Marie Antoinette, Archduchess of Austria and Queen of France and Navarre.
Portrait of Marie Antoinette
Marie Antoinette Early life (1755-1770)
Marie Antoinette was born in Vienna (Austria) on November 2nd, 1755. She was the fourth daughter of the Emperor Francis 1st of Lorraine and Maria Theresa of Austria, at the head of the Habsburg dynasty.
Francis 1st died in August 1765, leaving his wife and his elder son to co-rule his empire. To promote diplomatic relationships with France, Marie Antoinette was asked to marry Louis Auguste, the Dauphin of France.
The celebration was held on May 16th, 1770 in the palace of Versailles. Fireworks were shot for the occasion and a huge crowd gathered in front of the palace, so many people that 32 of them died in a mob move.
Marie Antoinette Life at the French court
Marie Antoinette was quickly appreciated and even admired at the court. She was a beautiful young lady who enjoyed the party-filled life of Versailles. However, her relationship with her husband was the subject of much sarcasm. The couple didn't have any children and the people of Paris found this suspicious.
They actually had to wait 8 years for the first royal baby to be born. Marie Antoinette had the bad reputation of partying a lot, spending huge amount of money in casino games and having affairs with other men. These rumors spread all over the country and even came to her mother who wrote some very concerned letters to her daughter.
Marie Antoinette, Queen of France (1774-1789)
On May 10th, 1774 Louis XV died. On June 11th, 1775 Louis Auguste was crown king Louis XVI of France and Marie Antoinette was named Queen of France and Navarre at the cathedral of Reims. The weakness of Louis XVI permitted Marie Antoinette to take a part in French political power. She nominated some of her closest advisers to strategic positions. In 1784, Marie Antoinette supported her brother, Joseph 2nd, in his feud with Netherlands. However Louis XVI refused to support Austria and Marie Antoinette was strongly criticized by the French who ironically called her "L'Autrichienne" ("the Austrian"). In 1785, the "Marie Antoinette diamond necklace" affaire spread all over the country. Marie Antoinette was victim of a scam. Jeanne De La Motte Valois pretended to be the queen and by stealing her identity, she stole a huge amount of money from the Cardinal de Rohan. The queen was not directly involved in that scandal but her image was discredited. Marie Antoinette was then nicknamed "Madame Deficit" by the people of France. She tried to clear her bad reputation by promoting the image of a caring mother, which she obviously was, but this wasn't enough to calm the angry protesters.
Marie Antoinette and The French Revolution (1789-1793)
From the beginning of the revolution, Marie Antoinette always refused to negotiate with the revolutionaries. On October 5th, 1789 a mob of Parisian women stormed Versailles and forced the royal family to move to the Tuileries, under the watch of the National Guards.
On September 4th, 1791 France became a "Monarchie Constitutionnelle" where Louis XVI had to share his power with the revolutionaries. Marie Antoinette's only hope was to get help from her brother to stop the revolution and bring her husband back to the throne.
On June 21st, 1791 the royal family decided to escape Paris to join Austria but they were arrested in Varennes and brought back to Paris a week later.
France declared war against Austria on April 20th, 1792 and Marie Antoinette was pictured as an enemy of the country. She got the nicknamed "Madame Veto" as she was accused of ordering Louis XVI to oppose every revolutionary's decisions. On June 20th, 1792 a mob stormed the Tuileries.
The tension was rising and the royal family was moved to the Temple prison and was held captive there under very poor living conditions. The Jacobin group called for the end of the Monarchy which they obtain on September 21st, 1792. The National Convention was now leading the country and Louis XVI was executed on January 21st, 1793. Marie Antoinette fought bravely to stay alive and spare the lives of her children. But her fate became a big political stake between the different groups of the assembly. Strong partisans of her dead, like Hebert, gained some credit within the Assembly.
On October 14th, 1793 her trial started and she was accused of very serious crimes. One of the most humiliating was the accusation of incest towards her son. Marie Antoinette became very emotional because of this unfair accusation. She defended herself fiercely but her fate had already been decided. Marie Antoinette was executed on October 16th, 1793.
Marie Antoinette's remains were transported to the Saint Denis Cathedral in 1815, along with Louis XVI's.
Marie Antoinette Arrested