undergarments worn in the 18th century to extend the width of the skirts at the side while leaving the front and back relatively flat...

 for a more simple feminine look, typified first by the rustic robe à la polonaise
Polonaise (clothing)
A polonaise is a woman's garment of the later 1770s and 1780s or a similar revival style of the 1880s inspired by Polish national costume, consisting of a gown with a fitted bodice and cutaway, draped and poufed overskirt, worn over an underskirt or petticoat.The eighteenth century polonaise was a...

 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.

In 1780, two candidates who had been supported by Marie Antoinette for positions, the marquis de Castries
Charles Eugène Gabriel de La Croix, marquis de Castries
Charles Eugène Gabriel de La Croix de Castries, marquis de Castries, baron des États de Languedoc, comte de Charlus, baron de Castelnau et de Montjouvent, seigneur de Puylaurens et de Lézignan was a French marshal...

, and the comte de Ségur
Louis Philippe, comte de Ségur
Louis Philippe, comte de Ségur was a French diplomat and historian.-Life:He was born in Paris, the son of Philippe Henri, marquis de Ségur and Louise Anne Madeleine de Vernon....

, 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
Jacques Necker
Jacques Necker was a French statesman of Swiss birth and finance minister of Louis XVI, a post he held in the lead-up to the French Revolution in 1789.-Early life:...

.

Later that year, Empress Maria Theresa began to fall ill with dropsy and an unnamed respiratory problem. She died on 29 November 1780, in Vienna, at the age of 63, and was mourned throughout Europe. Marie Antoinette was worried that the death of her mother would jeopardise the Franco-Austrian alliance (as well as, ultimately, herself), but 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 rumoured 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 rumours that Marie Antoinette was siphoning treasury money to him.

On 22 October 1781, the queen gave birth to Louis Joseph Xavier François, who bore the title Dauphin of France, as was customary for the eldest son of the King of France. 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". He would, according to courtiers, try to frame sentences to put in the phrase "my son the Dauphin" in the weeks to come. It also helped that, three days before the birth, the majority of the fighting in the conflict in America
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

 had been concluded with the surrender of General Lord Cornwallis
Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis
Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis KG , styled Viscount Brome between 1753 and 1762 and known as The Earl Cornwallis between 1762 and 1792, was a British Army officer and colonial administrator...

 at Yorktown
Siege of Yorktown
The Siege of Yorktown, Battle of Yorktown, or Surrender of Yorktown in 1781 was a decisive victory by a combined assault of American forces led by General George Washington and French forces led by the Comte de Rochambeau over a British Army commanded by Lieutenant General Lord Cornwallis...

.

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
Kettle War
The Kettle War is the nickname given to a short war or incident between the troops of the Republic of the Seven Netherlands and the Holy Roman Empire that began on 8 October 1784...

, in which her brother Joseph attempted to open up the Scheldt River for naval passage. Later, another attempt by him to claim Bavaria
Bavaria
Bavaria, formally the Free State of Bavaria is a state of Germany, located in the southeast of Germany. With an area of , it is the largest state by area, forming almost 20% of the total land area of Germany...

 was rebuffed as being against French interests.

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?"

Her 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
Fils de France
Fils de France was the style and rank held by the sons of the kings and dauphins of France. A daughter was known as a fille de France .The children of the dauphin, who was the king's heir apparent, were accorded the same style and status as if they were the king's children instead of his...

, 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
Victoire Armande Josèphe de Rohan
Victoire de Rohan, Princess of Guéméné was a French aristocrat who was the governess of the children of Louis XVI of France. She is known better as Madame 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.

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.


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 12 cottages, 9 of which are still standing. The Hameau was one of Marie Antoinette's contributions to augmenting the chateau at Versailles and it can to this day be 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
Château de Chantilly
The Château de Chantilly is a historic château located in the town of Chantilly, France. It comprises two attached buildings; the Grand Château, destroyed during the French Revolution and rebuilt in the 1870s, and the Petit Château which was built around 1560 for Anne de Montmorency...

. The comtesse de Provence's version included windmills and a marble dairyhouse. Started in 1783 and finished in 1787, to designs of the Queen's favoured architect, Richard Mique
Richard Mique
Richard Mique was a neoclassical French architect born in Lorraine. He is most remembered for his picturesque hamlet, the Hameau de la reine — not particularly characteristic of his working style — for Marie Antoinette in the Petit Trianon gardens within the estate of Palace of...

, the hamlet was complete with farmhouse
Farmhouse
Farmhouse is a general term for the main house of a farm. It is a type of building or house which serves a residential purpose in a rural or agricultural setting. Most often, the surrounding environment will be a farm. Many farm houses are shaped like a T...

, dairy, and mill
Gristmill
The terms gristmill or grist mill can refer either to a building in which grain is ground into flour, or to the grinding mechanism itself.- Early history :...

. 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. 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.

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
Peru
Peru , officially the Republic of Peru , is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean....

 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
William Pitt the Younger
William Pitt the Younger was a British politician of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He became the youngest Prime Minister in 1783 at the age of 24 . He left office in 1801, but was Prime Minister again from 1804 until his death in 1806...

, and the British ambassador to France, the Duke of Dorset
John Sackville, 3rd Duke of Dorset
John Frederick Sackville, 3rd Duke of Dorset was the only son of Lord John Philip Sackville, second son of Lionel Sackville, 1st Duke of Dorset. He succeeded to the dukedom in 1769 on the death of his uncle, Charles Sackville, 2nd Duke of Dorset...

. 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
Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire
Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire , formerly Lady Georgiana Spencer, was the first wife of the 5th Duke of Devonshire, and mother of the 6th Duke of Devonshire. Her father, the 1st Earl Spencer, was a great-grandson of the 1st Duke of Marlborough. Her niece was Lady Caroline Lamb...

, 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. During this time, Beaumarchais
Pierre Beaumarchais
Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais was a French playwright, watchmaker, inventor, musician, diplomat, fugitive, spy, publisher, arms dealer, satirist, financier, and revolutionary ....

' play The Marriage of Figaro
The Marriage of Figaro (play)
The Marriage of Figaro ) is a comedy in five acts, written in 1778 by Pierre Beaumarchais. This play is the second installment in the Figaro Trilogy, preceded by The Barber of Seville and followed by The Guilty Mother. The Barber begins the story with a simple love triangle in which the Count has...

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.

In August 1784, the queen reported that she was pregnant again. With the future enlargement of her family in mind, she bought the Château de Saint-Cloud
Château de Saint-Cloud
The Château de Saint-Cloud was a Palace in France, built on a magnificent site overlooking the Seine at Saint-Cloud in Hauts-de-Seine, about 10 kilometres west of Paris. Today it is a large park on the outskirts of the capital and is owned by the state, but the area as a whole has had a large...

, a place she had always loved, from the duc d'Orléans
Louis Philippe I, Duke of Orléans
Louis Philippe d'Orléans known as le Gros , was a French nobleman, a member of a cadet branch of the House of Bourbon, the dynasty then ruling France. The First Prince of the Blood after 1752, he was the most senior male at the French court after the immediate royal family. He was the father of...

, the father of the previously disgraced duc de Chartres
Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orléans
Louis Philippe Joseph d'Orléans commonly known as Philippe, was a member of a cadet branch of the House of Bourbon, the ruling dynasty of France. He actively supported the French Revolution and adopted the name Philippe Égalité, but was nonetheless guillotined during the Reign of Terror...

. She intended to leave it as an inheritance to her younger children without stipulation, but later realized that her children would not appreciate it. 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
Louis Auguste Le Tonnelier de Breteuil
Louis Charles Auguste le Tonnelier, baron de Breteuil, baron de Preuilly was a French aristocrat, diplomat, statesman and politician...

 working on her behalf, the purchase did not help improve the public's frivolous image of the queen. The château's expensive price, almost 6 million livres, plus the substantial extra cost of redecorating it, ensured that there was less money going towards repaying France's substantial debt.

On 27 March 1785, Marie Antoinette gave birth to a second son, Louis Charles
Louis XVII of France
Louis XVII , from birth to 1789 known as Louis-Charles, Duke of Normandy; then from 1789 to 1791 as Louis-Charles, Dauphin of France; and from 1791 to 1793 as Louis-Charles, Prince Royal of France, was the son of King Louis XVI of France and Queen Marie Antoinette...

, who was created the duc de Normandie
Duke of Normandy
The Duke of Normandy is the title of the reigning monarch of the British Crown Dependancies of the Bailiwick of Guernsey and the Bailiwick of Jersey. The title traces its roots to the Duchy of Normandy . Whether the reigning sovereign is a male or female, they are always titled as the "Duke of...

. Louis Charles was visibly stronger than the sickly Dauphin, and the new baby was affectionately nicknamed by the queen, chou d'amour. The fact that this delivery occurred exactly nine months following Fersen's visit did not escape the attention of many, and though there is much doubt and historical speculation about the parentage of this child, public opinion towards her decreased noticeably. These suspicions of illegitimacy, 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 quickly taking root in the French psyche.

1786-1789: Prelude to revolution



A second daughter, Sophie Hélène Béatrice de France, was born on 9 July 1786, but died on 19 June 1787.

The continuing deterioration of the financial situation in France – despite the fact that cutbacks in the royal retinue had been made – ultimately forced the king, in collaboration with his current Minister of Finance, Calonne
Charles Alexandre de Calonne
Charles Alexandre, vicomte de Calonne was a French statesman, best known for his involvement in the French Revolution.-Rise to prominence:...

, to call the Assembly of Notables
Assembly of Notables
The Assembly of Notables was a group of notables invited by the King of France to consult on matters of state.-History:Assemblies of Notables had met in 1583, 1596–97, 1617, 1626, 1787, and 1788. Like the Estates General, they served a consultative purpose only...

, after a hiatus of 160 years. The assembly was held to try to pass some of the reforms needed to alleviate the financial situation when the Parlement
Parlement
Parlements were regional legislative bodies in Ancien Régime France.The political institutions of the Parlement in Ancien Régime France developed out of the previous council of the king, the Conseil du roi or curia regis, and consequently had ancient and customary rights of consultation and...

s 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 .

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
Armand Marc, comte de Montmorin
Armand Marc, comte de Montmorin de Saint Herem was a French statesman. He was Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Navy under Louis XVI....

, to replace Vergennes as Foreign Minister.

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
Fils de France
Fils de France was the style and rank held by the sons of the kings and dauphins of France. A daughter was known as a fille de France .The children of the dauphin, who was the king's heir apparent, were accorded the same style and status as if they were the king's children instead of his...

, 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
Affair of the diamond necklace
The Affair of the Diamond Necklace was a mysterious incident in the 1780s at the court of Louis XVI of France involving his wife, Queen Marie Antoinette. The reputation of the Queen, which was already tarnished by gossip, was ruined by the implication that she had participated in a crime to defraud...

", in which she had been accused of participating in a crime to defraud the crown jewelers of the cost of a very expensive diamond necklace. 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.

This change in her political role signalled 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
Étienne Charles de Loménie de Brienne
Étienne Charles de Loménie de Brienne was a French churchman, politician and finance minister of Louis XVI.-Life:...

, 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.

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 unfairly 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 singlehandedly ruined the finances of the nation.

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
Paris Salon
The Salon , or rarely Paris Salon , beginning in 1725 was the official art exhibition of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France. Between 1748–1890 it was the greatest annual or biannual art event in the Western world...

 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
Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital
The Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital is a teaching hospital located in Paris, France. Part of the Assistance publique - Hôpitaux de Paris, it is one of Europe's largest hospitals...

 in France and fled to London, where she published more damaging lies concerning her supposed "affair" with the queen.


The political situation in 1787 began to worsen when the Parlement
Parlement
Parlements were regional legislative bodies in Ancien Régime France.The political institutions of the Parlement in Ancien Régime France developed out of the previous council of the king, the Conseil du roi or curia regis, and consequently had ancient and customary rights of consultation and...

was exiled, and culminated on 11 November, when the king tried to use a lit de justice
Lit de Justice
Lit de Justice is an American Champion Thoroughbred racehorse. He was bred by Robert Sangster's Swettenham Stud, and purchased by the French racing operation Mise de Moratalla who named him for a famous Parlement of Paris known as the Lit de justice...

to force through legislation. He was unexpectedly challenged by his formerly disgraced cousin, the duc de Chartres
Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orléans
Louis Philippe Joseph d'Orléans commonly known as Philippe, was a member of a cadet branch of the House of Bourbon, the ruling dynasty of France. He actively supported the French Revolution and adopted the name Philippe Égalité, but was nonetheless guillotined during the Reign of Terror...

, who had inherited the title of duc d'Orléans at the death of his father in 1785. 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
Estates-General of 1789
The Estates-General of 1789 was the first meeting since 1614 of the French Estates-General, a general assembly representing the French estates of the realm: the nobility, the Church, and the common people...

, the traditional elected legislature of the country which had not been convened since 1614.

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
Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

, which in his case had twisted and curved his spinal column severely. He was brought to the château at Meudon
Meudon
Meudon is a municipality in the southwestern suburbs of Paris, France. It is in the département of Hauts-de-Seine. It is located from the center of Paris.-Geography:...

 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.

The queen, however, was present with her daughter, Marie-Therese, when Tippu Sahib of Mysore
Tipu Sultan
Tipu Sultan , also known as the Tiger of Mysore, was the de facto ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore. He was the son of Hyder Ali, at that time an officer in the Mysorean army, and his second wife, Fatima or Fakhr-un-Nissa...

 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.

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", 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. 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 was strongly focused on thoughts for her son, the dying Dauphin. With 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 hoping for a resolution to the bread crisis. As the Third Estate declared itself a National Assembly
National Assembly
National Assembly is either a legislature, or the lower house of a bicameral legislature in some countries. The best known National Assembly, and the first legislature to be known by this title, was that established during the French Revolution in 1789, known as the Assemblée nationale...

 and took the Tennis Court Oath
Tennis Court Oath
The Tennis Court Oath was a pivotal event during the first days of the French Revolution. The Oath was a pledge signed by 576 of the 577 members from the Third Estate who were locked out of a meeting of the Estates-General on 20 June 1789...

, and as others listened to rumors that the queen wished to bathe in their blood, Marie Antoinette went into mourning for her eldest son.

July 1789–1792: The French Revolution


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
Storming of the Bastille
The storming of the Bastille occurred in Paris on the morning of 14 July 1789. The medieval fortress and prison in Paris known as the Bastille represented royal authority in the centre of Paris. While the prison only contained seven inmates at the time of its storming, its fall was the flashpoint...

 on 14 July.

In the days and weeks that followed, many of the most conservative, reactionary royalists, including the comte d'Artois
Charles X of France
Charles X was known for most of his life as the Comte d'Artois before he reigned as King of France and of Navarre from 16 September 1824 until 2 August 1830. A younger brother to Kings Louis XVI and Louis XVIII, he supported the latter in exile and eventually succeeded him...

 and the duchesse de Polignac
Gabrielle de Polastron, duchesse de Polignac
Yolande Martine Gabrielle de Polastron, Duchess of Polignac was the favourite of Marie Antoinette, whom she first met when she was presented at the Palace of Versailles in 1775, the year after Marie Antoinette became the Queen of France...

, 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
National Constituent Assembly
The National Constituent Assembly was formed from the National Assembly on 9 July 1789, during the first stages of the French Revolution. It dissolved on 30 September 1791 and was succeeded by the Legislative Assembly.-Background:...

, which was now ruling Paris and conscripting men to serve in the Garde Nationale
National Guard (France)
The National Guard was the name given at the time of the French Revolution to the militias formed in each city, in imitation of the National Guard created in Paris. It was a military force separate from the regular army...

.

By the end of August, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen is a fundamental document of the French Revolution, defining the individual and collective rights of all the estates of the realm as universal. Influenced by the doctrine of "natural right", the rights of man are held to be universal: valid...

 (La Déclaration des Droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen) was adopted, which officially created the beginning of a constitutional monarchy in France. 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
Louis XVIII of France
Louis XVIII , known as "the Unavoidable", was King of France and of Navarre from 1814 to 1824, omitting the Hundred Days in 1815...

, 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
Tuileries Palace
The Tuileries Palace was a royal palace in Paris which stood on the right bank of the River Seine until 1871, when it was destroyed in the upheaval during the suppression of the Paris Commune...

 under surveillance. 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.

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.
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
Gilbert du Motier, marquis de La Fayette
Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette , often known as simply Lafayette, was a French aristocrat and military officer born in Chavaniac, in the province of Auvergne in south central France...

. In reality, she loathed the marquis for his liberal tendencies and for being partially responsible for the royal family's forced departure from Versailles. 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 engaged in deviant sexual acts of various sorts, most famously with the English Baroness 'Lady Sophie Farrell' of Bournemouth, a renowned lesbian of the time. 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
French Constitution of 1791
The short-lived French Constitution of 1791 was the first written constitution of France. One of the basic precepts of the revolution was adopting constitutionality and establishing popular sovereignty, following the steps of the United States of America...

, 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.

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
Flight to Varennes
The Flight to Varennes was a significant episode in the French Revolution during which King Louis XVI of France, his wife Marie Antoinette, and their immediate family attempted unsuccessfully to escape from Paris in order to initiate a counter-revolution...

 to the royalist
Monarchism
Monarchism is the advocacy of the establishment, preservation, or restoration of a monarchy as a form of government in a nation. A monarchist is an individual who supports this form of government out of principle, independent from the person, the Monarch.In this system, the Monarch may be the...

 stronghold of Montmédy
Montmédy
Montmédy is a commune in the Meuse department in Lorraine in north-eastern France.-Citadel of Montmédy:In 1221 the first castle of Montmédy was built on top of a hill by the Count of Chiny. Montmédy became soon the capital of his territory - later it belonged to Luxembourg, Burgundy, Austria and...

 planned by Count Axel von Fersen and the baron de Breteuil
Louis Auguste Le Tonnelier de Breteuil
Louis Charles Auguste le Tonnelier, baron de Breteuil, baron de Preuilly was a French aristocrat, diplomat, statesman and politician...

, 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
Varennes-en-Argonne
Varennes-en-Argonne or simply Varennes is a commune in the Meuse department in Lorraine in north-eastern France.Population : 691.-Geography:Varennes-en-Argonne lies on the river Aire to the northeast of Sainte-Menehould, near Verdun.-History:...

 and taken back to Paris within a week.

The result of the fiasco was a further decline in the popularity of both the king and queen. The Jacobin
Jacobin (politics)
A Jacobin , in the context of the French Revolution, was a member of the Jacobin Club, a revolutionary far-left political movement. The Jacobin Club was the most famous political club of the French Revolution. So called from the Dominican convent where they originally met, in the Rue St. Jacques ,...

 Party successfully exploited the failed escape to advance its radical agenda. Its members called for the end to any type of monarchy in France.

Though the new constitution
French Constitution of 1791
The short-lived French Constitution of 1791 was the first written constitution of France. One of the basic precepts of the revolution was adopting constitutionality and establishing popular sovereignty, following the steps of the United States of America...

 was adopted on 3 September, Marie Antoinette hoped through the end of 1791 that the 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 Holy Roman emperor, Leopold II
Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor
Leopold II , born Peter Leopold Joseph Anton Joachim Pius Gotthard, was Holy Roman Emperor and King of Hungary and Bohemia from 1790 to 1792, Archduke of Austria and Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1765 to 1790. He was a son of Emperor Francis I and his wife, Empress Maria Theresa...

, 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, despite many demands from both citizens and even soldiers to have the Austrian Army invade France and rescue Marie.

The result of Leopold's aggressive tendencies, and those of his son Francis II
Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor
Francis II was the last Holy Roman Emperor, ruling from 1792 until 6 August 1806, when he dissolved the Empire after the disastrous defeat of the Third Coalition by Napoleon at the Battle of Austerlitz...

, 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 his political activities, Louis received the nickname "Monsieur Veto" – and the name "Madame Veto" was likewise subsequently bequeathed on Marie Antoinette. These names were then prominently featured in different contexts, including La Carmagnole
Carmagnole
La Carmagnole, the name of the short jacket worn by working-class militant sans-culottes adopted from the Piedmontese peasant costume whose name derives from the town of Carmagnola, is the title of a French song created and made popular during the French Revolution, based on a tune and a wild dance...

.

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.

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. On 13 August, the royal family was imprisoned in the tower of the Temple
Temple (Paris)
The Temple was a medieval fortress in Paris, located in what is now the IIIe arrondissement. It was built by the Knights Templar from the 12th century, as their European headquarters. In the 13th century it replaced earlier works of the Vieille Temple in Le Marais...

 in the Marais
Le Marais
Le Marais is a historic district in Paris, France. Long the aristocratic district of Paris, it hosts many outstanding buildings of historic and architectural importance...

 under conditions considerably harsher than their previous confinement in the Tuileries.

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
Paris Commune (French Revolution)
The Paris Commune during the French Revolution was the government of Paris from 1789 until 1795. Established in the Hôtel de Ville just after the storming of the Bastille, the Commune became insurrectionary in the summer of 1792, essentially refusing to take orders from the central French...

. Transferred to the La Force prison, she was one of the victims of the September Massacres
September Massacres
The September Massacres were a wave of mob violence which overtook Paris in late summer 1792, during the French Revolution. By the time it had subsided, half the prison population of Paris had been executed: some 1,200 trapped prisoners, including many women and young boys...

, 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.

On 21 September, the fall of the monarchy was officially declared, and the National Convention
National Convention
During the French Revolution, the National Convention or Convention, in France, comprised the constitutional and legislative assembly which sat from 20 September 1792 to 26 October 1795 . It held executive power in France during the first years of the French First Republic...

 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.

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
Guillotine
The guillotine is a device used for carrying out :executions by decapitation. It consists of a tall upright frame from which an angled blade is suspended. This blade is raised with a rope and then allowed to drop, severing the head from the body...

.

1793: "Widow Capet" and death



Louis was executed on 21 January 1793, at the age of thirty-eight. 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 do any exercise. There is no knowledge of her proclaiming her son as Louis XVII
Louis XVII of France
Louis XVII , from birth to 1789 known as Louis-Charles, Duke of Normandy; then from 1789 to 1791 as Louis-Charles, Dauphin of France; and from 1791 to 1793 as Louis-Charles, Prince Royal of France, was the son of King Louis XVI of France and Queen Marie Antoinette...

; however, the comte de Provence
Louis XVIII of France
Louis XVIII , known as "the Unavoidable", was King of France and of Navarre from 1814 to 1824, omitting the Hundred Days in 1815...

, 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
Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

 and possibly uterine cancer
Uterine cancer
The term uterine cancer may refer to any of several different types of cancer which occur in the uterus, namely:*Uterine sarcomas: sarcomas of the myometrium, or muscular layer of the uterus, are most commonly leiomyosarcomas.*Endometrial cancer:...

, which caused her to hemorrhage frequently.

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
Thomas Paine
Thomas "Tom" Paine was an English author, pamphleteer, radical, inventor, intellectual, revolutionary, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States...

 advocated exile to America. Starting in April, however, a Committee of Public Safety
Committee of Public Safety
The Committee of Public Safety , created in April 1793 by the National Convention and then restructured in July 1793, formed the de facto executive government in France during the Reign of Terror , a stage of the French Revolution...

 was formed, and men such as Jacques Hébert
Jacques Hébert
Jacques René Hébert was a French journalist, and the founder and editor of the extreme radical newspaper Le Père Duchesne during the French Revolution...

 were beginning to call for Antoinette's trial; by the end of May, the Girondins had been chased out of power and arrested. Other calls were made to "retrain" the Dauphin, to make him more pliant to revolutionary ideas. This was carried out when the eight year old boy Louis Charles was separated from Antoinette on 3 July, and given to the care of a cobbler. On 1 August, she herself was taken out of the Tower and entered into the Conciergerie
Conciergerie
La Conciergerie is a former royal palace and prison in Paris, France, located on the west of the Île de la Cité, near the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. It is part of the larger complex known as the Palais de Justice, which is still used for judicial purposes...

 as Prisoner No. 280. 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. While in the Conciergerie, she was attended by her last servant, Rosalie Lamorlière
Rosalie Lamorlière
Rosalie Lamorlière was the last servant of Marie Antoinette, while the queen was in the Conciergerie, awaiting her trial and execution....

.

She was finally tried by the Revolutionary Tribunal on 14 October. Unlike the king, who had been given time to prepare a defence, the queen's trial was far more of a sham, considering the time she was given (less than one day). Among the things she was accused of (most, if not all, of the accusations were untrue and probably lifted from rumours begun by libelles) were orchestrating orgies in Versailles, sending millions of livres of treasury money to Austria, plotting to kill the Duke of Orléans, incest
Incest
Incest is sexual intercourse between close relatives that is usually illegal in the jurisdiction where it takes place and/or is conventionally considered a taboo. The term may apply to sexual activities between: individuals of close "blood relationship"; members of the same household; step...

 with her son, declaring her son to be the new king of France and orchestrating the massacre of the Swiss Guards in 1792.

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. 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. Back in her cell, she composed a moving letter to her sister-in-law Madame Élisabeth, affirming her clear conscience, her Catholic faith and her feelings for her children. The letter did not reach Élisabeth.


On the same day, her hair was cut off and she was driven through Paris in an open cart, wearing a simple white dress.
At 12:15 pm, two and a half weeks before her thirty-eighth birthday, she was executed at the Place de la Révolution (present-day Place de la Concorde
Place de la Concorde
The Place de la Concorde in area, it is the largest square in the French capital. It is located in the city's eighth arrondissement, at the eastern end of the Champs-Élysées.- History :...

). Her last words were "Pardon me sir, I meant not to do it", to Henri Sanson the executioner, whose foot she had accidentally stepped on after climbing the scaffold. Her body was thrown into an unmarked grave
Unmarked grave
The phrase unmarked grave has metaphorical meaning in the context of cultures that mark burial sites.As a figure of speech, a common meaning of the term "unmarked grave" is consignment to oblivion, i.e., an ignominious end. A grave monument is a sign of respect and fondness, erected with the...

 in the Madeleine cemetery
Chapelle Expiatoire
The Chapelle expiatoire is a chapel located in the eighth arrondissement, of Paris, France. This chapel is dedicated to King Louis XVI and his Queen Marie Antoinette, although they are formally buried in the Basilica of St Denis....

, rue d'Anjou, (which was closed the following year).

Her sister-in-law Élisabeth was executed in 1794 and her son died in prison in 1795. Her daughter returned to Austria in a prisoner exchange, married and died childless in 1851.

Both her body and that of Louis XVI were exhumed on 18 January 1815, during the Bourbon Restoration
Bourbon Restoration
The Bourbon Restoration is the name given to the period following the successive events of the French Revolution , the end of the First Republic , and then the forcible end of the First French Empire under Napoleon  – when a coalition of European powers restored by arms the monarchy to the...

, when the comte de Provence had become King Louis XVIII. 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.

Historical legacy and popular culture


The phrase "Let them eat cake
Let Them Eat Cake
"Let them eat cake" is the traditional translation to English of the French phrase "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche", supposedly spoken by "a great princess" upon learning that the peasants had no bread...

" 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". It originally appeared in Book VI of the first part (finished in 1767, published in 1782) of Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Genevan philosopher, writer, and composer of 18th-century Romanticism. His political philosophy influenced the French Revolution as well as the overall development of modern political, sociological and educational thought.His novel Émile: or, On Education is a treatise...

's putative autobiographical work, Les Confessions.

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.


Apart from the fact that Rousseau ascribes these words to an unknown princess – vaguely referred to as a 'great princess', there is some level of thought that he invented it altogether, seeing as Confessions was, on the whole, a rather inaccurate autobiography.

In America, expressions of gratitude to France for its help in the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

 included the naming of the city of Marietta, Ohio
Marietta, Ohio
Marietta is a city in and the county seat of Washington County, Ohio, United States. During 1788, pioneers to the Ohio Country established Marietta as the first permanent American settlement of the new United States in the Northwest Territory. Marietta is located in southeastern Ohio at the mouth...

, founded in 1788. The Ohio Company of Associates
Ohio Company of Associates
The Ohio Company of Associates, also known as the Ohio Company, was a land company which is today credited with becoming the first non-American Indian group to settle in the present-day state of Ohio...

 chose the name Marietta after an affectionate nickname for Marie Antoinette.

Titles from birth to death


  • 2 November 1755 – 19 April 1770: Her Royal Highness Archduchess Maria Antonia of Austria
  • 19 April 1770 – 10 May 1774: Her Royal Highness The Dauphine of France
  • 10 May 1774 – 1 October 1791: Her Majesty The Queen of France and Navarre
  • 1 October 1791 – 21 September 1792: Her Majesty The Queen of the French
  • 21 September 1792 - 21 January 1793: Madame Capet
  • 21 January 1793 – 16 October 1793: La Veuve ("the widow") Capet

Ancestry





External links